December 8 News Items

Atmospheric Researcher Beats Astronaut for FSU Presidency (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Florida State University Board of Trustees today selected alumnus Eric J. Barron, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, to serve as the university's 14th president, succeeding T.K. Wetherell, who became president in 2003. Dr. Barron was selected over a highly qualified field of candidates, including Dr. Norm Thagard, a former NASA astronaut who currently serves on FSU's faculty. (12/8)

Florida's Space Economy Threatened by Shuttle's End (Source: Reuters)
At El Leoncita Cuban & Mexican Restaurant near the Kennedy Space Center on Florida's "space" coast, a bar sign says it all: "No happy hour on launch days." Business from tourists is so strong that when a U.S. space shuttle blasts off a drinks promotion is never needed. Throngs waiting for their margaritas snake out into the Titusville eatery's parking lot, according to owner Miguel Sanchez. "It's the busiest day of the year -- crowded, crowded," Sanchez said.

But like other local business operators, as well as policymakers, Sanchez worries sales will drop and jobs will be lost as Florida's signature, half-century-old space economy risks being eclipsed by the end of the space shuttle program. Florida's economy has been especially hard hit by recession. U.S. state and local governments are sapped by budget deficits, while fledgling private-sector efforts to carry Americans into space for fat fees appear to be nowhere near getting traction.

"The private space programs are not taking off," said Dr Hank Fishkind, an economist at Fishkind & Associates in Orlando. "And (the state's) space agency does not have the votes nor money to be supportive." The average annual salary at Kennedy Space Center is $77,235, double that of the typical worker in surrounding Brevard County. As many as 8,000 contractors and other space workers could be let go. "Nobody wants to lose that many high-paying local jobs," Fishkind said. "It has terrible effects on that local economy; it will affect the space program. Those skills go away." (12/8)

Replacement Satellite Could Play Role in Climate Treaty (Source:
NASA still has not received approval for a replacement carbon-observing satellite that could provide baseline data for monitoring compliance with a new climate treaty being negotiated this week in Copenhagen. The new satellite would replace the Orbiting Carbon Observatory doomed by a rocket mishap during launch in February. Since OCO crashed back to Earth, scientists and policymakers have set plans to build a new spacecraft.

Sources close to the mission say the internal discussion has "changed from if to when" an OCO replacement would be approved and funded. But officials are still waiting on formal authorization to proceed with the reflight. "I really can't confirm anything for sure, and I'm not sure when such confirmation would be possible, although one might look for some indication when the president's budget is released in early February," said Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science division at NASA headquarters. (12/8)

Northrop Grumman DSP Satellites Receive Award From California Space Authority (Source: Northrop Grumman)
The California Space Authority presented the Defense Support Program (DSP) with the SpotBeam Award for National Security Space, honoring DSP's nearly 40 years of service to the nation. Northrop Grumman built and integrated the DSP spacecraft at its Redondo Beach, Calif., space systems manufacturing facility; the company's facility in Azusa, Calif., built the infrared sensors. The SpotBeam award recognizes California space stakeholders who make extraordinary contributions to California's leadership in the U.S. and international space arenas. (12/8)

Newly Launched Boeing Satellite Successfully Transmitting (Source: Daily Breeze)
Boeing has acquired the first on-orbit signals from a U.S. Air Force satellite launched on last week. The signals from the Wideband Global SATCOM satellite, which Boeing built in El Segundo, "indicate that the spacecraft is healthy and ready to begin orbital maneuvers and operational testing," the company said Sunday. The satellite, the third of an expected six in a series, was launched on a Delta IV rocket from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. A ground station in Dongara, Australia, received the satellite's first signals 58 minutes after the launch. (12/8)

Life on Mars Theory Boosted by Methane Study (Source: Imperial College)
Scientists have ruled out the possibility that methane is delivered to Mars by meteorites, raising fresh hopes that the gas might be generated by life on the red planet. Methane has a short lifetime of just a few hundred years on Mars because it is constantly being depleted by a chemical reaction in the planet’s atmosphere, caused by sunlight. Scientists analyzing data from telescopic observations and unmanned space missions have discovered that methane on Mars is being constantly replenished by an unknown source and they are keen to uncover how the levels of methane are being topped up. (12/8)

Northrop Grumman May Drop Out of Tanker Competition (Source: AIA)
Northrop Grumman, claiming that the Pentagon has changed bidding rules in favor of rival Boeing, is threatening to pull out of the competition for a new fleet of Air Force tankers. A Northrop Grumman official said the company likely cannot compete if the Pentagon is asking for a smaller tanker. The contract could be worth $35 billion and increase to $100 billion over time. Editor's Note: Space Coast officials have been watching this procurement closely, as a Northrop Grumman win would bring hundreds of jobs to Melbourne and offset the thousands of job losses expected when the Space Shuttle retires. (12/8)

What Will Happen When Astronauts No Longer Fly On The Space Shuttle? (Source: WIRED)
There are only five Space Shuttle flights left on NASA’s schedule. Since 1982, astronauts have traveled into low-Earth orbit aboard the workhorse of NASA’s space program. With the exception of the Hubble repair mission earlier this year, the remaining flights have all been focused on adding to and upgrading the International Space Station. However, as it stands, after 2010 the United States will need to look for a new way to push humans up Earth’s gravity well.

NASA’s Constellation program is hard at work with development of the Orion. Designed to serve as a vehicle for the trip to the ISS and to lunar orbit, Orion and the entire Constellation is currently under review by the Obama administration. Orion will at best be ready in 2016, leaving the US with a six year gap in operations. Six years is a long drought. So what alternate options are available?

In addition to the shuttle, the Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft have been regular visitors to the ISS. And in the coming US space flight gap, NASA is looking at $51 million USD per person for any trips on Soyuz. In the past two years, the Europeans and the Japanese have developed remotely-operated transfer vehicles. However, the new ships are currently only cargo-rated. Click here to view the article. (12/8)

Space Elevator Entrepreneurs Shoot for the Stars (Source: CNN)
The improbable-sounding space elevator could reshape the global economy. Are you on board? The annals of entrepreneurship are full of world-changing ideas, pipe dreams and visionary projects plagued by missteps and skepticism. Then there's the space elevator, which is all of the above on steroids. If you don't know what the heck a space elevator is, you're not alone. In a Fortune Small Business/Zogby International survey of U.S. entrepreneurs, 69% were unfamiliar with the term.

Here's how I usually explain it: Imagine spinning around while holding a piece of string attached to a tennis ball. The string goes taut; that's centrifugal force. The same holds true for the rotating Earth. Put a counterweight in geosynchronous orbit, drop down a superstrong equivalent of that string and attach it at the equator. Voila! You have an elevator tether, up which you could run a freight car the size of a 747. Click here to view the article. (12/8)

Commercial Spaceships May Speed Up Consumer Air Travel (Source: Discovery)
Want to fly anywhere on Earth in less than two hours? With several firms working on commercial suborbital spaceships, a two-hour flight to anywhere on Earth may soon be possible, says an advocacy group laying the groundwork for global high-speed air and space travel. "If you ask a group of people if there's a market for this, they say, 'Oh, the answer is obvious,'" said John Olds, the founder and chief executive of SpaceWorks Engineering, who is leading a study group on suborbital point-to-point travel. "Half say, 'Of course there's a market.' The other half says 'Of course not.'"

Olds' study group, called FastForward, sees the rise of commercial suborbital spaceflight as a natural starting point for pioneering point-to-point global space travel. Several firms, including Richard Branson's Virgin Group, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origins, XCOR Aerospace, Armadillo Aerospace and others are developing suborbital vessels for flying tourists, scientists and other passengers. For their initial operations, those ships will launch and land from the same place, exposing participants and payloads to just a few minutes of microgravity.

Flying to another point on the planet would be a significant step up, technologically, Olds said. It also presents many legal and political issues, such as flying over countries that may not be friendly to the United States. FastForward advocates an evolutionary approach to high-speed global transportation, rather than the great technological leaps attempted in the past. Building on the business of suborbital spaceflight also should help develop a sustainable market for point-to-point travel. "I do think it's the logical evolution," Olds said. (12/8)

Branson and Governors Debut Virgin Spaceplane at Mojave Spaceport (Source: MSNBC)
The Hollywood-style debut of the world's first commercial suborbital spaceship was a spine-tingling affair - and not just because of the historic occasion, the appearance by a movie star turned governor, or the ice-cold vodka served afterward. It was cold out here in California's Mojave Desert. Virgin Galactic's unveiling of the SpaceShipTwo rocket plane drew hundreds of paying space tourists and travel agents, rocket geeks and glitterati to the Mojave Air and Space Port. For a while, it looked as if stormy skies and brisk winds would force a change in Virgin billionaire founder Richard Branson's plans for an after-dark, outdoor debut.

But in the end, the spotlights went on and the music blared as scheduled, despite the near-freezing temperatures, the wind and the puddles of rain. SpaceShipTwo rolled down the runway, suspended from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson stepped out and smashed bottles of champagne - and Branson's daughter, Holly, officially gave the 60-foot-long craft its new name: the VSS Enterprise. (12/8)

No comments: