January 27, 2010

NASA Shuttles Too Pricey for New Mexico (Source: UPI)
Officials at New Mexico space museums said two NASA space shuttle orbiters are too expensive for their facilities, despite a drop in price to $28.8 million. Monte Marlin, spokeswoman for the White Sands Missile Range, said the facility would welcome space shuttle orbiters Endeavour and Atlantis, but the reduction in price from $42 million to $28.8 million isn't steep enough of a discount to make them affordable. "I'm sure people would love to have it here, but all of our dollars should go toward taking care of all of our soldiers here," Marlin said. "There's a lot of things we could do with that $29 million they're asking for." (1/27)

Texas Gubernatorial Candidates Comment on NASA Shift's Impact on JSC (Source: KTRK)
The president is expected to submit his budget to congress next week and we're getting an early idea of what's in store for NASA. The news is not what the NASA community was hoping for. This is just a proposal that the president would float in his budget. Because it is not a done deal, NASA is not issuing any official statements as to what it might mean. Governor Rick Perry was asked about massive cutbacks and an indefinite end to NASA-run human space flight... "I'm not gonna say NASA needs to be a sacred cow and hands off, but I could probably find a lot of earmarks where billions of dollars were spent in special interest that didn't do a cotton picking thing to help Texas' economy," Gov. Perry said.

Perry's opponent in the GOP gubernatorial primary, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, released a statement saying in part, "I am very concerned by reports NASA's human space flight programs might become even more severely constrained. I would strongly oppose any further cuts to human space flight funding that would make the United States dependent on foreign nations for manned space access." We talked with people who work at NASA both at JSC and in Florida, and the thought is the end of the constellation program would not impact JSC. The primary impact here would be in training astronauts for future manned missions to the moon and mars and other places. Regardless, the impact would be felt in the local economy. (1/27)

Obama Officials: Ares Dead and $6 Billion Destined for Commercial Rockets (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Administration officials and a former astronaut on Wednesday called President Barack Obama’s plans for NASA “exciting” and “bold”, saying that he was replacing a failed moon program with a new $6 billion project to develop commercial rockets capable of taking astronauts into orbit. They said it was all part of a broader plan to hike NASA’s budget by an average of $1.3 billion annually over the next five years. Part of that increase would cover a new R&D program, extension of the life of the International Space Station from 2015 to 2020, and investments in infrastructure at KSC to modernize the facility to maintain it as America’s premier spaceport.

Conspicuous by its absence was any mention of a commitment to develop a new government owned and operated “heavy-lift” rocket capable of taking humans beyond the low Earth orbit. The news teleconference was organized for a few select Florida reporters in response to the Orlando Sentinel’s report on Tuesday which said that the White House budget next week would kill NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the moon and scrap the rockets being developed to take them there. On the teleconference was an administration official, a NASA official and Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.

“As you know the current program of record did not hold water,” said the NASA official. “The fact that we would have had a program where the space station didn’t ever again have any humans launching from the United States to it until it was driven into the Pacific Ocean…we felt very, very strongly that this was not a program to be adopted.” But the NASA official stressed that the end of Ares I and Ares V rockets did not mean that the Obama administration was abandoning exploration and human spaceflight. Both officials said there would be “a very significant program,” the most important part of which was the effort to develop private space taxis to take crew back and forth to the space station. (1/27)

Officials Believe New Plan Would Shorten Gap, Benefit Florida (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
“We do believe it is time for American companies to come into this program,” a NASA official told Florida reporters, pointing out that for decades private companies have been launching precious satellites into space. “The investment in that will be $6 billion over five years, this is serious, serious investment that we believe will reduce that gap [in human spaceflight] from what it would have been with the program of record between shuttle retirement and the Ares I and Orion [capsule] coming on line.”

Sally Ride, who recently served on the Augustine Panel, said that she thought safety concerns would be allayed by NASA’s involvement in the design of the spaceships and the safety procedures the companies would have to follow. “NASA considers astronaut safety to be very important,” said Ride. The officials stressed that Florida in particular would benefit from investments in commercial rockets and infrastructure at Kennedy Space Center that would help offset expected 7,000 job losses when the shuttle program ends either later this year or early next.

However, none of the officials would be drawn on how much money or what plans existed for creating a new NASA spaceship capable of launching humans beyond the space station. When asked officials repeatedly dodged the question of what plans the administration had for a heavy-lift rocket. Already lawmakers are preparing to fight Obama’s NASA plan. On Wednesday, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said she would introduce a bill that would force NASA to fly additional shuttle flights beyond the final five now scheduled while NASA worked on developing the next generation space vehicle. (1/27)

Is Constellation Now "Flexible Path"? (Source: SPACErePORT)
Reported plans for the cancellation of Constellation seem to suggest that there will be no space exploration effort to follow the Space Shuttle program. That doesn't make sense. If, as also reported, the Space Station will continue operating through 2020, a new heavy-lift vehicle will be developed, and commercial rockets will provide crew transport, it seems the only missing pieces are specific plans for beyond-LEO missions, and a technology development program (as urged by the Augustine Panel). Add these and you'll have the "Flexible Path" program identified as a preferred option by the Augustine Panel. These missing pieces could be revealed in the upcoming news conferences planned by NASA and OSTP. (1/27)

Astrium Positioned for Substantial Galileo Work (Source: Space News)
OHB Technology on Jan. 26 signed an $800 million contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) to build 14 Galileo navigation and timing satellites and said the company it bested in the competition, Astrium, is still likely to get about 50 percent of the contract’s value in the form of subcontracting work for Astrium affiliates. OHB will be hiring extra staff to handle the Galileo work but will not need to incur any major capital expense in plant or equipment. “The satellite bus we are using for Galileo is a derivative of the platform we used for the German SAR-Lupe [radar] constellation,” said an official. “The AIT [assembly, integration and testing] facility was built for SAR-Lupe and has been pretty much empty since that program was completed. So we will not have to add new facilities for Galileo.” (1/27)

Rep. Posey: Obama’s Reported Space Plan is “Ill-Advised” (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Congressman Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) released the following statement in reaction to the Orlando Sentinel’s report that the Obama Administration proposes cutting NASA’s moon program and next generation space vehicle to invest in earth sciences, technology development and commercial space taxis... “Although Congress awaits the President’s official budget request next week, I am deeply concerned over news reports citing Administration officials that the President seems determined to abdicate America’s leadership in human space exploration. Just weeks before the 2008 election, then-Senator Obama came though Central Florida promising the nation and the residents of Brevard County that if elected President, he would close the space gap and keep America first in space. If this news report is even half right, this plan, if you can call it a plan, would be a devastating reversal of that commitment." (1/27)

NASA Gives "Go" for Feb. 7 as Final Shuttle Night Launch (Source: NASA)
Space shuttle Endeavour is set to begin a 13-day flight to the International Space Station with a Feb. 7 launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff is planned for 4:39 a.m. EST, making this the final scheduled space shuttle night launch. (1/27)

U.S. General Urges World War on Space Debris (Source: Reuters)
World powers must find ways to reduce the amount of debris in orbit, as the collision risk it poses to spacecraft is increasing, the head of the U.S. Strategic Command said. Air Force General Kevin Chilton, a former astronaut, told an Israeli audience that the United States has catalogued more than 15,000 items such as jettisoned rockets, shuttle detritus, and bits of destroyed satellites currently floating in space. "The estimation is that these numbers could grow upward of 50,000 in total numbers in the not-too-distant future," he said, adding that this could make low-earth orbit "uninhabitable to man or machine."

Chilton said the increasing clutter raised the specter of a "cascade" whereby debris causes collisions, which in turn creates more debris. He suggested that major powers should agree on a "responsible space operation," improve their spacecraft to keep debris to a minimum, and share data on possible risks. He made clear that, for now, containment was the only option, in the absence of a means of elimination. (1/27)

New Mexico's Big Investment (Spaceport America) Should Pay Out (Source: KFOX)
Construction of Spaceport America is under way and is expected to be complete within a year. But at this point, many people, especially taxpayers in the state of New Mexico, want to know if the Spaceport will pay out. Well, according to Spaceport America, there has already been over 300 flights sold and at $200,000 a piece, there’s been at least $42 million shelled out in deposits and some full-paid flights. “The Spaceport should be in the black from day one,” said technical and business development director for Spaceport America, Aaron Prescott. While those in orbit will be considered brave and wealthy commercial space travelers, they are also tourists who will be pumping money into the state.

“It's going to allow people to stop and spend a few more days in New Mexico whether they're traveling through Albuquerque or through El Paso,” said president and CEO of the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance, Davin Lopez. Even with the bulk of tourists a year away, the economic impact can be felt right now with the people at the construction site. “The taxpayers of Dona Ana County will see a reinvestment of their dollars come forward and that reinvestment will really be in form of jobs and opportunity,” said Lopez. (1/27)

Obama Aims to Ax Moon Mission (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA's plans to return astronauts to the moon are dead. So are the rockets being designed to take them there — that is, if President Barack Obama gets his way. When the White House releases his budget proposal Monday, there will be no money for the Constellation program that was supposed to return humans to the moon by 2020. The troubled and expensive Ares I rocket that was to replace the space shuttle to ferry humans to space will be gone, along with money for its bigger brother, the Ares V cargo rocket that was to launch the fuel and supplies needed to take humans back to the moon. There will be no lunar landers, no moon bases, no Constellation program at all.

In their place, according to White House insiders, agency officials, industry executives and congressional sources familiar with Obama's long-awaited plans for the space agency, NASA will look at developing a new "heavy-lift" rocket that one day will take humans and robots to explore beyond low Earth orbit. But that day will be years — possibly even a decade or more — away. In the meantime, the White House will direct NASA to concentrate on Earth-science projects — principally, researching and monitoring climate change — and on a new technology research and development program that will one day make human exploration of asteroids and the inner solar system possible.

There will also be funding for private companies to develop capsules and rockets that can be used as space taxis to take astronauts on fixed-price contracts to and from the International Space Station — a major change in the way the agency has done business for the past 50 years. Click here to read the article. (1/27)

After Q4 Profit, Boeing Lowers Expectations for 2010 (Source: AIA)
Boeing swung to a $1.27 billion profit in the 2009 fourth quarter, reversing a loss in the year-earlier period caused mainly by strike-related expenses. But despite a 42% jump in quarterly revenue, Boeing said its profit this year will likely not exceed $4 a share, falling short of the $4.26 analysts had anticipated. (1/27)

United Technologies Sees 6% Profit Dip in Q4 (Source: AIA)
United Technologies Corp. earned $1.07 billion in the fourth quarter, as downturns in aviation and housing cut profit by 6% compared to the same period last year. Of the company's aviation businesses, only Sikorsky Aircraft showed improved profits, while Pratt & Whitney and Hamilton Sundstrand both suffered declines. For 2010, UTX reaffirmed its earnings target of $4.40 to $4.65 per share. (1/27)

Fiscal Situation Likely to Affect Pentagon Spending (Source: AIA)
The Pentagon's budget request, due to be released on Feb. 1, likely won't have any significant cuts, but the county's fiscal situation is highly likely to affect Pentagon spending, experts say. President Barack Obama is expected to exclude the Pentagon from a three-year discretionary spending freeze. (1/27)

Obama's Budget Proposal Provides No Funds for Constellation (Source: AIA)
President Barack Obama's budget proposal will include no money for the NASA Constellation program, designed to return humans to the moon by 2020, officials say. The proposal provides no funds for the Ares I rocket that was to transport humans into space, nor will funds be made available for the Ares V cargo rocket, intended to launch fuel and supplies needed to return to the moon. The White House is expected to instead instruct NASA to focus on Earth science projects, such as monitoring climate change. (1/27)

NASA Adds Israeli Technical Expertise to Lunar Science at Ames (Source: NASA)
NASA and the Israel Space Agency have signed a joint statement that recognizes the Israel Network for Lunar Science and Exploration, or INLSE, as an affiliate partner with the NASA Lunar Science Institute at the agency's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. (1/27)

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