January 29, 2010

First Falcon 9 Rocket Coming Together at the Cape (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
All the pieces of the first Falcon 9 rocket due to launch between March and May have been trucked into Cape Canaveral, leaving just a handful of final tasks and closeouts before the booster is lifted atop the pad for tanking and engine tests. The Falcon 9 rocket sits inside a hangar at Complex 40. The rocket's second stage arrived at the Cape earlier this week after finishing acceptance testing in Texas, filling the shiny new SpaceX hangar at Complex 40 with rocket hardware for the first time.

The nine-engine first stage and the first launch's rudimentary Dragon capsule arrived in Florida late last year. Those components are nearly ready for launch, said Tim Buzza, SpaceX's vice president of launch operations. Technicians are finishing closeouts and working with the first stage destruct system as engineers put the second stage through a slate of propulsion systems tests. The avionics system and Merlin engine nozzle will also be installed on the upper stage in the coming days. (1/29)

Space, Cyberspace Viewed as Likely Battlegrounds for U.S. in 21st Century (Source: Space News)
The United States faces an evolving list of potential adversaries in the 21st century that not only continue to seek weapons of mass destruction, but are honing the skills necessary to wage battle in cyberspace as well as outer space, a panel of national security experts said. The nature of warfare has changed significantly since the end of the 20th century, with new technologies and threats emerging faster than ever, U.S. Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, commander of Air Force Space Command, said.

“If you think about what has happened over the last century with air power changing our conception of time and distance, I believe that that advent of the military use of real-time space power has changed our views of time and distance again,” Kehler said. “And I think cyberspace will do that again.” In addition to its responsibility to field and maintain space capabilities for the Air Force, Air Force Space Command recently took on the service’s responsibility for the cyber domain, while responsibility for the nation’s ICBM fleet was transferred to Air Force Global Strike Command. The 24th Air Force was established last year at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, to handle the new cyber mission, and Kehler certified its initial operational capability on Jan. 22. (1/29)

Obama Is No JFK (Source: National Review)
Yesterday’s announcement that the Obama administration plans to scrap funding for voyages to the moon and to Mars, shows how low President Obama’s horizons truly are. As Charles Krauthammer wrote ten years ago this week: It took 100,000 years for humans to get inches off the ground. Then, astonishingly, it took only 66 to get from Kitty Hawk to the moon. And then, still more astonishingly, we lost interest, spending the remaining 30 years of the 20th century going around in circles in low earth orbit, i.e., going nowhere. It’s been ten more years of going nowhere since Krauthammer wrote these words. Obama now proposes another ten to come.

As Krauthammer has rightly noted elsewhere, the most dangerous part of space exploration is leaving and entering the Earth’s atmosphere. The most interesting and exciting part is getting as far away as possible. So, what does President Obama propose? That we stay close to home. As Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D., Fla.) puts it, “The president's proposal would leave NASA with essentially no program and no timeline for exploration beyond Earth's orbit.” (1/29)

Rebel Engineers Sit With NASA to Chart Future of Heavy Lift (Source: Popular Mechanics)
When the e-mail from Doug Cooke, head of NASA's Constellation program, blinked onto Ross Tierney's computer screen a few weeks ago, he bolted upright. The two men sit on opposite ends of the debate over the future of NASA's human spaceflight program, and the outreach signaled that something peculiar was happening in Washington, D.C. Tierney is an advocate for Jupiter Direct, a rocket designed to replace NASA's Ares 1 and Ares V, the two launch vehicles at the heart of NASA's Constellation program. Cooke's e-mail invited Tierney to make a presentation about the Direct rocket, which was developed by a rebel group of moonlighting NASA engineers disgruntled with the Ares 1.

The Jan. 19 meeting, which also included NASA human spaceflight boss Bill Gerstenmaier, was ordered by NASA administrator Charles Bolden. "The meeting went very well," Tierney says. "They seemed quite receptive to our ideas." Little more than a week later, anonymous Obama administration officials told reporters that NASA is set to ditch the Ares 1 and V by cutting all funding for the program from the budget. Insiders now say that the two launch systems will eventually be replaced by a single shuttle-stack heavy-lift rocket that could be similar to the Direct proposal. Click here to view the article. (1/29)

Utah Congressman Raps Obama Space Plan (Source: Standard.net)
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, whose district covers most of ATK's Utah employees, said Thursday that he hasn't seen Obama's budget yet to confirm the reported elimination of Constellation, "but I have seen three very credible sources" that said the same thing. "With this administration, their specific effort is to cut the crap out of the defense program, and what we're hearing from Florida is that (the NASA cut) will be an item in Monday's budget," Bishop said. "Obviously, I don't agree this is the right direction. They'll basically be gutting our space program and coming up with a commercial alternative. It will be devastating."

ATK spokesman George Torres said Congressional representatives in Texas, Alabama, Florida and Utah are already organizing to fight. Hearings will be held in Congress beginning in March, and "you'll see in these letters (from congresspeople) I send you, there's folks drawing the line in the sand. One calls it (the cuts) 'bizarre.' " He was referring to a statement by Rep. Bill Posey, (R-Fla.) who said Obama campaigned in Florida on a promise of maintaining the U.S. lead in outer space. (1/29)

Spaceflight Federation Supports Reported $6 Billion for Commercial Crew (Source: CSF)
“NASA investment in the commercial spaceflight industry is a win-win decision: commercial crew will create thousands of high-tech jobs in the United States, especially in Florida, while reducing the spaceflight gap and preventing us from sending billions to Russia. This is on par with the early days of aviation and the U.S. Airmail Act, which spurred the growth of an entire new industry that now adds billions to the US economy every year.” (1/29)

Obama Repeats Call for Export Control Reform (Source: Space News)
U.S. President Barack Obama said during his Jan. 27 State of the Union address his administration would embark on a new National Export Initiative that would make reform of the U.S. export control system a high priority. “We will double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support two million jobs in America,” the president said in his annual address to a joint session of Congress outlining top priorities for the nation. “To help meet this goal, we’re launching a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security. ” (1/29)

Angst Greets Obama Space Plan (Source: Space News)
President Obama’s plan to scrap NASA’s Moon-bound Constellation program and turn to private companies for launching astronauts into space provoked a strong bipartisan rebuke from the Alabama, Florida and Texas congressional delegations several days before the president was slated to deliver his annual budget request to Congress. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee panel that oversees NASA, said in a Jan. 29 statement that if reports of the White House plan are accurate, “then the president’s green-eyeshade-wearing advisors are dead wrong.” Nelson said he would “fight for NASA, and for the thousands of people who stand to lose their jobs.”

Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) called Obama’s plan “a giant leap backwards” and Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) said it was “simply unacceptable” and vowed to “fight back” to preserve Kennedy contractor jobs that stand to be lost when shuttle flights end. Texas lawmakers were similarly disgruntled about the plan and what it might mean for NASA’s Johnson Space Center, which has been in charge of the Constellation program since its 2005 inception. Republican Reps. Ralph Hall, Pete Olson, and Michael McCaul and Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee all issued testy press releases in the wake of media reports about the president’s NASA plans.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said she would try to shield work at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans from any job losses associated with the Constellation program’s cancellation. Michoud workers have been counting on Ares and Orion to make up for the loss of the space shuttle external tank work done there. Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee, said canceling Constellation and turning over crew transportation to the private sector threatens to make the astronauts launched on NASA’s final shuttle mission in September the last Americans sent into space from U.S. soil until well after 2020. (1/29)

Globalstar’s 2nd-Generation System Slated To Begin Launching This Fall (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Globalstar expects its first six second-generation satellites to be launched aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in September, with a second six-satellite launch to occur in December or early in 2011, officials from Globalstar and its satellite and rocket providers said here Jan. 27. Milpitas, Calif.-based Globalstar, whose current 46-satellite constellation is suffering from suspected radiation-caused degradation to its two-way voice service, said two more six-satellite launches of Soyuz rockets from Russia’s Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan are scheduled for 2011.

These four launches will complete the set of 24 second-generation satellites for which Globalstar has secured financing. Officials said the company’s banking consortium will await initial revenue results from these spacecraft before agreeing to finance construction of the remaining 24 satellites. Globalstar and its satellite prime contractor, Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy, have negotiated contract terms for the full 48-satellite constellation. (1/29)

ESA and Arianespace Sign Vega Contracts Totaling $103M (Source: Spacce News)
The European Space Agency (ESA) and the Arianespace launch consortium have signed a series of contracts totaling 73.6 million euros ($103 million) related to initial government-backed launches of ESA’s Vega small-satellite launcher. The Vega rocket, being built by prime contractor ELV of Italy, is scheduled to make its inaugural flight in late 2010 or early 2011 under current planning. Arianespace will operate Vega alongside the Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket and Russia’s medium-lift Soyuz vehicle at Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. (1/29)

Addicted to Satellites? Air Force Seeks Alternatives to GPS (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Last week, the Air Force's Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz, gave voice to a chink in the U.S. military's armor, one that many know about but few like to discuss in public: Without satellites, modern militaries lose most of their edge. "It seemed critical to me that the joint force reduce its dependence on GPS (Global Positioning System)," he told attendees at a national security conference. There are two main reasons why a GPS system might fail: spoofing and jamming. Spoofing can trick the GPS system into showing a false location. This is especially dangerous with bombs, unmanned aircraft and missiles that use GPS for guidance. Enemies on the ground can also jam signals from the satellite, while more technologically-advanced foes can fire kamikaze space vehicles that could disable a satellite at a critical moment. Schwartz assured the audience that Air Force researchers are busy designing backups to GPS. (1/29)

Aerospace Contributes to Q4 Decline at Honeywell (Source: AIA)
A weak aerospace market continued to be a drag on earnings at Honeywell International, with fourth-quarter earnings slipping 1.3%. Honeywell said aerospace sales fell 18% and earnings slipped 20%. Military, commercial and business aviation sales all suffered, the company said. (1/29)

NASA Sends Radar Over Haiti to Create 3-D Imaging of Faults (Source: AIA)
NASA says it will send a radar-equipped jet to Haiti to get images of deformations to the Earth's surface caused by the recent earthquake and aftershocks. The radar, which has been mapping the San Andreas fault and other faults in California, was already on its way to South America to study volcanoes, forests and Mayan ruins. (1/29)

New Mexico Space Day at Capitol (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
New Mexico Spaceport Authority Executive Director Steve Landeene will host a public forum Sunday at the Capitol Rotunda to discuss progress at Spaceport America and current legislative issues related to the project. The forum will start at 1 p.m. and will also include Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces. The public will have an opportunity to ask questions about the progress of Spaceport America, now under construction in southern Sierra County. (1/29)

NASA's Course Raises Concerns (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
Lawmakers from states and districts where NASA is an important presence voiced concern Thursday about the changes that President Barack Obama's proposed budget is expected to recommend in the agency's course. Administration officials say the proposed fiscal 2011 budget will call for a $6 billion increase in NASA's budget over five years at the same time Obama wants to freeze the overall domestic budget for three years. Under Obama's plan for NASA, the agency would shift focus from sending astronauts back to the moon to expanding research at the International Space Station and encouraging commercial crew launches.

Those priorities would come at the expense of the Constellation program for human spaceflight, which a presidential commission warned in October has been underfunded for decades. Lawmakers said they will review Obama's recommendations but make their own spending decisions. Congress included language in the most recent spending bill for NASA that bars the administration from changing the agency's course without congressional review. (1/29)

Will a Space Cannon Fuel the Next Moon Landing? (Source: FOXNews)
It was at a cocktail party that Dr. John Hopkins, a fast-talking 54-year-old physicist who once worked at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, had a crazy idea.

As sometimes happens over a third martini, a colleague suggested that gas-powered guns are much more powerful than conventional guns: When ignited, a gas gun can shoot a projectile at insane speeds of over 11 kilometers per second -- or roughly 25,000 miles per hour. And that got Hopkins to thinking... What if he could build a massive, 1-kilometer-long cannon powered by hydrogen that could be housed below the surface of the ocean? The sort of device Jules Verne wrote about in 1865 in his novel "From the Earth to the Moon"?

Such a cannon could solve a nagging problem at NASA: how to send manned missions to the moon and Mars at a lower fuel price. Currently, it costs thousands of dollars per pound of fuel to launch stuff into space. Hopkins' cannon could reduce that price to a few hundred dollars per pound. And that savings could be very lucrative to the person who made it happen, which is why Hopkins created and is drumming up support for Quicklaunch Inc., which he hopes will launch payloads into space within the next five years. (1/29)

ATK Lays Off 380 Utah Employees (Source: KSL.com)
Hundreds of Utah employees at ATK received termination notices Thursday as part of a previously-announced reduction of workforce. A spokesperson for ATK said the number of employees laid off -- 380 -- is actually fewer than what was originally projected, which was 500. She noted that an additional 50 employees voluntarily left as part of the layoff. Executives first announced the layoffs in December. They're due to the completion of contracts connected to NASA's space shuttle program, which is ending this year. (1/29)

Senator: NASA Glenn to Get New Assignments, Money (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
President Barack Obama's decision to scuttle plans to return astronauts to the moon will impact Cleveland's NASA Glenn Research Center, but the losses will be more than offset by an expansion of Glenn's roles in other aerospace work, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown said Thursday. The Glenn center has a significant share of Constellation work, which has pumped an average of $93 million per year into the Cleveland facility's budget. Sen. Sherrod Brown said a senior NASA official he would not name assured him that the president's budget, which will be released Monday, will contain good news for the Cleveland center and its more than 3,400 employees and contractors.

"We don't have precise numbers, but a generally good idea that the appropriation to Glenn will more than compensate for the loss of Constellation," Brown told The Plain Dealer. "I'm confident there will be a significant increase in budget and jobs for NASA Glenn," Brown said. "It is a gain. I can't say for sure that all the same job skills of people working in Constellation will translate to the new jobs. But without equivocation, NASA Glenn's budget is going to be better for Cleveland." The center's 2010 budget is $639 million. (1/29)

Editorial: NASA Policy Shift Needs Tough Congressional Review (Source: Florida Today)
The wait is over. Brevard County finally knows President Obama’s plan for NASA’s future and with it what our community is facing in adapting to a space mission radically different from anything we’ve known in the past. But adapt we must because the policy will help shape the Space Coast and its economy for at least a generation and determine whether the U.S. retains its historic leadership role in exploring the cosmos. On that point, serious questions remain and Congress should rigorously review the strategy, asking hard questions and filling in big blanks in the plan that are very troubling.

The central matter of whether the president supports NASA is no longer in doubt — he does. That’s evident in the administration asking $6 billion more in agency spending over the next five years, bringing its allocation during the period to $100 billion. Obama’s doing it despite his freeze on discretionary spending to attack record federal budget deficits, showing his belief in NASA’s ability to spur technological development, advance science and create jobs. The importance of that cannot be overstated with the White House saying it wants NASA to be an “engine for innovation” and Kennedy Space Center a “launch complex of the future.”

However, the road to reach that destination is unlike any NASA has traveled and is causing a mixture of hope and major concern among space advocates that we share. A major element of the plan — which will be formally unveiled Monday in the administration fiscal year 2010-11 budget — is extending the life of the International Space Station until at least 2020. That’s a wise move that can result in more Brevard jobs to process payloads and experiments heading to the outpost. And, perhaps, jump-starting research and development that could lure businesses here that require highly skilled workers. (1/29)

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