January 21, 2010

China Praised for Hardware Troubleshooting (Source: Space News)
The successful launch Jan. 17 of a Chinese navigation satellite aboard a Chinese Long March 3C rocket has validated the corrective actions taken following an upper-stage failure aboard a similar vehicle in August, the China Great Wall Industry Corp. said Jan. 19. The launch, the first of the Long March 3A family since the failure, also reinforced the assessment of a European space-insurance broker involved in Chinese satellite insurance coverage that Chinese authorities have demonstrated their ability to identify and remove design weaknesses in their rockets and commercial satellites. (1/21)

Indiana Legislation Would Assign Space Tasks to Transportation Department (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Indiana General Assembly is now in session and House Bill 1227 would provide tax breaks and other support for a new spaceport. The bill allows a "deduction from the adjusted gross income tax equal to the amount of casualty loss deducted from the taxpayer's federal adjusted gross income with respect to the loss of a space vehicle owned by the taxpayer." The bill also requires the state's transportation department to develop policies and programs to encourage R&D enabling the ingress and egress into low earth orbit and near space from Indiana spaceports. It establishes primary and secondary sites for spaceports, and authorizes the creation of an airport development zone (presumably to support spaceport operations). (1/21)

New Mexico Legislature Considers $1.18 Million Spaceport Budget (Source: SPACErePORT)
New Mexico's annual Legislative Session started on Jan. 19 and will last 30 days (60 days for odd-numbered years). Appropriations bill HB-0007 includes $1.183 million in operating funds for the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, including $784,800 for personnel, $172,000 for contractual services, and $226,200 for "other" costs. The bill authorizes nine FTEs (full-time equivalent employees). (1/21)

California Space Authority Adds New Voices from Labor, Business (Source: CSA)
As the California Space Authority (CSA) enters the New Year, it is pleased to welcome new members to its Board of Directors, including a voice from labor and additional voices from business. Also being seated will be a new Liaison from the US Navy. “Our board members are excellent representatives of the space enterprise community,” stated Andrea Seastrand, Executive Director of CSA. “We have a well balanced complement of all space enterprise perspectives from throughout the state.”

Joining the Board for 2010 are Dan White, President of COM DEV USA, a space-based national security software development company; Michael Pitts, Vice President, Commercial Wealth Management at Santa Barbara Bank and Trust; and Tim Bennett, Business Representative, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 413. Bennett is also the current President of the Board of Trustees for Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria and brings to CSA an awareness of apprenticeship programs and an appreciation of career technical education. (1/21)

Los Angeles Students Connect With and Query Orbiting Space Station Astronauts (Source: NASA)
Elementary students at Vintage Math, Science and Technology Magnet School in Los Angeles will get to ask questions of astronauts aboard the International Space station while the crew orbits 220 miles above Earth. Station Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineers T.J. Creamer and Soichi Noguchi will speak with the students during a video call from 8:35 a.m. to 8:55 a.m. PST on Wednesday, Jan. 27. (1/21)

Florida Officials Brace for Bad Economic News (Source: Florida Today)
Brace for even more bad news about the economy at the end of the week and later in the year, warns chief legislative economist Amy Baker. Baker, who briefed the Senate Policy and Steering Committee on Ways & Means, predicts that the unemployment figures for December, which will be released Friday, will continue to increase. She also said Florida's peak jobless rate could hit 12 percent in the spring. The November unemployment rate, slightly higher than 11 percent, means 1.1 million Floridians were out of work. If the figure rises to 12 percent, “that’s highest it’s been since we’ve been keeping records,” she said. Baker said lawmakers should also remember the possibility of as many as 7,000 layoffs at Kennedy Space Center later this year if the space shuttle makes its last flight in September. (1/21)

Let's Talk About: Mars Opposition and Exploration (Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Earth and Mars, like all the other planets in the solar system, orbit the sun in elliptical orbits. Because our planet is closer to the sun than Mars, it races along its orbit more quickly. Earth makes two trips around the sun in about the same amount of time Mars takes to make one trip. Earth has been racing toward Mars for months, gaining on the Red Planet by more than 200,000 miles each day. We will finally catch up to Mars and pass relatively close to it on Jan. 29.

From our perspective on our spinning world, whenever Earth is between the sun and a planet, the planet will rise in the east just as the sun sets in the west. Then, after staying up in the sky the entire night, the planet will set in the west just as the sun rises in the east. Because the planet and the sun appear on opposite sides of the sky, we say that the planet is in "opposition." Best time for viewing Mars with a telescope around opposition is when the planet is high in the southeastern sky around midnight. NASA has sent space probes off to Mars every two years to take advantage of its close alignment with Earth during opposition. (1/21)

Good Moves on Mars (Source: MSNBC)
If you're a fan of NASA's Mars missions, a few things have started heading in the right direction - including a renewed flow of eye-pleasing pictures from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a new program that gives you a say in picking the orbiter's future targets, and new signs of progress in the months-long effort to free the Spirit rover from a sand trap. For the past nine months, Spirit's wheels have been stuck in a patch of soft soil nicknamed Troy. Mission managers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory tried for weeks to free the rover by having it retrace its tracks. (1/21)

Russia's Space Agency Helps Police Spot Cannabis Fields (Source: RIA Novosi)
Drug police in Russia's Far East have joined hands with the Federal Space Agency in spotting cannabis fields in the Primorye Territory. Roscosmos has sent coordinates of cannabis fields to anti-narcotics officers, who destroy the plants and returning confirmed information to the space agency, which enters it in a database, Lieu. Gen. Alexander Rolik told a news conference in Vladivostok. Drug police destroyed 48 hectares of cannabis plants last year. Police also seized 4 metric tons of marijuana in September in two forest caches and a truck, and discovered an illegal hash oil plant in the woods. The general said space satellites have also helped other regions, including the neighboring Amur region and the Urals, spot cannabis plants. (1/21)

Ford Goes to Cyberspace to Help Astronauts (Source: WIRED)
Ford and United Space Alliance are cribbing from the movie and gaming industries by using virtual-reality software to create better cars — and spaceships. The automaker and the aerospace company — a lead contractor for the space shuttle — are sharing their experience with animation software to create simulations that benefit astronauts and motorists. In Ford’s case, engineers and designers work in cyberspace to design automobile interiors. United Space Alliance uses the same technology to track launch debris during liftoff. Now a new partnership has them working together to customize the software so it can help make quick decisions about maintenance and repairs and decide how best to deal with unexpected events during a mission. (1/21)

Ohio Elected Officials Encourage NASA Expansion at Glenn (Source: Space Politics)
Officials in Ohio want to remind people that it’s not just KSC and other centers closely tied to the shuttle program that deserve attention. An Ohio congressional delegation and members of the governor’s office met with NASA administrator Charles Bolden on Wednesday and left feeling “encouraged”. “I believe he is someone who we can work with effectively to enhance the core competencies that have already been solidified at NASA Glenn,” Sen. George Voinovich said in a statement released after the meeting. Ohio’s other senator, Sherrod Brown, also expressed support for NASA Glenn, writing a letter directly to President Obama asking him “to retain critical research and development” programs at the center and bring in new work, including alternative energy research. (1/21)

Texas Delegation Faces Election Challenges (Source: Space Politics)
Republican members of Texas’ Congressional delegation, including the ranking member of the House Science and Technology Committee, are facing an unusually large number of primary challengers this year, many of whom have ties to the conservative “Tea Party” movement, the Houston Chronicle reports. Ralph Hall, top Republican on the science committee, is facing five challengers in the GOP primary, including two people who associate themselves with the movement, one of whom has even included the nickname “Tea” in his name on the ballot. “We have to reach the varmints we can get to,” explained the head of Houston’s Tea Party group. (1/21)

Hawaiian Explores Space Debris Threats and Solutions (Source: Maui Weekly)
Dr. Mark Skinner from Boeing’s Maui Space Surveillance Site attended the first-ever International Conference on Orbital Debris Removal. “This was an intense meeting about the nature of space debris and the possible approaches to a solution, as well as the legal aspects,” he said. In the last two years, collisions between satellites and explosions of rocket boosters in orbit around the Earth have added many thousands of debris fragments to the orbiting population. And any one of these fragments could disable or destroy operating satellites or manned spacecraft. Maui resident Dr. Mark Skinner, a senior scientist and technical manager at Boeing’s Maui Space Surveillance Site, attended the conference of nearly 300 participants and 60 speakers. Dr. Skinner noted the importance of the subject for Boeing and the community at large. Maui plays a great role in the detection of space debris. “It is a key location for tracking space objects to counter possible catastrophic impacts,” he said. (1/21)

India Races to Develop Anti-Satellite Capability Before Treaty Limitations Arise (Source: Asia Times)
The goals for India's anti-ballistic missile (ABM) and ballistic missile defense (BMD) programs may be shifting to accommodate an anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon more quickly than previously planned, and this could radically alter the agenda of US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is currently in the middle of a three-day visit to India. "Memories in New Delhi run deep about how India's relative tardiness in developing strategic offensive systems [nuclear weapons] redounded in its relegation on 'judgment day' [when the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed in 1968] to the formal category of non-nuclear weapons state," said Sourabh Gupta, senior research associate at Samuels International Associates in Washington, DC.

"With its early support of the former US president George W Bush's ballistic missile defense program and its current drive to develop anti-ballistic missile/anti-satellite capability, New Delhi is determined not to make the same mistake twice," added Gupta. "If and when globally negotiated restraints are placed on such strategic defensive systems or technologies - perhaps restraints of some sort of ASAT testing/hit-to-kill technologies - India will already have crossed the technical threshold in that regard, and acknowledgement of such status [will be] grand-fathered into any such future agreement." Click here to read the article. (1/21)

Gulf States Space Alliance Could Be a Game-Changer (Source: Brevard Workforce)
In late October, elected officials from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi joined together to establish the Aerospace Alliance, described as a “private/public organization that will establish the Gulf Coast and surrounding region as a world class aerospace, space and aviation corridor.” This is potentially great news for Florida’s space industry. Despite its broadly described mission, the Alliance was formed first and foremost to support Northrop Grumman’s pursuit of the Air Force’s multi-billion dollar KC-45 aerial tanker program, which would spread high-paying manufacturing jobs among the states.

Whether the Alliance survives the success or failure of its KC-45 mission could depend on Florida’s efforts to expand the group’s focus on space industry issues, and on adding a missing Gulf Coast state to the partnership. The four current members have clear interests in space, with major NASA facilities (Kennedy, Marshall, Stennis, and Michoud) hosting thousands of space jobs in each state. Add Texas and Johnson Space Center to the mix and the Alliance would include nearly half of NASA’s centers, and a clear majority of those with responsibility for human spaceflight.

Consider the influence that five governors, 10 U.S. Senators, 75 Congressmen (and 85 Electoral College votes) would have if they could identify common goals for our space program. This should be a goal for Florida as an Alliance member. Of course, given the history among the Gulf-state NASA centers for money, programs and responsibilities, it might be very difficult (but not impossible) for them to reach consensus on anything. If the Alliance can establish itself as a force for space policy development in Washington, it will be very much worth the effort fro Florida. (1/21)

DiBello Makes Space Florida’s Pitch in Tallahassee (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Space Florida President Frank DiBello brought his wish-list to the state Capitol Wednesday. DiBello is cutting staff and refocusing the agency on projects — however small — that can create jobs and preserve at least some of the launch and high-tech rocket-processing skills that have been honed during the past three decades. He is asking for legislation creating a commercial launch zone, research and development tax credits, and other tax goodies.

The motherload that DiBello has been lobbying Gov. Charlie Crist to create — a $100 million space-technology investment fund — didn’t come up in the meeting. That makes sense. Space Florida’s agenda largely fell flat in the cash-strapped Legislature last year. But DiBello didn’t mince words on his overarching point – that Florida would have to start front-loading its incentives to keep competitive with other states aiming to steal the state’s business edge. (1/20)

Space Florida Shifts Gears on Launch Pad Project (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Space Florida is asking state lawmakers to embrace a plan to back away from a long-touted multi-user launch pad project at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Legislators have already ponied up $13 million for the project, most of it still unspent. Agency chief Frank DiBello said there were companies interested in the launch pad, known as LC-36, but not enough right now to merit continuing to pour money into re-building the pad. He wants to wait until a well-financed customer is committed to using it. Rep. Steve Crisifulli, R-Merritt Island, said legislative space supporters hope to include language in the state budget to let Space Florida spend the $13 million on other launch pads or launch-related improvements. That way, the agency could still go after commercial launch-related jobs more quickly than if they tried to complete a total retrofit of the old pad, he said. (1/20)

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