February 6, 2010

Bolden Says NASA Will Leverage Constellation Technologies (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said he hopes to develop a heavy-lift launch vehicle capable of delivering Americans beyond low Earth orbit between 2020 and 2030 using some of the residual technologies from the Constellation program. “It is my intent to work diligently toward developing a heavy-lift launch capability for the United States,” Bolden said during a Feb. 6 news conference at KSC. “Ideally, I would like to be flying a heavy-lift launch capability between 2020 and 2030. Now whether or not we’ve matured to a point by then that … the next NASA administrator will feel comfortable that it’s okay to put humans on that heavy-lift launch vehicle, I can’t say right now.

Bolden said that before the agency phases out Constellation, NASA would “scrub” the program for advanced technologies resident in its Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and Ares 1 and Ares 5 rocket designs that could be used to develop future human exploration systems, including a heavy-lift launcher. “I would not say that we are abandoning Constellation,” he said. “We are stopping that particular program and everything that went along with it, but ... not the advanced technologies that we think are necessary.” (2/6)

New Mexico Senate OKs Liability Bill for Spaceport (Source: KRQE)
Legislation aimed at protecting New Mexico's spaceport from liability while the commercial space industry tackles the hazards of space flight was approved Friday on a 37-0 vote in the state Senate. The approval is a victory for spaceport director Steve Landeene, who has portrayed the bill as critical to developing the $200 million complex located 45 miles north of Las Cruces. "We're not quite there yet, but it was great seeing the Senate give us unanimous support," Landeene said. The legislation, which next goes to the House, outlines risks of spaceflight and requires companies taking anyone into space to obtain a signed waiver where the passenger acknowledges inherent dangers. (2/6)

As Shuttle's End Nears, is it Safer Than Ever? (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Space shuttle Endeavour sits on its launchpad awaiting blastoff to the International Space Station early Sunday morning, so problem-free that NASA managers and engineers have had almost nothing to talk about this week. At the flight readiness meeting that's routine before every launch, the engineers spent their time talking about things that have gone wrong during past flights to make sure they weren't overlooked for this mission.

It is a bittersweet irony: On the eve of its retirement, the space shuttle is flying more safely and more reliably than at any time in its history. "It would be wonderful if whatever space system comes next works as well as the shuttles are working right now," said Dale Ketcham, director of the University of Central Florida's Spaceport Research & Technology Institute. In November, shuttle Atlantis had fewer technical glitches than any flight since the program started nearly 30 years ago. "Each succeeding flight learns from the last and is an ostensibly safer and less risky and better flight than the one before it," said Howard DeCastro, the shuttle manager for United Space Alliance, NASA's prime contractor on the program. (2/6)

Utah Firm Boosts Edge-of-Space Jump (Source: Salt Lake Tribune)
Felix the Fearless wants to go where no one has gone before. Sometime this year, daredevil pilot and skydiver Felix Baumgartner wants to become the first human being to break the speed of sound in a free fall -- from 120,000 feet above Earth. He intends to ride in a capsule lifted by a helium balloon to the upper reaches of the stratosphere, the second atmospheric layer above Earth. Then Baumgartner will jump out, wearing a spacesuit that is expected to protect him from the pressure of descending at sound-breaking speeds in excess of Mach 1 -- or 690 mph -- until he pulls his rip cord, releasing a parachute that will slow his descent to survivable speeds.

His plans to accomplish this lofty (some may say crazy) goal with some support from Mount Olympus Spring Water, a Salt Lake City company that has signed on as a sponsor of the endeavor, known as the Red Bull Stratos Project. Red Bull, the energy-drink maker, is the mission's main sponsor. As a secondary supporter, Mount Olympus will supply hundreds of cases of bottled water over the next few months to the team preparing Baumgartner for his record-setting attempt. (2/6)

NASA Plan Could Boost Wallops Role (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
President Obama's proposed 2011 budget would extend the life for the International Space Station and use commercial rockets for manned spaceflight. That appears to be good news for Wallops Flight Facility and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, where Orbital Sciences Corp. plans to launch rockets carrying cargo to the Space Station beginning next year. Orbital strongly supports this new direction for the nation's space program. NASA's Bill Gerstenmaier predicted "a good future" for Wallops and Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But he said the Florida facility has "some inherent advantages" because of its unique work force and infrastructure, keeping it a strong player in future manned spaceflight. (2/6)

Hawaii's Lunar-Like Mauna Kea Hosts Space Tests (Source: Big Island Video News)
The technologies that may be deployed in future space exploration were tested on slopes of Mauna Kea this week, 9,000 feet above sea level on the Big Island of Hawaii. The collaborative science camp set up on the cold and dusty terrain of the mountain included NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, the German Aerospace Center and the University of Hawaii at Hilo's Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES).

Amidst the testing area crawling with lunar rovers and busy scientists were stationary structures working to hatch out an effective process that would enable future extraterrestrial colonists to "live off the land". The equipment processed the fine grained volcanic soil, similar in composition to the regolith that would be found on Mars or the Moon, in order to produce oxygen and water for survival. Not only would the manufactured oxygen be used to sustain the lives of colonists, it would also be used to create rocket fuel. Another mechanism focused the energy of the sun to create a lava-like soil fusion to be used, when cooled, to create a launch pad. The international group of scientists also worked to produce the energy, on site, that would power the processes. (2/6)

As Shuttle Flights Dwindle, a Series of ‘Lasts’ Begins (Source: New York Times)
The space shuttle Endeavour, carrying the last major piece of the International Space Station, is poised for launching before sunrise on Sunday, the last planned nighttime liftoff of a shuttle ever. The launching is the first of the year as the shuttle program enters its home stretch of five missions this year. The four flights after this one will be largely devoted to carrying science experiments and spare parts to the space station. The shuttles are scheduled to be retired in September. (2/6)

Kottkamp Offers Hope to Titusville Businesses (Source: Florida Today)
Florida's Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp pledged Friday to help correct the "monumental mistake" made by the Obama administration to reshape the agency's course. Kottkamp, speaking to about 60 Titusville small business owners at a meeting organized by the Titusville Chamber of Commerce, said the United States needs a specific goal for space exploration to maintain its leadership position.

"We are going to continue to fight for every job for this community, because it's not just this community at stake, it's the state, it's the country, it's the world," said Kottkamp, who is also on the board of Space Florida. "When you take a lead in space, you take a lead in innovation, you take a lead in creating new products and new high-tech, high-wage jobs." Titusville business leaders expressed frustration at the uncertainty around the space program, which is such an integral part of this northern Brevard community. (2/6)

NASA to Pressure Companies to Deliver on Promise of Job Creation (Source: Florida Today)
NASA will press commercial aerospace companies to speed job creation on Florida's Space Coast to offset losses resulting from shuttle fleet retirement and the cancellation of the nation's moon program, the agency's chief said Friday. NASA also intends to detail destinations for future human space exploration this month during Congressional hearings.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden expects an icy reception in Senate and House hearings scheduled for Feb. 24-25. "I think those who suggest I am in for a battle are absolutely right," Bolden said in an hour-long interview with FLORIDA TODAY's editorial board. A popular former astronaut, Bolden said he made a mistake by failing to brief Congress on President Barack Obama's new plan before the rollout Monday of the White House's proposed 2011 budget.

"I don't fool myself that I have not injured some relationships. And so my task now is to try to go in and repair those former, incredibly good relationships because of my ineptness in rolling out this plan." Obama's proposed $18.7 billion NASA budget includes a $6 billion increase over five years. (2/6)

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