February 16, 2010

Cold in Florida May Delay Shuttle Launch (Source: Florida Today)
A lengthy cold spell on Florida's Space Coast has delayed NASA's next shuttle launch into April. The Discovery launch was scheduled for March 18, but with low temperatures delaying the movement of the shuttle to outfit it with two solid rocket boosters, it will be unlikely that NASA can launch the shuttle as scheduled. (2/16)

Organized Labor Attacks Obama’s Space Plan (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Add organized labor to the voices angry at President Barack Obama’s decision to scrap NASA’s moon program. In a letter sent to Obama on Feb. 4, R. Thomas Buffenbarger, international president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said the White House idea to outsource flying astronauts into low Earth orbit would cost jobs, not create them. “At a time when the U.S. economy in mired in the worst recession in 70 years and is in desperate need of a jobs creation program, your Administration’s proposal to have NASA rely on the private sector to develop and operate manned space craft will contribute to the loss of several thousand well-paid domestics jobs,” he wrote.

He lashed out at the White House for what he called an “ideological blind faith in private markets” – a charge that could spark some interesting exchanges with Obama’s conservative critics. The White House, citing commercial space industry estimates, says with the president’s proposed $6 billion investment in private space companies, a new commercial space program could employ as many as 5,000 workers nationwide, including 1,700 in Florida. (2/16)

What's Next for US Spaceflight, If Not the Moon? (Source: Christian Science Monitor)
During the next five years, the president proposes to boost spending for NASA by $6 billion over 2010 levels. However, gone is the ambitious Constellation program, which aimed to build a replacement for the space shuttle and put US astronauts back on the moon by 2020. In its place – if Congress is willing (and several key lawmakers don’t appear to be) – is a NASA that would instead develop partnerships with the private sector.

“Rather than setting destinations and timelines, we’re setting goals for capabilities that can take us further, faster, and more affordably into space,” said Lori Garver, NASA’s deputy administrator, during a budget briefing earlier this month. Click here to view the article. (2/16)

ULA Considers Medium-Lift Market Strategies (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
United Launch Alliance is taking a wait-and-see approach in deciding how to pursue the medium-class launch market after it phases out the stalwart Delta 2 rocket family. "We're waiting for the market to shape up," said Michael Gass, ULA president and CEO. "So the major driver is what's going to be the size of the market." Current schedules call for ULA's smallest rocket, the Delta 2, to be retired in late 2011. The Delta 2 has long been a favorite booster for medium-class Earth observatories, planetary exploration probes and military satellites. ULA will continue flying the larger Atlas 5 and Delta 4 vehicles, but those vehicles are tailored for larger missions, leaving the company on the sidelines in the medium launch market.

The challenge is that launch market forecasts are notoriously finicky, especially in the medium sector, which is dominated by Earth observation payloads, according to industry officials. In an interview with Spaceflight Now, Gass said United Launch Alliance is evaluating several options to stay in the intermediate market, including slashing costs on unsold Delta 2 vehicles or modifying the larger Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets to carry smaller payloads. (2/16)

Oklahoma Museum Lobbies DC For Shuttle (Source: KTUL)
When folks visit Tulsa Air and Space Museum, they see a cool, giant-sized model of a space shuttle blasting off. You could watch all day and never get tired of it, until you start dreaming abut what it would be like to get a real shuttle. The odds of that must be astronomical, right? "It's a better than 1 in 7 chance that we are gonna get a space shuttle," said museum director Jim Bridenstine. He's very down to earth when it comes to Tulsa's high flying ambitions. "Absolutely, we have a legitimate shot. I truly believe that if I didn't believe that I wouldn't be putting forth so much effort." (2/16)

Politifact Updates Status of Obama Space Promises (Source: SPACErePORT)
The team at Politifact has updated the status of several space-related campaign promises made by President Obama. Most of the changes upgrade promises once labeled as "In The Works" to "Promise Kept". Only one space promise is now labeled "Promise Broken". Promise #339 supported the goal of sending a human mission to the Moon by 2020. Click here to view the entire updated list. (2/15)

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