December 10 News Items

Japan's Space Program Left Out in the Cold (Source: Financial Times)
Just months after celebrating the successful maiden missions of a crucial new heavy-lift rocket and unmanned cargo spaceship, Japan’s space agency has been brought back to earth with a bump by terrestrial budget realities. Funding requests for fiscal 2010 from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency were given a frosty reception at unprecedented public budget screening sessions organised by the new ruling Democratic party-led government. Instead of basking in the praise of the flawless debut of the H-IIB rocket and the 16-ton HTV transporter, which delivered a cargo of supplies to the International Space Station, Jaxa officials found themselves having to defend their agency against accusations of unclear costing and vague risk assessment. In the end, screeners led by DPJ lawmakers determined to trim government waste, recommended cuts of at least 10 percent for the HTV program and for Jaxa's satellite launch schedule. (12/10)

First SBIRS Early Warning Satellite Delayed Until 2011 (Source:
Lockheed Martin has finished environmental testing on the first satellite in a new series of space-based missile warning platforms, but the over-budget, behind-schedule system won't be delivered until 2011 for launch aboard an Atlas-5 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, according to the U.S. Air Force. The $11.5 billion network, called the Space-Based Infrared System, will provide military leaders early warning of enemy missile launches. SBIRS will take over for the Defense Support Program, an aging group of satellites on constant vigil since 1970. (12/10)

ATK Ground-Tests Taurus-2 Second-Stage Motor (Source: Orbital)
Orbital Sciences Corp. announced that Alliant Techsystems and the U.S. Air Force’s Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) successfully ground tested the second stage rocket motor of the company’s Taurus-2 launch vehicle at AEDC in Tennessee. The solid-fuel CASTOR 30 motor, which is supplied to Orbital by ATK Space Systems of Magna, Utah, was test fired for approximately 150 seconds, producing 72,000 lbs. of maximum thrust. In order to accurately test the motor performance, the static fire test was conducted using a vacuum chamber specially designed to simulate upper atmospheric conditions, since the motor is designed to ignite at altitudes in excess of 100,000 feet. (12/10)

AIAA to Congress: Human Spaceflight Cuts Will Harm Aerospace Workforce, Economy, Security (Source: AIAA)
AIAA President Dave Thompson told the House Committee on Science and Technology that the number of retiring aerospace professionals exceeds the supply of younger engineers entering the profession, and warned that over half of all current aerospace engineers will reach retirement age within five years. “If talented young engineers and scientists are not recruited, retained, and developed to replace the generation that is near retirement, then the U.S. stands to lose the critical economic and national security benefits of the domestic aerospace industry.”

He said finding talented young engineers will become progressively more difficult at a time when fewer Americans are opting to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He painted a stark picture of the future of the industry, noting that only 15 percent of American students opt to pursue degrees in STEM disciplines at the undergraduate level, compared to nearly 50 percent of students in Asia and Europe. Thompson noted that the situation at the graduate level is even bleaker, with fewer American students pursuing doctoral degrees in STEM subjects than students in Europe and China.

Stressing the importance of human space flight in inspiring future generation of aerospace workers, Thompson warned that “A major cutback in U.S. human space programs would be substantially detrimental to the future of the aerospace workforce.” Citing MIT’s recent “Survey of Aerospace Student Attitudes,” he said that 40 percent of students currently enrolled in engineering programs in the United States cited human space flight as their inspiration for pursing their degrees. (12/10)

UK to Have Dedicated Space Agency (Source: BBC)
Britain is to set up a dedicated agency to direct its space policy. The new organisation is expected to have a budget and will represent the UK in all its dealings with international partners. The announcement, made by the Science Minister Lord Drayson, follows a 12-week consultation held with academia, industry and government departments. Britain spends about £270m a year on space, most of it via its membership of the European Space Agency (Esa). But it also has a highly successful industry which currently contributes some £6.5bn a year to the UK economy. (12/10)

Star Names Aren't for Sale (Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
If you're thinking of buying a unique gift or something different for a special friend or loved one this holiday season, remember that official star names are not for sale. Advertisements may lead you to believe that you can permanently name a star for someone, but the truth is, that name will never be recognized and used by people around the world. Most stars are only identified by catalog numbers and their positions in the sky. This system makes sense when you are trying to keep track of so many stars. Only the International Astronomical Union (IAU) can assign names to celestial objects, planets, satellites, asteroids, comets and surface features such as moon craters. Its members are professional astronomers active in research and education. The IAU does not sell these names. Also keep in mind that different companies will "sell" the same star to different people. Many buyers also complain that their star is too dim to be seen with the unaided eye, and they usually need a telescope to locate it. Your star name is really not yours at all. The only thing you are buying is a certificate that anyone with a computer can make. (12/10)

FAA Funding Measure Heads to Vote in House, Senate (Source: AIA)
A House-Senate conference committee has hammered out differences on an umbrella appropriations bill that includes 2010 funding for the FAA. The compromise bill includes $9.35 billion for FAA operations, $3.5 billion for airport improvement projects and $2.9 billion for facilities and equipment. Another $190.5 million is earmarked for research and development. The measure is expected to pass both chambers by the end of next week. (12/10)

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