March 5, 2010

New Space Caucus in Tallahassee Showing Results (Source: SPACErePORT)
Members of a new Florida Space Caucus in the state's Legislature are generating results with their coordination of space policy issues during the ongoing Legislative Session in Tallahassee. A collection of bills and resolutions passed swiftly through their initial committees in the House and Senate this week, with support from Rep. Ritch Workman, Rep. Steve Crisafulli, Sen. Thad Altman, and others. One piece of legislation that seems to be on a fast-track for final approval would allow Space Florida to spend more than $10 million for near-term launch pad and space transportation projects. This legislation was introduced by Altman in the Senate and Crisafulli in the House, and its movement toward a final vote may be accelerated to signal an early victory for the Space Caucus.

The $10 million is separate from a larger effort to commit over $30 million for Space Florida-led business development and workforce support initiatives. And then there's yet another initiative to establish a system to reinvest space tourism tax revenues (mostly from the KSC Visitor Complex) for use by Space Florida to support the state's space industry. (3/5)

Gubernatorial and Senate Candidates Plan Space Industry Discussions (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, a democratic candidate to replace Charlie Crist as Florida's Governor, will meet with space industry leaders in Brevard County on March 6 to discuss space issues. Her visit be followed in coming weeks by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a republican gubernatorial candidate, and by republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio. Congressman Kendrick Meek, a democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat visited Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University a couple weeks ago to share his views on the space industry. (3/5)

Garver: Battle Over Obama Plan Imperils NASA Budget Growth (Source: Space News)
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver called on a space community divided over canceling the Constellation program to find “common ground,” warning that infighting could jeopardize NASA’s proposed budget growth. Garver told a Capitol Hill audience March 4 she empathizes with those seeking to save Constellation. But Garver said continuing Constellation and pursuing the president’s priorities for NASA would cost $5 billion more per year than the roughly $19 billion a year the White House has budgeted for the space agency through the end of Obama’s first term. (3/5)

Virginia Says 'YES' to NASA Commercial Plan (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The Virginia General Assembly, bucking recent political trends in the more traditional space states, has passed resolutions in the House of Delegates and the Senate affirming support for the NASA FY 11 budget submitted by the White House and backed by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has also endorsed the NASA FY 2011 budget proposal that embraces the commercial launch vehicle development option for the space agency as opposed to large government operated space launch vehicles.

The Alabama legislature was first to act by calling upon President Obama to reconsider cancellation of the Constellation program. The Alabama, Florida, Texas, and Utah Congressional delegations in Washington have been among the most vocal critics of the presidential NASA budget that brings some $6-billion dollars to bear for commercial cargo space launches. (3/5)

Garver: Sorry, Shuttle Supporters, It’s Too Late (Source: Space Politics)
As efforts are ramping up on Capitol Hill to try and extend the life of the shuttle beyond this year to deal with the gap in US human space access, there’s a separate but related issue: is it even feasible, from a technical (as opposed to fiscal or legislative) perspective, to extend the shuttle by any meaningful degree? NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver, speaking this morning at a Women in Aerospace breakfast event in downtown Washington, said the answer is no.

“The first question I asked when I came back to NASA was, ‘Could we extend the shuttle?’” Garver said in response to a question on the subject. “I was told by the entire shuttle NASA folks that, in fact, that time had come and gone. It was not an issue of money at that point, it was an issue of second-tier suppliers, there would be at least a two-year gap between our last flight and the next one, et cetera.” That situation, she said, was a result a previous policies: “We inherited what we inherited.” (3/5)

India Offers to Launch Saudi Arabia Satellites (Source: Financial Express)
In one of the initiatives to strengthen economic ties with Saudi Arabia, India has offered to launch commercial satellites for the Kingdom. According to officials, “Under an MoU between the two countries for cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) marketing arm Antrix Corp is shortly going to start discussions with the Kingdom for launching their satellites. We are ready to launch their satellites as that is a commercial viable for ISRO.” (3/5)

United Space Alliance CEO to Retire (Source: Houston Business Journal)
Richard Covey is planning to step down as president and chief executive officer of United Space Alliance on March 26. Covey will retire from the company after joining the Houston space operations company in 2006 as chief operating officer. A former NASA astronaut, became president and CEO in September 2007. The firm has not yet named a replacement. Prior to joining United Space Alliance, Covey served as president of Boeing Service Co. based in Colorado Springs, Colo. (3/5)

Space Tourists Won't Be the Only Ones Riding Suborbital Flights (Source: Popular Science)
Scientists half-jokingly call it the "ignorosphere" -- a region about 50-100 kilometers above the Earth that's too high for airplanes, but too low for satellites. "It earned its name because even though the area is valuable to researchers, there has been no easy way to get to it," said Alan Stern, planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute. But, Stern says, suborbital flights, like those made by Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, go right to the heart of this region, which includes the layer of the Earth's atmosphere that lies above the stratosphere and below the thermosphere.

Suborbital vehicles like XCOR's Lynx and SpaceShipTwo will give passengers who pay upwards of $100,000 a ride to space when the commercial space companies begin launching their flights as early as next year. But scientists are now looking to these flights to provide a low-cost laboratory where they can solve research questions that can only be answered in space. (3/5)

Military Reconnaissance Satellite Launched by China (Source:
China successfully launched another Earth observation satellite from the Jiuquan space base Friday. The Yaogan 9 spacecraft blasted off from Jiuquan on a Long March 4C rocket. The three-stage rocket successfully delivered the secret payload to orbit. The Jiuquan launch site is located in the Gobi desert near the border between China's Gansu and Inner Mongolia provinces. Jiuquan has hosted the launches of all three Chinese human spaceflights to date. (3/5)

New Rocket Engine Could Reach Mars in 40 Days (Source:
Future Mars outposts or colonies may seem more distant than ever with NASA's exploration plans in flux, but the rocket technology that could someday propel a human mission to the red planet in as little as 40 days may already exist. A company founded by former NASA astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz has been developing a new rocket engine that draws upon electric power and magnetic fields to channel superheated plasma out the back. That stream of plasma generates steady, efficient thrust that uses low amounts of propellant and builds up speed over time.

"People have known for a long time, even back in the '50s, that electric propulsion would be needed for serious exploration of Mars," said Tim Glover, director of development at the Ad Astra Rocket Company. The rocket technology could drastically cut down the amount of time a spacecraft needs to send astronauts on Mars missions. Instead of half a year, a spacecraft could make the trip in just over a month using the engine and a large enough power source, according to an Ad Astra mission study. (3/5)

European Investment Fund Backs Space Technologies Finding Uses on Earth (Source: ESA)
For years, ESA has been bringing space technologies down to Earth through its Technology Transfer Program and Business Incubation initiatives. Now, the Agency will strengthen these initiatives by supporting new businesses using space innovations through a dedicated venture capital fund. The Open Sky Technologies Fund (OSTF) is an early-stage venture capital fund aimed at nurturing the most promising business opportunities arising from space technologies and satellite applications for terrestrial industries. The OSTF will be managed by Triangle Venture Capital Group on ESA’s behalf. (3/5)

SpaceX Prepping Falcon 9 For Engine Test at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX is gearing up for a crucial hot-fire test of its Falcon 9 rocket, a major milestone that could take place as early as Monday. The 15-story rocket is equipped with nine first-stage Merlin engines that will be ignited for 3.5 seconds, most likely creating a cloud and an acoustical rumble that could roll across the northern end of the Space Coast. (3/5)

Bolden: It’s not a Plan B, It’s Plan A (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
In a memo sent to staff late Friday, NASA chief Charles Bolden again denied reports that his agency was developing a so-called “Plan B” that would serve as an alternative to the controversial new NASA policy unveiled by the White House last month. The note comes on the heels of media reports that Bolden had asked top officials to “flesh out” another option to the White House proposal that would cancel the agency’s Constellation moon rocket program and instead rely on commercial rocket companies for future astronaut missions.

In the staff memo, Bolden didn’t deny that he had asked two NASA center directors to “put together a small team” to investigate the possibility of accelerating the development of a heavy-lift vehicle — which likely would incorporate Ares rockets included in Constellation. But he took pains to explain that the effort was not a “Plan B” to the White House proposal. “I have not asked anyone to develop an alternative to that budget and plan, and I don’t want anybody to do so,” Bolden wrote. (3/5)

Editorial: Space Travel Will Only Help Accelerate Global Warming (Source: Bowdoin Orient)
Today I found one of the most blasphemous articles I have seen in a long time: "A New Exit to Space Readies for Business." The article outlines a New Mexico town's plan to build a $198 million facility to house Spaceport America, to afford Americans the opportunity to pay about $200,000 to jet off into the cosmos. Many may be thinking, "what's so bad about that?" and others may argue that space exploration is important for science and the progress of our species. But this company is not a NASA-funded operation, and it is not being created in an effort to search for extraterrestrial life or research ways to build oxygenated habitats on the moon. It is simply a private industry, subsidized by the New Mexico government, to send rich people on galactic joyrides.

The societal costs of the spaceport opening up are exponentially larger than whatever revenue or job opportunities the town may receive. The fundamental issue with the plan is this: in an era when the number one challenge for our nation and world is how to responsibly mitigate and reverse global climate change, the last thing we need to be doing is getting excited about day trips into space. The reasons are obvious. For one, air travel is one of the primary emitters of greenhouse gases in the world, and people should be limiting their hours in a plane to the bare minimum while we try to reign in the potential global catastrophe at hand.

We also need the wealthy individuals who will be attracted to the prospect of everyday space travel to save the $200,000 a pop they will be spending on a space flight and investing it in sustainable technologies, businesses and other goods. Spending it on space tourism is the moral equivalent of investing that money in a coal mine when it comes to the amount of CO2 that will be released into the atmosphere and the havoc that those chemicals will wreak on our climate. (3/5)

Commercial Remote Sensing Satellite Demand “Not Sufficient” For Stable Workforce (Source: Space Policy Online)
As part of a panel discussion devoted to the health of the global aerospace industrial base, Fred Doyle, Vice President of Ball Aerospace, told the International Commercial Remote Sensing Symposium (ICRSS) Thursday that companies have to "balance labor demands" in order to avoid workforce gaps and that current demand for commercial remote sensing satellites is "not sufficient to maintain [a] stable workforce." (3/5)

Dark, Dangerous Asteroids Found Lurking Near Earth (Source: New Scientist)
An infrared space telescope has spotted several very dark asteroids that have been lurking unseen near Earth's orbit. Their obscurity and tilted orbits have kept them hidden from surveys designed to detect things that might hit our planet. Called the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). In its first six weeks of observations, WISE has discovered 16 previously unknown asteroids with orbits close to Earth's. Of these, 55 percent reflect less than one-tenth of the sunlight that falls on them, which makes them difficult to spot with visible-light telescopes. One of these objects is as dark as fresh asphalt, reflecting less than 5 percent of the light it receives. (3/5)

Posey: Maintaining America's Lead Role in Space (Source: The Hill)
It’s my hope that both Congress and the Administration will continue to fly the Space Shuttle until America’s next generation space craft is ready to launch or a domestic based company is certified to take humans to the space station. It’s critical to our national security, our economy and our technological edge that we maintain our leadership in space and our ability to send humans to the space station.

Several weeks ago the Administration put forth a NASA budget proposal which is seriously lacking in vision and mission. It appears to have been developed “on the fly” with little coordination between public and private stakeholders. And what NASA fails to fully understand, or at least obviously does not take into account, is the much broader military, industrial, and economic implications of their proposals. It would be irresponsible for Congress to embrace this “plan” without further scrutiny. Click here to read the entire editorial. (3/5)

Lockheed Martin Trademarks "Revolver" for Rocket (Source: Hyperbola)
Lockheed Martin has trademarked the name Revolver for a space vehicle / rocket according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Hyperbola first reported in 2008 that the company's scale-model flyback booster being flight tested at the site of Spaceport America was called Revolver. The trademark office webpage shows that Lockheed filed the trademark in August of last year and that it was "published for opposition" by the office on 29 December 2009. Published for opposition means that anyone who opposed its use by Lockheed could respond and they have 30-days in which to contact USPTO. (3/5)

Reusable First Stage is Focus of Franco-Russian Study (Source: Hyperbola)
France and Russia are to co-operate on a ultra-light reusable first stage demonstrator under the two countries' joint Oural program. Khrunichev has developed a flyback booster called Baikal so one wonders if this is what the French are interested in. Roscosmos has declined to comment further and Hyperbola is waiting for more information from the French space agency CNES. (3/5)

Sarasota Test Pilot Ready to Ride Into Space (Source: Herald Tribune)
Miguel Iturmendi has been waiting for his "wow" moment ever since he was a teenager. So at age 38, another year or two in limbo won't matter. But when it does happen -- when a vehicle called SpaceShip-Two fires its rocket engine and punches him through the doorway of the high frontier -- the Sarasota test pilot/engineer suspects the stakes will be far more profound than a three-hour joy ride.

"I believe we're at ground zero for something else, like the Internet was in the 1980s," he says. "It will open up amazing possibilities. Prices will eventually come down to within a fraction of what they are now. Instead of taking a five-star cruise to Alaska, people will decide to go into space." Iturmendi got in on the ground floor in 2005 -- before tickets were even being sold -- and never looked back. (3/5)

Spaceport Indiana and Raytheon Collaborate on Air/Space Traffic Management Tool (Source: Fort Wayne Business Weekly)
The Fort Wayne operations of Raytheon Network Centric Systems are among the Indiana businesses likely to benefit from a new direction NASA is taking. The agency’s decision to turn most space transportation and logistics work over to the private sector could make more funding available for projects involving locally developed Raytheon situational awareness technology.

The new direction “is going to mean millions for Indiana,” said Brian Tanner, president of Space Port Indiana, a Columbus company he founded in 2008 to perform lower cost but demanding operational evaluation of equipment that must work perfectly in space. The cancellation of a program that would have developed a space shuttle replacement will redirect up to $25 billion to the private sector, Tanner said, and “we’re right there in the midst of it because we’ve been preparing for it because we knew it was going to happen.”

This month, Space Port Indiana's attention is focused largely on an airspace management system that engineers at Raytheon are developing for it. The joint project has been under way for about a year, and Tanner said he expects to be able to announce test sites for the system about the same time Space Port Indiana starts to get busier with the reusable rocket development. Last month, NASA officials were briefed on the system by Tanner and Tim Morris, a technology acquisition manager for Raytheon and a Space Port Indiana advisory board chairman. (3/5)

Orbital To Buy GD Satellite Business (Source: Space Daily)
Orbital Sciences has reached a definitive agreement to acquire the spacecraft development and manufacturing business of General Dynamics subsidiary, GD Advanced Information Systems. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in approximately four weeks. The acquisition will enhance Orbital's already-established position in the growing market for national security space systems, including spacecraft used in intelligence and surveillance, missile tracking, space situational awareness and other operational defense missions. The combination will also substantially strengthen the company's capabilities to design and manufacture Earth science, weather and climate monitoring, and space-based astronomy satellite systems. (3/4)

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