April 1, 2010

NASA Budget Could Mean Dollars for JPL, California Satellite Makers (Source: KPCC)
NASA’s earth science budget will jump by 62 percent over the next five years. The space agency will spend much of that to replace aging satellites. Janice Dunn, deputy director of the California Space Authority, a trade group representing the state’s space industry, says there are five satellite manufacturers in the U.S. "Four of whom are in California."

Dunn says on the research side, California faces competition from Maryland, home of the Goddard Space Flight Center, which historically has had an edge in earth science. Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has focused on space missions, like the Mars Rovers. But Dunn says JPL can compete on Planet Earth, too.

"I think that JPL and Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland are natural competitors," she says, "in that they both do similar things. And as far as who might have an edge at this point, I think it’s fifty-fifty." Congress still has to weigh in on NASA’s budget. Some members from Texas and Florida are lobbying to increase spending on human space flight. (4/1)

Europe's Space Agency Wants to do What NASA Can't: Fly to Moon (Source: Network World)
The European Space Agency is moving forward with a plan to land an autonomous spacecraft on the moon by 2017, with the idea a manned vehicle could land there sometime in the future. It's a mission NASA had on its roadmap before the current budget debate, but such plans seem doomed now. The ESA is now seeking proposals for a Lunar Lander that would land on the south polar region of the Moon where possible deposits of water ice, heavily cratered terrain and long periods of sunlight make it ripe for explorers and scientists, the agency stated. (4/1)

Delta 4 Rocket Now on the Launch Pad for GPS Satellite (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket that will deploy the first satellite in a new generation of Global Positioning System satellites was placed atop its Cape Canaveral Spaceport pad Thursday morning. The bright orange and white launcher is scheduled for blastoff May 20 during a window extending from 11:29 to 11:48 p.m. EDT. (4/1)

Southwest Switches to Satellite-Assisted Landings (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Next week Southwest Airlines changes the way it flies, a major milestone in the push to modernize the nation's air travel system. For passengers, the last 20 minutes of a flight may feel more graceful as planes glide in without revving up engines repeatedly. On April 6, the airline will change out the cockpit software in two-thirds of its fleet, giving pilots different instruments and a new look to displays. The radical upgrade, which took three years of preparation and required retraining 6,000 pilots, will enable Southwest to fly precise satellite-based navigation approaches to airports. That should save fuel, cut noise and reduce delays. (4/1)

NASA Extends Contract for New Mexico Launch Site Services (Source: NASA)
NASA will exercise the second of two one-year options on a three-year, $182.6 million contract to Enterprise Advisory Services Inc., of Houston for facility operations and support at NASA's White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico. NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston manages the facility. This option is worth $61.4 million and brings the total contract amount to date to $305.2 million. (4/1)

Boeing Defends WGS Following Nunn-McCurdy Cost Breach (Source: Space News)
Boeing officials on April 1 moved to defend the Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) military satellite communications system following the Air Force’s notification to Congress that the program’s cost had climbed more than 25 percent higher than previous estimates.

The increased average per-satellite cost, Boeing officials said, is due to the fact that the program was stopped and then restarted, and to the Air Force’s recent decision to order two additional satellites. Boeing is prime contractor on the program. Nunn-McCurdy requires notification to Congress of programs whose costs rise by 15 percent and recertification review for those whose costs climb by 25 percent. (4/1)

Editorial: The Two Pillars of NASA (Source: Aviation Week)
We are at a pivotal period in defining NASA’s future. In the current debate about redirecting U.S. civil space activities, it is important to keep this in mind: Both human space exploration and space science are fundamental to that future. The partnership between human spaceflight and space science programs flourishes when their mutual interests are not just simply aligned, but when they find ways together to build on their respective strengths.

The most prominent recent example was the return of seven astronauts to the Hubble Space Telescope to install new scientific instruments and repair failed components, making it more powerful than at any time since its launch nearly two decades ago. This partnership is core to NASA’s mission and is an essential element to achieving the next great leaps in space science. (4/1)

NASA Extends Contract for New Mexico Launch Site Services (Source: NASA)
NASA will exercise the second of two one-year options on a five-year contract to Jacobs Technology Inc. for test and evaluation support at NASA's White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico. NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston manages the facility. This option is worth $54 million and brings the total contract amount to date to $270.5 million. (4/1)

San Francisco 'Astromice' in Space Experiment (Source: San Francisco Chronicle)
Sixteen mice from San Francisco are scheduled to fly on the space shuttle Discovery on Monday to spend 13 days aboard the space station in an experiment to study the effects of life in microgravity on their immune systems. The experiment was developed by Millie Hughes-Fulford, a biochemist at the Veterans Administration Hospital and an astronaut on a shuttle flight nine years ago. (4/1)

Russia World’s Ffifth Largest Spender on Space Programs (Source: Interfax)
Russia is the world's fifth largest spender on space programs. "The United States is almost 7-10 times ahead of all other countries, with NASA's yearly budget amounting to $21.3 billion. Russia's space budget is 91% smaller," Anatoly Perminov said. The United State spent $18.8 billion on space programs in 2009, the European Space Agency $5.3 billion, China $3.1 billion, Russia $2.7 billion, Japan $2.2 billion and India $1.2 billion. (4/1)

Weather Looks Good for Monday Space Shuttle Launch (Source: Space.com)
The weather is looking good for NASA's planned Monday launch of the space shuttle Discovery. The shuttle and its seven-astronaut crew have an 80 percent chance of clear skies for their planned Monday blastoff toward the International Space Station. Liftoff is set for 6:21 a.m. EDT. Only the chance of low clouds or fog pose any concern for the upcoming launch. (4/1)

Why We Need to Go Back to Mars (Source: TED)
At TEDxNASA, planetary scientist Joel Levine shows some intriguing -- and puzzling -- new discoveries about Mars: craters full of ice, traces of ancient oceans, and compelling hints at the presence, sometime in the past, of life. He makes the case for going back to Mars to find out more. Click here to see his presentation. (4/1)

Space Tourism: To the Moon and Back (Source: Russia Today)
Russia is designing a new spaceship that will allow more space tourists to accompany cosmonauts on their missions. The Energiya corporation has announced that it is going to build a space bus for six people. It is going to be slightly heavier due to the bigger volume, but also more spacious. The first unmanned test flight will be carried out in 2015. The first manned flight is scheduled for 2018.

Our current plans will allow four spacecraft with three passengers on each. If there are people ready to pay tens of millions of dollars for a space flight, we will not refuse them – instead they will be welcomed. However, outer space is a zone only for professionals to work in, considering the G force at launch and landing, and a weightlessness work environment for long periods. All that requires good training – at least five years of constant training. (4/1)

Virginia Offshore Drilling Could Hamper Spaceport Operations (Source: Daily Press)
President Barack Obama reversed a ban on most offshore drilling, a move that could put Virginia at the forefront of East Coast oil and natural gas exploration. Virginia has the jump on other states because it persuaded federal officials in 2007 to designate 2.9-million-acres off its coast as a potential drilling spot. The plan faces resistance from varied interests including NASA and the Department of Defense and environmental activists.

Located 50 miles off Virginia's coast, the proposed drilling area is a triangular tract slightly larger than Delaware. NASA is concerned that drilling platforms and other infrastructure will limit the agency's ability to launch rockets from Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore. NASA is concerned that drilling platforms and other infrastructure will limit the agency's ability to launch rockets from Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore. "That area is right in the middle of our launch range," said Keith Koehler, a Wallops spokesman. (4/1)

KSC's $2 Billion at Stake as Critics Want Details on Obama's Vision (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
President Obama's budget for Kennedy Space Center has become a target for congressional critics who see it as an example of all that's wrong with his entire NASA proposal. He proposed nearly $2 billion for improvements at Kennedy Space Center as one key to transforming NASA into a leaner, meaner agency that would rely on private rockets to blast astronauts into space. His budget presentation touted the upgrade — broadly describing plans to modernize KSC's 1960s infrastructure and open it up for commercial rocket launches.

But two months later, those plans remain nebulous. And as Obama prepares for a planned April 15 trip to the Space Coast, the money has become a target for congressional critics. While critics have issues with the entire plan, it's the $429 million requested for KSC in 2011 that appears to be especially vulnerable. Members of Congress privately complain that nobody at NASA or in the White House has been able to explain to them exactly what the money will be used for.

KSC Director Bob Cabana has said repeatedly that Kennedy is a 1960s facility badly in need of modernization. But he has also said that NASA is still studying what a 21st-century launch center should look like and how to coordinate changes with the Air Force. Lawmakers are unimpressed, with some claiming that the funds are nothing but a political payoff to Florida in an election year. They have been telling members of the aerospace industry in Florida not to hold out hopes for the money. (4/1)

NASA Budget to Research Climate Change to Increase 62% (Source: AIA)
Following cutbacks during the Bush administration, NASA says its Earth Science budget will get a 62%, or $2.4 billion, increase through 2015 for climate research. NASA officials say the budget increase reflects not only President Barack Obama's fulfilling a campaign promise to focus on climate change but also what NASA officials call a "philosophical shift" on the issue. The agency expects to have launched as many as 10 new missions by 2015 to collect information on issues such as ice coverage and ozone depletion. (4/1)

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