December 2 News Items

Former NASA Climate Scientist Pleads Guilty to Contract Fraud (Source: Washington Examiner)
A former top climate scientist who had become of one the scientific world's most cited authorities on the human effect on Earth's atmosphere was sentenced to probation Tuesday after pleading guilty to steering lucrative no-bid contracts to his wife's company. In addition to a year's probation, former NASA manager Mark Schoeberl, 60, of Silver Spring, was also fined $10,000 and ordered to put in 50 hours of community service. He admitted in the late summer that he had hid some $50,000 in NASA contracts for a company called Animated Earth, which was run by Schoeberl's wife, Barbara. Prosecutors alleged that Schoeberl tried to help his wife's firm for years. When his colleagues balked at giving no-bid contracts to his wife's firm, Schoeberl pressured them to steer money to his wife through indirect means. (12/2)

Brazil, Ukraine Plan First Cyclone Launch in 2010 (Source: Xinhua)
By the end of 2010, Brazil and Ukraine, plan to launch the Cyclone 4 rocket, a satellite launcher produced in Ukraine, from the Alcantara spaceport, in the Brazilian Northeastern State of Maranhao. The commitment is contained in the joint declaration by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who was making a visit to Ukraine on December 1 and 2. At a news conference Lula admitted, however, that several environmental and social problems, such as the presence of maroon communities in the region have delayed the schedule for implementing the project. The Ukrainian president reaffirmed the importance for the European country that the schedule is met. (12/2)

AIA Calls for Increased Commitment in Commercial Launch Capability (Source: AIA)
The U.S. commercial space launch industry is at a critical juncture with increasing competition from abroad, AIA Vice President of Space Systems J.P. Stevens said. "As space launch capabilities have been developed by other nations, the U.S. share of commercial launches has decreased significantly," Stevens said before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation. "In 2008 only six of the 28 worldwide commercial launches were conducted by U.S. companies."

Government indemnification of commercial space launches against third-party liability expires the end of December. The current indemnification regime imposes no additional costs on U.S. taxpayers and requires Congressional approval for any payment. The House has voted to extend government indemnification to the end of 2012. "Every other nation with commercial space launch capabilities provides some form of government indemnification against third-party liability," said Stevens. "Indemnification expires in 29 days; we definitely need the Senate to act before the end of the year." (12/2)

NOAA Deactivates GOES-10 After 12 Years of Tracking Storms (Source: NOAA)
NOAA officially deactivated its Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-10 today after 12 years of service (it was designed for only five). GOES-10 tracked some of the most memorable tropical cyclones in history, including Hurricane Mitch, which devastated parts of Central America in 1998; and Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005. NOAA anticipated the end of service for several months and began deactivating GOES-10 yesterday, when it fired the spacecraft’s booster moving the satellite into an orbit approximately 22,186 miles above the Earth. Today the agency finished its third, and final, firing of the booster putting it safely out of commission. (12/2)

Congressional Testimony About Early Ares Flight Risks Incorrect (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
In his response to a question from Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) during a Congressional hearing on human spaceflight safety, risk expert and NASA consultant to the Constellation Program Joe Fragola said that an article in the Orlando Sentinel Ares I’s first flights possibly being less safe than the space shuttle was incorrect and taken out of context. He said that the passage quoted by the Sentinel story from the Exploration Systems Architecture Study -- concluding that it would take at least seven flights (two test flights and five mission flights) before the Ares I and Orion crew capsule could to be deemed to be as safe as the shuttle -- referred to a more-powerful configuration of Ares-Orion that used a liquid oxygen-methane engine and not the simpler lower-performance configuration being designed today.

He said he knew this because he wrote the section of the ESAS that the Sentinel was referring to. Indeed, the report does say a few pages before the passage quoted by the Sentinel that a LOX-methane engine is riskier than the one ultimately chosen for Ares-Orion. However, Fragola either misremembered the report or was not entirely honest with Congress when he dismissed our reporting. Page 613 of the ESAS clearly says that Ares I and Orion “will have higher failure rates due to the immaturity of the SSME [Space Shuttle Main Engine] air start (matures over 5 missions) and the LOX/methane engine of the [Service Module] (matures over 19 missions)." The meaning? This version would require 21 flights, if you include two test flights, before it's proven safer than the shuttle. (12/2)

Harness the Sun: Space Solar Power Concepts Taking Shape (Source:
Space solar power advocates may soon get their day in the sun, as different projects aimed at beaming energy to Earth from orbit begin to take shape. But at least one space power scientist worries that a U.S.-based project may be promising too much, too soon. Last week, California regulators proposed a plan to approve a 15-year contract with the American company Solaren Corp. to supply space-based solar power to utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) by 2016. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has also teamed up with a private Japanese coalition to design a solar space station for launch by the 2030s.

Such projects encourage scientists who dream of harnessing the sun's power directly, without the interruption of cloudy skies and Earth's day-night cycle. Marty Hoffert, a physicist at New York University and one of the staunchest supporters of space solar power, suggests that today's technologies allow space solar power to provide energy as cheaply as the usual solar panel arrays on Earth. Despite his enthusiasm, Hoffert remains skeptical of Solaren's plan. And he warns that failure to deliver could deal a life-threatening blow to the dream of space solar power. Click here for more. (12/2)

Another Congressional Space Hearing Planned (Source: Space Politics)
After three space-focused hearings during the previous week, on Thursday, December 10, the space and aeronautics subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Decisions on the Future Direction and Funding for NASA: What Will They Mean for the U.S. Aerospace Workforce and Industrial Base?”. This appears to be the third and final in a series of hearings that subcommittee chairperson Gabrielle Giffords mentioned earlier this month, after a global space capabilities hearing November 19 and the safety hearing scheduled for December 2. (12/2)

NASAWatch: NASA Withheld Safety Data from Augustine Panel (Source: Orlando Sentinel), a respected watchdog website, reported on Tuesday night that NASA allegedly withheld information from a White House panel that showed the Ares I rocket did not meet the agency's own safety goals. The information was contained in a chart prepared by Valador, a company that employs Joe Fragola, a consultant who has authored several studies for NASA. The chart clearly indicates that Ares I falls short of the safety standards that the Constellation Program set for itself.

But the document was apparently withheld from the White House-appointed Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee chaired by former Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine. Instead another chart without the Ares I safety data was presented by Fragola during a public committee hearing in Alabama, last summer. In response to questions during that hearing from panel member and former astronaut Leroy Chiao, Fragola indicated that Ares was safer than the unused internal chart showed. Click here to view the article and chart. (12/2)

India Earned Over Rs.100 Crore from Foreign Satellite Launches (Source: The Hindu)
The Indian Space Research Organization earned over Rs. 100 crore in the last three years by launching satellites of other countries, Minister of State in PMO, Prithviraj Chavan said. The space agency launched 12 foreign satellites during the last three years, including six nano satellites at a cost of Rs. 101.60 crore, he said. In reply to a separate query, Mr. Chavan said ISRO also plans to launch a Naval satellite in 2010-11 which would provide communication facility to various naval vessels. He said the ISRO plans to send human beings in space and undertake planetary exploration within the next decade. (12/2)

Lockheed Martin, NASA Join to Reduce Ares Fuel Tank Weight (Source: Denver Post)
Lockheed Martin Space Systems has partnered with NASA to use two processes to manufacture a dome designed for use in large liquid-propellant rocket tanks. Teams from Lockheed and NASA traveled recently to Germany to watch the first successful aerospace application of friction-stir welding and spin forming. The technology allows use of a thinner alloy that will reduce future liquid-propellant tanks' weight by 25 percent. The dome's 18-foot diameter matches the tank dimensions of the upper stage of the ARES I rocket under development by NASA and the European Ariane V rocket's central stage. (12/2)

Tomorrow's Astronauts, Scientists Tour KSC (Source: Florida Today)
Golfview Elementary student Tray Lovett wanted to be a professional athlete when he grew up, but that changed Tuesday after a trip with his class to Kennedy Space Center. "We learned a lot of stuff today so I want to try it out," the 13-year-old said about his new interest in becoming an astronaut. Tray is one of more than 5,000 sixth-graders from Brevard Public Schools taking part in Brevard Space Week. The daylong program is filled with space-related activities including a scavenger hunt through the Apollo/Saturn 5 building, a ride aboard the Shuttle Launch Experience and a 3D IMAX movie. (12/2)

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