August 22 News Items

White House Expected to Amend 2010 NASA Budget Request (Source: Space News)
"I think the budget constrictions created by the fiscal 2010 budget are forcing the Augustine Committee toward approaches with a great deal of new risk," said Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at the George Washington University here... The White House is expected to submit an amended 2010 budget request for NASA's exploration program by mid-September, according to sources with ties to the administration. Political watchers note that activity in the Senate — which has yet to pass a NASA appropriations bill this year — likely will be dominated by health care reform in the coming weeks. (8/22)

NGA Keeps U.S. Imagery Firms Optimistic in Tough Economy (Source: Space News)
The two U.S.-based commercial satellite imagery providers presented bullish forecasts of their near-term business, saying the appetite for imagery on the part of their biggest customer, the U.S. government, is not slackening in the poor economy and may pick up. GeoEye Inc. and DigitalGlobe also reaffirmed that neither would start building new high-resolution optical Earth imaging spacecraft until the U.S. government signals it is willing to guarantee future data purchases or help pay for the satellites' construction — or perhaps both. (8/22)

Lockheed Takes Control of Orion Launch Abort Motor (Source: Space News)
Hoping to avoid further delays to the first flight test of NASA's Orion crew capsule, prime contractor Lockheed Martin has wrested management of the spacecraft's Launch Abort System steering motor from subcontractor Orbital Sciences Corp., according to industry sources familiar with the program. Orion's Pad Abort 1 flight test, originally planned for Sep. 2008 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and now scheduled for late January at the earliest, is intended to demonstrate the capsule's emergency Launch Abort System (LAS). NASA officials say the first Pad Abort test has been delayed several times, due in part to technical problems with the abort system's attitude control motor, being developed by ATK under Orbital's management. Orbital has overall responsibility for the LAS. (8/22)

Missile Defense Agency Eyes Small Tracking Sats (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency in October will begin developing an acquisition strategy for a constellation of missile tracking satellites that will be smaller and more responsive than a pair of demonstration satellites slated to launch in September, the agency's director said Aug. 19. (8/22)

War Game Shows Need for Better Space Surveillance (Source: Space News)
Recent recent war games that simulated a 2019 conflict in space highlighted the United States' need for improved space situational awareness and closer cooperation with commercial satellite operators, a U.S. Air Force official said. During the Schreiver War Games 5 held at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., in April, a sophisticated spacefaring nation was able to deny the United States of many of its space capabilities, Air Force Lt. Gen. Larry James, commander of the 14th Air Force, said during a speech at the Space and Missile Defense Conference in Huntsville, Ala. (8/22)

Aerospace Workers Lose as U.S. Priorities Change (Source: Denver Business Journal)
Aerospace companies deal with complex equations every day, but some industry math is simple. Such as: Less money for projects equals fewer people building rockets and satellites. Two of the Denver-area’s biggest aerospace employers, United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., announced job cuts this summer, affecting hundreds of local employees. The cuts reflect expected slowdowns in government spending on specific projects, not the beginnings of a contraction for an industry that has largely been immune to the recession so far, experts say. (8/22)

Ariane Launches Two Satellites (Source:
An Ariane 5 rocket successfully launched a pair of communications satellites Friday night. The Ariane 5 ECA lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana and placed the the JCSAT-12 and Optus D3 satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbits about a half-hour later. JCSAT-12, a Lockheed Martin A2100AX satellite, weighed 4,000 kilograms at launch and carries 30 Ku-band and 12 C-band transponders. Its owner, Japanese operator SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation, will use the satellite as an in-orbit backup for its existing fleet of satellite in GEO. Optus D3, an Orbital Sciences Star-2 model satellite, weighed about 2,500 kilograms at launch and carries 32 Ku-band transponders. (8/22)

NASA May Outsource Amid Budget Woes (Source: Wall Street Journal)
For the first time since the advent of manned space exploration, the U.S. appears ready to outsource to private companies everything from transporting astronauts to ferrying cargo into orbit. Proposals gaining momentum in Washington call for contractors to build and run competing systems under commercial contracts, according to federal officials, aerospace-industry officials and others familiar with the discussions.

Responding to questions, on Saturday the White House press office said the President "has confirmed his commitment to human space exploration" and is reviewing various options. "But at the end of the day, the President will make the decision, not a committee." In the face of severe federal budget constraints and a burgeoning commercial-space industry eager to play a larger role in exploring the solar system and perhaps beyond, these people said, a consensus for the new approach seems to be building inside the White House as well as NASA.

Under this scenario, a new breed of contractors would take over many of NASA's current responsibilities, freeing the agency to pursue longer-term, more ambitious goals such as new rocket-propulsion technology and manned missions to Mars. Ranging from conventional start-ups to firms created by wealthy entrepreneurs, these contractors would take the lead in servicing the International Space Station from the shuttle's planned retirement around 2011 through at least the end of that decade. (8/22)

Failure to Launch: Abandoned NASA Projects (Source: New Scientist)
Facing budget and technical concerns, the agency may abandon the development of its Ares rockets – amateur space historian Henry Spencer looks back at other big NASA projects that never got off the ground. Click here to view a slide show of these NASA projects. (8/22)

Scientists Go Suborbital (Source: MSNBC)
The killer app for private spaceflight, at least once the millionaires and celebrities have had their turn, may well be scientific research. "You spark this industry with tourists, but I predict in the next decade the research market is going to be bigger than the tourist market," says Alan Stern, a planetary scientist at the Colorado-based Southwest Research Institute who is heading up a committee to link up researchers with future suborbital spaceflights.

Until recently, suborbital space trips were marketed primarily as the penultimate high for well-heeled thrill-seekers. Plunking down $200,000 for an afternoon-long ride to weightless heights was seen as the next adventure for folks who have been around the world, down to Antarctica and up to Everest - but can't take a $35 million trip to the international space station. But is the tourist market big enough to sustain private-sector spaceflight, particularly in the early years? Virtually all the major players in the still-gestating suborbital industry now realize that research flights could make the difference in their drive to profitability.

Scientists are already organizing themselves to take advantage of the opportunities ahead. This week, Stern convened the first meeting of a committee known as the Suborbital Applications Research Group (SARG, or "Sarge"), organized in Boulder, Colo., under the aegis of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. After the meeting, Stern and others touted the effort at a meeting of a National Academies board in Boulder. (8/22)

NASA, AFOSR Test Environmentally-Friendly Rocket Propellant (Source: NASA)
NASA and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, or AFOSR, have successfully launched a small rocket using an environmentally-friendly, safe propellant comprised of aluminum powder and water ice, called ALICE. Using ALICE as fuel, a nine-foot rocket soared to a height of 1,300 feet over Purdue University's Scholer farms in Indiana earlier this month. ALICE is generating excitement among researchers because this energetic propellant has the potential to replace some liquid or solid propellants. When it is optimized, it could have a higher performance than conventional propellants. (8/22)

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