March 4, 2010

NASA Chief Denies Talk of Averting Obama Plan (Source: New York Times)
In response to reports that he was looking for a Plan B to address Congressional concerns, the head of NASA said he was not backing away from the Obama administration’s proposal to reshape the nation’s human spaceflight program. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Michael L. Coats, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, had Charles Bolden's blessing to explore “what a potential compromise might look like” with Congress over the direction of NASA.

General Bolden “agreed to let us set up a Plan B team,” Mr. Coats wrote in an e-mail message sent Tuesday to Stephen J. Altemus, the chief engineer at Johnson. Mr. Coats added in a parenthetical remark that Plan B was his phrase, not General Bolden’s. In a statement NASA released Thursday, General Bolden said, “I did not ask anyone for an alternative to the president’s plan and budget.” (3/4)

Delta-4 Launches From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
A Delta IV rocket zoomed orbit with a new weather satellite in tow after a spectacular evening launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The 24-story rocket and its payload -- a Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite -- vaulted off Launch Complex 37B at 6:57 p.m. -- 40 minutes later than planned. Launch managers had to wait for strong upper level winds to abate enough that they wouldn't knock the rocket off course or rip it apart in flight. (3/4)

Shelby Has Frank Discussion with NASA Administrator (Source: WAFF)
A frank discussion took place on Capitol Hill Thursday between Senator Richard Shelby and NASA administrator Charlie Bolden. It took place behind closed doors in Senator Shelby's office. Bolden and Shelby are very far apart on NASA's vision and therefore NASA's budget. In fact, many in Congress don't even see a vision for the space agency if there is no government owned and operated human space flight program , namely Constellation, once the shuttle retires.

There is so much dissent coming from the idea of canceling the Ares rocket program to develop commercial vehicles. On March 25, Charlie Bolden will once again be in the hot seat in the senate as hearings begin on the 2011 budget, but there is no timeline on when the country and north Alabama will learn the specific details on the future of human space flight once the shuttle retires in September. (3/4)

Celestis Plans Memorial Launches from New Mexico & Florida (Source: Celestis)
Celestis Inc. plans two new Earthrise (suborbital) and Earth Orbit Memorial Spaceflights carrying cremated human remains. The Pioneer Flight is projected to launch May 1 from Spaceport America, New Mexico. Our next Earth Orbit mission, The New Frontier Flight, is projected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2010 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida. Going to the launch site, in person, and watching your loved one launched into space is a truly emotional experience. (3/4)

Florida Delegation Blasts New NASA Plan (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Every federal lawmaker from Florida is expected to sign a letter to the White House this week that raises objections to the administration’s new plans for NASA, calling it “especially worrisome” and “vague” when it comes to future plans for KSC. The letter raises concerns that NASA does not have a heavy-lift rocket program to replace Constellation and that aerospace workers nationwide, including thousands at KSC, would be left in limbo after the shuttle completes its final four missions this year.

“Coupled with the planned retirement of the Shuttle, this [the cancellation of Constellation] leaves the future of U.S. human spaceflight in serious doubt, and the highly skilled workforce with the prospect of a major upheaval from which it and our space program will not have the hope of recovery for many years,” wrote the lawmakers. U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and George LeMieux both joined the effort, as well as every U.S. House member from Florida.

The lawmakers, however, were vague themselves when it came to possible alternatives — reflecting the diverse range of opinions on what to do instead. The closest agreement seemed to be the need for the U.S. to have its own ability to send astronauts into space; a point aimed at the current plan to rely on Russia to ferry NASA astronauts into space after the shuttle’s retirement. (3/4)

Rocket Ready To Launch New Weather Satellite Tonight (Source: CFL13)
If all goes according to plan, Central Floridians along the Space Coast will see a rocket blast off Thursday evening. The Air Force is scheduled to launch a Delta IV rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at some point from 6:17 to 7:17 p.m. Thursday. The GOES-P payload is the latest in NASA’s series of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites designed to watch for storm development and weather conditions. (3/4)

ISPCS Chair Lauds FAA for Establishing Space Transportation Center of Excellence (Source: NMSU)
The recent announcement by the FAA that it will establish a Center of Excellence for commercial space transportation is a major milestone for the industry, said Patricia Hynes, Chair of the International Symposium on Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS). “This is an official government acknowledgement that we have a new transportation industry in this country,” said Hynes. “Coupled with President Obama’s recent support of commercial space, this is further evidence that both NASA and the FAA are going to help spur the growth of a nationwide commercial space economy.”

Under the Center of Excellence program, the FAA will award academic institutions matching grants totaling of up to $1 million a year for the next 10 years to support research in space transportation. For further information on the FAA COE go to ISPCS has been the leading industry meeting of the commercial and personal spaceflight industry since the conference began in 2005. This year’s event will be held Wednesday and Thursday, October 21 & 22, of Space Week in New Mexico. (3/4)

One Other Interesting Texas Election Result (Source: Space Politics)
While incumbents fared well in Tuesday’s primary elections in Texas, as noted here yesterday, there was one interesting result in the Democratic primary in the 22nd district, currently represented by Republican Rep. Pete Olson: Kesha Rogers won a three-person race with 52.3% of the vote. Rogers is an acolyte of Lyndon LaRouche and, among other things, has argued that President Obama should be impeached because of his NASA policy (among other alleged sins). “If you want to save NASA, call for the impeachment of Obama,” she said while campaigning last month. Should make for some interesting debates in the general election, if nothing else. (3/4)

Hutchison Loses Texas Gubernarotial Bid (Source: Space Politics)
In last week's Texas primaries, Congressman Ralph Hall, the ranking member of the House Science and Technology Committee, defeated five challengers in the Republican primary, getting 57% of the vote. And in perhaps the most widely-watched race, incumbent Gov. Rick Perry defeated Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Republican primary for governor, getting just over 50% in the three-person race and thus avoiding a runoff with Hutchison.

This raises the question of how much longer Hutchison, one of the more active space advocates in the Senate, will remain in office. During the primary campaign she had originally planned to resign from the Senate to focus full-time on her gubernatorial campaign, then backtracked and decided to remain in office through the primary campaign in order to stay focused on issues like health care reform. She had suggested that she would resign from the Senate later this year regardless of the outcome, even though her term in the Senate runs through 2012. (3/4)

New Mexico Space Trail Oral History Now! (Source: Spaceports Blog)
For more than two decades, The New Mexico Museum of Space History, a division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, has been developing the “New Mexico Space Trail.” Beginning as a listing of sites within the state that have contributed to man’s exploration of space, from archeoastronomy sites to NASA facilities. Forty seven sites have been identified to date, and include sand paintings of the Navajo, the petroglyphs of the Zuni, the rock alignments at Wizard’s Roost in the Sacramento Mountains (similar to the much larger site of Stonehenge), astronaut training sites like Zuni Salt Lake, the Jemez Mountains and the Rio Grande Gorge area. Where else but New Mexico can the footprints of Spaniards who trekked the El Camino Real cross the path of future astronauts at Spaceport America? (3/2)

Virginia Legislators Offer Resolutions Commending NASA 2011 Space Budget (Source: Spaceports Blog)
Virginia State Senator Ralph S. Northam (D-Norfolk) has introduced Senate Resolution 226, on the heels of a Virginia House of Delegates Resolution offered by State Delegate Terry G. Kilgore, to advise the Virginia Congressional delegation at the nation's capitol in Washington that the Senate and the House of Delegates commend the NASA FY 2011 budget offered by President Obama inasmuch as it advances the goal of developing commercial space launch activities from the Virginia commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, VA. (3/2)

A Tense Meeting for Crist, Cabana (Source: Florida Today)
Gov. Charlie Crist, Brevard County lawmakers, astronauts and industry executives spent Wednesday fighting an old cliche: "No bucks, no Buck Rogers." Crist spent part of his morning in his Capitol office, lobbying Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana to add more flights to the shuttle schedule, at least until the economy recovers and the state has enough time to rev up its commercial space business. It was tough going.

Florida is still reeling from the recent announcement by President Obama that he is canceling Constellation. "NASA already knows how to get to low Earth orbit; we need to move beyond that," Cabana said. "The move is towards the commercialization of low Earth orbit. Eventually, it's going to happen." "Maybe after the recession," Crist shot back. NASA can better spend the $1.8 billion it costs every year to keep the shuttle flying on research and development, not delaying the inevitable, Cabana said. "We can cry about what we've lost, or we can make the most of our opportunities," he said. (3/4)

DiBello Takes Stage at Space Day in Tallahassee (Source: Florida Today)
The loss of Constellation -- which KSC workers have dubbed "Canstellation" -- was a double blow [coupled with the Shuttle's retirement], said Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida. "We've been positioning many of the shuttle workers for [transition] to the Constellation program. It only exacerbates the challenges that we have," DiBello told members of the Senate Commerce Committee. "Our focus is to make sure that we don't lose the core component of the workforce that we have."

DiBello spent his day trying to persuade lawmakers to free up the $10.8 million remainder of a $14.5 million appropriation that had been directed to refurbish a launch complex. DiBello said some of the money could be better spent wooing high-tech firms. DiBello is negotiating to convert an existing shuttle logistics depot, which refurbishes orbiter components, into a facility that repairs military equipment damaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. That could save 400 jobs, he said.

Lawmakers are facing a $3 billion budget shortfall, but Crist said he is confident that they will approve his call for $32.6 million for Space Florida. Some $3 million of the money would go to Workforce Brevard, which is swamped as it tries to help shuttle workers find new jobs, said the group's president, Lisa Rice. (3/4)

Editorial: To Boldly Go Where Ever (Source: Space Foundation)
As of yet, there are no commercial systems that can take crew and cargo to orbit and dock with the ISS. There are, of course, several such systems in development. But financing, testing, regulating, and human-rating such systems will not be easy or inexpensive. Given the scale of investment required, and financial and technical risk that must be assumed, the markets for these systems need to be global, as they are with the commercial aircraft industry, to enable a reasonable return on investment. Yet we're no closer to meaningful ITAR reform that would open those markets. (3/4)

Virgin Galactic Applauds Legal Hurdle to Lawsuits (Source: Space News)
The president of the most prominent company developing a space tourism business on March 3 applauded legislation signed into law in New Mexico that reduces the risk that space tourism operators will face crippling lawsuits brought by surviving family members of a participant injured or killed during flight. Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn said the legislation, signed into law Feb. 27 by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, will help place the emerging space tourism business on the same footing as tour operators leading expeditions to Mt. Everest. Editor's Note: Florida already has a similar law in place. (3/4)

Tech Alliance Announces $3.5 Billion U.S. Venture Fund and Jobs Initiative (Source: SSTI)
Sixteen American technology companies, including Intel, Google and Microsoft, have launched a new initiative to boost the U.S. tech economy. The Invest in America Alliance is planning a two-prong approach, building a $3.5 billion national venture fund and securing commitments from U.S. companies to increase their hiring of recent college graduates. Leaders of the effort say that it will complement the federal stimulus and create a more favorable environment for American competitiveness. (3/4)

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