February 20, 2010

Florida's Third Spaceport Briefed at Space Florida Meeting (Source: SPACErePORT)
Advocates for a new spaceport proposed at the Dade-Collier Airport in South Florida discussed their project with Space Florida's board of directors during a public meeting on Friday. Like the newly licensed Cecil Field Spaceport in Jacksonville, the Dade-Collier spaceport would be limited to horizontal-launch and -landing space vehicles. An FAA spaceport license application may be developed soon. With three spaceports in relative proximity to each other (each in a different temperate zone and served by two FAA airspace management centers), Florida could become an ideal site for point-to-point suborbital flight demonstrations. (2/20)

Falcon 9 Erected at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
SpaceX hoisted the first Falcon 9 rocket atop its Cape Canaveral launch pad on Saturday, beginning several days of compatibility checks to be punctuated by a dramatic ground-shaking engine test next week. Pulled by an aircraft tug normally found on airport tarmacs, the rocket and its transporter rolled 600 feet along rail tracks from the steel assembly hangar to the launch pad at Complex 40 on Friday.

After emerging from the hangar Friday, the 15-story rocket was rotated vertical around midday Saturday. A small team of technicians began methodically hooking up the transporter to the launch pad. The transporter also functions as the mechanism to lift the rocket vertical and service the Falcon 9 and payload. (2/20)

Shelby Seeks Support From Other States to Save Constellation (Source: Space Politics)
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) continues to express his concerns about the cancellation of Constellation, according to the Birmingham Business Journal: "Shelby wants help from senators in Florida, California and Texas to protect the NASA programs that provide jobs in those states. He challenged Obama to find other projects to cut from if NASA is to lose funding." Of course, NASA, at the topline level, isn’t losing funding: its budget is growing to $19 billion in the FY11 request and up to $21 billion by FY15. (The same article also mentions Shelby’s concerns about deficit spending, while noting the earmarks he secured for Alabama colleges.)

Editor's Note: Shelby might find allies among other states (and probably also within NASA) on the issue of developing a Shuttle-derived heavy-lift rocket and identifying a beyond-LEO destination for it. But as long as Ares-1 is among his demands, there will not be a unified multi-state effort. (2/20)

Shelby: Government Spending 'Out of Control' (Sources: Birmingham Business Journal, NASA Watch)
Alabama's senior senator said the Obama administration is on pace to turn a $10 trillion deficit into $20 trillion during a recent speech, going on to remind the audience he led the charge against federal bank and automaker bailouts. Shelby warned federal entitlements and deficit spending will ultimately hurt the nation's economy.

During the question and answer portion of the speech, the four-term senator said he will fight to keep funding for NASA's Constellation program that the Obama administration has cut in its proposed 2011 budget. Huntsville is home to the project that Shelby helped save $600 million for last year. Editor's Note: One reader's comment - "Devoid of ideas, full of contradictions, and fighting hard everyday to maintain the status quo." (2/20)

NASA Managers Assess Weather, Landing Options (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
With Endeavour safely away from the International Space Station, flight controllers are looking ahead to the crew's planned landing Sunday night, assessing threatening weather in Florida and California and evaluating a variety of landing options. Endeavour's crew has two Florida landing opportunities Sunday evening, the first at 10:16 p.m. EST and the second, one orbit later, at 11:51 p.m. Two opportunities also are available at Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert at 1:20 a.m. EST Monday and 2:55 a.m. EST. (2/20)

NASA Ponies Up for Commercial Suborbital Space Rides (Source: Discovery)
Even at $200,000 a ticket, the lines for a suborbital ride into space may soon be growing longer. The U.S. government is proposing to spend $75 million over the next five years to send science experiments -- and presumably scientists -- into space. NASA’s deputy administrator Lori Garver this week outlined plans for a $15-million-per-year program to pay for dozens of science and educational experiments to fly on commercial suborbital vehicles.

Also at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Boulder, Colo., which Garver announced the NASA initiative, Virgin Galactic said its passenger list for suborbital flights has now reached 300 people. Scaled Composites of Mojave, Calif., which is building Virgin’s spaceships, is expected to begin test flights of the first vehicle, named Enterprise, soon. (2/20)

World Starting New Era of Space Station Research (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Maybe the glowing plants (courtesy of the University of Florida) will alert you that our space garden is not garden variety. Not that long ago, the idea of an orbiting laboratory that would circle the Earth every 90 minutes and carry hundreds of multidisciplinary experiments impossible to perform in gravity was pure science fiction.

But after a tremendous global effort, the International Space Station is now 90 percent complete and has just been given a tremendous boost. Just as the station is coming into its full potential, with construction nearly complete and a full crew complement of six, we'll be able to open its doors to becoming the true orbiting laboratory we've dreamed about. Scientists from all over the world are using station facilities, putting their talents to work in almost all areas of science and technology. They're sharing this knowledge to make life on Earth better for people of all nations and expanding the horizons of our exploration capabilities. (2/20)

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