September 19 News Items

Shuttle Managers Disagrees with Safety Chief's Testimony on Extension (Source:
Space Shuttle Program (SSP) manager John Shannon has claimed that Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) leader Joseph Dyer’s opposition to an extension of the shuttle manifest, due to it “becoming more risky”, is not an accurate reflection of the program’s current environment. Shannon addressing his workforce to inform them he found the Admiral’s comments “disturbing.” Dyer's remarks drew anger from throughout the shuttle program, not least due to the fact that major steps forward – via numerous safety modifications – have been proved via a run of highly successful and “clean” missions since Return To Flight.

The recently landed STS-128 mission is already being classed as the cleanest flight – from a Thermal Protection System (TPS) standpoint – in the history of the program. Said Mr. Shannon: “There were some disturbing remarks from the head of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP). We are working to understand these concerns from a Shuttle risk standpoint,” Mr Shannon noted. “We are flying safer now, and have a better safety culture and integrated team approach with many checks and balances to ensure that we are flying as safely as absolutely possible.” Mr Shannon also cited the recent Flight Readiness Review (FRR) and Mission Management Team (MMT) decisions not to launch a mission until they were absolutely sure the shuttle was safe to carry it out. (9/19)

Missile Defense Shift Could Redirect Billions From Alabama (Source: The Hill)
The Obama administration’s new missile defense plan is setting off a parochial battle on Capitol Hill with lawmakers concerned about a shift in federal contract money. This week’s announcement—calling for more flexible, sea-based missile deterrents--is a boon for the Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, which have significant missile defense operations in Arizona, Arkansas and New Jersey. It is bad news for Boeing and its congressional supporters in Alabama, where the company builds and manages its ground based missile interceptors.

President Obama said Thursday he was dropping Bush-era plans to put ten, two-stage ground-based interceptors in Poland, a project that Boeing would have managed, and a related radar site in the Czech Republic, and it builds and manages the complex ground-based interceptor enterprise. Boeing has key subcontractors - Orbital Sciences, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. Boeing does most of the work on ground-based missile defense in freshman Rep. Parker Griffith’s (D-Ala.) district of Huntsville. Griffith won last year in a conservative district and has been worried for months that the administration’s missile defense plans could hurt hundreds of jobs his district.

For its 2010 budget request, the Pentagon already slashed $2 billion from the ground missile defense program. Earlier this summer Griffith voted against the 2010 defense authorization bill because of the cuts in missile defense, said his spokesman Sean Magers. Now, with no prospects for ground interceptors in Europe, Griffith finds himself one of a small minority of Democrats questioning the move by the Obama White House. (9/19)

Making Space Power Pay (Source: MSNBC)
Power-beaming systems are moving from drawing boards and computer slideshow presentations to actual demonstrations on tabletops and in exhibit halls. But what will it take to turn power beams into profitable outer-space ventures? Strangely enough, the challenge of constructing a sheet of thin-film solar cells that unfolds to a width of 1,000 feet (300 meters) in orbit is not the issue uppermost in the mind of William Maness, chief executive officer of Everett, Wash.-based PowerSat Corp. The problems that lead his list have more to do with earthly affairs - such as getting investors, utilities and regulators to buy into the idea. Maness told a small gathering at a National Space Society meeting in Seattle this week that the pitch for space solar power has been directed too often at space enthusiasts who don't have a financial stake in the issue, rather than energy utility executives who do.

Maness favors a more market-centered approach to the issue, and there are signs that the approach is taking hold. But other signs show why the challenge facing Maness and his colleagues in the space-power business is so daunting. First, the positive side: Maness pointed to Solaren Corp.'s deal with San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Eelectric for a 200-megawatt space solar power pilot project as a potential success story. "That was some brilliant work," he said. The deal still must pass regulatory muster, however, beginning with approval by California's Public Utilities Commission. Cal Boerman, Solaren's director for energy services, told me today that he expected the commission to make its decision in October or November. The company is also continuing its talks with potential launch providers such as United Launch Alliance, Boerman said. (9/19)

China to Help Pakistan Build Satellite (Source: RIA Novosti)
China will assist Pakistan in building a new communications satellite, Chinese media reported Saturday from Islamabad. An agreement under which China will grant a $200 million loan to Pakistan for satellite construction was signed in Islamabad on Friday. The new PAKSAT-1R is to replace PAKSAT-1, to last until 2011. PAKSAT-1R could be orbited in two or three years' time. It will be built jointly by China's Great Wall Industry Corporation and Pakistan's Space and Upper Atmospheric Research Commission. (9/19)

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