April 8, 2010

NRO Taps Boeing for Next Batch of Cubesats (Source: Space News)
The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in February contracted with Boeing Phantom Works for as many as 50 triple-unit cubesats, each about the size of a can of tennis balls, for use in technology demonstrations, a government official said. The inexpensive satellite platforms will be used for the follow-on to an NRO research program called Colony, which is scheduled to make its first launch this year, Air Force Maj. David "Dutch" Shultz, director of the NRO’s Colony Program Office, said. (4/8)

Intelsat Loses Contact with Galaxy 15 Satellite (Source: Space News)
Intelsat’s five-year-old Galaxy 15 satellite stopped responding to commands early April 5, prompting the company to begin moving an on-orbit spare to the balky satellite’s 133 degrees west longitude orbital slot to avoid an interruption in service, Intelsat of Washington and Luxembourg announced April 8. (4/8)

Kennedy Space Center to Get More Money – But it’s Unclear How Many New Jobs (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA announced that Kennedy Space Center would manage the agency's new effort to fly astronauts aboard commercial rockets, although it's unclear how many jobs the proposed $5.8 billion program would generate in Florida. KSC is also slated to get nearly $2 billion over the next five years to modernize the 1960s-era facility to enable it for the first time to launch a wide array of commercial rockets. Until now, KSC has launched only NASA-built vehicles. The announcement also included funding to fly the shuttle up until Dec. 31, in case it can't complete its three remaining flights by the Sept. 30 end of this fiscal year.

The assignments are critical to NASA employees and contractors, as the distribution of new projects will determine which NASA centers get work in the aftermath of the shuttle program, which will end this year and take thousands of jobs with it. Still, officials acknowledged that the number of jobs associated with the new Commercial Crew Development office remained uncertain. "The fact that more money is being allocated to create a new program office at KSC doesn't necessarily translate into large numbers of jobs. The bulk of those funds could be spent elsewhere, and the program simply managed from KSC," said Congressman Bill Posey.

"[The Obama plan] really reaches out and realistically talks about going to Mars, a place we have always wanted to go. But it recognizes there is a lot of technological development between here and there," Charlie Bolden said. As part of that effort, KSC will work with Johnson Space Center on a $6-billion technology demonstration program that aims to test new space designs. These include in-orbit fuel depots, inflatable space modules and vehicles that can autonomously dock and rendezvous in flight. NASA also plans to spend $3.1 billion over five years at Marshall Space Flight Center to develop new engines and propulsion technologies that could enable NASA to build a rocket powerful enough to launch future spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit. (4/8)

KSC to Get Commercial Office Under New NASA Plan (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is expected to assign control of the agency’s commercial spacecraft management office to Kennedy Space Center today when he announces a slate of new work assignments under President Barack Obama’s new plans for the agency. The assignments are critical to NASA employees and contractors, as the distribution of new projects should go a long way in determining which NASA centers get work in the aftermath of the space shuttle program, which will end this year and take thousands of jobs with it.

KSC alone is expected to lose as many as 9,000 jobs, as its primary role is preparing the shuttle and other NASA spacecraft for launch. Under Obama’s plan, KSC has been pegged as the top commercial launch site and also looks likely to get an unnamed test program, according to sources close to the announcement. The new details come a week before Obama is set to visit KSC for a space conference. At the summit, Obama is expected to defend his new vision, which cancels NASA’s Constellation moon program and relies on commercial rockets to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station so that NASA engineers can focus their efforts on developing futuristic spacecraft and technologies. (4/8)

NASA Contractor Job Outlook At Kennedy Space Center Still Unclear (Source: Florida Today)
NASA aims to open three new offices at Kennedy Space Center, but President Obama's proposed 2011 budget still would kill Project Constellation and it's unclear how many job losses might be offset and when astronauts might fly missions beyond Earth orbit. One new office would oversee the development of commercial space taxis that would ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, the operation of which would be extend through at least 2020.

NASA's shuttle program still will shut down as scheduled after station assembly is complete, and it doesn't look as if there would be heavy-lift rocket test flights to help keep a core part of NASA's contractor work force employed. NASA would open a 21st Centiury Launch Complex office that would be charged with modernizing Kennedy Space Center facilities, performing environmental clean-ups and developing new technology to improve turnaround time on the U.S. Air Force Eastern Range.

A third new office at KSC would help oversee and manage flagship technology demonstrations that would prove out next-generation space capabilities such as orbital fueling and storage facilities, autonomous rendezvous and docking, and inflatable modules. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said the new initiatives in President Obama's proposed 2011 budget would expand frontiers and develop technologies needed for missions beyond Earth orbit. But he could not say whether the new offices at KSC would employ as many people -- 2,000 to 3,000 -- that would have jobs at KSC if the Constellation program continued. (4/8)

EADS Plans U.S. Expansion, Regardless of Tanker Decision (Source: AIA)
Whether or not it decides to bid on the U.S. aerial refueling contract, EADS plans to expand in the U.S., according to an official with the company. EADS has various opportunities in the U.S., including work in helicopters, space, security and potential acquisitions, the official said. (4/8)

Discovery Antenna Failure Could Impact Mission Length or Objectives (Source: Florida Today)
NASA continues to wrestle with the failure of a high-speed data antenna aboard Discovery that could wind up forcing an extension of the shuttle's planned 13-day mission or dropping some scheduled work. "We are talking about possibly extending, we are talking about deferring mission content -- everything is on the table at this point," said Courtenay McMillan, an International Space Station flight director, during a 2 a.m. news briefing at Johnson Space Center in Houston. (4/8)

Successful Launch for ESA’s CryoSat-2 Ice Satellite (Source: ESA)
Europe's first mission dedicated to studying the Earth’s ice was launched today from Kazakhstan. From its polar orbit, CryoSat-2 will send back data leading to new insights into how ice is responding to climate change and the role it plays in our 'Earth system'. The CryoSat-2 satellite was launched on a Dnepr rocket provided by the Kosmotras from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. The signal confirming that it had separated from the launcher came 17 minutes later from the Malindi ground station in Kenya. (4/8)

Mystery Object Defies Astronomical Classification (Source: WIRED)
A mysterious object discovered near a brown dwarf doesn’t fit into any known astronomical category. The newly discovered mystery companion forms a binary system with the brown dwarf, located 460 light-years away in the Taurus star-forming system. The object is too light to be another brown dwarf, but it’s too young to have formed by accretion, the way a typical planet does. “Although this small companion appears to have a mass that is comparable to the mass of planets around stars, we don’t think it formed like a planet,” said astronomer Kevin Luhman of Penn State University, co-author of the study April 5 in The Astrophysical Journal. “This seems to indicate that there are two different ways for nature to make small companions.” Luhman’s team made the discovery with the Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini Observatory. (4/8)

Space Scientist: NASA Needs a Strategy to Mars (Source: WDBO)
For Dr. Pascal Lee, the faces of children light up when he begins to talk to them about exploring Mars. Studying the Red Planet has been the core of his work at the Mars Institute at NASA's Ames Research Park in California. "I think Mars is the exploration destination of the 21st Century," he told WDBO after an appearance at the Orlando Science Center. "There's still a lot to look at and explore on the moon, but just as there is a lot to explore on the bottoms of the oceans on the Earth it doesn't mean we shouldn't move on to other bodies," he added. (4/8)

Long Island Astronaut Mike Massimino Wants NASA Shuttle at Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum (Source: NY Daily News)
A Long Island astronaut wants back on a space shuttle - but as a tourist this time. Mike Massimino, 47, said he hopes the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum succeeds in its effort to land a decommissioned shuttle. "I would love to see one there," Mike Massimino, 47. "I think that would be a great place for it." The museum is hoping to score one of three orbiters - Endeavour, Atlantis or Discovery - after NASA shuts down the space shuttle program next year. NASA officials have said they want the shuttles to land where the most people will be able to see them. Intrepid officials said they get 1 million visitors a year - and expect even more if they get a shuttle. (4/8)

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