March 9, 2010

SAIC Wins Johnson Space Center Safety & Mission Assurance Contract Extension (Source: NASA)
NASA has exercised a $60 million, one-year extension option for a contract with SAIC of Houston to provide support to safety and mission assurance activities at the agency's Johnson Space Center. The Safety and Mission Assurance Support Services contract helps ensure safety, reliability, maintainability and quality in the International Space Station, space shuttle and Constellation programs. (3/9)

Company Offers Research Reservations on Final Space Shuttle Mission (Source: AAA)
American Aerospace Advisors Inc. is accepting commercial reservations for research on STS-133, the last scheduled Space Shuttle mission, which will provide approximately two weeks of microgravity time. The company’s commercial payload utilizes flight proven microgravity hardware
equipment flown on several earlier Space Shuttle space missions. The system accommodates approximately 100 industry/university samples covering a wide variety of research. All flight results will be the property of the researcher.

The on-orbit research opportunity was enabled through NanoRacks LLC (, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. (3/9)

Analyst: NASA is Not a Jobs Program (Source: FNR)
The President is defending many of his initiatives these days. That includes the proposal to outsource NASA's current manned space exploration program to private contractors. The President will appear at a Florida space exploration conference in April to explain his plan, while critics say the changes will hurt space exploration and cut NASA jobs. Joining us to discuss this is John Logsdon, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Affairs at The George Washington University's Space Policy Institute. Click here to hear the interview. (3/9)

Russia, India May Jointly Make Glonass, GPS Navigation Devices (Source: Space Daily)
Russia and India might establish a joint venture to produce navigation equipment for GPS and its Russian equivalent Glonass, the head of the Russian federal satellite navigation operator said. Glonass - the Global Navigation Satellite System - is the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS, and is designed for both military and civilian use. Both systems allow users to determine their positions to within a few meters. (3/9)

China's Fourth Space Center To Be Completed By 2015 (Source: Space Daily)
China's fourth space center, Wenchang, will be put into service between 2014 and 2015, not in 2013 as it was previously announced, the CCTV channel reported on Tuesday. Located in a forest of coconut palms on the northeast coast of the Hainan tropical island, Wenchang will be the country's first low-latitude space center. Its latitude of only 19 degrees north of the equator will contribute to lower fuel consumption and maximum payload. (3/9)

SpaceX Test of Falcon 9’s Engines is Aborted (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
SpaceX had hoped to perform a 3.5-second live-fire test of all nine engines of its Falcon 9 rocket on Tuesday, but the firing was aborted and the test was scrubbed shortly after 2 p.m. “A flash of fire and smoke was just observed at the base of the Falcon 9 rocket, possibly indicating ignition. But there is no confirmation the engines fired for the full expected duration of 3.5 seconds,” the website reported at 1:42 p.m. At 2:10, it added, SpaceX called off the test. (3/9)

Space Shuttles Need $200 Million Per Month to Keep Flying (Source: AP)
With space shuttle retirement just months away, a senior NASA manager said Tuesday it wouldn’t be hard to add more flights, provided the nation is willing to keep paying $200 million a month. Some in Congress are pushing for additional missions to fill the gap between the end of the shuttle program and the nation’s next manned spaceship, whatever and whenever that might be.

Last month, President Barack Obama killed NASA’s Constellation program, which would have created a shuttle successor to ferry astronauts to the space station, and ultimately to the moon. Instead, Obama has directed NASA to turn to commercial companies for getting astronauts to orbit and, instead, focus on deep-space exploration. Money is the key to keeping the shuttles flying, said program manager John Shannon.

“The shuttle program is fairly expensive. We burn at about a $200 million-a-month rate. So that gives you a base of about $2.4 billion per year … almost irregardless of how many flights,” Shannon told reporters. He added: “Where that money comes from is the big question.” (3/9)

Crist Uses NASA to Split from Obama (Source: Washington Times)
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, is distancing himself from President Obama after months of criticism for supporting the president's $862 billion jobs stimulus plan. Mr. Crist said Tuesday he disagrees with Mr. Obama's decision to cancel a major NASA space-exploration program because it will cost Florida roughly 7,000 high-tech, high-paying jobs.

"I'm disappointed, frankly," he said. "NASA is important to Florida and all of America." Mr. Obama has made the cultivating of high-tech jobs a major part of his plan to help the United States recover from the recession that started in December 2007 and has resulted in the loss of 8.5 million jobs. However, his most recent budget did not include funding for the agency's Constellation program. Mr. Crist is trailing in polls to Marco Rubio, a former Florida House speaker who has won the support of conservatives. (3/9)

Alternative Energy Crops in Space (Source: R&D Magazine)
What if space held the key to producing alternative energy crops on Earth? That's what researchers are hoping to find in a new experiment on the International Space Station. The experiment, National Lab Pathfinder-Cells 3, is aimed at learning whether microgravity can help jatropha curcas plant cells grow faster to produce biofuel, or renewable fuel derived from biological matter. Jatropha is known to produce high quality oil that can be converted into an alternative energy fuel, or biofuel.

By studying the effects of microgravity on jatropha cells, researchers hope to accelerate the cultivation of the plant for commercial use by improving characteristics such as cell structure, growth and development. This is the first study to assess the effects of microgravity on cells of a biofuel plant. (3/9)

NASA Could Buy Plasma Engine for Station Reboost Services (Source: Flight Global)
President Kennedy laid down a straightforward if daunting challenge: the Moon. President George W Bush, perhaps looking for a Kennedy moment, set that challenge again. From President Barack Obama, a more nuanced directive is no surprise. But while Obama would forego a headline destination in favour of having NASA develop exotic technologies to enable human exploration of deep space while the private sector takes on the low- Earth orbit transport challenge, one former NASA astronaut thinks he can achieve both goals - and before any crew is carried aloft in a private rocket.

Franklin Chang Diaz believes that his Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) technology could be the answer to propulsion problems stretching from the International Space Station to the Moon. Initially developed 10 years ago in Houston at the Johnson Space Center's Advanced Space Propulsion Laboratory, then headed by Chang Diaz, the technology's electric engines promise super-efficient thrust compared with that provided by conventional rockets. (3/9)

Do Women Make Better Astronauts? (Source: Guardian)
As China selects two women to train female potential astronauts, an expert from the country's air force claims women will deal better with space travel than men, citing better communication skills and the ability to deal with loneliness. Do you agree? Click here to place your vote. (3/9)

NASA Budget is Mixed Bag for California's Aerospace Companies (Sorce: KUOR)
It’s “California Space Week” in Washington, D.C. That’s the annual lobbying trip to Capitol Hill for the state’s space-related industries. The White House’s new $19 billion budget for NASA eliminates plans to return humans to the moon. Instead, the space agency would focus on climate projects, robotic exploration, and more reliance on commercial spacecraft. That’s good and bad news for the California space firms that made the D.C. lobbying trip.

The state’s growing private spacecraft industry could be a winner under NASA’s new priorities. So could Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Robotics and earth science research are JPL’s specialty — and more NASA cash would eliminate the need for layoffs. But Canoga Park’s Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne would be a loser if there’s no moon trip. It’s building a new booster rocket to propel astronauts to the moon — and it just lost its best customer. (3/9)

Obama Pledges $1.9 Billion to Space Industry (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
At his upcoming Florida space summit on April 15, Obama plans to unveil a new plan for NASA that would include an additional $1.9 billion for Florida alone over the next five years. That would include a faster pace of rocket launches out of Florida as NASA tests new technologies, launches robotic precursor missions and resupplies the International Space Station. (3/9)

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