March 3, 2010

Hutchison Introduces Spaceflight Gap Bill - Kosmas & Posey to Sponsor House Version (Source: US Senate)
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today introduced legislation to close the gap in U.S. human space flight that will occur if the space shuttle is retired before the next generation of space vehicle is developed. Senator Hutchison’s bill would allow NASA to extend the shuttle’s service as work continues on the next generation of American space vehicle. Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives next week by Reps. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Florida) and Bill Posey (R-Florida). (3/3)

NASA Chief Bolden Seeks 'Plan B' for the Space Agency (Source: Wall Street Journal)
NASA chief Charles Bolden has asked senior managers to draw up an alternate plan for the space agency after members of Congress indicated they wanted to reject a White House proposal to hire private companies to ferry U.S. astronauts into orbit and beyond. In an internal memo, Mr. Bolden ordered officials to map out "what a potential compromise might look like" to satisfy critics on Capitol Hill. By calling for an alternative plan, Mr. Bolden threatened to undercut White House efforts to get its proposed NASA budget through Congress.

The move to draft a compromise highlights behind-the-scenes maneuvering by NASA officials to save big chunks of existing programs now in jeopardy. A space-agency spokesman said that while the administrator "is open to hearing ideas from any member of the NASA team," Mr. Bolden and the ageny "are fully committed to the President's budget" because it "sets the agency on a reinvigorated path of space exploration."

The memo suggests the NASA chief and his team were more inclined to try to pacify lawmakers than wage a tough battle to end multibillion-dollar contracts signed under the previous administration. It was written by Michael Coats, director of the Johnson Space Center. In an email, Mr. Coats told senior managers at other centers and program offices that Mr. Bolden "agreed to let us set up a 'Plan B' team" to come up with alternate budget and program priorities. (3/3)

Primary Opponent Tussles with Kosmas over Shuttle (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A primary challenger to U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas is taking aim at the freshman legislator today, accusing the Democrat from New Smyrna Beach of ignoring aerospace workers after she skipped a Saturday rally for those who could lose their jobs when the space shuttle is retired. “[T]he absence of the incumbent is one more indication of the lack of representation we have endured for too long,” wrote Paul Partyka, former Winter Springs mayor, in a statement. “Americans are fed up with representatives who go off to Washington and forget who elected them and why.”

Partyka says he attended the rally near Brevard Community College with hundreds of workers with ties to Kennedy Space Center or the businesses that depend on the NASA facility. An estimated 7,000 KSC workers are expected to lose their jobs when the shuttle flies its final four missions this year. But Partyka said Kosmas was a no show. A spokesman to the congresswoman said she had prior commitments but defended her record on NASA and KSC. (3/3)

Space Coast Lobbyists Told Bleak Economy Will Limit State Aid (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Less than 12 hours after Gov. Crist called for major investments to mitigate upcoming space industry job losses, his call received a tepid response from key House and Senate leaders. “To come up with $32.6 million in this budget is going to be a chore,” said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, the Senate transportation and economic development chair. “We’d like to find funding for it, but I just don’t guarantee anything happening with that request right now.”

Aerospace leaders who gathered in the capital for the industry’s annual “Space Day” lobbying event heard bleak news from Fasano’s House counterpart, Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, who told Space Florida President Frank DiBello not to count on the money. “I said I don’t know where I am going to get the money,” Glorioso said after meeting with DiBello. “My sense is that there is a $3 billion deficit we have to fill, and there are going to be cuts everywhere.”

Glorioso was referring to the up-to-$3.2 billion deficit that could confront lawmakers this year. Crist is hoping that federal Medicaid funds, a gambling pact with the Seminole Indians and higher-than-expected tax revenues will fill that hole – but legislators warn that none of it is assured. Fasano and Glorioso both stressed that “some funding” might be found over the next two months of haggling and deal-making during the 2010 legislative session. Both said they supported both Crist and DiBello’s efforts to create more high-tech, high-paying aerospace jobs. (3/3)

Universities Join Industry and NASA for Space Day Event (Source: SPACErePORT)
Representatives from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the University of Central Florida, and the University of Florida traveled to Tallahassee on Tuesday to take part in Space Day meetings with legislators to discuss the need for space industry diversification that would include a greater role in space-related R&D. Launch operations are a relatively low tech segment of the space industry, and Florida's economic reliance on launch operations makes the state particularly vulnerable to program cancellations (as is happening now with the retirement of the Space Shuttle) and increased domestic and international launch industry competition. (3/3)

Aerospace Consultant Bets on Satellite Launch Demand (Source: Live Mint)
Launching a satellite is 12-15% costlier in Europe, and 25-30% more expensive in the US. India’s first private sector aerospace consulting firm is seeking to profit from overseas demand for satellite launch services that the nation’s space agency offers at a discount to what competitors charge. The Indian Space Research Organization can send a satellite weighing up to 200kg into low-earth orbit for about $15-20 million, according to Susmita Mohanty, co-founder and one of the two chief executives of Mumbai-based Earth2Orbit LLC. (3/3)

Virgin Galactic Gets $45 Million in Bookings (Source: Business 24/7)
Nearly 330 people, including 20 from the Mideast region, have deposited above $45 million to participate in Virgin Galactic's space flight programme, company chief executive said yesterday. Addressing the first World Space Risk Forum in Dubai, Will Whitehorn told delegates the number had helped proved the viability of Virgin's ambitious project.

"There is nothing complex in our [space flight] system. The complexity has been in proving that there's a business model. We've managed to do that with our investors. The challenge [now] is of actually of going through the process of developing the vehicle and getting the data for a safe, experimental flight test programme. With the aviation background that Virgin has, it's something that we can grapple with, with our partners, quite easily," he said. (3/3)

Russia Faces Cosmonaut Shortage (Source: AFP)
Russia faces a shortage of candidates to be cosmonauts as fewer Russians than before are showing an interest in going to space, the head of its space training centre said on Wednesday. Following icons like Yuri Gagarin into space has been a traditional dream of young Russians but now interest is falling, said Sergei Krikalyev, the head of the training centre, based in Star City outside Moscow. "Now there are around 40 cosmonauts in the Russian ranks. New recruitment is planned but there are fewer people interested than we would like," he said. (3/3)

Scientists Wowed by Mars Orbiter Performance (Source: AP)
Scientists are impressed with the flood of data beamed back by NASA's most advanced Mars orbiter. The space agency said Wednesday the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has sent back 100 terabits of information since 2006. That's equal to about 3 million songs in MP3 format. Launched from Florida in 2005, the reconnaissance orbiter reached Mars in March 2006. It is the most powerful probe ever sent to the Red Planet.

Project scientist Rich Zurek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says he is blown away by the quality of the images and other tidbits that give scientists a deeper understanding of the planet. Last year, the reconnaissance orbiter suffered several computer resets that temporarily halted science operations. It has since returned to normal. (3/3)

Russia Halts Space Tours as U.S. Retires Shuttle (Source: Reuters)
Russia announced a halt to space tourism on Wednesday, saying it would struggle to ferry professional crews to the International Space Station after the U.S. mothballs its shuttle fleet this year. NASA plans four more shuttle flights to the $100-billion, 16-nation space outpost before retiring its three shuttles by the end of the year. Russia, sending crews to the ISS aboard its single-use three-man Soyuz ships, will double the number of manned launches to four this year because permanent crews of professional astronauts aboard the expanded station are set to rise to six. (3/3)

Kazakhstan says Russian Proton Launches to Continue for Now (Source: RIA Novosti)
Kazakhstan has no objection to launches of Russia's Proton carrier rockets from its territory while a new environmentally-friendly launch pad is being put into operation, the head of the Kazakh space agency said. Russia and Kazakhstan are currently working on the Baiterek launch pad at the Baikonur space center. The pad is designed for the launch of Angara carrier rockets running on environmentally friendly fuel consisting of oxygen and kerosene, compared to the toxic heptyl used in Proton launch vehicles.

"We should speak about the gradual reduction or full termination of launches of Proton carrier rockets, operating on heptyl, after Baiterek is put into operation," Talgat Musabayev, the head of Kazcosmos, said. Russia's activities at the Baikonur space center have been marred by Proton accidents and Kazakhstan's complaints about toxic pollution. The family of Angara rockets, capable of delivering 26 metric tons of payload into low-Earth orbits, will complement, and eventually replace, the existing line of Proton and Rockot launch vehicles. (3/3)

$1.9 Billion Rocket Project Readied at Virginia Spaceport (Source:
A rocket, unlike any launched from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, will be lofted into space in early 2011 and preparations associated with the $1.9 billion project continue at Wallops Island, according to a spokesman for Orbital Sciences Corp. Leo Kouvacs, Taurus II production and operations manager for Orbital, spoke at the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce as part of a speaker series sponsored by Chris Doyle, a local financial adviser. About 40 people attended the talk, which included numerous questions on logistics, safety issues and economic impact associated with the project. (3/3)

Space Day Arrives with Little Optimism (Source: Florida Today)
With four shuttle missions left, the Constellation program canceled and the state budget in the red, space industry executives carried out their annual lobbying trip to Tallahassee today under less than ideal conditions. Representative from some 23 space industry companies will work to secure state funds for development of new ventures. And while Gov. Charlie Crist has pledged to request $32 million from the Legislature for space development, a tight state budget could restrict his ability to deliver. "We would ask that they support the governor's request for money for getting aerospace companies to come to Florida and for job retraining," said Space Day co-chair Mark Nappi. (3/3)

Editorial: Unite to Rescue Our Space Industry (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
Florida's aerospace industry, which impacts every county in the state, is facing perhaps the most challenging crisis in its history, with the impending retirement of the space shuttle and the resulting loss of thousands of direct and indirect jobs. As the industry prepared for its annual Space Day in Tallahassee today, the announcement of the president's budget, which proposed canceling the human spaceflight program called Constellation, sent shock waves throughout the community. It means the planned trajectory of the future of the space program at KSC took a dramatic turn, and the job-loss estimate climbed.

There is much at stake. Today, more than 100,000 Floridians are employed in the aerospace industry across all 67 counties. Florida needs to support sustained investment in: new industry growth and space business development; construction and modernization of space infrastructure and support systems; and diversified space-related and applied science research. We must capitalize on the most experienced space operations work force in the world by making sure workers are trained and ready to take advantage of the new business opportunities that come.

We must invest in our future work force, by leading the way in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields of education. And we must invest in existing assets such as the KSC's Space Life Sciences Laboratory, which is poised to serve as the Gateway to the International Space Station. The opportunities for a larger and more diverse aerospace industry are there. Together, with one strong voice, we can have a bright new future and write the stories that our children will remember for years to come. Florida needs to deliver. (3/3)

New Space Policy: Radical or Necessary? (Sources:, NASA Watch)
"['Radical'] might be a little bit dramatic, but it's certainly a big shift," said Leroy Chiao, former NASA astronaut and a member of the blue-ribbon panel President Obama commissioned to review NASA's plans before designing the new proposal. "I would say it's unprecedented." He said he thought it made sense to look to commercial industry to provide transport to low-Earth orbit, but that NASA should also stay in the business of building spacecraft. "NASA's job should be focused on exploration, going beyond low-Earth orbit," he said. Even though it may be a significant change, Chiao said it might be for the best. "Transitions are difficult but sometimes you need some kind of a dramatic change in order to get that improvement," he said." (3/3)

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