February 22, 2010

NASA Increases Support Contract to Virginia Spaceport Authority (Source: NASA)
NASA has increased the support contract to the Virginia Space Flight Authority/Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility to provide launch services for expendable launch vehicles. The indefinite delivery, indefinite-quantity, with fixed price and cost reimbursable task orders contract addition has a potential value of approximately $43 million through May 3, 2014. (2/22)

Most NASA Projects Over Budget (Source: Florida Today)
Year after year, NASA's biggest projects are way over budget and way behind schedule. They're not a little over budget or slightly behind schedule either. When NASA blows a budget or deadline, the space agency does it with gusto. Every year, internal and external auditors issue reports showing that almost every single NASA mission -- human or robotic -- will cost more money and take more time to finish than government managers and private contractors originally estimated.

Every year, the reasons cited in those audits are the same: overly ambitious project specifications and overly optimistic cost assumptions. Additional reasons are cited. The audit reports are sadly predictable in listing the problems, the causes and that NASA and its contractors are "making progress" on reform. (2/22)

A New Exit to Space Readies for Business (Source: New York Times)
Take Highway 51 east out of Truth or Consequences, a small city that years ago assumed the name of a game show on a dare. Drive through miles and miles of desert, then turn right at an old train depot whose bustle has long since pulled out. Keep going. After eight miles, turn left on a dirt road that leads deeper into the sage and yucca vastness of New Mexico, past a ranch that used to be a stage stop on an ancient trade route called El Camino Real. Soon after, you will come to your destination: the future.

Here, where rattlesnakes hibernate and rabbits scurry, there unfolds a two-mile runway designed to accommodate spaceships. And right beside it, past those giant rumbling tractors of sci-fi design, the groundwork is being laid for a hangar large enough to store spaceships between launchings. This is not a secret government project, or some NASA reception hall for alien dignitaries.

This is Spaceport America, a $198 million endeavor by the State of New Mexico to plumb the commercial potential of the suborbital heavens — a place once known only to astronauts, dreamers and the occasional chimp. Space tourism. Scientific research. Satellite deliveries. Who knows? One day you might decide to skip another two-week vacation in the Wisconsin Dells for a two-hour trip into space. Fly Virgin Galactic. See the sights from as high as 80 miles up. Five minutes of weightlessness guaranteed. Just $200,000. (2/22)

Virginia Spaceport Budget Increased (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The proposed $1.3 million dollar annual influx of Virginia funds for the operation of the state's Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport was reduced by the Senate Finance Committee to $1.05 million in the FY 10/11 proposed budget. The House Appropriations Committee reduced the $1.3 million gubernatorial request to $291,220 for FY 2010/11 leaving the two budget figures to be reconciled in a joint House-Senate Conference Committee on the state budget. One thing is now certain, Virginia will dedicate tax revenues to assist in the commercial spaceport operations. Spaceport advocates will push for the larger figure, of course.

Virginia faces up to a $4 billion state budget shortfall in anticipated revenue over the next two-years in one of the toughest budget sessions in decades. The spaceport operating fund of $1.3 billion enjoyed the support of both former governor Tim Kaine and the new governor Robert F. McDonnell.

Virginia Space Legislation Advances (Source: Spaceports Blog)
With Virginia's Senate and House now at a mid-point in the 2010 session it appears the July 1, 2013 sunset clause removal on the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Liability and Immunity Act will be passed and placed on Governor McDonnell's desk for signature. The state also appears on the cusp of extending the Virginia Aerospace Advisory Council despite the lack of adequate state staffing resources to build a strategic plan for industry and workforce. (2/22)

Virginia Orbital Launch Manifest Turned Up to 11 (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport now boasts a manifest of 11 orbital launches through 2015, including nine COTS/CRS space station cargo missions aboard Taurus-2 rockets, one military "Operationally Responsive Space" mission aboard a Minotaur rocket, and one NASA lunar probe mission aboard a Minotaur rocket. The rockets will all be launched by Orbital Sciences Corp. (2/22)

Shuttle Lands Safely at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
Weather conditions turned favorable despite a sour forecast on Sunday night, allowing Endeavour to take advantage of a 10:20 p.m. landing opportunity at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Twin sonic booms rattled windows near the spaceport as the spaceplane glided safely to its home base at Kennedy Space Center, ending a mission that began on Feb. 8. (2/21)

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