January 13, 2010

Jacksonville-Area Agent Can Book Your Space Flight (Source: First Coast News)
If you've always wanted to visit outer space, then give the new space travel agent in town a call. Ponte Vedra travel agent Suzanne Perritt applied to be one of the agents for Virgin Galactic's space flights for the general public, planned to start in 2011. She was selected, trained for three days at Cape Canaveral and attended the rollout of Space Ship 2 in California last month. "It's very exciting. I was always interested in the space program being from Florida and attended several launches downstate with children and grandchildren," says Perritt.

The aircraft holds six passengers and two pilots, and it is possible to make reservations now. Three hundred have signed up so far, Perritt said. Though she has not booked one personally, Perritt said she has 20 very interested clients with one thing in common. "I have had people say to me, 'I always wanted to be an astronaut, but I had bad eyesight' or some other health issue. But bad eyesight does not matter here," said Perritt. About 90 percent of the world's population is physically fit enough to go into outer space, she said. A $20,000 deposit is all it takes to book the flight. (1/13)

US Official Questions China Space Intentions (Source: Space Daily)
A senior US defense official on Wednesday voiced doubts about China's insistence that its use of space is for peaceful means as Washington appealed for steady military ties with the rising Asian power. "The Chinese have stated that they oppose the militarization of space. Their actions seem to indicate the contrary intention," said Wallace Gregson, the assistant secretary of defense in in charge of Asia. (1/13)

Commercial Space to Add 1,700 Florida Jobs but Figure May Be High (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Sen. Bill Nelson is expected to announce in a speech on Thursday at the Kennedy Center Visitor Complex that if NASA relies on commercial rocket companies to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station, 1,700 jobs would be created in Florida to help launch the rockets and crews. The figure is the result of a study by the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, an umbrella group of companies and organizations promoting the development of commercial human spaceflight. Florida is expected to lose as many as 7,000 jobs when NASA retires the space shuttle later this year, and finding a way to replace those jobs has become an urgent political issue.

According to a federation release, if NASA invests $2.5 billion in private companies working on developing rockets and capsules capable of taking humans into low Earth orbit, the 1,700 Florida jobs would be created over five years. Obama administration officials and aerospace industry executives say that the White House is considering investing up to $3 billion in commercial space over four years as part of a revamping of the agency’s current human space exploration plans. The employment figures are based on a survey of several companies, including United Launch Alliance (a joint venture of The Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp.), Sierra Nevada Corp., SpaceX and “others that have all built space hardware and are potential participants in a competitive Commercial Crew Program, which would feature multiple winners including both smaller and larger aerospace companies.”

But some observers and industry experts are concerned that the 1,700 number might be inflated to make commercial space operations look more attractive while the administration debates whether to kill NASA’s Ares I rocket in favor of commercial rockets. Space Florida President Frank DiBellosaid he expects that launches from Florida by private companies sending crew to the space station could lead to at least 1,000 jobs and possibly more, depending on how often rockets launch and how much manufacturing and assembly work is done in Florida. SpaceX, for instance, builds its rockets in California, while ULA has a plant in Decatur, Alabama. DiBello is hoping that assembling and readying capsules and processing cargo and payloads for the flights would be done locally. (1/13)

45th Space Wing Commander to Leave (Source: Florida Today)
Brig. Gen. Edward L. Bolton Jr., commander of 45th Space Wing, has been reassigned and soon will leave his post as the top commander at Patrick Air Force Base and director of the Eastern Range for U.S. Air Force Space Command. Bolton has been the commander at Patrick since October 2009. He will become director of cyber and space operations, directorate of operations, deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements, for the U.S. Air Force at the Pentagon. (1/13)

Caltech Astronomer Spots Second Smallest Exoplanet (Source: Caltech)
Astronomers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and other institutions, using the highly sensitive 10-meter Keck I telescope atop Hawaii's Mauna Kea, have detected an extrasolar planet with a mass just four times that of Earth. The planet, which orbits its parent star HD156668 about once every four days, is the second-smallest world among the more than 400 exoplanets (planets located outside our solar system) that have been found to date. It is located approximately 80 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Hercules. (1/13)

Bonus Shuttle Mission Possible This Year (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is considering the addition of one more shuttle mission before fleet retirement — but only if it can be executed safely and cost-effectively before the end of the year. Five final flights now are on NASA’s schedule for launch between Feb. 7 and Sept. 16, with Discovery slated to fly that final mission. But Atlantis will be ready to launch on a rescue effort if Discovery is critically damaged on its mission to the International Space Station. If NASA does add a sixth flight, Atlantis would haul supplies and equipment to the station. However, NASA would have to decide to launch Atlantis without a rescue shuttle waiting in the wings. (1/13)

Gov. Crist Visiting as Cecil Field Prepares for Liftoff (Source: First Coast News)
Cecil Field already has a connection to space. Because its 12,500 runway is considerably longer than most -- the longest runway at Jacksonville International Airport is 10,000 feet -- Cecil Field serves as a backup landing site for the space shuttle. Today, Gov. Charlie Crist took a look for himself. He was joined by officials from Cecil Field and Jacksonville Aviation Authority Executive Director Steve Grossman. (1/13)

Posey Still Fighting for the Shuttle (Source: Space Politics)
With five shuttle missions left on the manifest, many people on the Space Coast are gearing up for life after the shuttle. One member of Congress, though, appears set on making one more try to keep the shuttle alive. Florida Today reported Tuesday that Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL) “pledged to pursue” authorization for additional shuttle flights. Last year he introduced HR 1962 to authorize funding for at least two shuttle missions a year until 2015 or an alternative vehicle. The problem is that the bill has made no progress since its introduction last April (it was referred to the House Science and Technology Committee’s space subcommittee, which has taken no action on it), and in the unlikely event it somehow made it through Congress, there would still be the issue of appropriating the necessary funding—not to mention the technical issues of trying to extend the shuttle this late in its life.

Posey at one point he was critical of former President Bush for creating the current space policy that is resulting in what Posey fears will be a seven-year gap between shuttle and Constellation. “If we continue on the space plan that, quite frankly, was first offered by Bush, we will be paying the Russians to take our astronauts back and forth to the space station,” he said. Posey was also hopeful that President Obama would change that policy. “When the president was campaigning in Brevard County, he made the pledge that he would see that we stayed first in space and he would close the gap,” he said, comments that created an audible commotion (not quite booing, but close) from the audience. “Well, I’m still hopeful, I’m still hopeful that he’s going to do that.” (1/13)

Hurlburt Airman Wins Florida Defense Space Award (Source: NSCFL)
The National Space Club's Florida Committee honored Air Force Capt. Kathryn Gray with their 2010 Florida National Defense Space Award. Gray is a "Space Weapons and Tactics Flight Commander" for the 1st Special Operations Group at Hurlburt Field, in the Florida Panhandle. Her name will be added to a trophy on the top floor of the Florida Capitol Building. (1/13)

Industry Groups Look Forward to Action on Export Controls (Source: AIA)
A coalition of aerospace, manufacturing and technology industry groups on Tuesday released a report calling on the Obama administration to revamp export controls seen as remnant of the Cold War. The Coalition for Security and Competitiveness said an update is needed to "create a 21st-century export control regime that protects critical technologies, safeguards our national security, spurs innovation and promotes economic growth." President Barack Obama already has ordered a review, and the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee has promised to introduce overhaul legislation later this year, leaving industry officials optimistic about positive change. "We genuinely expect action from the administration," said Remy Nathan, the assistant vice president for international affairs at AIA. (1/13)

Tonga Welcomes Space Tourism Project (Source: Pacific Islands Report)
Pursing a dream to develop a private spaceport in Tonga, a couple of space entrepreneurs have the blessing of Tonga's king to build a small rocket launch site on the king's estate on the southern tip of 'Eua this year, with the aim of launching a rocket before the end of 2010. 'Eua is the oldest island in The Kingdom of Tonga. It is close to Tongatapu, but forms a separate administrative division. It has an area of 87.44 square kilometers and a population of approximately 6,000 people. Roderick Milliron, a US rocket engineer, said in Tonga recently that his company Interorbital Systems (IOS) expects to be ready to launch a first rocket from 'Eua into a low-earth orbit "by November or December 2010", using a US Launch License.

"There is no formal approval procedure for Civil Aviation," said Ministry of Transport CEO 'Eleni Aho. "We have looked at our laws and we also need to establish the clearance from the US regarding the licence." 'Eleni believed the US launch licence has provisions that the launch must be environmentally-friendly so that it doesn't destroy that part of the island and that the re-entry vehicles don't contain hazardous materials.

In the long-term, IOS hope that a successful launching from 'Eua this year will set the stage for a bigger endeavor and that is to compete for the Google Lunar X-Prize of $30 million. Roderick said that IOS is part of the team, Synergy Moon, that is competing for the prize and their input is for the construction of a launching facility. A lunar lander would require the building of a bigger rocket, the Neptune 1000, which has a total of 24 Booster CPMs in its first stage generating 240,000 pounds (1,067,520-n) of thrust, according to IOS. (1/12)

Dynamic Space Plan Forms (Source: Florida Today)
President Barack Obama will direct NASA to extend space station operations through 2020 and strive to rally global partners with a call to send astronauts on international expeditions throughout the inner solar system. The nation's shuttle fleet will be retired after International Space Station assembly is complete, and NASA will invest in commercial means of launching cargo, and ultimately astronauts, to the outpost. NASA's budget will get a billion-dollar bump. The development of a Saturn V-class heavy-lift rocket will become a priority, and test flights will be stepped up at Kennedy Space Center to stem anticipated job losses. Those are among the likely outcomes when the Obama Administration delivers its 2011 budget request to Congress on Feb. 1. (1/13)

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