May 8, 2010

Air Force Working Through GPS Receiver Problems (Source: Space News)
More than 8,000 deployed military GPS receivers experienced compatibility problems with the most recent upgrade to the timing and navigation constellation’s ground control segment, but the Air Force has implemented an interim fix while it validates a permanent solution. When the Air Force upgraded the GPS Operational Control Segment Jan. 11, some military users began reporting their systems were losing GPS signals. The problem was isolated to a specific type of GPS receiver known as the Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM) deployed in at least 86 U.S. weapons systems that were having trouble authenticating a new messaging format implemented as part of an upgrade. (5/9)

Secrecy Among Coalition Forces Hinders Use of Space Assets in Afghanistan (Source: Space News)
The 40-plus nations taking part in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan are often in the dark about what space assets are available to them and are too often denied access to space-derived intelligence, according to the former chief of ISAF space operations. U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Tom Single, who this year returned from five months in Kabul trying to raise ISAF troops’ awareness of what satellites can bring to the war effort in Afghanistan, said secrecy often keeps coalition team members from speaking about space-related topics with each other.

Just as striking, he said, is the fact that many coalition members — the United States being the obvious exception — have not integrated satellites into their thinking about how to manage a war in a nation where communications by other means is often impossible. “In some cases, insurgents were much more savvy in using space than the coalition forces — because they have to be,” Single said. (5/8)

Editorial: NASA's New Cuts: A Blessing in Disguise? (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Ten years ago, when you thought of NASA, you thought of astronauts, man on the moon and all associated glories of human spaceflight. Nowadays, you tend to think of the Constellation flop, a nearly useless International Space Station and, basically, a huge toilet flush for taxpayer dollars. The station has been in various stages of assembly for about 12 years and, once completed, will be fully operational for fewer years than it took to build it. This quagmire of an operation has come about because of a huge shift in the mission and focus of NASA.

Rather than truly researching and developing new methods of propulsion and deep-space exploration, NASA has fed the American sentimental spirit by launching needless missions to the space station every few months. Why not allow private space companies to ferry astronauts and materials to the space station? The average cost to launch just one shuttle mission is more than $450 million, and it never needs to come down in cost, as NASA is a governmental organization and can take the losses.

Although many of Obama's ideas are good, some do not go far enough. He wishes to spend $3 billion for research on a new heavy-lift system, which will not be a radical departure from today's systems and is not radical in its propulsion systems. Perhaps it is a better idea to delay human spaceflight until we can truly go farther and faster into space. Many will not agree with this idea because they fear that the U.S. will become a mediocre power in spaceflight. However, what they don't understand is that sacrificing symbolic, nearsighted achievements for long-term, significant achievements is a smart move for NASA. (5/8)

NASA & White House Shift Approach to Heavy Lift (Source: Space News)
President Obama said NASA would spend the next five years studying new technologies and materials before settling on a heavy-lift rocket design. But NASA documents and comments from agency officials suggest the White House already has a design firmly in mind. On May 3 NASA issued a request for information that gives U.S. aerospace firms roughly three weeks to volunteer ideas for a versatile, liquid-fueled heavy-lift rocket that incorporates a first-stage engine that burns a mixture of liquid oxygen (LOX) and kerosene to produce at least 1 million pounds of thrust.

A few hours later, NASA posted a revised solicitation that eliminated all references to LOX/kerosene or any other specific liquid propellant and now gives industry the leeway to submit information on a wider range of heavy-lift architectures that could meet NASA, DOD and commercial needs. Although the White House felt that a LOX/kerosene first-stage engine would be more affordable than other propulsion capabilities, including the type of solid-rocket motors used on the space shuttle and long planned for the Ares 1 and Ares 5 rockets the president has marked for cancellation.

But after several “meetings and negotiations” with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), it was clear the president’s primary goal was to lower the cost of launch. Now, with the modified solicitation in mind, NASA intends to evaluate myriad heavy-lift concepts and base its choice on cost and reliability. “We’re going to go with the most affordable system,” NASA's Cris Guidi said. “And OMB and OSTP actually agreed to that.” (5/8)

Shuttle-Derived Approach Could Comply With Congressional Direction (Source: Space News)
By assessing a spectrum of heavy-lift engine options, NASA remain in compliance with a law passed in December that requires the agency to keep working on Constellation until Congress explicitly approves a new direction. Lawmakers opposed to abandoning Constellation have accused NASA of slowing work on the program in preparation for pulling the plug later this year. The emerging approach leaves the door open for a future heavy-lift architecture that incorporates solid-rocket motors, an option that should help appease lawmakers seeking to sustain the U.S. solid-rocket-propulsion industrial base.

“Obviously we don’t have the budget to maintain the current course of Constellation,” Cris Guidi said, adding that the Ares 5 design — promising more lift than the Apollo program’s Saturn 5 rocket — emphasized performance over cost. “Our goal is affordability. Let’s not build that Maserati. Let’s make do with maybe a Toyota, as long as we get our mission accomplished in an affordable, reliable, operable manner." Whether Ares 5 — or something like it — makes the cut remains to be seen. (5/8)

Editorial: Space's Bold New Beginning (Source: Florida Today)
President Obama recently stood in front of workers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and boldly said today’s space program is failing. And he was right. NASA today pales compared to the days of Apollo. Rather than continue another expensive dead-end program, the president set a new path that gets it right at last. He does it by building what’s needed to go to more places faster, better and cheaper than before. Losing jobs in this transition will be rough, but keep in mind:

a) The shuttle retirement was planned six years ago; and b) The space business is about to grow tremendously, and if you can translate your skills and creativity, you can be a part of it. What may look like an end is actually a bold new beginning. Those of us who work in this field don’t just do it for money, but to be part of something bigger than we are, the grandest endeavor of humanity, something for our kids and future generations. (5/8)

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