July 5 News Items

Wallops Island facility To Be 'Cape Canaveral of North' (Source: Baltimore Sun)
There isn't much to see yet at the grandly named Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, just the skeleton of an old launch gantry on a piece of oceanfront leased from the federal government. But promoters expect something remarkable to blossom on this sun-baked spit of sand and scrub on the Eastern Shore. David Smith, a state official from Virginia, which joined with Maryland six years ago to operate a commercial spaceflight center with the lofty acronym MARS, says the area is on track to become "the Cape Canaveral of the North."

For now, though, it's the Wal-Mart of spaceports. "They can do more with a dollar than anyone else within NASA," said Robert Strain, director of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, which operates the Wallops Flight Facility where MARS is based. The facility operates out of a one-room former gas station on NASA property, not far from a busy highway that takes beach-bound visitors to the southern end of Assateague Island. It employs six people. Spaceport officials like to tout their cut-rate location, a barrier island just off the Delmarva Peninsula. From here, they say, it's a shorter shot to the orbiting International Space Station, which means lower bills for rocket fuel. Insurance is cheaper, too, since flights go almost entirely over water (trajectories from Florida cross Europe and the Middle East). (7/5)

Augustine Panel Timeline Leaves Little Room for Florida Input (Source: SPACErePORT)
Based on its target to deliver its findings by August, the Augustine Panel is expected to receive its subcommittee input and perhaps deliver an early draft of its report to the Obama Administration prior to its July 30 meeting at Kennedy Space Center. With such a tight schedule, and with no plans for a tour of KSC's infrastructure, the panel's meeting in Florida (the last field meeting before its final one in Washington) could provide little or no opportunity for substantive input from KSC and the state's space advocates. (7/5)

Kosmas Comments on NASA Budget, Shuttle Retirement (Source: Florida Today)
Space Coast Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas made the following comments in response to Florida Today's question about her efforts to support Kennedy Space Center: "We're trying to ensure that NASA has the funding to complete the manifest for the remaining eight shuttle launches -- that we remove the hard deadline of September 2010 so that for safety reasons and weather reasons, we're not trying to cram in our eight launches." (7/5)

Space For More: ISRO Bets on 25% Growth in 2009-10 (Source: Economic Times)
The economy may be witnessing a downturn, but the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is hopeful of registering a 25% top line during 2009-10. During 2008-09 it achieved revenues of Rs 1,000 crore. Mr G Madhavan Nair, chairman of Isro, chairman, Space Commission and secretary, department of space said: “Nearly 15-20% of the revenue is expected from launching satellites on behalf of other countries...We are also enhancing our satellite launch capability with higher payloads at a steady pace. This is expected to attract clients, from other countries and commercial organizations, who are keen to place satellites and equipment in space.” (7/5)

Florida Ranks Last in Stimulus Money Received Per Person (Source: Palm Beach Post)
Floridians have received less federal stimulus money than any of their fellow Americans, despite an unemployment rate here that ranks among the highest in the country and a budget crisis that few states can match. "It just shows how inept Florida's government officials are," Florida TaxWatch President Dominic Calabro said. "Relying on Washington has always been a bad deal for Florida." Florida received just $505 per person, which ranks last among the 50 states, all U.S. territories combined and Washington, D.C., according to a Palm Beach Post analysis. (7/5)

Augustine Panel Finds 'Side-Mount' Ares Alternative "Capable" (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A study done by NASA engineers at various agency centers on behalf of the Augustine Panel has found that shuttle program manager John Shannon's "side-mount" alternative to the Constellation rockets is capable and affordable. The alternative rocket is similar to the current space shuttle, except that the orbiter mounted on the side of the fuel tank is replaced by a podlike container resembling a giant car-top carrier. The design is called the Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle, or HLV, and was presented to the Augustine Panel at its first public hearing June 17.

Although it is "less capable than the current Constellation" rocket plans, the rocket "is technically viable and delivers 79.9 [metric tons] to [Low Earth Orbit] and 53.1 [metric tons to the moon.]” It added: "HLV low development costs allow work to begin now and take advantage of essential contractor and civil service skills before they are lost." The Aerospace Corporation, an independent aerospace research group, separately has been asked by the committee to evaluate another alternative, the Jupiter rocket project. (7/5)

Northrop Grumman's Ronald Sugar: Quietly in Command (Source: LA Times)
The former whiz kid from South Los Angeles often shuns the limelight. 'If you met him on the street, you'd never know he runs one of the world's largest defense companies,' a Wall Street analyst says. Much like Northrop Grumman Corp.'s stealthy B-2 bomber, the company's chief executive has flown under the radar for most of his career overseeing the development of many of the nation's top-secret weapons. Unassuming and devoid of the cigar-chomping flamboyance that distinguished aerospace executives in the past, Ronald Sugar often shuns the limelight. Click here to view the article. (7/5)

Rocket Alternatives Gaining Traction Against Ares (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The Augustine Panel has deemed some alternatives to Ares as worthy of further study, including ideas written off by NASA engineers a few years ago as being underpowered, unsafe and unimaginative. One of them is being promoted by the head of NASA's shuttle program. Another is the product of a group of freelance engineers calling themselves the Direct team. Last week, the Augustine Panel said it wants Aerospace Corp., an independent-research group, to analyze Direct's Jupiter rocket, which would use the shuttle's giant external fuel tank and two solid rocket boosters to launch a capsule instead of an orbiter. Last year, when the Direct team first began touting its shuttle-derived design, NASA officials treated members like refugees from a Star Trek convention. NASA's former head of space exploration told Congress that their idea "defied the laws of physics."

But Jupiter, like most of the other designs being scrutinized now, started out as a NASA idea and has been around for years. That is partly what makes it worthy of further study in the committee's eyes. Still, the sudden reconsideration of rocket designs that NASA dreamed up and then rejected is embarrassing for the agency. NASA has already invested four years, and $9 billion, in its Constellation program, though the Ares I and Ares V moon rockets are beset by technical difficulties and cost overruns. Click here to view the article. (7/5)

Boeing Pitches In-Line Shuttle-Based Rocket Alternative (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
It's not just the Jupiter rocket getting a second look, or only independents and small companies pitching ideas. One set of proposals came from The Boeing Co., which is NASA's partner in developing Ares but appears to be hedging its bets. Boeing engineers presented Augustine Panel members with a range of alternatives, including a rocket that resembles Direct's project: a shuttle external tank and solid rocket boosters with a capsule on top. The company also pitched a side-mount concept similar to the one presented by NASA to the Augustine group. A Boeing official said the company remains committed to Constellation. (7/5)

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