March 16, 2010

Virginia Legislative Session Wraps Up with Space Support (Source: Spaceports Blog)
Intensive negotiations among weary Virginia legislators culminated with the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) having won $838,000 in the state budget for each of the next two years to support the rapidly growing spaceport. Also, HB 21 was passed to invalidate the 2013 sunset clause on the Virginia Space Flight Liability and Immunity Act. It now places the state on par with Florida and New Mexico with no sunset provisions.

The Assembly passed resolutions favoring the Obama NASA FY 2011 budget in recognition the new Taurus 2 rocket set to launch from Virginia's spaceport and the prospect of more jobs and contracts to Orbital Sciences Corp. to launch cargo to the ISS. The Virginia Aerospace Council was extended to advise and assist the governor in making the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport the top commercial launch pad in the nation over the years ahead.

On the down side of the ledger, budget amendments to earmark any income or sales taxes derived from spaceflight training or actual human spaceflights from Virginia launch pads or runways were killed in budget committees due to the uncertainly of the tax revenue loss in lean state budget cut by some $4-billion over the next 2-years. (3/16)

Utah Delegation Asks Obama to Spare Constellation Program (Source: Deseret News)
It's not too common for Utah's congressional delegation to write a unified, bipartisan letter to push anything. But it just sent one to President Barack Obama urging him to reverse his proposal to kill NASA's Constellation program to return to the moon and aim for Mars. "We have strong trepidations the new proposal offered will lead to a decline in our nation's preeminence in space and curtail our nation's ability to send astronauts to explore the cosmos," says the letter signed by all Utah members of Congress. (3/16)

Iridium Faces Uphill Battle to Gain Export-Import Bank Support (Source: Space News)
Iridium Communications faces substantial obstacles in its attempt to win U.S. Export-Import Bank financial support for Iridium’s second-generation satellite constellation because of Iridium’s clear identity as a U.S. company, an Export-Import Bank official said March 15. A bank official said even if Bethesda, Md.-based Iridium created a company outside the United States to manage the Iridium Next contract, it would not necessarily pass muster with the Export-Import Bank. (3/16)

Crist in D.C. Seeking Funds for Education, Space (Source: Florida Today)
Gov. Charlie Crist is seeking more federal money for the space program and Florida's schools. Crist visited Washington, D.C., on Tuesday with Education Commissioner Eric Smith to make a presentation to federal officials who are considering Florida's application for up to $1 billion in "Race to the Top" funds. Florida is one of 16 finalists for the education grants that will be awarded next month. Crist, who hopes to make Washington his permanent address as a senator, also met with members of Florida's congressional delegation to discuss space funding. (3/16)

Florida Leaders Pow-Wow in D.C. on NASA Policy (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Gov. Charlie Crist huddled with Florida's federal lawmakers this morning to plan how the state could overturn a White House plan for NASA that cancels the agency’s Constellation moon rocket program and its future jobs at Kennedy Space Center. Lawmakers asked Crist to unite with other governors in opposition to the White House proposal and provide encouragement for new businesses to relocate to KSC. (3/16)

AIA Hosts Regional Meeting in Orlando (Source: AIA)
This year's Southeastern Regional Meeting will take place in Orlando, Fla., April 21-23. Registrants will have the opportunity to visit Lockheed Martin's Missiles & Fire Control facility and meet with company representatives to discuss working within their supply chain. Click here for information. (3/16)

Official: Constellation Termination Costs Will Exceed Budget Request (Source: AIA)
The termination of NASA's Constellation Program will likely cost more than the $2.5 billion in the agency's fiscal 2011 budget request, according to a former Office of Management and Budget career official. Elizabeth Robinson said the funds are not intended to cover contract termination liability, and they will instead go for the cost of pulling Constellation equipment out of its own facilities, environmental remediation of the facilities and keeping civil servants on the payroll until new work can be found for them. (3/16)

Green Satellite Fuel Designed To Make Space Safer (Source:
On the day running up to launch when a spacecraft is fueled, ground personnel look more like astronauts than engineers, putting on spacesuit-like protective gear. This is an essential precaution when dealing with the current hydrazine fuel, but a new development could make satellite fuelling no more dangerous than filling up a car.

First used in rocket engines by the German Luftwaffe during World War Two, hydrazine remains the propellant of choice for a satellite's onboard thrusters, used for orbit correction or stationkeeping during its working life. It is a high-performing storable propellant that is also 'hypergolic' - meaning it ignites spontaneously on contact with oxidiser or by itself with a catalyst, which makes a spacecraft designer's job a lot easier.

Unfortunately hydrazine is also highly corrosive and extremely toxic. When leaked into the environment, it degrades in a few days but has the potential to harm plants and marine life, while exposure is considered harmful to people at just 50 parts per million. Seeking an alternative, ESA has been working with a company called ECAPS, part of the Swedish Space Corporation Group, to build and test a thruster that runs on a safer, more environmentally friendly fuel. (3/16)

Gunbattle Erupts at Indian Space Center (Source: Reuters)
Two men fired at security guards outside a high security space center in southern India on Tuesday but it was too early to link it to a militant attack, the government said. The brief shootout occurred in Byalalu, on the outskirts of IT hub Bangalore, outside an Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) building. The Home (Interior) Ministry sees ISRO buildings as a high priority target for militants, and has beefed up security around them after warnings of possible attacks. Police said it was "too early to speak of a terror link." (3/16)

New Private Space Freighter Has Solid Backing (Source:
The field of commercial spaceflight is ripe with younger companies hoping to make it big with new spaceships, but Orbital Sciences is drawing on nearly 30 years of rocket-launching experience for its effort to build a new vehicle capable of stocking up the International Space Station. The Virginia-based company is building the unmanned Cygnus space freighter and a new rocket, the Taurus 2, to launch it. The first scheduled demonstration and operational launches are slated for 2011.

"We're not a small, newly-formed company trying to establish a track record of mission success, but we're also not bureaucratically hidebound," said Barron Beneski, vice president of corporate communications for Orbital Sciences. "I don't know that you can really find that combination anywhere else in the industry." (3/16)

Kosmas Urges Attention to Space in Obama Meeting (Source: Space Politics)
The big effort in the House this week is to pass a health care reform bill, but that doesn’t mean that space can’t figure into the mix. The Orlando Sentinel reported that Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) brought up the subject in a meeting with President Obama last Thursday. The president is trying to secure Kosmas’s vote on health care (she voted against the original bill last year), but “Kosmas frequently pivoted the conversation to NASA” during the short meeting, according to an unnamed congressional Democrat. (3/16)

Space Florida and KSC host Winners of Mars Competition (Source: Space Florida)
Three Florida Middle and High School teams –- recent winners of the Space Florida ‘Mars Experiment Design Competition -- will participate in a live, interactive session with NASA engineers and scientists this month, using NASA-KSC’s Digital Learning Network (DLN). Students from Hillsborough, Collier, and Orange County schools were winners in the categories of Human Factors, Mission Operations and Geology / Biology Studies. During the DLN event, the students and their teachers will discuss how their winning experiments fared during their recent experiment period at the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. Click here for details. (3/16)

Send NYC a Space Shuttle (Source: New York Post)
NASA is looking for new homes for three soon-to-be-decommissioned space shuttles. It would be crazy not to put one in New York. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum has applied to house and display one of the spacecraft on Manhattan's West Side -- a spot that already boasts the World War II-era carrier USS Intrepid, a guided-missile submarine and a host of historic aircraft. Why is it a perfect site? Intrepid's connection with the US Space Program runs deep: The ship was tasked in the 1960s with retrieving astronauts from some of the first manned space flights when their capsules splashed down in the Pacific. (3/13)

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