July 30 News Items

Oklahoma Warns Hawaii of Space "Pipe Dreams" (Source: KGMB)
Space tourism was sold as the next giant leap in aerospace and some Hawaii lawmakers buy it. But now lawmakers in Oklahoma say take a better look after the company that was close to blasting off just took off out of town. That same company has plans in Hawaii. "Don't go on pipe dreams. That's what we did and we paid the price for it," said Oklahoma State Representative David Dank in an interview with KWTV.

Rep. Dank is talking about Rocketplane Global, a company he says took about $18 million in tax credits from the state only to close its offices and move out. So why should Hawaii care about Oklahoma? For starters the Aloha state is planning on investing in space tourism as well. Some Hawaii Lawmakers want to spend half a million tax payer dollars on an environmental impact statement on space tourism. Rep. Wakai says that’s a small price to pay especially considering what other states have invested.

Rocketplane Global had its expectations come back to Earth the past year because of the bad economy. "We're a capital intensive business and we got caught in a financial crunch. Everybody did," said Chuck Lauer, Rocketplane Global Co-Founder. So what happened to that tax payer money from Oklahoma? "The money was not wasted. It was invested in design and engineering. That is not gone. It’s sitting there waiting to get restarted and that's what we're doing now," said Lauer. The Hawaii Office of Aerospace Development is buying it and believes three to six companies could by flying into space in three years. (7/29)

Protostar in Chapter 11, Looking to Unload Satellites (Source: Space News)
Start-up satellite operator ProtoStar Ltd., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection July 29, hopes to use the reprieve from its creditors to auction its two orbiting direct-to-home television satellites. ProtoStar is spending through cash at a rate of $550,000 per week, not including employee salaries, and is at risk of having to cease operations immediately if it is not allowed to take advantage of its creditors' offer of $16 million in emergency funds while the company operates under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, (7/30)

Endeavour Returns Tomorrow to KSC (Source: Florida Today)
After two weeks in space and five spacewalks, Endeavour is scheduled to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere after orbit 248 and land at Kennedy Space Center Friday at 10:48 a.m. EDT. A second landing attempt would be at 12:23 p.m. EDT. A slight chance of showers is predicted for the first attempt. The chance increases slightly for the second attempt. (7/30)

Augustine Panel Weighs "Vision" -- But Doesn't Talk Jobs (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The Augustine Panel challenged NASA's vision of establishing a Moon outpost and instead weighed other ambitious options including a free-ranging program to visit destinations throughout the inner solar system. Noticeably absent, however, were discussions of NASA's workforce. Even testimony by Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp did little to steer the conversation in that direction, though he said the state faces an "economic shock wave" after Shuttle retirement.

The Panel spent much time challenging the rationale behind NASA's current Moon exploration vision. The debate swung between ambitious proposals to send astronauts to the moon, Mars and nearby asteroids to questioning why NASA should even spend billions of dollars to blast explorers into space.

There did seem to be one glimmer of hope for the Space Coast. Both panel members and Florida officials said NASA would do well to to invest in commercial rocket companies to haul cargo and perhaps humans to the international space station. It's a silver lining for Florida because KSC hosts the aerospace company SpaceX, which has a contract with NASA to develop rockets capable of reaching the station. (7/30)

Russia Says U.S. Shuttle Delays Create a Burden (Source: Reuters)
A senior Russian space official said delays in U.S. shuttle launches to the International Space Station (ISS) meant extra work for Russian rocket crews without any financial compensation, RIA news agency reported. Russia and the United States are the main contributors to the 16-nation $100 billion ISS project, but Russia has borne the brunt of sending crews and cargo there since the U.S. Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated in 2003, killing seven astronauts. "We are most concerned by the unpredictability of shuttle launches," RIA quoted Russian mission control flight coordinator Valdimir Solovyov as saying. (7/30)

NASA: Ares Rocket Safest, Fastest Way to Get U.S. Back in Space (Source: AIA)
NASA engineers have fired back at their critics, praising the new Ares rocket as "the safest, fastest way to get Americans back to space." The volley highlighted Wednesday's review of the "Constellation" human space flight program conducted in Huntsville, Ala., by a committee authorized by President Barack Obama to determine the state of the space program. (7/30)

Hutchison Announces Plans to Step Down (Source: Space Politics)
It had been widely assumed for some time that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) would resign from the Senate later this year to devote herself full-time to running against incumbent Gov. Rick Perry in the Texas GOP gubernatorial primary next year. Yesterday Hutchison confirmed those plans, saying that she would step down in the “October, November” timeframe. Her resignation will mean the loss of one of the stauncher NASA advocates in the Senate, where, among other things, she worked with Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) in recent years to add an additional $1 billion to NASA’s budget. She also serves as the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has oversight of NASA. (7/30)

With Time Running Out, Panel has Plenty of Info to Absorb (Source: Huntsville Times)
A ticking clock might set up the next decade for NASA, said Norman Augustine, head of a White House panel given three months to make recommendations to President Barack Obama for the future of space travel. "We are here to gather information and make recommendations," Augustine said. "We have 34 days from today before our report has to be at the printers." Augustine added that panel members have not "made up our minds about any one area. We will offer recommendations only." (7/30)

Experts Urge Reformulation of US Space Policy (Source: Eurekalert)
The Obama Administration has an opportunity to fundamentally reformulate United States space policies that are anchored in Cold War-era mindsets, according to the director of an American Academy of Arts and Sciences study. At a Capitol Hill briefing today in conjunction with the release of three new policy monographs, experts outlined the current state of U.S. and foreign space policy and encouraged the Administration to set a clear direction that advances the country's national security, civilian, and commercial interests in space. (7/30)

NASA To Provide Web Updates On Objects Approaching Earth (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is introducing a new Web site that will provide a centralized resource for information on near-Earth objects - those asteroids and comets that can approach Earth. The "Asteroid Watch" site also contains links for the interested public to sign up for NASA's new asteroid widget and Twitter account. (7/30)

Sen. Martinez Does Not Support Shuttle Extension (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), in prepared comments for the Augustine Panel, said he does not support the extension of the Space Shuttle program... "I do not believe that the Shuttle program should be extended beyond the current manifest. While such an extension could help to limit job losses in the short term, I am concerned it could further delay progress on development of our next heavy lift launch vehicle." (7/30)

Augustine Update: Return to Moon Unlikely Before 2028 (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA's goal of putting astronauts back on the moon by 2020 is all but impossible to achieve, a presidential panel was told Wednesday. An independent study concluded there is little hope NASA could replicate anytime soon what Apollo accomplished 40 years ago. And sources said an undisclosed part of the study showed another moon shot won't happen before 2028 -- nearly 60 years after America's first moon landing.

"We can't see [the gap] closing," Gary Pulliam, an analyst with Aerospace Corp., told a near-silent audience in Huntsville, Ala. A NASA budget analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on behalf of NASA or the committee, said American astronauts have a remote chance of returning to the moon by 2028, although another source close to the panel said 2035 was more likely. (7/30)

Sally Ride: Ares/Orion Launch Likely Delayed to 2017 (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Former astronaut Sally Ride told fellow members of Augustine Panel that she did not expect that Constellation's Ares I rocket and Orion capsule could complete a first mission into low-Earth orbit before 2017 -- two years after its target date. A second estimate, calculated by Pulliam on Wednesday, was even more pessimistic. Due to ongoing technical troubles and insufficient funding, he said, Constellation's first mission could be delayed as many as four years, to 2019. "It should not surprise anyone that problems exist," he said. (7/30)

Bejmuk: Turn LEO Over to Commercial Sector (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
One member of the Augustine Panel, Bohdan Bejmuk, said NASA should open low-Earth orbit to these companies, including SpaceX of California and Orbital Sciences Corp. of Virginia, which currently have contracts with NASA to develop rockets and unmanned capsules that can reach the space station. "Let's turn it over to the newcomers," he said. (7/30)

Sen. Nelson Supports Shuttle Extension (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), in prepared comments for the Augustine Panel, said he supports the expansion of the Space Shuttle program, "to a point in time that would lessen the gap so that we can have Americans riding American vehicles to get to our station, and then on to the moon, and then on to Mars... If we cannot get this next set of space shuttle flights off in time by the end of fiscal year 2010 or by the end of calendar year 2010, [NASA should] commit to flying out all of these space shuttle flights to complete the station and to equip it." (7/30)

Virgin Galactic Aiming For IPO (Source: Forbes)
Space travel won't just be for billionaires if Richard Branson gets his way. Fresh from selling a stake in his Virgin Galactic space-tourism subsidiary to Abu Dhabi's Aabar Group, Branson's Virgin Group has an even more ambitious aim in mind: to float the company on the stock market while still retaining a significant stake. Virgin Galactic is a while away from going public, but has already attracted attention from outside investors. (7/30)

Dnepr Launches Small Satellites (Source: SpaceToday.net)
A Dnepr rocket successfully launched six small satellites from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. It placed six small satellites into low Earth orbit. Two of the satellites, UK-DMC2 and Deimos-1, were built by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. to be part of the Disaster Monitoring Constellation, a network of medium-resolution remote sensing satellites. Also on the Dnepr were the United Arab Emirates' first satellite, Dubaisat-1; two small communications sats for American company Aprize Satellite; and a Spanish technology demonstration nanosat. (7/30)

Aerospace Company Deserts Oklahoma Leaving Questions (Source: KOTV)
The aerospace company that promised Oklahoma 'the moon' and so much more, has left the state, leaving lawmakers with more questions than answers. Rocketplane Global has vacated its company headquarters near the Will Rogers Airport. Oklahoma State Representative David Dank has been a longtime critic of Rocketplane. He said he was furious to learn that the company that promised so much to the state had packed up and left town.

"We were told they left in February," said State Representative David Dank. "Just packed up and left overnight. The last we heard, the guy in charge was working out of his garage in Wisconsin. They have no presence here in Oklahoma and I think that's an absolute sin against the taxpayers." In 2003 Rocketplane was granted an $18 million tax credit from the state. The first launch was scheduled for 2006. (7/30)

An Uncertain Future for Bankrupt Sea Launch (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Already burdened by bankruptcy and a cutthroat rocket industry, Sea Launch could face more defecting customers if the company does not soon assure satellite operators of its future viability. In court documents last week, Intelsat filed a motion to force Sea Launch to assume or reject contracts for up to seven missions to deliver communications satellites into orbit. Intelsat owns seven of 10 contracts in Sea Launch's backlog.

Two Intelsat payloads will fly on Sea Launch's land-based subsidiary and one spacecraft is manifested on Sea Launch's ocean-based service. Intelsat holds up to four contract options for additional launches through 2012, but those agreements do not have assigned satellites, according to Paula Korn, Sea Launch spokesperson. (7/30)

Space Coast Jobs Slipping Away (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The pace of job losses is picking up along Florida's Space Coast, as two more space-services contractors plan to dismiss scores of workers there by October, the state's labor agency said Wednesday. Securiguard Inc. and Jacobs Technology Inc. are the latest contractors shedding jobs at Cape Canaveral Spaceport as a result of NASA cutbacks or budget belt-tightening by the U.S. military.

Securiguard recently notified the state it plans to eliminate more than 150 jobs and close down its security-services operation at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The company said more than 200 workers will be laid off by Oct. 1, the start of the federal government's 2010 fiscal year. Meanwhile, NASA contractor Jacobs Technology notified the state it plans to lay off about 50 workers — or more than one-third of its payload-processing staff at KSC, according to state labor agency. (7/30)

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