April 4, 2010

Without Shuttles, Astronauts' Careers May Stall (Source: NPR)
Private space companies are moving forward with their efforts — raising the possibility of not just commercial space taxis, but also astronauts for hire. NASA administrator and former astronaut Charlie Bolden said it would be a different approach for NASA to rent not just the space vehicle, but also a private crew of astronauts to go with it. "We need to have the discussion of how important is it to have a career astronaut contingent, as opposed to none," Bolden said.

He said that NASA's international partners like the idea of an elite corps, and that he doubted some random person could quickly be trained to perform at the same level as NASA astronauts, who have devoted their lives to preparing for work in space. "We need to have the discussion of what the future — the next generation of astronauts — will be like," Bolden said. Click here to see and hear the article. (4/4)

Air Force Wrestles With EELV Launch Costs as NASA Weighs Options (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA’s decision to cancel the Constellation program and to focus on commercial rockets for crew transport has raised questions about the availability of Delta IV and Atlas V rockets. In theory, both of these EELVs could be modified for crew use; however, the impact on the U.S. military, which is heavily dependent on these vehicles, requires careful consideration. There are complex issues of production capacity, launch schedules and rates, and costs for the Air Force, NASA and the contractors involved.

It’s a complex issue because ULA would profit from building additional rockets and unit prices could be lowered, if major changes are not required for the NASA human-rated boosters. However, the cancellation of Constellation would impact Pratt & Whitney, which was to build components for Constellation’s Ares rockets. These companies would have higher fixed costs to continue to supply engines for the EELVs without being able to ameliorate them with Constellation work. Of course, some of those problems would be resolved if NASA goes with EELVs for crew transport. (4/3)

Payton: Some GPS Launches Could Shift to Vandenberg in Crunch (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Gary Payton, the undersecretary of the Air Force for space, said: "We would like to be able to get to the point where we can project six months or a year down the road that we're going to have a surge of launches all ganged too close together, that we may pull a GPS launch over to Vandenberg," Payton said. "The same rocket and orbitology allows you to launch out of Vandenberg.

The only issue is whether proper facilities are available at Vandenberg to prepare GPS spacecraft for launch. "Before we add that flexibility into our future, we have to understand the ramifications of doing that," Payton said. "We are looking at it, and it is something I would love to have in our hip pocket if we get too many launches packed too close together at the Cape." (3/29)

Only NASA Could Take A Simple Idea And Make it This Complex (Source: NASA Watch)
"Although the purpose of the VSE was clear to the White House and the Congress, it became increasingly clear over time that NASA was having difficulty understanding the mission. They eventually embarked on a multi-year study to define exactly why they had been tasked to go to the Moon and to understand what they might do once they got there. The mission to understand their mission involved lots of meetings, workshops and conferences, whereby all the "stakeholders" had an opportunity to give their input. All this "input" was distilled into a series of documents containing six themes and 181 different specific objectives. No one at NASA could state the mission of the VSE in a single sentence." (4/4)

Posey Plans Briefing in Tallahassee (Source: NASA Watch)
Florida Congressman Bill Posey, a former State Senator will address the Florida Senate and House on April 7 to discuss legislative issues during the annual Florida Legislative Session. Editor's Note: Rep. Posey will likely provide an important Congressional perspective on Florida space issues, at a time when the state's Legislature is debating major investments to address the coming retirement of the Space Shuttle. (4/4)

Athena: Breathing New Life Into Old Rocket Program (Source: CFL-13)
Lockheed Martin and ATK Aerospace Systems announced they are teaming together for a series of upgrades to the Athena launch vehicle, which has not flown since 1998. That flight propelled the Lunar Prospector to the moon. “We see larger demand for NASA missions and Department of Defense missions in the future,” Phillips said. “There was a small demand. That’s why Athena was mothballed over 10 years ago, but now, we see the demand with the new opportunities.”

The new partnership means new jobs for Central Florida. About 75 workers will be employed for a year while Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is refurbished. Some 20 to 50 workers will be involved in various points during launches, and Phillips said many of them could come from the shuttle program, set to retire at year’s end. The first generation of the Athena rockets flew seven times. The next is set for two launches a year, beginning in 2012. (4/4)

NASA & Navy Get Say in Virginia Coastal Drilling (Source: Washington Times)
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell's push to drill for gas and oil off Virginia's coast faces two formidable obstacles: the Navy and NASA. Naval Station Norfolk, the world's largest naval base, and the space agency's Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore have activities -- some potentially hazardous -- throughout the vast leasing area 50 miles off Virginia's 132-mile Atlantic coast. The question is: Can busy skies and seas coexist with offshore oil and gas drilling?

Wallops, which is being promoted as "the Cape Canaveral of the North," already has expressed concerns about energy exploration off Virginia's coast. The leasing area, slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut, lies within the launch range of the NASA facility. "Impact with an oil platform would cause catastrophic damage and would result in the complete loss of expensive launch vehicles," NASA said. Editor's Note: This is Wallops' argument against oil drilling?? Oil platforms are not very tall structures. If a Wallops-launched rocket were to go anywhere near one of these platforms, it would surely already be way off course and a 'complete loss' well before impact. (4/4)

ULA Consolidates Headquarters in Colorado (Source: Denver Business Journal)
ULA is expected to tell its employees April 5 the location of its new headquarters campus. The company is expected announce signed leases for a total of 466,000 square feet in three buildings in Centennial. ULA wants to consolidate offices for its 1,700 local employees in one location in the southern Denver metro area, instead of the three sites it leases in Centennial and Littleton. (4/4)

Colorado Officials, Lawmakers Do Little to Save Orion (Source: Denver Post)
Colorado is among the states set to lose thousands of jobs and billions of dollars under a proposed shift in NASA's budget, yet critics say state leaders have lagged in their efforts to preserve the jobs associated with the Orion spacecraft. Stands taken by Colorado officials and lawmakers fall well short compared with other aerospace-rich states, where governors, lawmakers and economic-development officials have aggressively pushed to preserve the program, which aims to carry humans back to the moon and beyond.

"We should be leading this," said Dick Hinson of the Aurora Economic Development Council, noting Colorado ranks third in the nation in aerospace employment. A study shows the Orion project has $301.3 million in annual direct and indirect economic impacts in the metro Denver area. The impact includes a $236 million annual payroll for 837 full-time and 1,597 part-time Lockheed Martin Space Systems workers — with an average salary of $109,044 — and 2,961 workers for about two dozen subcontractors.

Other states, including Texas and Florida, have launched coordinated efforts to save their local jobs that have included sending delegations to Washington, D.C., to lobby for keeping the programs. Colorado has not sent a delegation or joined in other efforts. (4/4)

Colorado's SAS Chief Favors New Direction for NASA (Source: Denver Post)
Heather Bulk figures her company, Special Aerospace Services, wins no matter what happens with NASA's budget. But the Boulder firm, which helps small companies develop their aerospace businesses, does better under an approach that favors commercialization. "The industry is finally heading in a direction that can actually 'do something' again, something interesting and valuable," said Bulk, SAS's chief executive.

Her co-founder and husband, Tim, who manages SAS's technical team, sees the budget shift as "an interesting transformative situation for NASA and for us." "I see it as an incredible opportunity . . . and a huge benefit for Colorado," he said. Both Bulks are enthused about the chance for new ideas, new people, new technologies and new jobs in aerospace, and believe SAS is poised to help innovations emerge. Heather Bulk has provided the legal and tax expertise, while Tim Bulk's background is in launch services, including at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (4/4)

India to Cut Satellite Launch Cost by Half (Source: Outlook India)
India plans to cut satellite launch cost by half with the heavy-lift rocket that it is developing, a senior space department official said. The country is also aiming a two-to-three fold increase in the number of spacecraft launches from this year. The GSLV-Mk III rocket that ISRO is developing now would bring down the satellite launch cost at least by half, at present, the launch cost is pegged at around USD 20,000 per kilogram. (4/4)

Kosmas, Posey on Same Side on Shuttle: Extend It (Source: Florida Today)
They sit on opposite sides of the aisle, but U.S. Reps. Bill Posey and Suzanne Kosmas agree about one thing: extending the shuttle program. "The president's proposal to cancel the Constellation program and proceed with the retirement of the shuttle fleet, with no clear plans or goals for exploration, will have far-reaching implications," Kosmas said. Posey and Kosmas will participate in a FLORIDA TODAY-sponsored space forum Friday, less than a week before Obama visits Florida to explain his plans for NASA and U.S. human spaceflight. (4/4)

Final Missions Crucial to Sustaining Space Station (Source: Florida Today)
With the International Space Station nearly complete, the final four shuttle missions hope to ensure it's built to last. After the shuttle's retirement, a fleet of smaller vehicles -- including two that have flown once and two more that have never flown -- will be counted on to bring up the food and equipment needed to ensure the $100 billion research outpost stays in service for at least another decade. To give the station the best chance to sustain a failure or late deliveries, NASA is stocking it with large spare parts only flown easily by the shuttle and as much food and other goods as possible. (4/4)

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