March 18, 2010

Teen Wins $100,000 Intel Science Award with Spaceflight Project (Source: CNET)
Erika DeBenedictis' research to help spacecraft quickly and more easily travel to other planets has earned her a top student science award from Intel. The 18-year-old from Albuquerque took home the $100,000 first prize from Intel's 2010 Science Talent Search. DeBenedictis' goal was to design a software navigation system that could help spacecraft more easily journey throughout the solar system. Her research discovered that gravity and the movement of the planets could create low-energy orbits to propel ships faster and with less fuel required. (3/17)

Russia to Resume Space Tourism in 2012 (Source: Russia Today)
Russia will increase the number of Soyuz spaceship launches and resume space tourism in 2012. “There will be five Russian spacecraft, instead of four, starting from 2012. Four spacecraft will perform the International Space Station program, and one will be offered to space tourists,” a source said. “If no problems occur, the construction of the fifth spaceship will begin in the middle of this year,” said Energia President Vitaly Lopota. (3/18)

Iridium May Yet Make its Mark in Aircraft Cabin Connectivity (Source: Flight Global)
Iridium is looking at ways to provide the aviation community with a seamless upgrade path to obtain enhanced voice and data services after it launches its second-generation satellite constellation. The firm's current global constellation of 66 low-earth orbiting (LEO) satellites supports voice services on aircraft, and for other industries. And, its new OpenPort service, which was originally engineered for the maritime market, can support data rates of up to 128 kbps. However, Iridium's second-generation satellite constellation, called Iridium NEXT, is expected to provide data rates of up to 1.0 mbps. (3/18)

Editorial: Lobbying for Space Programs (Source: Huntsville Times)
While Bud Cramer is politicking to assure a key role for Marshall in America's space program, a lobbying partner will be twisting arms to farm a chunk of the nation's space work to his firm's other client in the private sector. There's just something troubling about this arrangement where Cramer effectively is serving two masters: on the one hand, receiving $108,000 from the city to pursue more federal jobs and highway money while also leading the task force, and on the other hand making his livelihood at a lobbying firm that could be fighting his efforts to steer space work to Huntsville.

The conflict seems as blatant as attorneys from the same law firm representing parties on opposite sides of a lawsuit. That couldn't happen. State Bar regulations wouldn't allow it. Lobbying rules aren't as stringent and many would say that's just the way things work in Washington. The perception, though, is disturbing. A challenge for Huntsville's lobbying effort, whoever leads it, is to tread carefully. Marshall could maintain a key role if Huntsville-area leaders play their cards right. (3/18)

Space Agenda Gaining Traction in Tallahassee (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Space Florida’s legislative agenda is getting good treatment at the hands of state lawmakers. The agency could get most of the $32.6 million Gov. Charlie Crist requested to help the state’s languishing space business. Sources in the State Capital say that the Legislature has now come up with some $27 million of the $32.6 million to help Space Florida offset the looming economic disaster by retraining workers and attracting new space business to Florida.

One well-connected official says that lawmakers have found the funds and that the money is contained in various bills aimed at creating more jobs in the state this year. There is much competition for funds this budget year, but the signs are good so far. Also on Thursday, the House unanimously passed a bill to give Space Florida flexibility in spending $10.8 million of already-appropriated money to build a multi-user launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (3/18)

Legislator Blocks Resolution for Keeping Retired Shuttle in Florida (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Not everything is going swimmingly in Tallahassee for space. Speaker Larry Cretul, (R, Ocala), recently rejected a “memorial bill by Rep. Ritch Workman (R, Melbourne) urging the U.S. Congress to make sure that one of the three remaining space shuttles is preserved and placed on permanent public display at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex after they are retired. According to Brevard County officials, the area stands to lose as much as $90 million of tourism activity when the shuttles are mothballed. The county is hoping to recoup some of those losses by having Discovery, Endeavour or Atlantis on display as a tourist attraction.

NASA is already soliciting applications from museums, universities and theme parks to house the orbiters. The cost: $28.8 million. Discovery is expected to go to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in New York. But where the other two end up is far from certain. Last week, the New York Post suggested that one should end up on the USS Intrepid, a guided-missile submarine and a host of historic aircraft docked in Manhattan. It’s unclear why Cretul has failed to find a place on the calendar for Workman’s request. (3/18)

Space: The Pull of Gravity (Source: Financial Times)
Three elderly American heroes have been touring US military bases in Europe and Asia this month, telling inspiring tales of space adventures that took place before most people in the audience were born. But the Apollo astronauts – Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan and Jim Lovell – were not just living on past glories. They looked at the future of manned space flight and lamented President Barack Obama’s decision last month to cancel the Constellation program under which NASA would have taken Americans back to the moon by 2020.

“We will go back to the moon, notwithstanding our president and his outlook for the future of space,” said Mr Cernan at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The man who in 1972 was the last to walk on the lunar surface added: “Under the president’s proposed budget, it is a mission to nowhere.” The astronauts’ intervention is part of a growing backlash against the plans of Mr Obama, who argues that the US cannot afford to build the Ares rockets and Orion crew vehicle that make up Constellation and needs a nimbler development program led by private companies. (3/18)

Bolden Defends Obama Space Plan (Source: Space Politics)
“The president recognized that what was truly needed for beyond-LEO exploration was game-changing technologies; making the fundamental investments that will provide the foundation for the next half-century of American leadership in space exploration,” Bolden said. “In doing so, the President put forward what I believe to be the most authentically visionary policy for real human space exploration that we’ve ever had.”

Bolden reiterated that Mars was the “ultimate destination” for human space exploration, but that “we don’t have the technological wherewithal to safely get humans there yet, and I think everybody in this room understands that.” Bolden sees access to LEO “as something that belongs in the commercial sector...I think there are incredible opportunities for money to be made with commercial access to low Earth orbit.” He said: “We at NASA want to get out of the operational business...We don’t want to manage low Earth orbit anymore. We want to use it, but we want to give it over to commercial entities who can use it for profit.” (3/17)

Manx Study Focusses on International Regulation of Space Assets (Source: Isle of Man Today)
THE delicate area of supra-national space regulation has been questioned in a study by the Isle of Man-based International Institute of Space Commerce (IISC). Following meetings where powerful satellite operators have walked out claiming the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (Unidroit) Space Assets Protocol 'does more harm than good', an independent report has highlighted industry concerns.

Unidroit is an independent intergovernmental organization based in Rome, Italy. Its purpose is to study needs and methods for modernizing, harmonizing and coordinating private and in particular commercial law between nations and groups of nations. IISC's recent report aims to contribute towards the continuation of useful dialogue and is the first to collate a cross-section of views on Unidroit's Space Assets Protocol through independent surveys and research.

Since its inception in Cape Town 20 years ago, diminishing industry support for the Space Assets Protocol has been noted by both the United Nations and Unidroit themselves. Professor Walter Peeters, director of the International Institute of Space Commerce, said: 'One of the issues with Unidroit is the incredibly slow pace of regulation. Solutions take so long that unfortunately the problem is forgotten.' (3/18)

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