August 3 News Items

Former E'Prime Chief Dodges Legal Bullet, Reclaims Control (Source: SPACErePORT)
A lawsuit claiming various mideeds and malfeasance by former E'Prime chief Bob Davis and his wife Betty (a corporate officer) was thrown out by an Orlando judge. Control of E'Prime had been transferred to new majority shareholders a few years ago, but the terms and validity of the sale were also challenged in a separate lawsuit. Operating from Titusville, E'Prime had for two decades been trying to develop a commercial launch business using tooling for Peacekeeper missiles to create a family of "Eagle" cannister-launched rockets. The Orlando judge's dismissal leaves the company's status and future in question, but it appears that Mr. Davis has regained control of the company. (8/3)

Ex-NASA Official Goes on Trial Over Steering Money (Source: AP)
A former high-ranking NASA official went on trial Monday on charges that he steered nearly $10 million to a consulting client and lied about it. Prosecutors told the jury during opening arguments they would prove Courtney Stadd abused the power of his government office to line his own pockets and mislead ethics officials. Stadd's lawyer insisted his client was only carrying out the orders of NASA Administrator Michael Griffin when he insisted in 2005 that $12 million of the money be spent in the state of Mississippi.

The client, Mississippi State University, ended up with $9.6 million of the funds. Afterward, prosecutors said Stadd tried to get the university to raise his fee from $7,000 a month to $10,000 a month, citing his help with the funding. Stadd, who lives in Bethesda, Md., faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of one conflict of interest count and two counts of making a false statement. Stadd was NASA's chief of staff and White House liaison from 2001 to 2003 and served as former President George W. Bush's NASA transition chief in 2000. After leaving the agency, Stadd started a lobbying and consulting business called Capital Solutions that specialized in advising aerospace clients. (8/3)

A Netscape Moment for the Commercial Space Industry? (Source: VentureBeat)
The commercial space industry has seen some interesting developments over the past weeks. Statements last week by the Augustine Panel suggest that commercial providers may be taking a significant role in how NASA accesses low Earth orbit and how missions beyond LEO could use orbiting “gas stations”. At the same time, two commercial space companies, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX, have received significant investments from well known funds, suggesting that capital markets see a fundable new industry developing.

Some of these developments are reminiscent of the Internet industry in the early 90s. Prior to 1993, the National Science Foundation ran the Internet as an exclusive tool for university and government research (commercial speech was completely banned from the Internet prior to 1991). The NSF then decided to turn over the operation of the Internet to the private sector. Just two years later, Netscape’s IPO set records for first day gains. Despite the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000, the Internet industry has been one of the largest economic drivers of the last 15 years.

The suggestions coming from the Augustine Commission are somewhat reminiscent of NSF’s decision. By relinquishing its domination of low Earth orbit and partnering with commercial providers for beyond low Earth orbit infrastructure, NASA can better accomplish its exploration goals and foster a whole new industry. While we won’t see a space startup in every garage the way we did with Internet startups, the returns for using and developing space resources can be very interesting. (8/3)

NASA: Deep Space and Shallow Gravity Wells (Source: What's New)
Forget the landing-on-other-worlds stuff. a panel of the Augustine committee favors a plan for human space flight that would go beyond low-Earth orbit, but avoid the deep-gravity wells of the Moon and Mars. What's left? The article suggests Lagrange points, asteroids and the small moons of Mars. We’re gonna send people to Lagrange points? For all the potential importance of Lagrange points, their intrinsic interest is zero. Is this just an indirect way of saying there is no role for humans in space? (8/3)

Five Things You'll See in Augustine's Report (Source: Florida Today)
President Barack Obama's human space flight committee is covering a lot of ground fast in a quest to deliver a report to the White House by the end of August. In about 20 hours of meetings last week, they addressed the future of the space shuttles and International Space Station. They talked about whether to scrap the Ares rockets. They debated where to send astronauts. The committee pored over reams of data. Members asked prickly questions. They made pronouncements that sounded like recommendations, though Chairman Norm Augustine said the report will not make recommendations. It will give the president several options. You might be wondering, "Where are these folks headed?" Clues abound. Here are five things I expect will show up in their final report. Click here to view the article. (8/3)

A Place for China's Mat in Space (Source: Space Review)
Is there really a new space race emerging between the United States and China? Jeff Foust reports on a new study that examines the Chinese historical record for insights on its civil space program. Visit to view the article. (8/3)

Elements of a 21st Century Space Policy (Source: Space Review)
The new administration is undertaking a review of national space policy that will extend far beyond what the Augustine committee is studying. Peter Garretson argues that any new policy needs to incorporate a number of key elements that go far beyond science and exploration. Visit to view the article. (8/3)

The Limits of Space Law (Source: Space Review)
A major uncertainty in the long-term future of the commercialization of space is the question of private property rights. Taylor Dinerman takes a critical look at a new book that claims that international law will never permit such property rights. Visit to view the article. (8/3)

They Make It Look so Easy (Source: Houston Chronicle)
From Earth it all looks oh-so-easy as astronauts float around in the blackness of space. During spacewalks they're using tools that look familiar, like wrenches, and they're typically performing seemingly mundane tasks, like swapping out power supplies. Can't be much harder than changing out a car battery, right? “It may look easy, but don't let that mislead you,” said Brian Smith, a NASA flight director. Sure, working in space is just like working in your garage. Except for the bulky gloves and suits astronauts must wear, no gravity, and the ever-present threat of orbital debris slicing through the suit that protects them from the vacuum and near-absolute zero temperatures of space. Nothing, as it happens, works in space during an extra-vehicular activity like it does on the ground.

For NASA, learning these working-in-space lessons has been the manned spaceflight program's primary challenge during the past two decades as it planned and built the space station, launched the Hubble Space Telescope and performed five repair missions there. “We've now gotten to the point where we understand how to do EVAs,” said John Grunsfeld, who has performed eight spacewalks — or extra-vehicular activities, EVAs in NASA jargon — to service the Hubble. “With that said, we're always riding right on the edge. One mistake and you're floating free.” (8/3)

Is NASA Langley Building Boom on Solid Ground? (Source: Daily Press)
The campus of NASA Langley Research Center doesn't reflect the cutting-edge technology it develops. Drab brick buildings and the occasional trailer dot the Hampton facility, giving it an appearance of decay. "It feels like you're at your grandfather's workplace," said the executive director of the Hampton-based NASA Aeronautics Support Team. "It's sort of depressing." Langley officials hope to change that with New Town, a 15-year, $200 million building project that would modernize NASA's oldest facility with new environment-friendly offices and labs. In the works since 2003, New Town calls for six new buildings, renovation of two and demolition of 10.

Langley officials have asked NASA brass to funnel an additional $171 million into the project during the next 14 years. That might or might not happen depending on the agenda President Barack Obama sets for NASA. "There's a lot of uncertainty on what could happen at Langley," said Hoogstraten, whose employer, the support team, is a nonprofit booster of Langley and NASA. The pending retirement of the space shuttle, as well as changes to the space exploration program, could lead to the restructuring of NASA. In that case, "there's going to be pressure from all angles to shrink Langley." (8/3)

China Conducts Stringent Tests of Would-Be Spacemen (Source: Xinhua)
No scars, no history of serious illness in the last three generations of your family, and no tooth cavities -- China imposes tough standards on its future astronauts. They must be close to perfection to meet the standards set for the men and women who will lead China into outer space, Monday's China Daily reported. Officials from the No. 454 Hospital of the People's Liberation Army in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, was quoted by China Daily as saying that over the weekend they had already completed preliminary tests for candidates to carry out the country's future space missions. (8/3)

New Minotaur Rocket to Debut in October (Source:
The Minotaur-4 rocket, a new military launcher derived from retired missile parts, will debut in October with an experimental Air Force mission that will track other satellites in space. Launch of the Minotaur 4 rocket is scheduled for Oct. 22 at Space Launch Complex 8 at the southern end of Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The four-stage launcher will be able to throw more than 3,000 pounds into low-altitude orbits, according to Orbital Sciences Corp. Editor's Note: Minotaur-4 and other vehicles in the Minotaur family--composed of stages from military Minuteman, Peacekeeper, and other rockets--could soon launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, if Space Florida's "Spaceports-3" proposal is accepted by the Air Force. (8/3)

Gap in U.S. Human Spaceflight Could Reach Nine Years (Source: Aviation Week)
The outside panel examining NASA's human-spaceflight plans for President Barack Obama foresees a much bigger gap in the U.S. ability to send its astronauts into space after the space shuttle fleet retires than the space agency targets with its current plan, and has gone back to basics in its searching for alternatives. While NASA hopes to start flying its Ares I crew launch vehicle with a piloted Orion capsule on top by March 2015 - leaving a five-year gap - a quick-look study by The Aerospace Corp. finds that date could slip as late as 2019 at current spending levels, which all agree are woefully inadequate.

The California think tank doesn't expect the five-year figure to shrink much using some of the alternative launch vehicles it has studied for Augustine's panel. "We don't believe the other options reduce the gap from the right very much," says former astronaut Sally Ride, a panel member who presented some of the Aerospace findings. "You might get a year, a year and a half." But closing the gap isn't the only assignment Obama gave Augustine. The panel must also recommend options for flying out the shuttle and continuing to operate the International Space Station beyond its scheduled deorbit in 2016. (8/3)

No comments: