March 25, 2010

Augustine Letter to Rep. Wolf Seeks to Clarify Committee's Position (Source: Space Policy Online)
Responding to a letter from Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), ranking member of the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee, Norm Augustine clarified that canceling the Constellation program was not specifically one of the options his committee put forward last year. Mr. Augustine stressed that his committee was asked to develop options, not recommendations, and that the President's proposal to cancel Constellation came closest the committee's option 5B.

"[The President's plan] perhaps most closely approximates Option 5B; however, the difference in available funding, even though increased relative to the prior budget plan, obviously has to be considered. It could be argued that were one to decide to terminate the Ares I development (as is the case in Option 5B), and with the not unimportant exception of its impact on the Orion effort, that action is tantamount to canceling the entire Constellation program in its present form since work has barely begun on the Ares V and the Altair."

At the time the President's proposal to cancel Constellation was announced, the White House posted a letter from Mr. Augustine on the OSTP website that was similarly careful in its language, but was viewed by many as supporting the decision. (3/25)

New Delta IV Heavy Launch Site Ready For Use in California (Source: Aviation Week)
A single, classified mission for the National Reconnaissance Office is the only pending business here for the Delta IV Heavy launcher, but United Launch Alliance undertook a three-year, $58-million modification of the storied Space Launch Complex-6 to make it possible. The Delta IV Heavy brings a capability that has been absent from the U.S. since the Titan IV was retired in 2005. Though mighty, Titan launches were more than twice as expensive as a Delta Heavy’s, which is officially in excess of $100 million. The newer vehicle also is regarded as more reliable. (3/25)

Watch out NASA: Up Aerospace Sends Cargo Into Space Too (Source: Smart Planet)
Jerry Larson builds rockets that can go into space, all by himself. In May, he will finally show off his blue rocket at a vertical launch pad at Spaceport America in New Mexico. Larson hopes to create a new market for commercial air cargo and in a way make his startup company, Up Aerospace, the US Airways (for cargo). Virgin Galactic is making space tourism possible, so it’s reasonable to think Up Aerospace could do the same for cargo. The cost of a single rocket is $200,000, which is much cheaper than the millions of dollars it costs NASA. The rockets are hydraulically driven and are controlled by a remote control. This May, US Navy experiments, school kid projects, and cremated remains will hitch a ride in Larson’s rocket. But they will have to share a ride in separate compartments. (3/25)

Profit from the New Space Race (Source: Money Week)
President Obama recently threw open America’s space program to private companies – announcing a 6% increase in NASA's five-year budget. After years of keeping space travel the strict preserve of government, private space groups will now be encouraged to build and operate spacecraft of their own. This is massive opportunity for us as investors. For the first time ever it will provide big business with the necessary funding, expertise and guaranteed work to transform the space industry in the same fashion as the airline sector took-off after the second world war.

Back then the military flew most planes, but private companies eventually started operating aircraft - especially when they got a guaranteed customer in the US government to deliver air mail. And that's what NASA would be: a cast-iron income stream, loaded up to the tune of $6 billion to transport astronauts back and forth to the ISS. How long before you and I get to take a trip beyond the Earth’s atmosphere? Well we will have a while to wait yet. As it stands, the Russian Space Agency is the only carrier providing transport, courtesy of spare seats. And neither is it exactly cheap, since the price for a flight brokered by Space Adventures to the ISS aboard a Soyuz spacecraft is around $20m–$35m per trip. However this vast expense is coming down fast as technology improves and more competition comes on stream. (3/25)

Planetary Lander “Egg Drop” Competition Planned for Florida Schools (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida, NASA-KSC and the Florida Department of Education have partnered to provide an opportunity for Florida elementary, middle and high school students to participate in an innovative Planetary Lander ‘Egg-Drop’ Competition at Universal CityWalk on May 29. The competition is open to all Florida schools and home-schoolers, and invites Florida teachers and students to register teams through Space Florida. Each team will design and build their own Lander, in which a raw egg will serve as the payload and must survive a drop of nearly 20 feet (just as a real NASA Lander should on the Moon, Mars or an asteroid). The deadline for Florida schools teams to register with Space Florida is May 7, 2010. Due to the enormous interest in this competition however, team leaders are advised to register ASAP. Applicants should apply for a Registration Package by contacting Space Florida Education Manager Emma Rader, at (3/25)

No End for the Shuttle This Year? (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA is unlikely to fly the final four missions of the space shuttle this year as planned, according to a new report issued by the agency’s internal watchdog. NASA Inspector General Paul Martin came to that conclusion based on the shuttle’s history of flight delays and not on any specific problems. His team estimates that the final mission likely would fly in January 2011 — one month after funding for shuttle flights is expected to sunset. A delay into next year could cause major headaches for NASA. The launch of an Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station could be delayed from its scheduled July 29 date due to technical problems with the payload. If that delay goes beyond 2010, then there is the possibility that the Obama administration simply could cancel the flight, warned the inspector general. (3/25)

Lockheed Martin, ATK Reintroduce Athena Rocket Line (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin and Alliant Techsystems (ATK) will attempt to resurrect the long-dormant Athena series of small-satellite launchers. The upgraded Athena 1c and Athena 2c rockets will feature the same Castor 120 solid rocket motors as their predecessors, but use the newly developed Castor 30 motor for their upper stage, the companies said in a press release. The original Athena vehicles used the Orbus 21D motor as an upper stage. The new Athena vehicles will launch payloads weighing up to 1,712 kilograms into low Earth orbit and could be available for launches starting in 2012.

Lockheed Martin, which developed the original Athena in the 1990s, will provide the launch services, while ATK provides the motors. The solid-fueled Castor 30 upper stage was developed for Orbital’s planned Taurus 2 rocket and has been tested on the ground. The Castor 120 has been used on Orbital’s Taurus 1 rocket in addition to the original Athena line. Athena’s target market is currently served by Orbital with its Pegasus, Taurus 1 and Minotaur family of vehicles, and by SpaceX with its Falcon 1E rocket.

Editor's Note: Athena-1 and Athena-2 rockets were both launched from Florida's spaceport authority launch pad (LC-46) before Lockheed ended the Athena program in the 1990s. The infrastructure on LC-46 was developed specifically for this vehicle. The updated Athena rockets will also launch from Florida's LC-46, as well as from spaceports in California, Alaska and Virginia. Here's a photo of an Athena-2 on the pad, with the service tower looking very much like it does today. (3/25)

Athena Will Drive Upgrades to Florida Launch Pad (Source: Florida Today)
To meet the needs of the new Athena rockets at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, a refurbishment project at Launch Complex 46 will employ about 75 people for more than a year, officials said. A core launch operations team of about 20 at the Cape will surge to about 50 during launches. Officials expect to fly at least two missions per year from Launch Complex 46, which the U.S. Navy used to test Trident fleet ballistic missiles. Editor's Note: Space Florida expects to receive state legislative authorization to invest previously-appropriated funds for the infrastructure project. (3/25)

Flight Termination System Work Sets First Falcon-9 Launch for Late April (Source: Florida Today)
The first flight of the SpaceX Falcon 9 likely will occur in late April after the rocket's Flight Termination System is certified. The Falcon 9 holds an April 12 launch date on the Air Force Eastern Range. The supplier of the rocket’s flight termination system still must finish testing and gain final flight approval from the Air Force. (3/25)

NASA Ames Seeks Education/Outreach Officer (Source: NASA)
The Education and Public Outreach Branch of the Strategic Communications and Education Division at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., currently is seeking interested applicants for the position of Supervisory Education Programs and Outreach Officer. The incumbent serves as the Director of Education and Outreach and is responsible for the management, administration and evaluation of NASA’s unique education and outreach programs. Applications are currently being accepted through April 5, 2010. For more information about this job opening and to apply online, visit (3/25)

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