July 31 News Items

Melbourne Company Wins $11 Million for Navy Space Programs (Source: DOD)
Melbourne FL-based Space Ground Systems Solutions, Inc. has won a $10.9 million contract for Spacecraft Engineering, Software Research, Development and Support for design, development, test, launch and mission operations of Department of Defense assets. This is a new requirement for highly-skilled personnel to support the Navy space programs development, enhancement, testing and configuration management of a collection of software, which is constantly being enhanced to provide state of the art solutions to space applications. The contract contains options which could bring the total value to $57,9 million. (7/31)

Orbiting Gas Station Could Refuel Lunar Missions (Source: New Scientist)
Forget huge, expensive rockets. A plan being examined by a US government panel would allow smaller, cheaper rockets to fly to the moon and beyond by stopping off at an "orbiting gas station". With conventional rockets, many tons of fuel are needed on such missions for each tonne of payload. Sending astronauts or the heftiest robotic probes to these distant destinations therefore requires huge launchers.

That may be about to change. The panel convened by order of the White House to assess NASA's plans for the future of human space flight - including the project to send people back to the moon by 2020 - is pondering a radical idea to set up orbiting depots at which relatively small, inexpensive rockets could stop off to pick up fuel. The potential benefits of such a scheme are detailed in a white paper submitted last week by Masten Space Systems. Click here to download the paper. (7/31)

Congresswoman Kosmas' Urges Expanded "Supply Chain" Role for KSC (Source: Rep. Kosmas)
"One common responsibility for each of the Working Groups of this Committee is that each is focusing on 'industrial skill base'. Nowhere is that issue more critical than here in Florida. To that end, I urge you to consider offering an option that would establish a program office at KSC to manage the supply chain and logistics for the next generation spacecraft. As the final destination of the vast majority of the components and systems purchased by the Federal Government before departure into space, KSC could lead the way to a more sophisticated procurement mentality - which would reduce operating costs - and a healthier industrial base for NASA, the Department of Defense, and commercial launch activities."

Editor's Note: This proposed supply-chain and logistics role for KSC is not a far departure from current practice. The NASA Shuttle Logistics Depot at Cape Canaveral can evolve and grow to support next-generation launchers, as well as ISS and other off-Earth habitat systems. It would be a logical and value-added move if NASA really wants to mitigate the Shuttle job losses coming soon at KSC. (7/31)

Longer Life for the Space Station Is Advised (Source: New York Times)
Members of the Augustine Panel said the life of the International Space Station should be extended past its planned demise in 2016. “We think all the options going forward should continue I.S.S. extension in some form,” said Sally Ride. The shuttles can carry a far greater load into orbit than any other rockets now in use, and can also bring heavy items back to the ground. “We’re putting I.S.S. in a very fragile situation the moment we retire shuttle,” Dr. Ride said.

Editor's Note: Here's another Florida hot-button. The state has urged a bigger role for KSC in supporting the ISS "National Laboratory" activities, including at the state-funded Space Life Sciences Lab at KSC, which was developed specifically for ISS research support. (7/31)

Eutelsat Revenue Growth Exceeds Forecast (Source: Space News)
Eutelsat, the world's third-largest satellite fleet operator, on July 31 reported a 7.2 percent increase in revenue for the year ending June 30 and said it now expects to maintain an average annual growth of 7 percent through 2012. (7/31)

SES Sticking With Growth Projections (Source: Space News)
SES on July 31 reported record gross-profit margins in its core satellite transponder-lease business and said it is sticking with its forecast of 5 percent average annual growth between 2008 and 2010 despite what it characterized as a temporary weakness in its ground-services business and continued softness in the North American market. (7/31)

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Hires PR Firm (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation, an industry association representing 20 commercial spaceflight developers, operators and spaceports, has hired Makovsky + Company, one of the nation’s largest independent public relations firms, as its public relations advisor.

“Makovsky’s deep understanding of the commercial spaceflight industry and their expertise in traditional and social media make them a valuable partner,” said Brett Alexander, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. “We look forward to working with this talented organization to increase awareness of the industry’s importance among leaders in government and the public at-large.” (7/31)

Shuttle Endeavour, 7 Astronauts Return to Earth (Source: AP)
Space shuttle Endeavour and its seven astronauts returned to Earth on Friday, completing a long but successful construction job that boosted the size and power of the international space station. Endeavour glided through a slightly hazy sky and touched down on Kennedy Space Center's landing strip. Its smooth and punctual late morning arrival set off a stream of praise. (7/31)

OSTP Creating NPOESS Task Force (Source: Space Policy Online)
White House Science Adviser John Holdren told the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee that he had directed creation of a task force to monitor progress and results on issues surrounding the NPOESS program. "I have directed the formation of a Task Force within the Executive Office of the President (which will include representatives from the Office of Management and Budget as well as the National Security Council) that will meet regularly with NOAA, NASA, and the Department of Defense (DoD), the three agencies partnering on the program, to monitor progress and results in addressing key issues facing the success of this program." (7/31)

Depite Rocketplane Woes, Oklahoma Spaceport Remains Operational (Source: OK Gazette)
The original reason for its start may no longer be visible in the state, but that hasn't stopped the Oklahoma Spaceport from slowing down operations. Created to function as a launch pad for suborbital space tourism, the Spaceport near Burns Flat has found other ways to generate business and keep folks busy out there. "We've really been concentrating on the aerospace side," said Bil Khourie, executive director of the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority (OSIDA), which operates the Spaceport. (7/31)

The Next Step in Space (Source: Next Step Coalition)
The Next Step in Space is for NASA to invest in US commercial human spaceflight. When most people think of sending US astronauts to space, they think of NASA — and for good reason. For over forty years, the US has looked to NASA to not only send astronauts to space but also to lead US space exploration. What most people do not know, however, is that for over twenty years, commercial space companies have also been providing space transportation services for the government and other corporate customers. As NASA is challenged to go further into space than ever before with limited resources, commercial space companies are uniquely positioned to help further NASA's efforts. Click here for more. (7/29)

Virgin Galactic Aims for the Moon (Source: The Mirror)
Virgin Galactic says it will take 50,000 into space within ten years. But that’s just the start according to Richard Branson. “Looking further ahead, and we like to dream, we hope that one day Virgin Galactic will be able to ferry passengers between continents at a fraction of the time that they currently travel between continents. We also hope that one day to have a space hotel up there we can take people to that might be quite close to the Moon and people will be able to head off in small spacecraft to head off round the Moon before lunch or before breakfast.” (7/29)

Bolden to KSC: Stay the Course (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center workers got a dose of NASA Administrator Charles Bolden's personal warmth Thursday as he gave employees a pep talk and outlined his goals for the space agency. "Our task is to convince the nation that (space) exploration is worth it," Bolden said during an hourlong talk that was televised to KSC employees. Bolden said it was important to encourage more young people to pursue careers in math, science and engineering. "I want to take the amount of community outreach you do and bump it up a notch," he said. (7/31)

Rockeplane Says It's Far from Finished in Oklahoma (Source: KOTV)
Rocketplane Global vacated its Oklahoma City Will Rogers Airport headquarters in February, but company officials said it is far from finished with its work in Oklahoma. Rocketplane Co-founder Chuck Lauer said the economy forced the headquarters' closure but said he wanted to show Oklahoman's that their tax dollars have not gone to waste. He said the company may be grounded, but it's far from gone.

"I don't think they ever intended to launch a space craft from Oklahoma," said State Rep. David Dank. Just two week ago, the news was announced in Hawaii that state lawmakers there were in talks with Rocketplane over a proposed space tourism project. That's not what Oklahoma lawmakers wanted to hear, especially since the state has granted the company $18 million in tax credits, but Lauer said the plan has always been to have Rocketplane based in multiple locations. "We never abandoned the plan to fly in Oklahoma. We will build vehicles in Oklahoma. We'll have jobs in Oklahoma. We will fly from the Oklahoma spaceport." (7/31)

Hawaii Students Helping Develop Lunar Micro Rover (Source: Hawaii 24/7)
While Americans across the country celebrated the 40th anniversary of man’s first walk on the moon this week, two Hawaii students are participating in a NASA summer internship program, where they are developing technology that will be used on the Lunar Micro Rover. Kelson Lau, a recent Waiakea High School graduate and current University of Hawaii at Manoa student, and Jordan Olive from the University of Hawaii at Hilo, are participating in the NASA Robotics Academy, a NASA multi-center, 10-week residential summer internship for students specifically interested in robotics. (7/31)

Panel Sees Deep Space, Not Landings as U.S. Goal (Source: New York Times)
A panel examining the future of the United States’ human spaceflight program will suggest that the Obama administration may want to skip the part about landing on other worlds. That could enable NASA to send astronauts to more corners of the solar system more quickly while keeping within a limited budget. But it would also eliminate the possibility of astronauts leaving new iconic footprints on the Moon or Mars for a couple of decades.

A subcommittee of the panel studied several possibilities, including NASA’s current program to send astronauts back to the Moon by 2020, a more ambitious plan to skip the Moon and aim directly for Mars and what the members called the “flexible path,” which would avoid the “deep gravity wells” of the Moon and Mars, saving the time and cost of developing landers to carry astronauts to the surfaces of those bodies. (7/31)

A Place for Langley in Space? (Source: Newport News Daily Press)
Where do we go from here? As America has been retelling the proud story of where it's been — to the moon — it's also reconsidering how the next chapter reads. Many of the sharpest minds in the field think that the way to go is unmanned exploration. Sending humans —– and getting them back — adds enormously to the cost and complexity of space missions, and constrains where we can go. Unmanned missions — probes, rovers, satellites — can take bigger risks, go to different places and discover as much, at less cost.

But let's drop the romance, pause and take a practical view. What's given up? The manned spaceflight push has been muscling aside other NASA priorities. Two of those — aeronautics research and atmospheric sciences — are near to our region's heart, for they are specialties of NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton. They're also tremendously valuable to the nation. This administration and this Congress should restore priority and funding to aeronautics and sciences. Obama's budget makes welcome but small steps in that direction.

This would be an excellent place for Reps. Rob Wittman and Glenn Nye to establish special expertise and eventually exercise the leverage that comes with it. Rep. Bobby Scott should bring his influence to bear, as well. And Sen. Mark Warner or Sen. Jim Webb likewise should develop credibility and clout on NASA issues. (7/30)

ATK Job Cuts Likely to Reverberate in Utah (Source: Salt Lake Tribune)
Over the years, residents of this small northern Utah community 20 miles northwest of Alliant Techsystems' Promontory plant have enjoyed the booms and endured the busts of the state's aerospace industry. The waves of hiring and firings that came amid the ebb and flow of federal space and defense contracts were as much a part of the economic landscape as the towers of smoke billowing above the nearby hills after ATK test-fired its rocket motors. Yet ATK's announcement last week that it would lay off 450 people, or 10 percent of its Utah work force, is viewed by many as a particularly hard blow for Tremonton, given last year's unexpected closure of the La-Z-Boy plant, once the town's largest employer. (7/30)

Officials Announce Space Exploration Program for Idaho Students (Source: KIVI)
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and Idaho's Teacher-in-Space and Boise State University Distinguished Educator in Residence Barbara Morgan have announced a new program to bring space to Idaho students. Officials say the new Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars Program, which will launch this fall, is a competitive program that allows Idaho high school juniors to take an engaging online course in space exploration developed by NASA and gives them the opportunity to spend a week at NASA's Ames Research Center in California gaining hands-on experience from the leaders in our nation's aerospace industry. (7/30)

Spaceflight Panel: Consider Scrapping the Ares-1 (Source: Florida Today)
NASA's Ares-1 might be dead. The rocket promises to be 10 times safer than NASA's shuttle, but it might be killed because of concerns over cost and schedule. This despite the fact that Columbia accident investigators said crew safety should take top priority over cost and schedule in the design of a shuttle replacement. A presidential review panel said Thursday it is considering a plan to dump Ares I and go straight to the development of the heavy-lift Ares V -- a Saturn V-class moon rocket. (7/31)

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