February 18, 2010

Racing to Space: Zero-Gravity Tourism...For the Wealthy (Source: Brand X)
That childhood fantasy of being an astronaut is about to become a whole lot closer to reality. Now, instead of a degree in engineering, all you need is a big wad of cash. Click here to read this article about Zero-G Corp. and Scaled Composites. (2/18)

Ohio Congressman Fights Obama Space Plan (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette has joined 25 House colleagues trying to preserve Constellation, the back-to-the-moon mission that brought stability to the NASA Glenn Research Center. LaTourette and House members -- mainly Republicans, from states with NASA centers involved in Constellation work -- sent a letter last week warning NASA's administrator to stop any shutdown of Constellation programs until Congress decides the agency's 2011 budget. (2/18)

Deciphering Space Intelligence Ranks a Military Priority (Source: Pacific Coast Business Times)
With a space-based tracking and surveillance system set to launch from Vandenberg Air Force base this summer, turning the flood of information generated by the United States’ military space operations into actionable intelligence for commanders is a top priority, a top Air Force space commander said Feb. 17.

“There’s a lot of data coming in — terabytes of data,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Larry James, who oversees America’s worldwide military space operations from Vandenberg. “We have to get our arms around how to manage that.” James said that the Air Force is working on implementing information technology systems that would help turn data from sources as disparate as infrared sensors and e-mails into intelligence that military officials can use to make quick, crucial decisions. (2/18)

Northrop Grumman Accepting Teacher Applications for Weightless Flights (Source: Northrop Grumman)
The Northrop Grumman Corp. Foundation is accepting teacher applications for the 2010 Weightless Flights of Discovery program, a unique initiative that places teachers on micro-gravity flights to test Newton's Laws of Motion and energize students in the formative middle-school years.

Middle-school math and science teachers in public schools are welcome to apply for the program at www.northropgrumman.com/goweightless. The Foundation has selected six new locations for this year's flights: Cincinnati; Honolulu; McAllen, Texas; Memphis, Tenn.; Gulfport, Miss.; and Salt Lake City. A maximum of 30 teachers in each of the cities will participate. The specific flight dates for each location can also be found on the website. (2/18)

Orbital Announces Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2009 Financial Results (Source: Orbital)
Orbital Sciences Corp. fourth quarter 2009 revenues were $282.3 million, compared to $305.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2008. Fourth quarter 2009 operating income was $14.7 million, compared to $16.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Net income was $9.3 million, compared to net income of $9.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2008. Orbital generated $8.3 million of free cash flow* in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to free cash flow of $14.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2008. Full year 2009 revenues were $1,125.3 million, compared to $1,168.6 million in 2008. Operating income was $52.3 million in 2009, compared to $84.3 million in 2008. (2/18)

Europe Transfers Space Technology for Commercial Use (Source: BBC)
It's a truism that people don't really appreciate just how important space is to their daily lives. They hear about the ISS (International Space Station) and the space shuttle, and they think that's it. They don't dwell on the multitude of satellites that provide their TV, telephone and internet requirements; and they don't think about the timing and location data from GPS which goes way beyond their car dashboard and underpins a range of services from banking to smart agriculture.

Arianespace is the company that operates Europe's rocket, the Ariane 5, from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana. The way things work in Europe is that the European Space Agency (ESA) develops a technology and then another organisation commercialises, or operates, it. So, for example, the satellites that provide the data for our weather forecasts are developed by ESA but then operated by Eumetsat. Likewise, Europe's rockets - the Ariane series - are developed by ESA but commercialized by the Evry (Paris)-based Arianespace company.

Editor's Note: At the Feb. 18 Governor's Space Summit in Orlando, another interesting approach to European aerospace workforce development was mentioned. For every five open positions at the Kourou spaceport, Arianespace hires two experienced people and three "fresh-out" people who are new to the workforce. (2/18)

Mikulski Slips Nelson a Note on NASA (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Two Senate Democrats who could play a key role in defining NASA’s future already have traded at least one note on how to respond to President Barack Obama’s vision for the space agency. Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland sent a two-page letter to Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida that attempts to outline her vision for NASA and notes that it is “more important than ever” that the two lawmakers “work on consultation” to consider the White House plan.

The potential alliance is crucial as Mikulski heads the Senate spending subcommittee with oversight of NASA’s budget and Nelson oversees the subcommittee that helps define NASA policy. She does not opine on Obama’s decision to scrap Constellation for commercial rockets, other than to note that the station “should be re-supplied with cargo by commercial vehicles.” She makes no note of the possibility of commercial companies launching humans to low-Earth orbit.

Among the questions she plans to ask the Obama administration: Where are we going, when will we get there and what will it take? How will we protect the taxpayer? Is the intention to scrap everything and start over? If so, what is the plan to mitigate job dislocation? How will the plan protection investments in Earth and space science and aeronautics? (2/18)

Crist Backs $100 Million Investment Fund for Aerospace (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Gov. Charlie Crist told industry and community leaders at day-long space summit that he’s supporting the Space Transition and Revitalization Act, a bill that would earmark as much as $25 million a year for each of the next five years to provide assistance for new or expanding aerospace businesses.

“To continue our proud legacy as the premiere destination for aerospace innovations, Florida’s space program must be bold, robust and daring,” said Crist. The bill, sponsored by Brevard Republican Rep. Steve Crisafulli and Sen. Thad Altman, would use money from the governor’s discretionary business-development fund, redirect sales-tax revenues collected at the Kennedy Space Center visitor’s center and tap other funding sources to provide an “investment pool” to Space Florida, the state’s public-private areospace business-development agency.

Crist’s support for the bill, which would have to pass the Legislature in what’s shaping up as a tough budget year, is in addition to $32.6 million he’s already asked lawmakers to approve to try to attract new businesses to the Space Coast, which expects to see 7,000 jobs vanish when the space shuttle is retired later this year. (2/18)

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