July 28 News Items

Presidential Panel Ponders Shuttle Extension (Source: Florida Today)
A presidential panel is reviewing an option to extend the shuttle program through 2014, significantly reducing an anticipated five-year gap in U.S. human spaceflight. The option is one of three that the panel -- dubbed presented during a public hearing in Texas. The other options: retire the shuttle fleet as planned near the end of 2010; and add one additional shuttle mission and keep flying the shuttle through 2012. Former NASA astronaut Sally Ride said the option to extend shuttle flights through 2014 is "the most realistic way to significantly reduce the gap" while taking advantage of the full capabilities of the International Space Station. (7/28)

Ride: With Ares I Delayed Until 2017, Let's Fly Shuttle (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Noting that she brought nothing but "doom and gloom," Sally Ride told the Augustine Panel she did not expect NASA to launch its planned replacement to the space shuttle before 2017 -- two years after its target date. The delay would mean NASA would go at least six years without sending astronauts into orbit, so Ride also suggested extending shuttle flights beyond their retirement date of 2010 or 2011.

Ride, who was America's first female astronaut in space and one of 10 members of a presidential committee studying America's manned space program, laid out three options, one of which would add flights to the seven now scheduled and keep the shuttle flying past 2012. She justified extending the shuttle because "Constellation is likely to slip," citing ongoing financial and technical problems.

Of her three proposals, the most ambitious would extend the shuttle era through 2014, with one or two flights annually. But Ride said this idea only would make sense if NASA scrapped Constellation and went with a new rocket built largely from shuttle parts. (7/28)

Extending Shuttle Lifetime Raises Safety and Cost Issues (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Keeping the shuttle flying longer raises both safety and cost issues. Steve Lindsey, chief of the astronaut office, testified Tuesday that astronauts flying in the shuttle face a risk of dying comparable to troops landing at D-Day, though engineers in the space community say the orbiter is far safer than that. And the overhead for maintaining the shuttle fleet amounts to about $2 billion a year, with each launch costing up to $500 million more.

One big reason Griffin had sought to retire the shuttle was to free up that money for the Constellation program. Once the shuttle retires, KSC is expected to shed as many as 7,000 jobs, said Lisa Rice, president of Brevard Workforce Development Board. Worse, those job losses likely would ripple through the Space Coast, causing three times as many pink slips in the surrounding community, she said.

So when Ride mentioned the shuttle extension idea, it created a flicker of hope. "We would absolutely love that," said Rice, who plans to lobby the commission on Thursday when it visits KSC. "It helps us retain a highly-skilled workforce that can be ready for that next generation of space vehicle." (7/28)

El Segundo's Wyle Wins NASA Bid Through 2013 (Source: DailyBreeze.com)
Wyle, the El Segundo-based aerospace technology firm, said it was awarded a $201 million contract extension from NASA. The work, to be performed by Wyle's Integrated Science and Engineering Group in Houston, is scheduled to last until April 30, 2013. The contract extension calls for Wyle to continue to provide health testing and other services for astronauts. NASA awarded Wyle with the original contract in 2003. The agency exercised an option to extend the contract in 2007. This latest extension brings the combined value of the contract to $976 million. (7/28)

SpaceX Faces Crucial Falcon 9 Test (Source: Flight Global)
After two consecutive successes of SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket, the stage is set for the fourth quarter maiden flight of its much larger Falcon 9 booster, which is scheduled to fly 23 times before 2016. With launches priced at $30 million, the Falcon 9 will be a competitive threat to existing launch providers whose prices are closer to $100 million (SpaceX's competitors say that its prices are unsustainable).

The first two Falcon 9 launches are planned for the fourth quarter of 2009. This is after a delay of a year, partly due to what Musk has called "the enormous amount of work to get done" for development and testing. In 2008 SpaceX won a $1.6 billion NASA contract to supply International Space Station cargo, with 12 launches until 2015. SpaceX has seven other commercial Falcon 9 launch orders.

Flight two is the first demonstration launch of Falcon 9 with its Dragon spacecraft for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. Progress with the first Dragon, designed for worst-case scenario launch abort loads, includes structural and acoustic qualification. This first COTS flight will see Dragon make several orbits before splashing down off California. SpaceX has 17 Dragon launches scheduled, 15 for NASA and two for its commercial Dragonlab service - an unmanned recoverable Dragon with science experiments. (7/28)

ULA to Cut 224 Jobs by Mid-October (Source: Denver Post)
United Launch Alliance will cut 224 employees by mid-October. Of the job cuts, 87 are in Colorado, where 1,800 of the joint rocket venture's 3,900 employees are based. Florida-based launch operations will trim 123 jobs, and 14 rocket-assembly workers will be cut in Alabama. (7/28)

Q2 Profits Soar 76% for EADS (Source: AIA)
European aerospace/defense contractor EADS announced that second-quarter profits rose by 76%, but it then warned it may suffer "substantial negative" hits to future profits because of renegotiations with several governments over its delayed A400M military transport program. Financial analysts noted the net profit of $297 million from April to June still lagged behind projected profits for the parent company of Airbus. (7/28)

Major Shuttle and ISS Extension Drive at the Augustine Commission (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
With NASA authorization language already being drawn up behind the scenes by Congress, Augustine Commission ISS/Shuttle subgroup lead Dr Sally Ride – along with several key NASA and United Space Alliance (USA) managers – have embarked on a major push to extend the shuttle program, linking the move with the allowance for the International Space Station (ISS) to operate until 2020.

Efforts to extend the shuttle program past 2010 have been ongoing for over a year, with the main concern relating to the ever-growing gap between the last flight of the shuttle and the first operation flight of Orion via Ares I. Problems with extending shuttle mainly relate to the need for additional funding, with the current shuttle budget forecast to be handed over to the Constellation Program (CxP) in 2010. Another problem relates to the skill set, with thousands of layoffs already announced within the shuttle program – most recently at JSC and KSC. Click here to view the entire article. (7/28)

Orbital Reports Second Quarter 2009 Losses (Source: Business Wire)
Orbital Sciences Corp. reported second quarter 2009 revenues of $270.1 million compared to $301.2 million in the second quarter of 2008. Second quarter 2009 operating income was $12.8 million, compared to $26.5 million in the second quarter of 2008. Income from continuing operations was $8.7 million, compared to $10.1 million in the second quarter of 2008. (7/28)

Abu Dhabi Buys 32% of Virgin Galactic (Source: The Age)
The Mideast investment fund with the biggest stake in Mercedes-Benz's parent said on Tuesday it will pay about $280 million to buy nearly a third of commercial space travel startup Virgin Galactic. The buy-in by Aabar Investments of Abu Dhabi gives British billionaire Sir Richard Branson's space tourism venture a big financial kickstart at a time when many funding sources have dried up because of the global recession. It also provides the oil-rich Persian Gulf sheikdom a chance to acquire space flight capability of its own. (7/28)

Pact with US to Boost India’s Space Launch Industry (Source: Thaindian News)
A technology safeguards agreement (TSA) signed with the US last week will open up fresh opportunities for India in the field of space launches, say officials. The agreement, signed July 20 in New Delhi, will facilitate the launch of non-commercial US satellites and satellites with US components on Indian launch vehicles. “Earlier, satellites built with US-made components were not available for Indian launch vehicles,” said an Antrix official. At present, the total market for non-commercial launches is estimated to be around 40 satellites a year, of which India’s share is very small. However, with the TSA agreement, India is poised to make a larger penetration into the market, said ISRO officials. (7/28)

Editorial: County Economic Development Cut Would be Mistake (Source: Florida Today)
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know Brevard County should continue ramping up its economic development efforts. Especially with the local unemployment rate hitting 10.2 percent and Brevard staring down the barrel of a loaded shotgun in the form of a possible 6,000 to 7,000 lost jobs next year when NASA retires the shuttle fleet at Kennedy Space Center. That makes a proposal to slash county funding for the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast a big mistake that our community cannot afford. County commissioners debated the issue during discussions last week about deep cuts to the county budget, including a possible 10 percent reduction in county EDC funding that would reduce the money it receives to $1.4 million. (7/28)

Keeping The Space Program Thriving After Shuttles Retire (Source: CFL13)
Space Florida says more experimentation at Kennedy Space Center can be one of the many things to keep the space program thriving in the state. In three "white papers" addressed to special committees within the Augustine Panel, Space Florida recommends: Using Florida launch facilities already in place would save money; Developing new heavy lift capability to support the ISS and future missions; Utilizing the shuttle workforce already in place to make it happen. (7/28)

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