April 30, 2010

SpaceX Mission Moves from May 8 to NET May 11 (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will make its maiden launch on a demonstration mission on May 11, carrying the qualification unit for SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft, which the company plans to fly on resupply missions to the International Space Station. The mission was previously scheduled for May 8, after multiple prior delays. The flight could slip until at least late May as the Air Force continues reviewing the rocket's destruct package. The launch window for the flight is between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. (4/30)

Congress Extends FAA Reauthorization Bill Again (Source: Commercial Appeal)
Once again, the House and Senate have extended the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization law that should have expired in 2007 while they try to reach agreement on a new bill of special concern to FedEx. The House extended the current funding for aviation programs through July 3. The Senate bill passed Wednesday night by unanimous consent.

New bills, with provisions to modernize navigation and provide funding for a range of new projects, have passed both House and Senate with three- and two-year timeframes and must be reconciled before they can become law. The House bill also contains a provision that would make it easier for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to organize FedEx Express workers and has spawned major public relations campaigns by both sides. (4/30)

Firms Ready to Take Over from NASA to Carry Cargo, Crews to Space (Source: AIA)
Commercial companies say they are ready to transport cargo and crews to low-Earth orbit and to take on additional Earth observation work and communication satellite operations in light of President Barack Obama's plan for NASA to rely more heavily on commercial spaceflight companies. At a space symposium held in Colorado earlier this month, companies said they were encouraged by Obama's vision, and such companies as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Orbital Sciences Corp. have already expressed interest in transporting crews to the International Space Station. (4/30)

US Airways Chief: NextGen Not Worth the Cost (Source: AIA)
Air traffic growth over the next decade will not be robust enough to create the sort of capacity shortfall that would justify investing in NextGen, according to US Airways CEO Doug Parker. "There is not a capacity issue in the United States right now," Parker told reporters on Wednesday, and without major growth, NextGen "isn't going to save the airlines dramatic amounts" of money. Equipping cockpits with upgraded avionics would cost US Airways nearly $1 billion, and "so long as we have to pay for [flight deck equipment], we prefer not to have it," Parker said. (4/30)

Space Funding Approved in Tallahassee (Source: ACDC)
The Florida Legislature has passed SB 1752, a comprehensive economic development package that focuses on several high-tech sectors including retaining and expanding Florida's Space industry. Total funding for Space initiatives in this bill is $23,639,943. The full appropriations bill, which will be debated and passed later today, also includes $7,500,000 from the transportation trust fund for Space infrastructure development bringing the total investment in Space to $31,139,943. (4/30)

Alabama Congressman: Augustine Panel was a "Setup" (Source: Space Politics)
Rep. Parker Griffith (R-AL) told the Decatur Daily that he believes the Augustine Committee was a “setup” to give cover to an administration desire to kill Constellation. “Why would you have a commission study something you’ve been doing 4 1/2 years and for billions of dollars?” he asks. “I met with Augustine and the principals, and realized this was a setup.” He is also opposed to turning to the commercial sector for launching crews, even if it benefits United Launch Alliance, which builds its rockets in Decatur. “What do you think would happen to United Launch Alliance, to Orbital Sciences or SpaceX, if there was a Columbia accident on their nickel? We are done. The country is done. That company is done,” he told the paper. “We can’t take that chance. It’s not a good idea to privatize a country’s conscience, a country’s pride.” (4/30)

Ice Caves on Mars Could Provide Water for Human Colonists (Source: Daily Camera)
Martian ice caves might be the most hospitable home for humans if the red planet is ever colonized, according to a new study by a team of scientists. Scientists have known that both ice -- especially at the poles -- and caves known as lava tubes can be found on Mars, but the new study shows that ice could exist in caves near the planet's equator for up to 100,000 years without melting or evaporating. (4/30)

India's Space Program Takes a Hit (Source: Asia Times)
In mid-April, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) tested a large, multi-stage rocket which was equipped with a new cryogenic engine that had been designed and developed by Indian engineers. Roughly five minutes into this third development flight, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-D3) suffered a third-stage ignition failure and as a result of the malfunctioning launch vehicle, the GSAT-4 communications and navigation satellite on board was lost.

ISRO could do not dismiss or evade the media onslaught that ensued. "After the unsuccessful flight, the ISRO chairman, K Radhakrishnan, initially suggested that two small cryogenic steering engines, which swivel to maintain the rocket's orientation, might have malfunctioned. Later, however, he indicated that the main cryogenic engine itself might not have ignited. In such a complex system as the cryogenic stage, even a small defect that escapes attention is sufficient to doom the flight." (4/30)

New Orion Role Raises Funding Challenge (Source: Aviation Week)
When President Obama altered plans earlier this month to cancel NASA’s Constellation Program by announcing a new role for the Orion crew exploration vehicle, he made no mention of how the White House planned to pay for the spacecraft’s conversion into an escape capsule for the International Space Station (ISS). The president announced the agency would develop a lighter version of the Orion Moon ship as a four-person space station lifeboat. What he did not explain, however, was how NASA’s proposed $19 billion FY-2011 budget will accommodate Orion’s re-emergence, nor how NASA will launch a scaled-down version of the capsule.

The effort has been hindered by the agency’s restrictive 2010 appropriations bill, which includes a provision that prevents NASA from halting work on Constellation without the approval of a reluctant Congress. Until a spending plan is passed by Congress and signed into law, NASA is prohibited from canceling Constellation’s development contracts and initiating a competition to award agreements worth nearly $14 billion over the next five years for the new research and development work to underpin Obama’s space strategy. (4/30)

Obama's NASA Plan Could Benefit Southern Arizona (Source: Tucson Sentinel)
The Obama administration’s new direction for NASA's human spaceflight program could be a major boost for Southern Arizona should its admittedly vague long-term goals pan out. At the very least, it should be a modest benefit to Tucson’s aerospace community in the short term. President Obama announced plans for human missions to asteroids in the 2020s and flights to Mars in the next decade. Obama’s reference to a possible human mission to an asteroid is positive news for Tucson’s planetary science and ground-based astronomy communities, which already specialize in efforts to locate, characterize and fly robotic probes to these primitive and potentially resource-rich rocky bodies. (4/30)

Details Sparse on $40 Million Program to Help NASA Workers (Source: Florida Today)
Federal officials are assembling a team to recommend how to spend $40 million on a program to retrain former NASA workers, but details about the program are scarce. The program, announced by President Obama in an April 15 speech at KSC, aims to help NASA and the local economy deal with thousands of lost jobs from the retirement of the shuttle. Obama said he wants officials from the White House, NASA and other agencies to come up with a plan by Aug. 15 "for regional economic development growth and job creation."

And he said his proposal would create new jobs more quickly than would the Constellation program to return astronauts to the moon, which he wants to cancel. The president proposed the $40M program based on "strong lobbying" by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, and Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach. But neither lawmaker's office could say what's happening with the program so far. We're totally in the dark at this point," said Lisa Rice, president of Brevard Workforce, which links job seekers with businesses. (4/30)

Advisers Ready to Help Space Workers (Source: Florida Today)
Two powerhouse consultants who steered Kokomo, Ind., and Milwaukee through massive layoffs and economic hardship will turn their focus today on Brevard County and the fate of workers at Kennedy Space Center. Economic and workforce development consultants Ed Morrison and Linda Fowler are credited with guiding both cities through dark economic times created by the layoffs of thousands of auto and manufacturing workers.

In Brevard, leaders seeking ways to cope with the anticipated loss of 7,000 to 8,000 space worker jobs when the shuttle program ends later this year have tapped the pair to help local business and community leaders quickly craft a plan to soften the blow of the layoffs. "In Brevard, we're probably farther ahead (than Kokomo and Milwaukee were) as far as collaborative efforts. We've had Space Florida, the EDC, the chambers all working together for years," said Brevard Workforce President Lisa Rice. (4/30)

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