March 11, 2010

Sen. Bennett: Earmarking May Be Only Way to Save ATK Jobs (Source: Cache Valley Daily)
Senator Bob Bennett, R-Utah, says he and fellow Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, are teaming up with Congressman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, in trying to save NASA's Constellation and Ares programs. Sen. Bennett said besides losing valuable space programs it would mean the loss of thousands of jobs at ATK Systems in Box Elder County. He says the only way that could be changed is through the appropriations process by refusing to appropriate money for the program the President is favoring. Congress can appropriate "money for Ares and Constellation and say, 'this is what you have to do, Mr. President,'" Sen. Bennett says.

It's a risky move politically, Sen. Bennett says, because it's an earmarking tactic. "I know there's people that say, 'gee, you shouldn't be earmarking.' But the Constitution gives the Congress the power to determine how the money should be spent," he explained. (3/11)

Florida Ethics Commission: Mixed Findings on Andrews Institute Case (Source: Florida Today)
The Florida Commission on Ethics found probable cause that Brice Harris violated state law by taking employment with the Andrews Institute in connection with a contract that he managed on behalf of the state. The Commission did not find probable cause on two other complaints that he misused his position to direct grant funding to the Institute, or that he violated another statute regarding his employment with the Institute. A hearing on the single probable-cause issue is pending. (3/10)

Texas Church Taking Online Prayer Requests for NASA (Source: Ultimate Clear Lake)
With the president and Congress contemplating a budget that puts thousands of NASA jobs on the line, shaken members of a Clear Lake church are petitioning a higher authority. Clear Lake Presbyterian Church is collecting 500 prayer requests online for people affected by the changes coming to Johnson Space Center. The congregation has been charged with asking friends, neighbors and co-workers what they need during this period of uncertainty, then submitting the requests to (3/11)

USAF To Launch 4 'First-of' Sats in 2010 (Source: Defense News)
After years of production delays aggravated by cost overruns and punctuated by capabilities cuts, military satellite programs appear poised for a few positives this year. Four "first of" satellites are scheduled to be launched in 2010, including: the first Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite; the first Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) satellite; the first new-generation Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite; and the first Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) satellite.

"It appears that space programs have finally turned the corner," said Sen. Ben Nelson, chairman of the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee. Well, that's one way to look at it. But the Government Accountability Office has a different perspective. The four launches planned for this year come only after years of enormous cost increases, delivery delays, design problems and oversight and management weaknesses. (3/11)

Weather Scrubs Virginia Launch of Student Spacecraft (Source: WTVR)
NASA has scrubbed the launch of two student-designed spacecraft from its Wallops Island spaceport on Virginia's Eastern Shore because of bad weather. The launch had been scheduled for Thursday. NASA said a launch won't be attempted Friday or Saturday because of rain and winds. The next attempt won't be until March 22 at the earliest. The spacecraft will fly on a NASA suborbital Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket. They will be ejected during the suborbital flight and will gather information that may be applied to future small Earth orbiting space vehicles. (3/11)

Saturn Moon Has Slushy Center (Source: National Geographic)
Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is perhaps best known for its unique, hazy atmosphere and lakes of liquid methane. But a new look at Titan's insides reveals even more oddities: Beneath the brittle crust of ice lies a layer of slush. Deeper still is an underground ocean over a solid core of rock and ice. This new picture is based on measurements of Titan's gravity field. The measurements were made by clocking the speed of the NASA-ESA Cassini orbiter with extreme precision—gauging how many five-thousands of a millimeter the craft traveled per second. (3/11)

GeoEye Reports Strong Fourth Quarter and Fiscal 2009 Results (Source: GeoEye)
Total revenues were $73.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2009, an 80.0 percent increase from $40.7 million for the fourth quarter of 2008. Net income for the fourth quarter of 2009 was $11.7 million, compared to a net loss of $3.6 million for the fourth quarter of 2008. Revenues related to contracts with the U.S. Government, the Company's largest customer, were $52.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2009, representing 71.3 percent of total revenues for the period. (3/11)

Richard Garriott: ‘Barnstorming Era’ of Space Transportation is Approaching (Source: Examiner)
Gaming pioneer Richard Garriott, who paid $30 million to travel to the International Space Station in 2008, says that within three to five years, the “barnstorming era of space will absolutely captivate the public’s interest.” Garriott said that a “less-than-stellar amount of attention” currently is being paid to space travel and exploration. However, he expects space to attract more notice as private industry ramps up space-travel options, and as NASA phases out the shuttle program and begins focusing more on potential missions to the moon and Mars. (3/11)

ATK Realigns for Long-Term Growth and Announces New Leadership Team (Source: ATK)
Alliant Techsystems will realign its business structure, effective April 1, into four operating groups: Aerospace Systems, Armament Systems, Missile Products, and Security and Sporting. The change better aligns ATK's capabilities and resources with its customers and markets, and positions the company for long-term growth and improved profitability.

Blake Larson, who currently leads the Space Systems group, will lead the newly formed Aerospace Systems group, which will include the Space Systems group and the Aerospace Structures business of Mission Systems. Aerospace Systems will have capabilities in solid rocket propulsion systems, advanced materials, launch structures, next-generation commercial and military aircraft structures, satellite structures, and small satellite systems. (3/11)

NASA KSC to Host Forum on Water Sustainability (Source: U.S. State Dept.)
Founding Partners NASA, NIKE, Inc., USAID, and the U.S. Department of State are sponsoring an initiative whose mission is to identify, showcase and support innovative approaches to humanity’s sustainability challenges through a series of forums, each focused on a specific sustainability challenge. The first forum, LAUNCH: Water, will take place at Kennedy Space Center Mar. 16-18.

LAUNCH: Water will present a collaborative sustainability forum that leverages the collective expertise and networks of 40 LAUNCH Council Members - a cross-disciplinary group representing business, policy, engineering, science, communications and sustainability – and 10 international water innovators — each representing a unique and compelling approach in clean-tech, science, policy, activism, and education. Click here for information. (3/11)

Galaxies Converging on Hydra in Unexplained Phenomenon (Source: USA Today)
Galaxies traveling at million miles-per-hour speeds appear headed on one a one-way track toward the constellation Hydra, astronomers report Thursday, a "dark flow" baffling to cosmologists. Since 1998, astronomers have known that galaxies throughout the cosmos appear to be expanding away from one another in all directions at an accelerating rate, ascribed to a "dark energy" cosmological force that counteracted gravity's attraction.

But in the Astrophysical Journal, a team led by Alexander Kashlinsky at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., report a group of galaxy clusters as far as 2.5 billion light years away (one light year is about 5.9 trillion miles) appear headed for Hydra, aimed in one particular direction, posing a puzzle that can't be explained by dark energy. (3/11)

Supreme Court to Decide Legality of Background Checks on JPL Scientists (Source: Pasadena Weekly)
Science and privacy rights are in for a beating if the federal government wins the ongoing legal tussle over intensive background checks for JPL employees, said one of 28 lab workers now fighting the issue. The US Supreme Court said it would review an injunction the employees won last year to block the background checks, after the Obama administration’s solicitor general told the court that the injunction casts a “constitutional cloud” over the process the federal government has used to vet employees for 50 years.

At issue is a 2004 Homeland Security directive from President George W. Bush that requires federal contractors who handle government equipment — including scientists working for Caltech at the NASA laboratory — to go through a standard identification process to receive new electronic access cards. (3/11)

Magnetic Flows Cause Sunspot Lows, Study Shows (Source: Science News)
Newly reported observations of gas flows on the solar surface may explain why the sun recently had such an extended case of the doldrums. From 2008 through the first half of 2009, the sun had a puzzling dearth of sunspots, flares and other storms, extending the usual lull at the end of the 11-year solar activity cycle for an extra 15 months. Findings from the study, which relied on the orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, may also suggest a better way to forecast the intensity and duration of future solar cycles. (3/11)

Proposed Mission Would Return Sample from Asteroid "Time Capsule" (Source: NASA)
Meet asteroid 1999 RQ36, a chunk of rock and dust about 1,900 feet in diameter that could tell us how the solar system was born, and perhaps, shed light on how life began. It also might hit us someday. "This asteroid is a time capsule from before the birth of our solar system," said Bill Cutlip of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., one of the leaders of Goddard's effort to propose a mission called OSIRIS-REx that will return a sample from RQ36.

If selected, Goddard will provide overall mission management for OSIRIS-REx, working with the Principal Investigator, Dr. Michael Drake, Director of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, who will lead the OSIRIS-REx team. Lockheed Martin Space Systems will build the spacecraft. (3/11)

Space Station Could Operate Until 2028, Says Consortium (Source: AFP)
The consortium of agencies building the International Space Station (ISS) wants to see if the orbital outpost can operate until 2028, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Thursday. "There are no identified technical constraints to continuing ISS operations beyond the current planning horizon of 2015 to at least 2020," it said in a press release after a meeting of ISS partners in Tokyo. (3/11)

Water Discovered in Apollo Moon Rocks Likely Came from Comets (Source: Space News)
Genuine moon water has been found for the first time in rocks that were brought back to Earth during NASA's historic Apollo missions 40 years ago. The water is similar to that detected in comets, suggesting that the moon's scarce supply got there through the impacts of these icy bodies. (3/11)

Lockheed Martin Division to Build GeoEye2 Satellite in California (Source Denver Business Journal)
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. will engineer and build the next satellite for GeoEye Inc., a remote imaging company. Lockheed won the contract to build GeoEye2, a high-resolution orbiter, for Virginia-based GeoEye. GeoEye collects and sells satellite imagery for mapping, environmental monitoring, national security and other purposes. The company employs more than 500 people, about 130 of whom work in Colorado, where it processes images taken by satellites and monitors the company’s older orbiters.

Its biggest competitor is Colorado-based DigitalGlobe. Work on GeoEye-2 will be handled primarily at Lockheed Martin Space Systems’s campus in Sunnyvale, California. (3/11)

Controversy Deepens Over European Weather Satellite Contract (Source: Space News)
German government officials are blaming their own tactical error during negotiations with France for the controversy that has blocked approval of Europe’s $1.7 billion next-generation weather-satellite program since the beginning of the year and now threatens to cause lasting damage to the 18-nation European Space Agency (ESA), German government and industry officials said.

ESA’s ruling council is scheduled to meet March 17 in Paris to attempt to forge a compromise that would permit the German government to save face while at the same time approving a Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) contract valued about around 1.25 billion euros ($1.7 billion) with a consortium led by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy, and OHB Technology of Germany. (3/11)

Musk: Chalk up SpaceX Falcon 9 Aborted Test to Growing Pains (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Elon Musk, the CEO and founder of the rocket upstart SpaceX, Thursday announced that a balky valve was to blame for this week’s aborted test firing of its flagship Falcon 9 launch vehicle’s engines. The failure, Musk, admitted, might have been avoided.

“We had tested everything on the vehicle side exhaustively in Texas, but didn’t have this … valve on our test stand there,” Musk said. “Definitely a lesson learned to make sure that *everything* is the same between test stand and launch pad on the ground side, not just on the vehicle side.” (3/11)

Lawmakers Want Another NASA Study (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
More than a dozen U.S. House members called on the White House to abandon its plans to cancel NASA’s Constellation moon rocket program and urged the agency to study ways it could continue developing its own spaceflight vehicles. The lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, want NASA to conduct a 30-day study that would find ways within NASA’s proposed $19 billion budget to “ensure uninterrupted, independent U.S. human space flight access,” according to a letter outlining their request. (3/11)

Kosmas, Posey Aim to Extend Shuttle Era (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Two Florida lawmakers with ties to Kennedy Space Center introduced legislation that would increase NASA’s budget, likely extend the space shuttle era past its planned retirement this year and accelerate the development of a new NASA spacecraft. U.S. Reps. Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach, and Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, put forward the measure — dubbed the Human Spaceflight Capability Assurance and Protection Act — to serve as a companion bill to similar legislation proposed recently by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

“This bill is intended to maintain a robust human spaceflight program that will protect Space Coast jobs, enhance our national security, and generate scientific and technological advances that boost our economy,” said Kosmas in a statement. The Kosmas-Posey effort instead would push NASA to develop its own launch vehicle that could include pieces of the shuttle or Constellation programs. It also would increase Obama’s proposed NASA budget of $19 billion in 2011 by an additional $1.3 billion and add shuttle flights if they were needed to keep the station aloft through 2020. (3/11)

Gates To Outline Export Reform Plan by April (Source: Space News)
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will outline in the coming weeks a plan to reform the U.S. export control system that governs the sale of sensitive technologies overseas, including U.S. commercial communications satellites, according to U.S. President Barack Obama. During a March 11 speech at an annual Export-Import Bank conference here, Obama said his administration had completed a sweeping assessment of current export laws and regulations governing the sale of sensitive technologies to foreign countries, and that Gates would unveil subsequent reforms before the end of March. (3/11)

House Limits Use of Earmarks to Benefit For-Profit Companies (Source: AIA)
In a move aimed primarily at defense contractors, House leaders have banned earmarks designed to aid for-profit companies. Under the agreement between Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., and Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., only the Pentagon will decide between competing bidders, not lawmakers. The two powerful appropriators said such restrictions could have avoided 1,000 earmarks last year. The Senate has previously rejected a similar measure, leaving its future unclear. Editor's Note: NASA for-profit contractors have also been the recipient of federal earmarks. (3/11)

NASA Study: NextGen Could Give New Aircraft Types a Lift (Source: AIA)
Implementation of the NextGen air traffic control system could allow advanced short-runway airliners and large commercial tiltrotors to improve the U.S. air system's capacity without compromising conventional aircraft operations, according to a new study. The NASA-funded study looked at the potential introduction of five classes of advanced aircraft -- 737-sized cruise-efficient short-takeoff-and-landing (CESTOL) airliners, 100-passenger tiltrotors, unmanned aircraft, very light jets (VLJ) and supersonic transports -- and found that the CESTOL and tiltrotor aircraft would be beneficiaries of NextGen. Editor's Note: NextGen work is also being done to accommodate commercial spaceflight operations within the National Airspace System. (3/11)

FAA Bill Set to Advance, but NextGen Funding Remains Vague (Source: AIA)
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., agreed Wednesday to lift his hold on the FAA reauthorization bill, allowing the measure to move forward as early as today after it was stripped of language that would have encouraged unionization at FedEx. But even without the FedEx provision, the FAA bill faces plenty of controversy in the Senate -- especially when it comes to funding for NextGen air traffic control. The Senate bill mandates that owners update their aircraft with new avionics but provides no help with the bill, estimated at $2 billion to $4 billion. (3/11)

Operationally Responsive Space: An AIA Priority (Source: AIA)
AIA has released a new white paper in support of Operationally Responsive Space small launch vehicle acquisition and space industrial base health. AIA argues for ORS strategies that ensure support for the U.S. warfighter, promote competition and help strengthen the U.S. space industrial base. For years, AIA has led advocacy efforts to support the ORS effort to develop rapid and responsive space support for military operations. ORS is an important new initiative that aims to rapidly deploy spacecraft designed to assist urgent warfighter needs. Click here for more. (3/11)

Astronauts Memorial Foundation Urges Obama to Keep Human Spaceflight (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The Astronauts Memorial Foundation recently sent a letter to President Barack Obama to urge him to “vigorously support uninterrupted continuation of human spaceflight and ensure U.S. leadership in space exploration.” The letter was sent, it said, “In order to honor those astronauts who have made the ultimate sacrifice to benefit human exploration, and to allow Americans continued pride in our space program…” The letter was penned by Michael J. McCulley, former astronaut, and AMF president Stephen Feldman. (3/11)

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