February 25, 2010

Bolden Pleads for Patience as Senators Demand Answers (Source: Florida Today)
In the first congressional hearing on the White House's 2011 budget, senators grilled NASA Administrator Charles Bolden about worse-than-expected job losses in states such as Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. They also urged the White House to clearly set landing humans on Mars as NASA's top goal.

Bolden, a former astronaut who flew in space with subcommittee Chairman Bill Nelson and got NASA's top job in part because of strong lobbying from the Orlando Democrat, said he agreed that Mars ought to be the space program's "ultimate destination." (2/25)

Space Shuttle Program Successfully Conducts Final Motor Test in Utah (Source: NASA)
NASA's Space Shuttle Program conducted the final test firing of a reusable solid rocket motor Feb. 25 in Promontory, Utah. The flight support motor, or FSM-17, burned for approximately 123 seconds -- the same time each reusable solid rocket motor burns during an actual space shuttle launch. Preliminary indications show all test objectives were met. After final test data are analyzed, results for each objective will be published in a NASA report. (2/25)

Congress Fires Opening Salvo in NASA Budget Cycle (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida lawmaker and former space shuttle flier, renewed a call for President Obama to set clear priorities for NASA on Wednesday as members of a Senate subcommittee sounded off on the space agency's controversial new budget.

Nelson said the president needs to make a statement on NASA and accused White House budgeteers in the Office of Management and Budget of controlling space policy. "I think OMB is running the space program," Nelson said. "This is where I think the president has to step out and take control and exert and offer the leadership on the goal that has now been articulated by the administrator...which is Mars."

The Florida Democrat also recommended Obama make a statement on NASA before the budget was released Feb. 1. "If you leave it to OMB, if we get there, it's going to be long time coming," Nelson said. "But if you have a presidential decision...then things can start popping." (2/25)

New Marshall Building Planned (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA's proposed 2011 budget calls for a new office building for Marshall Space Flight Center, but in order to build it, another building in the campus made famous by Dr. Wernher von Braun must be torn down. It won't be Building 4200, von Braun's main headquarters, but another of the 1964 main "4200 campus" buildings - Building 4202.

Included in the proposed 2011 NASA budget is a $40 million plan to tear down Building 4202. Building 4202 costs about $225,000 in energy usage alone, Corn said, and maintenance projects that have been deferred, like upgrading heating and air-conditioning systems, come to more than $4 million. (2/25)

NASA JPL to Host California’s Climate Educator Conference, May 1-2 (Source: NASA)
NASA'’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, Calif., is hosting an educator conference, May 1-2, 2010, on the unique climate of the state of California. California contains most climate zones and almost all types of weather. These phenomena are in response to local and global forces including atmospheric circulation, the Pacific Ocean and the state's unique and varied topography. Human factors play a role as well, from global impact to local decisions on urban growth, fire and water resources. For more information, visit http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/education/index.cfm?page=130. (2/25)

Brevard Commission Holds Space Future Workshop (Source: Florida Today)
It’s time to move past the shuttle program’s looming retirement and devise strategies to invest $6 billion from President Barack Obama’s proposed budget, Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana believes. “Commercial space and low-Earth orbit is our future. It’s time to transition,” Cabana told the Brevard County Commission. “And we can say, ‘That’s not what I wanted. It’s not where I want to go’ — and we’re going to get left behind.

“Or, we can say, ‘This is the future. How do we capitalize on this? How do we make KSC the best-positioned possible for bringing that work in?’ ” Cabana asked. The commissioners conducted a workshop discussing Obama’s budget, NASA’s revised mission and the future of KSC. (2/25)

Floridians Still Waiting for Bio Investments to Pay Off (Source: SSTI)
Florida's efforts to boost it's biotechnology sector may not be paying off as quickly as originally hoped. A recent report finds that the $449 million invested through the Innovation Incentive Program has yet to result in industry growth in counties where the program's grantees have their facilities. The report, published by the Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA), suggests that the state's lack of early-stage capital for biotech startups may be contributing to the sluggish pace of development. (2/25)

Virginia $50 Million Economic Development Increase Requested (Source: SSTI)
Nearly all components of a comprehensive legislative package set forth by Gov. Bob McDonnell that would provide tax credits for green jobs, invest in renewable energy R&D, and support the biotechnology and life sciences industries have passed at least one chamber in the legislature at this point. The governor also introduced amendments to the 2010-12 budget proposed by former Gov. Tim Kaine that would provide an additional $50 million for economic development initiatives. (2/25)

Senator’s Attack on NASA Deputy Chief Lori Garver Backfires (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The attacks on NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver spearheaded by Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter during a hearing on Wednesday have badly backfired, according to a range of sources. Vitter accused Garver — who was not present — of orchestrating the cancellation of Constellation. He also seemed to suggest that Garver was running the agency, and not Administrator Charlie Bolden.

Not only were administration outraged by Vitter’s remarks but several female civil servants and women executives in aerospace companies who have known Garver for years felt compelled to send their complaints to senate staff. Several sources on the Hill, in industry and inside the Obama administration blame rocket maker ATK, the developer of the Ares I rocket first stage, for putting Vitter up to the attack. Sources say that complaints have been sent to ATK and so far there has been no response. (2/25)

Senate Prepares to Debate FAA Reauthorization (Source: AIA)
Senate leaders promised Wednesday that FAA reauthorization will be debated in the next five weeks, setting up a showdown over controversial issues including pilot background checks, tarmac delays and deadlines for equipping aircraft with NextGen avionics. Funding for the agency remains vague, because the Senate Commerce Committee, which originated the reauthorization bill, deferred to the Finance Committee on the proper mix of aviation taxes and fees. The Finance Committee is expected to take up the issue soon and attach its funding provisions to the bill in time for the floor debate. (2/25)

NASA Begins Antenna Development in Australia (Source: NASA)
NASA officials broke ground near Canberra, Australia on Wednesday, beginning a new antenna-building campaign to improve Deep Space Network communications. Following the recommendations of an independent study, NASA embarked on an ambitious project to replace its aging fleet of 70-meter-wide (230-foot-wide) dishes with a new generation of 34-meter (112-foot) antennas by 2025. (2/25)

With U.S. Contracts Delayed, DigitalGlobe Looks Elsewhere (Source: Space News)
Earth-observation services provider DigitalGlobe said delays in new contracts with the U.S. government — the customer responsible for 75 percent of its revenue — likely will limit the company’s growth in 2010 but that a recovering global economy should boost non-U.S. government business. DigitalGlobe forecasts that a 15 percent increase in revenue from commercial customers in 2010, combined with contracts with military customers outside the United States, will grow the company’s revenue by 22 percent in 2010 even if its U.S. government business remains stuck at 2009 levels. (2/25)

NASA Chief Vows Help for Florida Workers (Source: Houston Chronicle)
NASA chief Charles Bolden outlined plans to help KSC and Florida's aerospace workers through the cancellation of the back-to-the-moon program — without mentioning comparable assistance for Houston's Johnson Space Center. The NASA administrator sketched the assistance in 19 pages of prepared testimony to the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over NASA that is led by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and includes Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla.

Bolden described an investment of $1.9 billion over five years to modernize the Cape Canaveral Spaceport to handle the projected increase in commercial space launches. Florida, facing the loss of some 14,000 direct jobs from retirement of the shuttle and the proposed cancellation of the Constellation program, is widely expected to be an electoral battleground in the 2012 presidential campaign.

Bolden described broader efforts that could help NASA employees and contractors elsewhere in response to questions by senators. The greater Houston area could lose an estimated 10,000 direct and indirect jobs from the loss of the Constellation program and the retirement of the shuttle, programs that rely upon the Johnson Space Center. (2/25)

House Appropriators Grill Obama’s Science Adviser on NASA Plan (Source: Space News)
President Obama’s 2011 NASA budget request was greeted by skeptical and at times angry House appropriators during a hearing in which at least one member vowed to obstruct the White House plan to scrap NASA’s Constellation program. White House science adviser John Holdren was called to testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Obama’s $147 billion R&D budget request for 2011, but spent the bulk of the two-hour hearing answering tough questions about the Space Shuttle and Constellation. (2/25)

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), the subcommittee’s ranking member, took issue with the Obama administration’s handling of the NASA proposal and accused the White House of secrecy and hubris. Members on both sides of the aisle were unimpressed with the lack of detail evident in Obama’s $19 billion funding request for NASA. Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) accused Holdren of not consulting senior NASA personnel on the decision to terminate the Constellation program.

Tensions mounted near the end of the hearing when Wolf accused three White House staff members seated behind Holdren of wearing smug facial expressions during Culberson’s final round of questioning. “I don’t care who you work for,” he said. “I think you really bring a degree of arrogance here that is just almost offensive.” (2/25)

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