February 14, 2010

California Group Approves PG&E Contract Including Space-Based Solar Power (Source: CPUC)
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a renewable energy contract for Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), furthering the state's progress towards its renewable energy goals. Through its power purchase agreement with Solaren Corporation, PG&E is entitled to generation from a first-of-its kind space-based solar project. The experimental technology uses orbiting satellites equipped with solar cells to convert the sun's energy into electricity, which is then converted into radio frequency energy that can be transmitted to a local receiver station. Space-based solar power has been researched in the U.S. for several decades and this summer the Japanese government announced plans to pursue a space-based solar program. Click here for more. (2/12)

X Prize Lab@USC Starts Up (Source: CSA)
The X Prize Foundation, the non-profit organization that nurtures big-prize lures to encourage talented researchers to tackle big problems, has come to the University of Southern California. USC will be the site of the third X Prize laboratory in the country. Such labs critically examine existing science, market structure and public needs to try to define the best targets for new prizes. Solar energy will be the challenge for the new USC lab. Click here for more. (2/12)

CSA's Andrea Seastrand Profiled in Space News (Source: CSA)
Andrea Seastrand, executive director of the California Space Authority, was PROFILEd in last week's issue of Space News (Feb 8, 2010). "The president's budget request for NASA is an affirmation of the nation's desire to maintain its leadership in space. CSA is encouraged that the president has proposed a $6B increase in NASA's budget over the next five years." "Another challenge is to be recognized by our policymakers in Sacramento and the governor. The total exonomic impact of California space enterprise exceeds $76B and provides over 370,000 jobs." For the complete interview, see page 22 of Space News, February 8, 2010. (2/12)

Florida-Based Space Propulsion Systems Wins Recognition for Technology (Source: SPS)
Clearwater-based Space Propulsion Systems (SPS) received the "Best Paper" and "Outstanding Technical Innovation" awards at this year's National Security Aviation and Space Systems session at the inaugural Aerospace Systems conference in Los Angeles. SPS has been collaborating with the University of South Florida and E'Prime Aerospace to develop the innovative Nano-structured Propellant Technology. The awards were presented by the Technology Review Committee and the Program Chair for the conference, Dr. Edward Tundstel of the Applied Physics Laboratory, John Hopkins University. Click here for a copy of their paper. (2/14)

Florida Transportation Planning Group Approves $800K for KSC Park (Source: Florida Today)
With little but a vaguely worded, one-page spreadsheet to go on, members of the Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) voted 11-7to spend $800,000 to engineer streets and parking lots for a new research park to house 10 unidentified businesses at Kennedy Space Center. The TPO includes Brevard County commissioners and elected leaders from local cities and Port Canaveral. They could vote again this summer, still in the dark, to spend another $1 million on construction.

In other words, you've been asked to blindly trust officials, who blindly trusted the CEO of Space Florida, who signed an agreement to keep those companies secret. Usually, such leaders know the secret and, by law, can keep only us taxpayers in the dark. Let me be clear: I love the Exploration Park project, which any tenant could use if another bails. But the secrecy isn't fair. I respect the leaders who voted. I don't respect their ignorance. I like DiBello -- an honorable, methodical deal-maker who's working fast to satisfy businesses. But in two decades of covering these deals, I've never seen one fail as a result of transparency. (2/14)

National Space Club Award Dinner Will Honor Roy Tharpe on Apr. 17 (Source: NSC)
The National Space Club's Florida Committee will hold its annual Debus Award dinner on Apr. 17 at the KSC Visitor Complex. This year's honoree is Roy Tharpe, president of Space Gateway Support. The reception begins at 6:30 p.m. Space is limited and we expect a full house. Visit http://www.nscfl.org or contact LaDonna Neterer at
ladonna.j.neterer@boeing.com for information and reservations. (2/15)

DOD Studying Rocket Motor Sustainment (Source: Aviation Week)
The Pentagon is participating in an interagency integrated team convened to explore how best to sustain the rocket motor industrial base — a mandate made all the more urgent given NASA’s planned cancellation of the Constellation program, according to Brett Lambert, the Defense Dept.’s industrial policy director. Each of NASA’s Ares V launchers would have required six RS-68 engines, which are common to the U.S. Air Force’s Delta IV Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV). Already, Air Force officials are seeing an uptick in the per-unit price of each EELV because procurement has slowed to keep pace with delayed satellite programs.

This trend is only getting worse with the NASA decision, according to Gary Payton, deputy under secretary of the Air Force for space. “We share an industrial base with NASA — on solids, liquids, range infrastructure and a workforce. So, with the cancellation of the Constellation program… we have got a lot of work to do with NASA to figure out how to maintain a minimum industrial base on liquid rocket engines and solid rocket motors,” Payton said.

Lambert says the Pentagon is preparing a report on this issue that will go to Congress in June. The Constellation departure “changes everything. That is a game changer,” he says. Included in the team are representatives from DOD, OSTP and NASA, he adds. Even before the effect of the Constellation decision is felt, cost pressure is already evident in EELV program despite the Boeing/Lockheed ULA joint venture, which was formed to reduce overhead and streamline operations. Payton says that piece parts — avionics, nozzles, engines — all are costing more because of the Air Force’s reduced buy rate. (2/8)

Constellation Plan Was an Illusion, Wrapped in Denial (Source: New Scientist)
NASA's Constellation program, which was going to fly manned capsules to the International Space Station in (maybe) 2015, to the moon in (maybe) 2020, and to Mars someday, is dead. Some people are mourning it. I'm not. Is manned space exploration important? Yes – not least because it simply works much better than sending robots. When you look past the rhetoric and superstitions and compare the results, today's robots (and tomorrow's too) are pitifully limited, painfully slow, and not really all that cheap. Bolder goals need humans on the scene.

Nevertheless, I'm not shedding tears for Constellation. Why not? Because it wasn't going to get us there. First, it probably wasn't going to work. Even so early in its life, the program was already deep into a death spiral of "solving" every problem by reducing expectations of what the system would do. Actually reaching the moon would probably have required a major redesign, which wasn't going to be funded.

Second, even if all went as planned, there was a money problem. As the Augustine Panel noted, Constellation was already underfunded, and couldn't ever get beyond Earth orbit without a big budget increase. Which didn't seem too likely. Finally, and most important, even if Constellation was funded and worked ... so what? The program was far too tightly focused on repeating Apollo. Early ideas of quickly establishing a permanent lunar base had already been forgotten. Constellation was going to deliver exactly what Apollo did: expensive, brief, infrequent visits to the moon. That was all it was good for. (2/11)

UK Space Report Won't Inspire the Next Generation (Source: New Scientist)
Britons have gotten used to bracing themselves for disappointment whenever the word "British" and "space program" are juxtaposed by politicians. We've long gotten used to the fact that Britain is an also-ran in space exploration - without even a stake in the International Space Station or bankrolling the European Space Agency's astronaut corps.

So I had low expectations for the report from the government's Space Innovation and Growth Team, issued last week. It didn't disappoint. The SpaceIGT's report aims to identify how the UK can boost its share of the global spaceflight engineering market, boosting revenues from the sector from £6.5 billion per annum now to £40 billion by 2030. That should create 100,000 new jobs, too, says the SpaceIGT's panel of space industrialists and academics, which includes executives from the likes of EADS Astrium, its subsidiary Surrey Satellite Technology, and Virgin Galactic.

But the report appears to know the price of everything and the value of nothing. It is woefully short on inspirational projects that will excite today's schoolkids and students and get them thinking about space science as a career. One scientist told the Guardian today that the report is "underwhelming in terms of its scientific ambitions". (2/10)

United Launch Alliance Gives $25,000 to Challenger School (Source: Aurora Sentinel)
Centennial-based aerospace company’s $25,000 grant to the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado will provide space-based science instruction for hundreds of Aurora Public Schools students during the coming school year. The United Launch Alliance announced last month that it would donate $25,000 to the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado, a space-based school in Colorado Springs that specializes in simulated space missions. The donation will translate into thirty “Moon, Mars and Beyond” missions for hundreds of Aurora 4th grade students. (2/12)

Editorial: A Perfect Storm Confronts US Space Policy (Source: Space Daily)
A blizzard of historic proportions has hit the nation's capital. The federal government has been closed all week, there is no mail service and the schools are all closed. We are quite literally frozen. In these white-out conditions we can't even see where we are going. A similar scenario exists for our nation's space exploration program- it may be "whited out."

With a simple stroke of the pen, President Obama has created a 2011 budget proposal that will cancel America's hope of remaining the leading space-faring nation. He plans to replace the six-year old Constellation program with a commercial approach to the current "go-nowhere" low Earth orbit (LEO) program that has limited the U.S. space program since Apollo.

Now America, whose space successes have been the envy of the world and the pride of its people, can look forward to becoming a "has been," "also-ran," in the history books. No doubt we will soon be begging Russia and China to allow our astronauts to be delivered to the moon and beyond in their vehicles. This certainly is a change for a nation whose space achievements have sparked the imaginations of generations of students from engineers to movie-makers. (2/12)

New Bolivian Space Agency to Launch Satellite (Source: Guardian)
An unlikely newcomer is about to make the final frontier a little more crowded: Bolivia is to launch a satellite into space. The impoverished South American country, famed more for llamas and Andean peaks than technology, has created a space agency to build and launch a satellite with Chinese help. Named after Túpac Katari, an Aymara Indian leader who fought Spanish colonialists, the satellite is intended to improve communication in rural areas and boost indigenous pride. President Evo Morales signed the decree creating the Bolivian Space Agency at a cabinet meeting this week. (2/12)

Mexican Meteorite: Was it Russian Space Junk? (Source: Discovery)
It would appear the initial reports of a "30 meter wide" crater may have been incorrect. No photographic evidence of the location of this mystery crater has emerged and AFP journalists are reporting that "nothing was found after a thorough search of the area yesterday." However, it remains probable that space debris originating from the Russian Cosmos 2421 spy satellite did re-enter over Mexico -- accounting for the eyewitness accounts -- but very little debris may have made landfall, if at all.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing a light and then a "roar" as the alleged meteorite hit, swaying nearby buildings. According to one translated source, a bridge had been damaged by the impact that occurred at 6:30 pm local time on Wednesday evening. Windows were also shattered as a result of the blast. Local authorities reported that emergency phone lines were jammed with scared people calling to find out what was happening. (2/12)

Alabama State Lawmakers Urge Obama to Reverse Constellation Decision (Source: Huntsville Times)
The Alabama House and Senate adopted a joint resolution Thursday urging President Barack Obama to reverse his decision to kill NASA's Constellation space exploration plan. The resolutions, sponsored in the House by Rep. Randy Hinshaw, D-Meridianville, and in the Senate by Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison, won unanimous approval. (2/12)

ITT Partnership Awarded IDIQ Contract for California Spaceport Launch Services (Source: ITT)
Spaceport Systems International (SSI), a limited partnership between ITT Corporation (NYSE: ITT) and California Commercial Spaceport, Inc. has been awarded an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract to provide spaceport launch services for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center Launch Test Squadron. The maximum potential value of the five-year contract is $48 million and actual revenue from the contract will be dependent upon the services specifically requested by the customer.

The SSI spaceport facility is located in the southern corner of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and is ideally situated to support west coast polar launches of the Minotaur family of space boosters. It is also one of four launch facilities designated as qualified launch sites for the converted Minuteman II launch vehicle. In 1994, ITT and the California Commercial Spaceport, Inc. announced the limited partnership that resulted in the formation of Spaceport Systems International L.P. Since that time, the company has focused its efforts to bring commercial space services to the central coast of California. (2/11)

Officials on Mission to Save JSC Jobs (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Local officials are presenting a united front to preserve 7,000 Houston-area jobs that would be lost if the Constellation lunar exploration program is canceled, Mayor Annise Parker said. Parker said Councilman Mike Sullivan, whose district includes the Johnson Space Center, is leading an effort to convince President Barack Obama's administration that canceling the program would be a mistake. “We believe he made a bad decision,” Parker said, “but in true Texas fashion, we have a fallback plan.” That, the mayor said, would be to make the Houston area the base for a Mars exploration plan that NASA Administrator Charles Bolden described this week. (2/11)

U.S. Doesn't Hand China the Moon (Source: Asia Times)
"The US space program is not atrophying, quite the opposite. The newly proposed NASA budget and program will create the opportunity for the private sector to do for space what it did for computers: massively reduce costs and similarly increase capabilities," said Charles Lurio. Meanwhile, there is no sign of any such activity in China, and certainly not on the scale that the US is experiencing today.

A $50 million award to five US companies - big and small alike - for commercial spaceflight is energizing private space sector supporters. The money flows from the vast stimulus effort that the US government has activated over the past few months and is part of a planned $6 billion, five-year effort to make sustained commercial spaceflight a reality. According to Jeff Foust, "If the plan survives the congressional gauntlet of hearings, markups, amendments and votes in anything like its present form, it will mark a radical transformation of the agency."

"Gone would be the emphasis on the development and operations of launch vehicles and spacecraft, focused on traveling to specific destinations. In its place would be the development of capabilities and technologies needed for future exploration to a variety of destinations, while also supporting the development of a commercial infrastructure to handle more routine operations," wrote Foust in a recent column. (2/12)

Editorial: Don't Fall for Huntsville's Scheme (Source: SPACErePORT)
The name of Alabama's new "Second to None" task force should be clue enough that Huntsville's plan to battle Constellation's cancellation is aimed solely at preserving Marshall Space Flight Center's primacy among NASA's centers and, more specifically, at saving the too-little-too-late Ares-1 rocket program. The "save Constellation" movement would be much more viable without Ares-1 in the mix.

The Commercial Crew approach promoted by President Obama represents a long-overdue progression for our space industry, and it has received bi-partisan support from members of Congress who don't have a vested interest in retaining NASA jobs in their states and districts. By accepting Commercial Crew as a rightful replacement for Ares-1, the Constellation debate can shift toward what is really needed: a near-term heavy-lift rocket to support "Flexible-Path" missions beyond Low Earth Orbit.

Huntsville and Alabama would not be the losers in such a shift. Almost by definition, Huntsville would have a major role in any heavy-lift program, and Decatur would see a big increase in the production of Atlas and Delta rockets by United Launch Alliance. A Shuttle-derived heavy-lift program (one that could evolve over time to an Ares-5 capacity) is something multiple states can fight for. Don't let Ares-1 be the barrier to developing a unified front for supporting near-term human exploration beyond Low Earth Orbit. (2/14)

NASA Extends Endeavour Mission (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA has extended Endeavour’s stay at the International Space Station by one day, making the space shuttle’s flight a 14-day mission. With the one-day extension, the shuttle astronauts now plan to spend nine days at the station before undocking and returning to Florida on Feb. 21. The extra day will allow them time to move the space station’s urine and water recycling equipment into the new Tranquility module that was attached during the mission’s first spacewalk. The mission is the first of NASA’s five final shuttle flights before the orbiter fleet is retired later this fall. (2/14)

Insulation Problem Hampers Space Station Assembly Task (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Astronauts ran into trouble while setting up the International Space Station’s newest room, Tranquility, because a critical insulating cover does not fit. The cover is supposed to go between Tranquility and its observation deck, but the metal bars are not locking down properly because of interference from a hand rail or some other structure at the hatch. NASA is considering multiple options to address the issue. (2/14)

Harris Wins Air Force Space Work (Source: DOD)
Harris Corp. of Palm Bay, Fla., was awarded a $5,882,429 contract which will exercise an option for continued sustainment services under the space control depot support sustainment contract. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. (2/13)

Ben Bova: To the Moon and Beyond (Source: Naples News)
Space enthusiasts (like me) dearly want to return humans to the moon and build a permanent presence there. Partially this is because of the sheer adventure of exploring the frontier. Partially it’s because scientific studies of the moon can help us understand better the origins of our own world, and the chances for finding other worlds like Earth among the stars.

But the hard fact is that returning to the moon lacks a firm economic motive. In an economy staggering from high unemployment, massive deficit spending, and inevitable tax increases, how can any leader justify spending billions on building permanent bases on the moon? We’ll return to the moon when we have a strong economic reason to do so. In a good cause there are no failures, only delays. (2/13)

NASA Invites Indonesia to Join in Space Research (Source: Xinhua)
NASA offered Indonesia's National Flight and Space Agency (LAPAN) to participate in researches at the International Space Station, Kompas daily quoted an official as saying on Saturday. The step is a follow up of President Barack Obama's policy to embrace Asian countries to participate in space research activities. The LAPAN's Head Adi Sadewo Salatun said that the offer would be studied while waiting for meeting result brought by Indonesian negotiation team involved in discussion of "Science and Technology Agreement" in Washington on March 22-23. (2/14)

Brazil, China to Postpone Joint Satellite Launching to 2011 (Source: Xinhua)
Brazil and China will postpone their fourth joint satellite launching from 2010 to mid-2011, a Brazilian official said. The two parties held a critical design review meeting a few days ago and decided to reschedule the date for launching the satellite CBERS-3, said Thyrso Villela, director of satellites, applications and development of the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB).

Brazil and China established in 1988 a joint committee for the construction, launching and operation of satellites under the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS) Program. The program allows the two countries to gather information about the Earth's environment, agriculture, urban development planning and water pollution. "The AEB is very happy about this fruitful cooperation between China and Brazil, which is the main cooperation program of our country," said Villela. (2/14)

Iran Unveils New Space Rocket and Satellite Designs (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Iran has revealed the development of a new Simorgh space booster and three new satellites, including an imaging spacecraft that may provide Iran with a rudimentary space reconnaissance capability. In addition, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad indicated that Iran may be studying the use of its new space capabilities for a rudimentary antisatellite weapons capability, by noting that the new booster will enable Iran to fly missions up to 621 mi. (1,000 km.) altitude.

Ahmadinejad did not mention ASAT capabilities specifically, but he noted that "everyone knows that reaching a 1,000 km. orbit allows you to 'reach' all other orbits." The U.S. Air Force Space Command can not assume that an openly hostile country like Iran will not pursue ASAT weapons after China illustrated how a country with limited space capability can change the strategic situation in space by demonstrating an ASAT. (2/14)

Jeff Bezos' Space Business Blue Origin Gets NASA Grant (Source: Kent Reporter)
Blue Origin last week received a grant of $3.7 million from NASA for the private, commercial business' work to support transport of crew to and from low-Earth orbit. Blue Origin, founded in 2000 by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, is one of several companies to receive a grant for their work. The grant is part of President Barack Obama's new direction on space flight, which will shift flights to space to the commercial sector after NASA's Space Shuttle fleet is retired at the end of this year.

Blue Origin has successfully launched its "Goddard" capsule three times. "We are pleased to be selected by NASA as a member of the CCDev. (commercial crew development) team. Blue Origin continues to work patiently and step-by-step to lower the cost of spaceflight so that humans can continue exploring the solar system," said Rob Meyerson, program manager. Blue Origin is one of five companies that is splitting $50 million from the NASA program. (2/13)

The Case Against Private Spaceflight (Source: Wall Street Journal)
President Barack Obama's proposed plan for NASA bets that the private sector—-small, entrepreneurial firms as well as traditional aerospace companies—-can safely carry the burden of flying U.S. astronauts into space at a fraction of the former price. The main idea: to spend $6 billion over the next five years to help develop new commercial spacecraft capable of carrying humans. The private sector simply is not up for the job. For one, NASA will have to establish a system to certify commercial orbital vehicles as safe for human transport, and with government bureaucracy, that will take years. Never mind the challenges of obtaining insurance.

Entrepreneurial companies have consistently overpromised and under-delivered. Over the past 30 years, over a dozen start-ups have tried to break into the launch business. The only one to make the transition into a respectably sized space company is Orbital Sciences of Dulles, Va. Building vehicles capable of going into orbit is not for the fainthearted or the undercapitalized. The companies that have survived have done so mostly by relying on U.S. government support.

The space entrepreneurs may claim that they can send people into space for a fraction of the previous cost, but they have not yet proved it. NASA's policy is neither bold nor new; it is yet another exercise in budget-driven program cancellation. Until the American government can bring itself to choose a path and stick to it for more than a single administration, its claim to be worthy of a great nation will be in doubt. (2/13)

Rocket Racing League Supports Tulsa Effort to Acquire Shuttle (Source: GTR News)
The Rocket Racing League has partnered with the Tulsa Air and Space Museum to host the TASM Air and Rocket Racing Show on Apr. 24 at the Tulsa International Airport. This will be an historic occasion as Tulsa has a rich history in the aerospace industry. All of the proceeds will benefit the museum’s educational and inspirational initiatives throughout the year; including their efforts to acquire a retired NASA space shuttle for permanent display. (2/13)

Hints of Dark Matter Detected on Earth (Source: Cosmos)
There is a 75% chance that scientists have detected dark matter, in the form of weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs), at an experiment deep underground in Minnesota. One of the most popular candidates for dark matter - the elusive, invisible substance thought to make up around 85% of the mass of the universe - are weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs.

WIMPs are hypothesized dark matter particles that scientists predict could occasionally, although very rarely and weakly, interact with normal matter. When this occurs, the dark matter particles would scatter from an atomic nucleus like billiard balls, leaving behind a small amount of energy detectable under the right conditions. The results of the latest data set taken from the CDMS-II experiment over 2007 and 2008 show the detection of two possible WIMP events. However, in order to claim a discovery there must be less than one chance in a thousand that the detected signal is due to background events. (2/13)

Stalled Move May Delay Next Shuttle Launch (Source: Florida Today)
Continuing cold weather at Kennedy Space Center is pushing back rollout of the orbiter Discovery again and a March 18 target launch date is being evaluated and could slip back a few days. The move out of its shuttle processing hangar to KSC's 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building had been slated for Thursday. The earliest the orbiter might roll out now is 5 p.m. Monday, but NASA's Deputy Shuttle Program Manager said that schedule is "optimistic." (2/12)

PISCES Hosts Meeting of Space Organization, Research Centers (Source: Hawaii 24/7)
The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) hosted about 40 representatives from a variety of space organizations Feb. 11-12 in Hilo, to talk about the role of PISCES in future research, education and field tests. Attendees who are interested in working with PISCES on future space-related projects came from Japanese companies, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Battelle Institute, Hawaii State Government, the University of Hawaii, Boise State University, the University of Wisconsin, and numerous companies and organizations. (2/12)

Houston Mayor Joins Space Exploration Political Fight (Source: Examiner)
Usually the issues confronting a big city mayor include mass transit, crime, education, and property taxes. Houston Mayor Annise Parker must now add to that list the exploration of space. President Obama’s bid to cancel the Constellation space exploration program has brought the space issue into focus. While Houston has a diverse economy, which includes energy, health care, and biotech, aerospace has been part of what drives job creation and economic growth in America’s fourth largest city since just after the creation of NASA.

The Johnson Space Center, in Clear Lake City to the south of Houston, is a major employer, which also supports a host of ancillary businesses from restaurants to automobile repair shops. President Obama’s proposal to gut space exploration would certainly cause considerable economic dislocation in the Houston area, which makes it Mayor Annise Parker’s problem. Hence, the city government of Houston is going to participate, along with the Texas congressional delegation, in the fight to reverse the cancellation of Constellation or, failing that, establish a new space exploration program. (2/12)

Washington Senate to NASA: Give Us a Space Shuttle (Source: AP)
The state Senate has approved a resolution asking NASA to retire one of the space shuttles to a Seattle museum. The Senate unanimously passed the measure Thursday, and it now heads to the House for further consideration. It asks for either Endeavor or Atlantis to be housed at the Boeing Field museum after they are retired. NASA's aging space shuttle fleet is scheduled for retirement this year. The bill touts the state's role in the aerospace industry and the commitment of the museum, which is the nation's largest private aerospace museum, as reasons for NASA to send a shuttle to Seattle. (2/12)


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