April 18, 2010

Ideas Floated to Boost Virginia Space Tourism (Source: Spaceports Blog)
There are a couple of space tourist ideas to share with the area's tourism industry leaders. First, Route 13 going north from Virginia Beach to the Maryland stateline should be designed by the 2011 Virginia General Assembly as "The Highway to Space". Highway signs are relatively cheap but the impact on those coming to hear the thunder and roar of rockets ripping the Virginia coastline skies will be important. The respective county boards of supervisors would do the economy well by passing a simple resolution asking the General Assembly to so designate Route 13. Virginia does scenic highway designations frequently.

Second, there should be a slang "Space Island" Virginia automobile license plate to enable all pro-space Virginians to help celebrate and market the location in the Commonwealth that launches cargo and satellites to orbit and to the moon. The "Space Island" moniker does sound like some Hollywood evening game show, but we are talking space tourist marketing -- not rocket science. There could be hundreds of such automobile tags roaming all of Virginia to serve as the frequent reminder of your part of the world economy. It only takes 300 pre-paid subscribers to a tag and then approval by the 2011 General Assembly but worthy of millions in mobile but free advertising.

Editor's Note: In Florida, we've had space-themed license plates for decades. The Legislature also established "Cape Canaveral Spaceport" in law to describe the combined area of Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. When I was with the Spaceport Florida Authority, we named the CCAFS road to our offices "Spaceport Way". (7/18)

Three Florida Universities Participate in NASA Launch Competition (Source: SPACErePORT)
Student Teams from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the University of Central Florida, and University of Florida competed among 20 institutions on Apr. 17 at the NASA University Student Launch Initiative (USLI). The competition challenged students to design, build and fly a reusable rocket with scientific payload to one mile in altitude. After being selected by NASA to participate, the teams designed their rockets and payloads throughout the school year.

USLI required a NASA review of the teams’ preliminary and critical designs. The project also required flight readiness and safety reviews before the rockets and payloads were approved for launch. After launch, teams will complete a final report to include conclusions from their science experiment and the overall flight performance. The Preliminary Design Review, Critical Design Review, and Flight Readiness Review were conducted by panels of scientists and engineers from NASA and from NASA contractors and external partners. (4/18)

End of Shuttle Program Inevitable. Focus on What's Next! (Source: Florida Today)
Whether you support or oppose President Barack Obama's space plan, if you're a local leader, it's time to shift your attention from protesting the inevitable retirement of the space shuttles and start looking to the future. The shuttle program is ending. If Congress fights the president and funds another mission or two, fine. That buys another six to 12 months of work for the 8,000 or so shuttle workers expected to be let go next year. But, that program is still ending.

Our local leadership needs to begin the fight for our future, not continue the battle to hang on just a bit longer to the shuttles. It's time for our community to start celebrating the incredible accomplishments of the space shuttle, its astronauts and the men and women who made it all possible. President George W. Bush announced the decision six years ago. We've had time to prepare. President Obama has weighed the options, including a space shuttle program extension, and decided against it.

Thursday, he spelled out the opportunities available to KSC under his vision of a new NASA. Government officials, business leaders and entrepreneurs would be wise to start chasing those opportunities. The president came Thursday, offering substantive changes to his plan, almost every one of which meant jobs and work aimed at keeping Brevard County "the place for space." The latest version of NASA's plan shows more potential for long-term job growth than the one Bush left behind or the one Obama first introduced back in February. (4/17)

Central Florida Summit Planned to Overcome Space Challenge (Source: Brevard Workforce)
Brevard Workforce and other Central Florida stakeholders will sponsor an "Overcoming the Space Challenge Through Regional Innovations Summit" in Brevard County on Apr. 30. Editor's Note: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will participate. (4/18)

Local Universities Attend Obama Address (Source: SPACErePORT)
Among the 200 invited guests at President Obama's Apr. 15 address at Kennedy Space Center were the President of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and vice presidents of research from both the University of Central Florida and University of Florida. These universities all serve within what is called the I-4 Corridor, which the President envisions becoming a "Silicon Valley of space", according to background materials distributed after the President's speech. These universities are collaborating on an initiative to support the commercial space transportation industry. (4/18)

CSA Joins Coalition to Rebuild California's Economy (Source: CSA)
The California Space Authority has joined over 300 California companies and industry groups in urging state leaders to work together to improve California’s regulatory climate by increasing legislative oversight of state regulatory agencies, performing independent cost-benefit analyses for new regulations, weeding out outdated and ineffective regulations and agencies, and stepping up the state’s efforts to create new jobs and grow the state’s economy. Visit http://www.calrecovery.biz/index.php for information. (4/17)

Houston: Obama Must Ensure that All NASA Centers Receive Transition Assistance (Source: Houston Chronicle)
That was the common refrain from Houston-area elected officials after President Obama's speech ain Florida this week outlining measures to soften the blow to thousands of space industry workers who will be laid off. What most irritated defenders of Houston's Johnson Space Center, which like Kennedy faces the loss of thousands of jobs, is that the president pledged $40 million for retraining those laid off in Florida but said nothing about other NASA centers around the country.

The president's trip to KSC also seemed overtly political, with Air Force One hosting Florida's Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Suzanne M. Kosmas, both Democrats. Kosmas' district includes the launch facility. Also along for the ride was Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, whose district once included the Johnson Space Center. By contrast, its current representative, Republican Rep. Pete Olson, was not invited. “The only thing bold about this announcement,” said Olson, “is the administration's blatant focus on Florida.”

Considering that Olson has been a consistent opponent of the president's legislative agenda, and Texas remains in the GOP presidential column, Olson's exclusion from the president's entourage was not surprising. But his criticism was on point. Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who received a congratulatory call from Obama when she won office, did not mince words. According to Parker, “The president gave Florida the moon and left us with the vague hope of Mars in 20 years.” (4/18)

Starfighters is a Model for KSC's Future (Source: Florida Today)
Starfighters Inc. could serve as a model for the space industries Kennedy Space Center hopes to develop when the shuttle program ends. The company serves the public by providing commercial space flight training for suborbital missions while also serving NASA by testing equipment in its high-performance, vintage jets. That dual purpose is among the criteria for businesses wishing to operate at KSC.

For its part, though, NASA will likely need to streamline the process of getting those businesses in place: It took nearly three years for Starfighters to open for business at the space center. "They're very specific about what they require, and it's not going to be the same as going to an airport in Titusville," Starfighters President and Chief Pilot Rick Svetkoff said. To bring Starfighters and its 20 or so commercial jobs to KSC, Space Florida invested $1.8 million in a fire suppression system for the 50,000-sqaure-foot hangar so the fueled jets could be stored there.

Starfighters charges $30,500 for four days of training, including a trip in an F-104 jet that can fly above 70,000 feet at twice the speed of sound. NASA has used the four Starfighters to test high-performance equipment used on the space shuttle, telemetry equipment and a new digital camera. The company has also made several flights to test GPS tracking equipment and has flown several classified missions. (4/18)

Growing Interest in Shuttle Landing Strip for Commercial Space Transportation (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is evaluating proposals from multiple companies that want to use the 15,000-foot shuttle runway. "In general, there's lots of interest in use of the shuttle landing facility after the shuttle retires," said Michelle Amos, who manages the Shuttle Landing Facility and horizontal launch area development. Some 22 companies have inquired about using the shuttle runway. The next company selected to do business with NASA, however, will face the same strict rules as Starfighters.

"Our customers willingly accept the risks of getting bumped because they value the advantages of doing business at KSC's historic sites and flying within the Eastern Range restricted airspace," Amos said. "We're still looking at the criteria. We're still trying to determine how we're going to select companies for use of the Shuttle Landing Facility." Editor's Note: The bottom line is that the Cape Canaveral Spaceport can accommodate many types of space missions that other existing and proposed spaceports cannot. (4/18)

Virginia: Time to Seize the Commercial Space Moment (Source: Daily Press)
For more than 50 years, NASA Wallops has been internationally recognized as having the world's premier suborbital research launch site and the world's foremost suborbital research launch team. Today Wallops Island is in transition from what was, and still is, a significant NASA sounding rocket program to a full-fledged international commercial spaceport.

This time next year, commercial space launch contractor Orbital Sciences Corp. will lead an international team consisting of Americans, Russians, Ukrainians, Italians, Canadians, Spaniards, French, Dutch, Germans and Japanese in building a booster rocket and payload capsule that will fly from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island to the International Space Station to leave supplies and cargo, and to depart with whatever needs disposal by its international tenants on-orbit.

The launch of the Taurus-2 booster with the Cygnus spacecraft will mark significant change for Wallops from the dark October days of 15 years ago when the first commercial rocket, the Conestoga, departed the space island launch complex only to explode 46 seconds into the first flight. The Taurus-2 must be on the money if space commerce is to take root permanently in Virginia. New billions of dollars of space cargo delivery contracts may be in the offing if the international launch team of Taurus scores well with international space cargo delivery. There is growing confidence that the launch team will meet the critical milestones to do just that. (4/18)

Editorial: President's Outline Leaves Out Too Much (Source: Miami Herald)
To judge from his remarks at KSC last week, President Obama has embarked on a generational reorientation of the nation's space program. He is charting a potentially exciting new course to explore the ultimate frontier, but skeptics -- count us among them -- are unlikely to be reassured until the president's lofty rhetoric is transformed into concrete policy with explicit budgets and firm deadlines.

It was heartening to hear Mr. Obama offer reassurances that he is not trying to end the nation's human spaceflight program. The nation needs a strong corps of active astronauts to compete with Russia, China and other countries for manned exploration of other worlds and to attract America's best young people to a program that can maintain America's leadership in the realm of space.

Still, there are plenty of reasons to remain skeptical about this plan. Setting a deadline [for developing a new rocket and launching beyond the Moon] so far into the future, one that depends on support from presidents yet to be elected, is less than reassuring to anyone who wants to see America retain its leadership in the space program. That goes double for Mr. Obama's vision of sending astronauts to Mars by the mid-2030s, a quarter of a century from today. (4/18)

Brevard Looks to Kokomo for Recovery Ideas (Source: Florida Today)
Two years ago, Forbes magazine ranked Kokomo, Ind., No. 3 on a list of the nation's fastest-dying towns, thanks to its strong dependence on the declining auto industry. With the shuttle program's planned retirement later this year, Brevard County now is looking to communities such as Kokomo for lessons learned that could help the Space Coast weather the anticipated loss of 7,000 to 8,000 jobs at KSC.

Despite President Obama's pledge to grow local jobs by 2012, local leaders still are left bracing for a bleaker short-term outlook: looming shuttle program layoffs followed by a gap in human spaceflight of uncertain length. "We really don't see a major change in the outlook for our work force," said Mark Nappi, Florida site executive for shuttle fleet operator United Space Alliance.

Workforce and aerospace representatives will gather April 30 in Viera for a conference to plot next steps, during which they'll hear from consultants who helped revive Kokomo from its near-death experience. "It was scary for awhile there," said Jeb Conrad, director of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance. "This community had operated in a vacuum, pretty much, centered around the automotive industry. It kind of became a generational entitlement, to a certain degree." (4/18)

Weather Iffy for Monday Landing at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
Rain showers are forecasted in the KSC area Monday morning, potentially keeping Discovery and its crew of seven in orbit for a 15th day. The crew has two landing opportunities Monday at 8:48 a.m. and 10:23 a.m. A front over North Florida and a low pressure system over Cuba are combining to create the chance of rain within 30 nautical miles of the runway, which would violate landing rules, NASA flight controllers told the crew. (4/18)

Boeing Urges Nearer-Term Decision on Heavy-Lift Rocket (Source: Space Politics)
Boeing has raised the issue of delaying a heavy-lift design decision to 2015, as well as the uncertainty about what kind of crewed spacecraft would be used for missions beyond LEO. “[W]e believe the United States should be on a clear path to accelerate the development and production of this critical system, along with a deep-space capsule,” according to a company statement. “We have the technology and the people to commence development of these vehicles now.”

Editor's Note: Looks like it may be up to Congress to force either an extension of the Space Shuttle or the acceleration of a new heavy-lift rocket. Whether these two activities can coexist may depend on whether a Shuttle-derived vehicle is selected. As I've said before, it may take a coalition of the Gulf Coast states to push a Shuttle-derived rocket through Congress, since all of them have a major stake in Shuttle development and operations. (4/18)

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