December 15 News Items

Obama To Meet NASA Chief In Oval Office Wednesday (Source: Florida Today)
President Obama will meet Wednesday with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to discuss the findings of the White House panel that reviewed the agency's plans for the post-shuttle future of the nation's human space flight program. A daily White House press schedule shows Obama and Bolden, a former astronaut and close friend of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, will meet at 3:05 p.m. in the Oval Office. "The President will also meet with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in the Oval Office to discuss the Administrator's work at NASA and they will also discuss the Augustine Committee's analysis," the release says. (12/15)

Florida Calls ‘Dibs’ on a Retired Shuttle (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
It’s rare to see the entire Florida delegation to come together for a cause, but on Tuesday the state’s 25 House members and two U.S. senators asked NASA to enshrine one of the space shuttle orbiters at Kennedy Space Center once the fleet is retired in 2010. The request, sent to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, is a nod to the growing nationwide competition to land one of the three retiring orbiters (Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour) and another sign that the shuttle era is coming to a close after three decades of spaceflights. “The [KSC] Visitor Complex is home to many of NASA’s historic artifacts — from Project Mercury through the Space Shuttle program — and is dedicated to telling NASA’s story in a compelling way,” wrote the lawmakers, who cited the facility’s 1.6 million annual visitors. (12/15)

Kottkamp, Lawmakers Push for Space Jobs (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp told members of the Central Florida Legislative Delegation that a NASA mission to Mars would lead to innovations in new tecknology and economic development for Florida. Kottkamp addressed the delegation during a meeting at the University of Central Florida. With the Space Shuttle program coming to an end, lawmakers must focus on keeping the state’s space industry alive, he said.

“Whatever direction they decide to go with NASA, that cannot be the only thing in our portfolio,” Kottkamp said. “We have to be very aggressive in commercial space exploration.” Kottkamp was joined in a short panel discussion by Janet Petro, deputy director of Kennedy Space Center. She stressed the need for jobs among shuttle program workers. “Consider everything you can do to help our workforce…stay in the area and find meaningful work,” she said. (12/15)

Dynetics Buys Huntsville-based Orion Rocket Propulsion Company (Source: Huntsville Times)
Huntsville-based aerospace contractor Dynetics inked a deal this morning to buy Orion Propulsion for an undisclosed sum. Orion was founded by rocket propulsion engineer Tim Pickens, who worked on the first private spacecraft SpaceShip One. The purchase is aimed to expand Dynetics ability to develop aerospace work like NASA research, small spacecraft and propulsion, said Steve Cook, Dynetics director space technology development.

"We really look to this as a way to expand our space business. We have been primarily military and commercial until now. This is not going to be a subsidiary purchase," Cook said. "We plan to fully integrate Tim and his team into the Dynetics family to really compliment our capabilities." Pickens is well known throughout Huntsville's aerospace community for developing innovative rocket and propulsion designs. He will serve as Dynetics' chief propulsion engineer. (12/15)

Joint Mars Mission Pressing Ahead Toward 2016 Launch (Source:
NASA and the European Space Agency will release next month the first solicitation for science instruments on a Mars orbiter mission scheduled for launch in 2016, signaling closer cooperation in a joint Mars exploration program. The first-of-a-kind announcement of opportunity will request proposals for a suite of sensors designed to detect trace gases and map methane concentrations in the Martian atmosphere.

Methane is a key indicator of biological or geological activity. It can be produced by living organisms or natural processes like the oxidation of iron, according to scientists. The methane mystery at Mars will be the focus of the first joint mission in a new robotic exploration program. Scheduled for release in the middle of January, the announcement will bring NASA and ESA plans for a cooperative Mars program closer to reality. (12/15)

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Receives NASA Contractor Excellence Award (Source: PWR)
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne has received the 2009 Large Business Prime Contractor Excellence Award from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. The company was recognized for exemplary support of the center's subcontracting programs under the J-2X upper stage engine and Space Shuttle Main Engine contracts. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne's J-2X engine is in development to power the nation's next generation space launch vehicles, the Ares I and Ares V. The Space Shuttle Main Engine is the world's most sophisticated reusable rocket engine, providing power to space shuttles since the first shuttle launch in 1981. (12/15)

Space Battle for the White House Under Way (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
With the White House yet to chart a new course for NASA’s human spaceflight, dueling public relations battles to win the hearts and minds of lawmakers and the president are underway. Both friends and foes of NASA’s Ares I rocket are gearing up opposing campaigns to press their cause and influence the future of America’s space exploration policy. Last week, Boeing executives, including the company’s vice president for Space Exploration, Brewster Shaw, a former astronaut, called on their employees “to share their excitement and commitment to human space flight — and the Constellation project and Ares program — with their elected officials” through a company-assisted letter-writing effort.

It is the first time that a NASA contractor has called on its workforce to join a fight to save the agency’s embattled Constellation moon rocket program. Boeing has the contract to build the upper stage of the Ares I rocket, which it is developing with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Boeing spokesman Ed Memi said that the company recently decided that a big push to back Constellation by its employees was a good move now.

But if Boeing is pushing for Constellation, the Space Frontier Foundation is pushing back. The group kicked-off of a new campaign called “Take Back Your Space Program.” The effort backs “turning space transportation over to the private sector, through: Ending Ares I launch-vehicle development and other NASA-unique vehicles; Securing commercial crew and cargo transportation services to meet the needs of NASA research and exploration programs, and Pursuing the ‘Flexible Path’ for exploration of the Moon, Mars, asteroids, and beyond.” It will also call for legislation to provide matching funds to fly 200 teachers per year into space and to create a professional-development program that provides teachers with realistic spaceflight training experiences and knowledge they can bring back to their classrooms. (12/15)

NASA Buys Additional Solid Rocket Motors for Final Shuttle Mission (Source: NASA)
NASA has purchased two reusable solid rocket motors from ATK Launch Systems Inc. of Brigham City, Utah, to provide a "launch on need" rescue capability for the final planned space shuttle mission, targeted for September 2010. The reusable solid rocket motors are the propellant-loaded sections of the solid rocket boosters that provide thrust for the first two minutes of a shuttle flight. The $64.6 million modification brings the total value of the contract, which was awarded in October 1998, to $4.1 billion and covers work started in February to produce and transport the two motors. (12/15)

Shelby Blasts Augustine Panel (Source: Huntsville Times)
Alabama's senior senator in Washington called for a special investigation of the White House-appointed Augustine Commission, saying that panel members had conflicts of interest because they are lobbyists. U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, sent a letter to NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin asking for an investigation into the conduct of Augustine panel members. "I am writing with serious concerns regarding the Augustine Commission staff, their vocation, and their conduct while serving as commission staff," Shelby wrote in the letter dated Monday. "It has come to my attention that several members are, in fact, federally registered lobbyists and that some of these individuals have taken direct advantage of their temporary roles on the commission to further their personal business.

"Further, there are lobbyists that worked as commission staff that are not even acknowledged in the report. This is both disturbing and unconscionable." Shelby did not name the panel members who might have had a conflict of interest. Huntsville attorney and aerospace expert Mark McDaniel said that "if there is impropriety on the panel, then an investigation is appropriate. If there is not, then it won't matter. (12/15)

Fly Abu Dhabi to LA in Two Hours (Source: Arabian Business)
Aabar Investments is a major investor in the Virgin Galactic project to take people into space. Aabar Investments boss Khadem Abdullah Al Qubaisi has unveiled plans to fly from Abu Dhabi to LA in two hours, as part of a venture with Virgin Galactic. Earlier this year, Aabar – which is controlled by the Abu Dhabi government – announced it would take a 32 percent stake in Sir Richard Branson’s commercial space project for $280 million. Speaking to Arabian Business, Aabar chairman Al Qubaisi said: “The point here is to use Abu Dhabi and LA as a hub, or somewhere in the US, and to fly from Abu Dhabi and land in the other place in two or three hours.” Virgin Galactic is set to launch commercial flights into space in 2011, charging each passenger $200,000. (12/15)

Spaceport Seeks Funds to Pave 'Critical' Road (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
A New Mexico spaceport official said the agency needs another $7.5 million to pave a southern road to the facility, a route that would shorten the travel time from Las Cruces. Steve Landeene, executive director of Spaceport America, said the $7.5 million was authorized along with 2006 legislation approving the spaceport. However, he said, it never was included in a budget bill, a second and necessary step for the funding to be appropriated. Landeene said the agency will lobby for the funding during the legislative session that begins in January. He said he feels it's a "critical need." "We're hopefully going get an improved surface on the southern road," he said. "It will reduce the time to get to the spaceport to 45 or 50 minutes. That's a big deal." Currently, the trip takes about 90 minutes. (12/15)

Why Isn’t There a Space Council Already? (Source: Space Politics)
During the 2008 presidential campaign then-candidate Barack Obama pledged to reinstate the National Aeronautics and Space Council (usually just referred to as the National Space Council), a point he made in his space policy white paper. The paper's rationale includes the following statement: "There is currently no organizational authority in the Federal government with a sufficiently broad mandate to oversee a comprehensive and integrated strategy and policy dealing with all aspects of the government’s space- related programs, including those being managed by NASA, the Department of Defense, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Commerce Department, the Transportation Department, and other federal agencies." But nearly a year into his administration, there’s been no sign of any effort to reestablish the council. We may get a clearer understanding of this once the ongoing space policy review within the administration is completed. (12/15)

Norm Augustine Comments on the Space Policy Debate in IEEE Interview (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
IEEE to Augustine: Some people are saying that we’ve already invested so much in the current Constellation program that we should just keep going. Norm Augustine: There are people who obviously are doing that, which I think is a big mistake. I think more important is to decide what are the goals, what do we want to accomplish here, and then to see if we can afford to pursue those and to fund them properly. And if we can’t, then we’d better find some new goals. Click here to view the entire interview. (12/15)

China Launches Another Remote-Sensing Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China sent into space a remote-sensing satellite "Yaogan VIII" from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center Tuesday morning. The satellite, which was aboard a Long March 4C carrier rocket, was launched at 10:31 a.m. Tuesday, a source with the center said. Also on board is a minisatellite, "Hope I," which will be used for the country's young people to experience aerospace science and technology. "Hope I" has already been put into orbit. (12/15)

California Astronaut Prepares for Next Shuttle Mission (Source: Central Valey Business Times)
Sacramento native Steve Robinson will make his fourth journey into orbit on space shuttle Endeavour's next mission to the International Space Station. The flight is targeted to launch in early February from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The 13-day flight will deliver the Tranquility pressurized module, which will provide room for much of the space station's life support systems. Endeavour's flight will begin what is planned to be the final year of space shuttle operations, during which five shuttle missions are planned. The last currently is targeted to launch in September 2010. (12/15)

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