April 12, 2010

Blakey Calls for a U.S. Space Strategy in Florida Remarks (Source: NASA Watch)
"In 1962, President Kennedy didn't say we'd go to the moon today; he said, this decade," AIA's Marion Blakey said in West Palm Beach. "Despite the financial troubles that lapped at his feet, President Kennedy stepped up to the challenge and urged us forward, with a goal and a vision and a plan. Today, a lack of urgency and specificity will not sustain the vision and, as we know, where there's no vision, the programs -- and the skills and workforce that go with them -- perish." (4/12)

Texas Congressman: NASA Decision A "Surrender" (Source: Hotline OnCall)
Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) slammed Pres. Obama's decision to end the next phase of American manned space flight, calling it part of a pattern that has weakened the country. Culberson said the Obama's decision to cancel the Constellation program amounts to a surrender of the U.S.'s historic position as the global leader in space.

The Constellation program is billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. Obama's proposed budget would cancel funding for the program. Without it, Culberson said, the U.S. will have no manned space flight capabilities in the future. "He's shut down the whole thing. He's proposing to cancel America's manned space program, which is typical of this administration's pattern of apologizing for America's success, kowtowing to our enemies, bowing to foreign dictators and their obsession with trying to make terrorists like us," Culberson said. (4/12)

Colorado Senators: President Should Re-evaluate Cut of Constellation (Source: NASA Watch)
U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet met with NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden to urge President Obama to re-evaluate his proposed cancellation of the Constellation program. While expressing support for certain aspects of NASA's funding in the proposed 2011 federal budget, both Senators voiced concern about terminating the Constellation program, which would provide a replacement for the retiring space shuttle fleet. (4/12)

Details Emerge on Obama Visit to KSC (Source: NASA)
On the afternoon of Thursday, April 15 President Barack Obama will visit Cape Canaveral, Florida and deliver remarks on the bold new course the Administration is charting for NASA and the future of U.S. leadership in human space flight. Both the arrival and departure of Air Force One at the Shuttle Landing Facility and his remarks at the NASA Operations and Checkout Building are open to the media. (4/12)

NASTAR Gets FAA Certification For Spaceflight Training (Source: NASTAR)
Environmental Tectonics Corporation's NASTAR Center is the first entity to receive a Safety Approval from the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation. This approval allows NASTAR Center to offer prospective space launch operators seeking a launch license, its pre-approved, NASTAR Space Training Programs using the Space Training Simulator (STS-400) to satisfy the Crew Qualification and Training Requirements outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations (14 C.F.R. S 460.5).

These regulations require crew members to complete training on how to carry out his or her role on board or on the ground and to demonstrate the ability to withstand the stresses of space flight, which may include high acceleration or deceleration, microgravity, and vibration. NASTAR Center has pursued this approval since the FAA announced the Safety Approval Program in 2008.

The FAA has determined that NASTAR Center's Space Training Simulator, STS-400 is capable of replicating the G forces associated with suborbital space flight for any manned flight profiles up to 12 Gz and 8 Gx with onset rates up to +/- 8 G per second and accuracy in the Gz and Gx axes of +/-0.1 G. To date, all space flight profiles that have been published fit within these limits. The NASTAR Center Safety Approval carries a five-year term and is in effect until April 2015. (4/12)

Aerospace Business Has Its Doubts About Plans to Revamp NASA (Source: New York Times)
Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the aerospace giants with decades of experience working on America’s space program, will happily sell rockets to carry astronauts into space, but the companies are leery about taking a leading role in President Obama’s vision for a revamped NASA. The prospect of NASA relying on smaller companies — unproven upstarts in the view of critics — could create yet another hurdle in convincing an already skeptical Congress of the idea of relying on commercial companies to provide taxi transportation to the International Space Station.

“I don’t think there is a business case for us,” John Karas, vice president and general manager of human spaceflight at Lockheed Martin, said about space taxis. Publicly, Boeing has been enthusiastic. But Loren B. Thompson, an analyst at the Lexington Institute, a policy group financed by military contractors, said Boeing is more skeptical in private. “Senior Boeing executives have told me that they are skeptical about new launch opportunities, given the losses they incurred on previous initiatives such as Sea Launch and [EELV],” Dr. Thompson said. “They are unlikely to invest large amounts of money on the new NASA vision.”

If NASA were to ask the companies to shoulder all of the financial risk, Boeing would certainly not participate. The key would be how the $6 billion would be divided. “Hopefully,” a Boeing exec. said, “those issues will get resolved.” Editor's Note: Click here to read my 2009 Space Review essay on this topic: "Can We Sustain a Commercial Launch Industry to Meet NASA's Needs?. (4/12)

A Conversation with NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver (Source: Popular Mechanics)
NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver, as the second in command at NASA, has been one of the guiding lights for the Obama administration's space policy since he was a candidate. During the presidential transition, before she was confirmed by the Senate, Garver was already engaged in a multitude of meetings to plot a new direction for NASA.

That new direction, which abandons the Bush administration's orbital rockets and a return to the moon, will soon be put to the test this fall when Congress will debate and vote on NASA's budget. Garver has served as an NASA employee, and an advisor to corporations and politicians, but she has never been faced with such a monumental task—forging a new direction for American space policy. Click here to read an exchange with Garver, to find out the back story behind the cancellation of the Constellation program, the political fights ahead and how she plans to get human feet on Mars. (4/12)

Shuttle to Fly for Another Year to May 2011 (Source: Hyperbola)
Hyperbola is hearing that astronaut corp rumours are circulating about STS-134, previously the penultimate Space Shuttle fleet flight, saying that it is now to take place in December at the earliest and maybe even January or February 2011. One of the reasons for the delay is the fact that STS-133 will now fly the Permanent Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM), Leonardo, which won't be ready until October - three months after its current official date of September.

While the orbiter Atlantis will be retired as early as this May after its mission STS-132, its sister ship Endeavour will still be used for STS-134 and Discovery will deliver Leonardo on STS-133; but before STS-134 rather than after it, as stipulated in the existing Shuttle manifesto.

What will further extend Shuttle operations into calendar year 2011 is the extra money NASA was given for the possible continuation of operations beyond 1 October 2010. That extra money, the well sourced rumours say, could fund an extra flight, which would be STS-135 using Discovery. The STS-135 flight would be to deliver much needed spares and other cargo with an MPLM to the International Space Station but there would be no Launch On Need (LON) rescue Shuttle organized. Instead the mission would have a crew small enough for a Soyuz rescue spacecraft. (4/12)

The Maturing NewSpace Industry (Source: Space Review)
The entrepreneurial space industry, or NewSpace, has made advances in recent years but has higher expectations than ever thanks to NASA policy developments. Jeff Foust reports on recent developments in NewSpace and how mature the industry sees itself. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1606/1 to view the article. (4/12)

Space Coast Space Ghosts (Source: Space Review)
Florida's Space Coast region was already facing the prospect of losing thousands of jobs when the shuttle was retired, a condition now exacerbated by the decision to cancel Constellation. Dwayne Day notes that this will not the first time the region has suffered a bust thanks to the space program. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1605/1 to view the article. (4/12)

The New Paradigm: Gemini on Steroids (Source: Space Review)
Critics of NASA's new direction claim that, without firm destinations and deadlines, the agency is left directionless. Angela Peura describes how the new plan, like Gemini nearly 50 years ago, is building up the technologies and techniques needed for future human space exploration. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1604/1 to view the article. (4/12)

Obama in Space: Bold But Not Bold Enough (Source: Space Review)
The new NASA space exploration plan has been widely perceived as a major break with past efforts. Jonathan Coopersmith argues that the plan needs to go further and address the fundamental problem of space access. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1603/1 to view the article. (4/12)

Aerojet Engine Test Demonstrates Engine Design for Orion (Source: Aerojet)
Aerojet successfully completed 100 hot-fire test sequences of its R-1E 25-pound, thrust-bipropellant engine. The test included more than 27,389 starts with 6,298 seconds of total burn time under a broad variety of conditions expected for NASA's Orion service module. Aerojet is providing propulsion to Lockheed Martin for NASA's Orion crew exploration vehicle as well as all engines aboard the Orion service module. (4/12)

AIA Chief Talks Space at Palm Beach Forum (Source: Palm Beach Post)
Marion C. Blakey, President of the Aerospace Industries Association and former head of the FAA discussed the future direction of NASA and the impact on Florida's Space Coast when she addressed the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches. Blakey's remarks came three days before President Obama heads to the Space Coast on Thursday — income tax day — for a summit on the future of the space program.

The White House's proposed budget would shelve plans for the next generation of spacecraft as well as manned moon missions, use Russian and private firms to ferry astronauts to the international space station, and focus on unmanned flights. The impact along the Space Coast is expected to be dramatic, with as many as 7,000 projected to lose their jobs.

Arianespace Scrutinizing Quality Control After Latest Launch Scrub (Source: Space News)
Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium is creating a board of inquiry and a separate, outside committee to review the company’s quality control following three postponements of the first Ariane 5 launch in 2010 and a similar series of delays in last December’s launch of France’s Helios 2B reconnaissance satellite, Arianespace Chief Executive Jean-Yves Le Gall said April 12. The latest launch cancellation occurred April 9 less than a minute before the scheduled liftoff, when the helium tank that keeps the Ariane 5 rocket’s main cryogenic stage pressurized showed a pressure level that was outside of permissible bounds. (4/12)

Waste of Space: How Astronaut Reality Show Hit Black Hole (Source: SMH)
Jonathan Nolan had plans for the world's most ambitious reality show - a global cross-continent space challenge pitting prospective astronauts against each other for the chance to win two tickets into space. He told media, partners and contestants that he had already secured two seats on Russian Soyuz rockets, had a production partner in Britain and had already obtained from foreign investors the tens of millions of dollars required to get the project, dubbed "Starwalker", off the ground.

Nolan, 42, an Australian, even appeared on Channel Seven's Sunrise in a three-minute segment, inviting viewers to sign up as contestants on the show's website. Today, the project appears to be in tatters, its website is offline and questions are being raised over the whole operation. A former employee claims Nolan has failed to pay him a significant sum of money.

Professor Stephen Hawking, who Nolan claimed had been signed up to be a judge on the show, has said through his personal assistant that he "does not have any involvement" with Starwalker. In an interview with this website several months ago, Nolan claimed there would be northern and southern hemisphere versions of the show and contestants from all over the world would complete rigorous, real-world astronaut training challenges, which would eventually decide who wins. (4/12)

Florida Teams Among Finalists for World’s Largest Rocket Contest (Source: AIA)
AIA announced the nation’s top 100 student rocketry teams that will compete in the final round of the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC). The finalists include teams from 30 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands who qualified after months of preparation from a field of 669 squads and thousands of students. The eighth annual TARC – the world’s largest rocket contest – will take place on May 15 in Virginia.

Qualifying teams of middle- and high-school students have the chance to earn $60,000 in scholarships and prizes. The TARC champion will also win the opportunity to compete internationally the Farnborough Air Show near London this summer. Five Florida teams are among the finalists. Four are from Plantation High School and one is from Howard Middle School in Orlando. (4/12)

California Teams Among Finalists for World’s Largest Rocket Contest (Source: AIA)
AIA announced the nation’s top 100 student rocketry teams that will compete in the final round of the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC). The finalists include teams from 30 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands who qualified after months of preparation from a field of 669 squads and thousands of students. The eighth annual TARC – the world’s largest rocket contest – will take place on May 15 in Virginia.

Qualifying teams of middle- and high-school students have the chance to earn $60,000 in scholarships and prizes. The TARC champion will also win the opportunity to compete internationally the Farnborough Air Show near London this summer. Six California teams are among the finalists, including Westmont High School (Campbell); AIAA Orange County Section; St. Anne (Porterville); San Marcos High School; Templeton High School; and Oaks Christian School (Westlake Village). (4/12)

Space Coast's Future Up in the Air (Source: Miami Herald)
The whole Space Coast is feeling a sense of urgency these days as the countdown to the final Space Shuttle blast-off nears. That's because in the past three decades the shuttle program has become intimately linked with the Space Coast economy. The end of the shuttle program will result in the direct loss of more than 9,000 jobs across Florida; thousands more indirect jobs also will be affected. The shuttle program contributes an estimated $1.9 billion annually to the region's economy.

Hotels as far away as Orlando sometimes fill up as a shuttle launch approaches, and merchants, restaurateurs and hoteliers in communities such as Satellite Beach, Titusville, Cocoa Beach, Melbourne, and Merritt Island do a brisk business when the space aficionados arrive.

It's not that the United States is giving up on manned space missions but rather that it wants to encourage private companies to begin shuttling cargo and people to the International Space Station. That, of course, will take time and lots of money to develop. It's possible that in time such private businesses will grow up along the Space Coast. But meanwhile, the local economy will take a serious hit. (4/12)

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