December 28 News Items

Space Florida's Vision for 2020 (Source: Florida Trend)
Frank DiBello was named president of Space Florida in September after serving as interim leader of the group formed in May 2006 when the Legislature consolidated three existing organizations, Florida Space Authority, Florida Space Research Institute and Florida Aerospace Finance Corp. DiBello formerly served as president and CEO of Florida Aerospace Finance Corp. He spoke with Florida Trend about Vision 2020, Space Florida’s long-range plan. Click here to read the interview. (12/28)

NASA Voyager Sends Back Striking Images, Information From Galaxy (Source: AIA)
Images sent from NASA's Voyager 2, which is now more than 8.3 billion miles away from the sun, indicate the galaxy's magenetic field beyond the solar system is stronger than expected and is unexpectedly tilted 30 degrees out of alignment with its disk. (12/28)

Iran to Unveil New Home-Built Satellite (Source: AFP)
Iran will unveil a new home-built satellite in February, a newspaper reported Thursday, amid Western concerns that Tehran is using its nuclear and space industries to develop atomic and ballistic weapons. "The new generation of Iran's national satellite called Toloo (Dawn) will be unveiled in February," Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi was quoted as saying by the governmental Iran paper. The satellite has been designed by Sa Iran, also known as Iran Electronics Industries, an affiliate company of the defence ministry, the report said. (12/28)

Congrats to ULA for a Job Well Done (Source: Florida Today)
This year has been one of the most eventful in space history, but there's a hidden gem that deserves extra attention. Astronauts installed the last of the international partners' laboratory modules at the space station. The space shuttle program marched toward its retirement. NASA launched a gargantuan new moon rocket on its first test flight. The White House conducted a review of the entire space program.

With the future of human space exploration up in the air, it's no surprise that dominated headlines throughout 2009. Let's not let this year pass without recognizing one of the most important achievements in U.S. aerospace in recent years: the successful deployment of the United Launch Alliance. The joint venture of The Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. has come into its own this year, apparently overcoming a long list of challenges to merging the country's two biggest rocket developers into a single, functional team. (12/28)

Russian Space Program to be Fully Funded in 2010 (Source: Interfax)
The Russian space program will be fully funded in 2010, Federal Space Agency head Anatoly Perminov said. "The government has fully met our funding request despite the complicated times," he said. "I think the same will happen in 2011," he remarked. At the same time, the 2011 allocations will be twice as small than in 2009. "We have implemented much of the federal space program. This year's results are positive," Perminov said. (12/28)

Search for Extraterrestrial Civilizations Comes of Age (Source: Discovery)
Good things come to those who wait, and wait, ... and wait. This may someday be the opening sentence at a press conference at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California to announce mankind's first evidence of intelligent life off the Earth. We've listened for transmissions from alien civilizations for 50 years without any luck. And there isn't the slightest clue when real data -– if ever -– may come. This bores some scientists who scornfully look at SETI as lost purely in "hypothetical-space."

Detractors say (1) nobody's out there, (2) we're listening on the wrong medium, (3) it's a scientifically meaningless experiment unsupported by any tangible hypothesis because of all the unknowns (as listed in the famous Drake equation). It's borderline pure faith. However, there's no need for impatience with a null result. With the influence of former NASA Associate Administrator Alan Stern (also the principal investigator on the New Horizons 2015 Pluto flyby), NASA is reconsidering funding SETI proposals and Congress isn't saying "no." (12/28)

Search for Extraterrestrial Life Gains Momentum Around the World (Source: Washington Post)
The initial phase of the planned 350-dish Allen Telescope Array, near Hat Creek, California, are designed to systematically scan the skies for radio signals sent by advanced civilizations from distant star systems and planets. Fifty years after it began -- and 18 years since Congress voted to strip taxpayer money from the effort -- the nation's search for extraterrestrial intelligence is alive and growing.

The Hat Creek array, which began operation two years ago, is a joint project of the SETI Institute and the nearby radio astronomy laboratory of the University of California at Berkeley. Made possible by an almost $25 million donation from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the array is unique and on the cutting edge of radio astronomy. SETI and Berkeley share both the facility, 290 miles northeast of San Francisco, and all the data it collects. Click here to view the article. (12/28)

Editorial: Toward a New Frontier? (Source: Waco Tribune)
Indications are the Obama administration is not only looking at 2010 with more promise, they’re also looking up — and that could mean things also are looking up for SpaceX, including its rocket-testing facility near McGregor. President Barack Obama is likely to weigh in for diversifying space funding, partly as a way of hedging bets on NASA, which has suffered frequent budget shortfalls and unrealistic schedules.

That means spunky outfits such as SpaceX, the California-based rocket company that seems to be winning more and more contracts, including its $1.6 billion commission to haul cargo to the International Space Station for NASA. Its success has only catapulted SpaceX into further contracts that include possibly moving humans into space... Which makes us a little more tolerant when Falcon 9 tests at the local site rattle our windows and shake our homes. All that noise could well mean progress for our area if the Falcon 9’s launch tests this spring at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport put it in orbit for manned missions. (12/28)

The Post-Space Shuttle Trough (Source: Florida Trend)
For years, the most significant business-related headline from Floridas Space Coast has remained the same: Shuttle to End in 2010, Thousands of Jobs at Risk. Even if the final planned missions carry over into 2011, the program is winding down, and the companies that service and launch the shuttle have begun laying off hundreds of workers. The organization that is supposed to do something about this is Space Florida.

Space Florida has a somewhat tortured history. It started life as the Spaceport Florida Authority in the late 1980s, then split into three organizations in the early 2000s. A special commission put the three pieces back together as Space Florida in 2006. Along the way, it seems, a forum would occur every few years at which state lawmakers, government officials and the space crowd got together to kick the political football, remind each other solemnly how important the space industry is to Florida, and promise to do something to help it.

A few things got done, but the state never ponied up enough money to compete for the occasional space plum (a commercial launch operation or rocket assembly facility, for example) against more aggressive states with better incentives and more cohesive congressional delegations. And until very recently, it never even made much headway with the military in making the Cape friendlier to the commercial launch business. The inconvenient truth is that NASA cast such a big shadow in Florida that anything the state did would look puny until that shadow got smaller or changed somehow. Click here to view the article. (12/28)

Editorial: Faster, NASA, Faster (Source: New York Times)
In Silicon Valley we have a saying: launch early, launch often. It’s an acknowledgment that successful, innovative companies are the ones that rapidly try new ideas, see what works, improve their products and repeat. Businesses that launch frequently are also able to take advantage of economies of scale to make launchings faster and easier. In many ways, the key to innovation is speed of execution. NASA, an agency that depends on innovation, could benefit from the same mindset.

To meet its new goals for human spaceflight, NASA must be able to be creative and take risks, or else it will be unable to adapt to new technology and changing political realities. Grand plans stretching over decades will become irrelevant and eventually collapse. In the 12 years before I left NASA in 2007, we averaged about four space shuttle launchings per year. We had periods when the rate was even lower. I saw firsthand the harm that low launching rates do to innovation.

With precious few flights, every available opportunity to test new equipment or run scientific investigations was filled for years into the future, and this discouraged engineers from trying out new ideas. Without actual flight test data on, for example, prototypes for new life-support equipment, management was forced to substitute analysis for real engineering experience. (12/22)

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