February 26, 2010

Aldrin: With Mars as a Goal, Obama's NASA Plan Should Be Embraced (Source: AIA)
Despite negative headlines blasting President Barack Obama's plan to end funding for NASA's moon missions, his budget proposal for the agency would bring new missions in near-Earth orbit and empower the private sector to make breakthroughs in human space travel, writes former astronaut Buzz Aldrin in this editorial. Mars is the long-range objective of the program, and Aldrin writes: "The new direction that Mr. Obama has set in this budget is the kind of bold initiative we have needed for many years." (2/26)

Raytheon Wins $886 Million GPS Contract; Most Work Will Be in Colorado (Source: Denver Business Journal)
Raytheon Co. has won an $886 million U.S. Air Force contract for work on a major upgrade of the Global Positioning System (GPS), with a major part of the work to be done at the company's Colorado facilities. The contract could grow to $1.5 billion. The contract is for work on a portion of the GPS "advance control segment" (or OCX) project. The six-year contract has "option years for sustainment" that could bring its total worth to $1.535 billion, the Air Force said. (2/26)

Lockheed’s 2009 Space Revenue Boosted by Orion, Classified Work (Source: Space News)
Delivery of a classified satellite valued at nearly $400 million late in the year helped increase Lockheed Martin’s satellite revenue by nearly 14 percent, to $5.8 billion, in 2009 despite a drop in commercial satellite revenue.

Lockheed's Space Transportation business also increased in 2009, rising by $21 million, to $1.38 billion. Revenue from the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle — now slated for cancellation under NASA’s 2011 budget proposal — offset a decline in business for the Lockheed Martin-built external fuel tank for the U.S. space shuttle. (2/26)

A Quiet Sun Won't Save Us From Global Warming (Source: New Scientist)
Even if the sun were to quieten down appreciably for the rest of this century, it would still be business as usual for global warming. The sun goes through an 11-year solar cycle during which its luminosity varies according to the number of sunspots appearing on its face. The normal cycle has a small effect on Earth's weather. But sometimes lulls in sunspot activity can last several decades, driving down the sun's luminosity to a "grand minimum". The Maunder minimum lasted from 1645 to 1715 and may have contributed to the little ice age. (2/26)

23,000 Now Expected to Lose Jobs After Shuttle Retirement (Source: Florida Today)
The local economic forecast tied to President Obama's proposed NASA budget keeps growing bleaker. Revised projections now show that about 23,000 workers at and around the Cape Canaveral Spaceport will lose their jobs because of the shuttles' retirement and the proposal to cancel Constellation.

That sum includes 9,000 "direct" space jobs and -- conservatively speaking -- 14,000 "indirect" jobs at hotels, restaurants, retail stores and others that depend on activity at the space center, said Lisa Rice, Brevard Workforce president. (2/26)

Air Force X-37B Spaceplane Arrives in Florida for Launch (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
A secretive military spacecraft resembling a small space shuttle orbiter flew to Florida in the belly of a cargo plane this week to undergo final processing for launch on April 19.

The Air Force confirmed the critical preflight milestone in a response to written questions on Thursday. The 29-foot-long, 15-foot-wide Orbital Test Vehicle arrived at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on Monday. The OTV spaceplane was built at a Boeing Phantom Works facility in Southern California. (2/26)

Delta Rocket Team Stages Rehearsal For Launch on Tuesday (Source: Florida Today)
A countdown dress rehearsal at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport is allowing United Launch Alliance and NASA step through preparations for the planned launch next Tuesday of a new national weather satellite.

The weather forecast, however, is far from favorable. Meteorologists say there is an 80 percent chance conditions will be unacceptable for flight. A cold front is expected to sweep into the area on Tuesday, bringing with it strong surface winds, rain showers and a chance of thunderstorms in the area. (2/26)

NASA Budget Plan May Not Pass Committee As Is (Source: Florida Today)
President Obama's NASA budget proposal, including cancellation of the Project Constellation program to field new rockets and spacecraft, might not have enough votes to pass an important House oversight committee without changes.

A second day of Congressional hearings revealed broad opposition to the White House's budget proposal, even from lawmakers whose districts would be spared from job cuts caused by shutdown of the shuttle program and cancellation of a program to develop new rockets and spaceships.

Congressional hostility toward the administration's plans for NASA was so great that three lawmakers who don't serve on the science committee attended Thursday's hearing just to give Bolden a piece of their mind. "This is a giant step from greatness to mediocrity," said Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, who is among those proposing delaying the retirement of the shuttle fleet. "It's a sad day for America." (2/26)

Editorial: Congress Should Keep Pressure on NASA for Details on New Policy (Source: Florida Today)
How would you like your NASA boss, fried or grilled? Congress served him up both ways the past two days as members from NASA oversight committees gave agency Administrator Charlie Bolden the third degree on the White House’s landmark shift in space policy.

Members were expecting more from Bolden — so were we — but didn’t get it as he failed to flesh out important aspects in the Obama administration’s plan. Among them was the biggest missing detail of all — the ultimate goal and vision that goes with it.

Bolden said Mars is that destination, an objective the White House backs. But he wouldn’t set a timeline, saying that NASA has to complete research funded in the new budget to find faster propulsion systems to shorten the long trip. (2/26)

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