September 15 News Items

Lawmakers Criticize Augustine Panel's Report (Source: Florida Today)
Congressional legislators questioned the Augustine Panel's findings, taking up the issue for the first time since the panel submitted a summary of its work to the White House last week. The report spelled out the severity of NASA’s budget shortfall, particularly in its space program. The agency’s long history of inadequate funding is well known, said U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat who heads a House space and aeronautics panel.

“I’m frustrated by what I read. In fact, I’m pretty angry,” said Giffords, who is married to an astronaut. Giffords said she expected the report to make recommendations that could help advance the Constellation program, in which NASA has invested several years and billions of dollars. But the presidential panel gave only “glancing attention to Constellation - even referring to it in the past tense.” She called the options the panel did provide “a set of alternatives that in one sense look almost like cartoons” that lack cost or scheduling details. (9/15)

Russia To Launch 3 Glonass Satellites (Source: Space Daily)
Russia will launch a Proton-M carrier rocket on September 25 from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan to orbit three Glonass navigation satellites, Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said on Tuesday. Glonass - the Global Navigation Satellite System - is the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS, and is designed for both military and civilian use. (9/15)

Xombie Rocket Gets Its Turn for Prize (Source: MSNBC)
Days after Armadillo Aerospace's Scorpius rocket qualified for a $1 million rocket prize, Masten Space Systems is readying its own Xombie lunar lander prototype for a slightly easier blastoff challenge. Although the potential payoff isn't as big, the drama could be just as high. The Xombie is due to fly Wednesday, shortly after the sun comes up over the test site in Mojave, Calif., according to organizers of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. And the team leader behind the Xombie's rise, company founder David Masten, says the flight could be a nail-biter.

Masten's Xombie - which took on that title because the team got tired of calling the rocket by an even geekier name - XA-0.1B - is going after the second prize in a NASA-backed contest that was won last year by Armadillo. When Armadillo won the $350,000 top prize in that Level 1 competition, the $150,000 runner-up purse was carried over to this year's contest. Now Masten and another California-based team, Unreasonable Rocket, are vying for the Level 1 leftovers, as well as the richer prizes offered in the Lunar Lander Challenge's Level 2 contest.

For the Level 1 contest, rocketeers have to send up their lunar lander prototype by remote control, have it rise to at least 50 meters (yards) in altitude and stay in the air for at least 90 seconds. The rocket has to maneuver over to land on a nice, flat pad at least 50 meters away. Then, after refueling, it has to retrace its hop back to the original launch pad. The Level 2 contest increases the hang time to three minutes and adds some moon-style boulders and craters to the destination pad, all of which makes things more complicated for the rocket-builders. (9/15)

Open House at TRDA Business Innovation Center on Oct. 1 (Source: TRDA)
The Technological Research and Development Authority (TRDA) is hosting an Open House on Oct. 1 from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. at the TRDA Business Innovation Center in Melbourne. The public is invited to tour the incubator and meet some of the entrepreneurs who have become clients. There will be a free 45-minute strategic business planning workshop that will provide a preview of the 6-week TRDA Roadmap to Success Workshop Series. Attendees will also hear more about the incubator program, technical assistance, and professional mentoring services offered at the TRDA Business Innovation Center. Visit for information. (9/15)

Teacher Quest Tampa Bay Program Recruits Business Partners for 2010 (Source: TRDA)
Sponsored through the Helios Education Foundation, The Teacher Quest Tampa Bay Pilot Program provides summer employment for Florida certified teachers in grades 6-8 in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This initiative creates a relevant and progressive link between education and the business community. By gaining real-world experience in the workplace, teachers can bring an important, fresh, forward-thinking perspective to their students.

The Teacher Quest Tampa Bay Program will match highly skilled teachers with targeted businesses to expose them to new career and academic opportunities and skills needed in the workforce that can be developed in the classroom. Teachers will work full-time for six weeks. The companies in turn hire a highly motivated, cost-effective employee and are given the opportunity to give continual support to the teacher after the employment period by bringing students to the workplace on tours and going into the classrooms to speak.

Recruitment is underway for the 2010 Teacher Quest Tampa Bay Pilot Program. To learn how your business can cost-effectively sponsor a teacher next summer, please contact Diane Matthews at, or call 866-263-9564 x106. (9/15)

Dale at Space Florida Brings Political Implications (Source: Florida Today)
Frank DiBello became interim president at Space Florida in early May, replacing Steve Kohler, who was selected by Gov. Jeb Bush had worked for former Republican Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge. Kohler had little space industry experience, and DiBello was the runner up when Kohler was chosen. Before former President Bush appointed Dale to NASA in 2005, she served in the Bush White House. She resigned her NASA post shortly before President Obama took office.

"It seems like a bad business decision," Dale Ketcham, director of the University of Central Florida's Spaceport Research & Technology Institute at Kennedy Space Center, said. "We had the right guy in that job." Ketcham said he did not doubt Dale's competence, only her ability to work with the Obama administration. "It's a puzzling decision by this selection committee. Most of the committee does not live here, and we're the ones impacted."

Up to 7,000 space industry jobs will be lost when the shuttle stops flying. Many more related jobs will evaporate as space industry workers leave the area. "Clearly we need some help," Bill Cunningham, chairman-elect of the Brevard County's Economic Development Commission, said. "We're less than a year away from an enormous employment issue here." Cunningham supports DiBello for the job. "We have a guy that's very competent on the ground, running," he said. "We don't have a lot of time." (9/15)

Giant Cracks on Mars Hint at Ancient Lakes (Source: Florida Today)
A series of huge cracks etched across crater basins on Mars were caused by lakes that have since evaporated, a new study concludes. The cracks were initially thought to have been merely a byproduct of thermal contractions in the Martian permafrost. But a closer examination revealed the cracks were too big for that explanation. Cracks caused by thermal contraction have a maximum diameter of roughly 213 feet (65 meters), according to analytical models.

"They resembled the desiccation cracks that we see on Earth in dried up lakes, said M. Ramy El Maarry of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research. "These are the same type of patterns you see when mud dries out in your back yard, but the stresses that build up when liquids evaporate can cause deep cracks and polygons on the scale I was seeing in the craters." (9/15)

NASA to Give Away Space Program Artifacts (Source: Florida Today)
NASA's famed "Astrovan" -- the silver Airstream motor home that carries astronauts from crew quarters to the launch pad -- is up for grabs. So is the $100 million Motion-Based Shuttle Flight Simulator that replicates the earthshaking shuttle launch, ascent, atmospheric re-entry and landing. Spacesuit gloves, space food, helmets and other surplus gear also are available to eligible education institutions, museums and other organizations interested in obtaining artifacts after NASA's shuttle fleet is retired in late 2010 or 2011. (9/15)

Brevard County Officials Support DiBello at Space Florida (Source: Florida Today)
Supporters of interim Space Florida President Frank DiBello are fighting for his reconsideration, after a selection committee recommended Shana Dale, former NASA deputy administrator and Bush appointee, to take the job permanently. "The learning curve is so unnecessary," Brevard County Commissioner Mary Bolin said. "I am stunned that the selection committee would want to go with a total unknown to the State of Florida and start all over again."

Florida's space industry is virtually in panic mode, with the shuttle program ending next year, causing massive unemployment in the county. Additionally, NASA's Constellation program suffers from chronic underfunding and requires a jumpstart with a $3 billion per year budget increase. "Frank DiBello is the person who would be of the highest benefit for the State of Florida," Bolin said. "He would have the confidence of government and private industry immediately. He's already shown his ability to bring groups together and have positive results."

Several of DiBello's supporters said privately they would continue to press for his selection. The selection committee's recommendation was scheduled to be voted on during a Thursday teleconference. However, state Sen. Thad Altman, a non-voting board member, said he would formally request the vote be delayed until the full board meets Sept. 22 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. (9/15)

Orbital Awarded New Minotaur-5 Mission for Virginia Launch (Source: MarketWatch)
Orbital Sciences Corp. announced that the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) recently ordered the first Minotaur-5 launch vehicle under the company's Orbital/Suborbital Program-2 (OSP-2) contract. The Minotaur V rocket will propel NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) probe on a trajectory to enable it to orbit the Moon. The Air Force's Space Development and Test Wing (SDTW), located at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, administers the OSP-2 contract.

The company's new order brings the total number of Minotaur launch vehicles procured by the Air Force, including space launch and target vehicles, to 28 since the inception of the program in 1997. It also represents the first order of a Minotaur-5 rocket designed to launch U.S. government satellites into higher-energy orbits for missions related to space exploration and other activities beyond low-Earth orbit. (9/15)

Space Florida Chooses Former NASA Official as Next Leader (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A committee seeking a replacement for Space Florida’s former President Steve Kohler, who stepped down in May under a barrage of criticism, has unanimously chosen former NASA deputy administrator Shana Dale to be the next leader of the state aerospace development body. “Today [Tuesday] in a publicly noticed phone call, Dr. Ken Ford as chair of the Space Florida Board Search Committee told Lt. Governor [Jeff] Kottkamp the Search Committee's unanimous choice is Shana Dale," Space Florida spokeswoman Deb Spicer said in a statement.

The search committee will spend Tuesday trying to hammer out a contract with Dale. Kohler, an economic development expert from Pennsylvania, was making $175,000 annually as Space Florida President before he resigned. The full Space Florida Board is expected to meet via teleconference on Thursday, September 17 at 10:00 AM, to vote on Dale and her contract.

Dale's selection effectively puts to rest the hopes that acting interim president Frank DiBello, would take over the job full time as many aerospace industry officials in Florida and Washington had hoped. When DiBello, a well-respected space consultant with a long history in Florida, first took over from Kohler in May there was an outpouring of support from aerospace industry leaders. (9/15)

Anti-Ares-1 Forces Strike Back With Video (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Amid stepped up editorials by Ares I supporters praising NASA's next generation rocket as the safest, fastest way back to space for the agency, critics of the rocket are hitting back with a video of their own. Posted on YouTube, the video attacks Ares I as a "paper rocket" while presenting many of the alternatives, like United Launch Alliance's Delta IV and Atlas, as seasoned successful launch-proven vehicles, and others, like SpaceX's never-flown before Falcon 9, as almost ready for its maiden flight. Ares I, the video points out, is still years away from flying.

The video turns the barb of former NASA chief Mike Griffin -- who once told his critics that their paper rockets will always be better than his hardware -- on its head. The video came out as Griffin prepares to testify before a House Science and Technology Committee Tuesday to refute the findings of the Presidential committee that reviewed the Constellation Program to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. The panel, headed by former Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine, was critical of the Constellation program, saying it was too expensive. Click here to view the article and video. (9/15)

Zero Gravity for Zero Dollars: Best Student Discount Ever (Source: WIRED)
While the super-rich can pay millions to experience weightlessness at the International Space Station, some college kids have figured out how to experience the thrill of zero gravity for the student-friendly price of $0. Through NASA’s Microgravity University program, teams of college students get to ride in and conduct experiments on a NASA jet that simulates zero-gravity conditions. Undergrads around the county will be sending their letters of intent to apply to this year’s competition this week, with completed applications due next month. “It’s really an ‘as only NASA can’ program,” said Sara Malloy, coordinator of the Microgravity University office at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Students spend 10 days preparing for and going on their flights. Though the program’s science doesn’t get piped directly into NASA’s high-profile programs, some of the research can end up in the hands of engineers. And the students themselves get unique training in one of the strangest environments a human can experience. The Microgravity University program hasn’t been heavily publicized, but it has reached more than 2,800 students at more than 165 colleges and universities since it first began in 1995. The trips on NASA’s Weightless Wonder, known more informally as the Vomit Comet, would cost more than $5,000 per person through the Zero Gravity Corporation. (9/15)

Old and New Studies Question Safety of Ares I Rocket (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA and its contractors building the agency's next-generation moon rocket maintain that it will be the safest, most reliable rocket ever to send humans into space. But several engineering reports sharply question that claim. The latest report to surface was presented four years ago by NASA's Crew Survival Office, a group of engineers at Johnson Space Center specifically charged to find ways to increase astronauts' chances of surviving disaster. It came to light because it was sent to the presidential committee reviewing NASA's plans for human space exploration and was published on its website.

In the report, three Crew Survival Office engineers questioned NASA's pending choice of the Ares I rocket, which uses a solid-fuel rocket motor sitting directly under a capsule, warning that if anything went wrong during launch, astronauts were unlikely to escape alive. Similar concerns are found in a recent Air Force safety report. NASA has dismissed both studies, calling them preliminary and flawed. But they could present supporters of Ares I with an enormous hurdle as they try to convince the White House -- now mulling over its panel's findings about NASA's space program -- that the Ares I is worth keeping. (9/15)

Astronaut Says U.S. Needs to Legalize Illegal Immigrants (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Spaceman Jose Hernandez said the U.S. needs to legalize its undocumented immigrants — a rare, public stand for a U.S. astronaut on a political, hot-button issue. Mexicans have hung on every word of NASA's first astronaut to tweet in Spanish — as Astro—Jose — since the son of migrants embarked on his two week, 5.7-million-mile mission to the space station that ended Friday. And they're still listening to him now that he is back on Earth.

During a telephone interview with Mexico's Televisa network, Hernandez pushed for U.S. immigration reform — a key issue for Mexico that has been stalled in Washington amid fierce debate. “The American economy needs them,” said Hernandez, 47, a California native who toiled in the cucumber, sugar beet and tomato fields alongside his Mexican-born parents. “I believe it's only fair to find a way to legalize them and give them an opportunity to work openly, so they can also retire in a traditional U.S. system.”

NASA spokesman James Hartsfield told The Associated Press that Hernandez was expressing his personal views, “not representing NASA, the astronaut office or any NASA organization in his responses.” Hernandez said he wished all world leaders and politicians could see the Earth as he has, “so they could see our world, that really we are one, that we should work together.” (9/15)

Commercial Crew Program Would Create Over 5,000 Direct Jobs Across the U.S. (Source: CSF)
An industry survey has revealed that over 5,000 direct jobs, including 1,700 jobs in Florida, would be created over the next five years if the $2.5 billion Commercial Crew program proposed by Augustine Panel moves forward. A Commercial Crew program would support full utilization of the Space Station, reduce U.S. reliance on Russia to launch American astronauts, and allow NASA to focus its resources on exploration beyond low-Earth-orbit (LEO).

The industry survey tallied direct jobs created by a combination of government and private investment, and concluded the program would primarily result in high-tech jobs in engineering and manufacturing in areas such as vehicle design, hardware manufacturing, launch vehicle integration, launch operations, and infrastructure development. In particular, the survey showed that a Commercial Crew Program would create 1,700 jobs in Florida, one of the areas impacted by the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet. (9/15)

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