May 16, 2010

Payton Talks Constellation Impacts on Air Force (Source: Defense News)
The White House is expected to soon complete a Space Policy Review addressing topics including space protection, cooperation, acquisition reform and export controls. The Pentagon will follow that with its own Space Posture Review, an interim version of which was delivered to Congress in March. Gary Payton, a former astronaut, is responsible for overseeing the military's space acquisition plans and research and development. Click here to read an interview with Payton, touching on issues like the impact of Constellation's cancellation on Air Force programs. (5/16)

San Diego Group Leading Efforts to Digitize Aerospace History (Source: SDASM)
The San Diego Air & Space Museum (SDASM) is proud to announce the launch of possibly the largest online collection of aviation images in the world. By using, the entire SDASM Library & Archives digitized photo collection will eventually be viewable via the internet anywhere in the world. To date, sixty-four thousand images have been uploaded, and more than 100,000 digitized images should be online before the end of the year. The aviation-related subjects include foreign and domestic military and civilian aircraft, the Flying Tigers, aviation-related biographic photos, the Ryan Aeronautical Archive, and the Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) archive. The project, with assistance from the Balboa Park Online Collaborative, has been made possible by a generous grant from the Legler Benbough Foundation. (5/16)

In-orbit Satellite Failures Stunt Revenue Growth at Intelsat (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Intelsat said its business grew just 2 percent in the first three months of 2010 and the revenue picture is unlikely to improve before the second half of this year, when new satellite capacity begins delivering results. In-orbit satellite failures are the main cause of the low growth. The IS-4 satellite failed in February, reducing first-quarter revenue and causing Intelsat to take a $6.5 million impairment charge. The Galaxy 15 satellite stopped obeying commands in April, and although its customers were all quickly transferred to the Galaxy 12 satellite, Intelsat will lose revenue customers paid to secure in-orbit backup in the event of a failure. (5/16)

Quintron Provides Comm System for Atlas V X-37B Mission (Source: CSA)
Quintron Systems is proud to have been part of the rocket launch team for the Atlas V used to put the X-37B unmanned test vehicle into orbit. “We are very pleased to be an active participant in this launch,” said David Wilhite, President and Chief Operating Officer at Quintron. “Our wonderful partnership with the United Launch Alliance has enabled Quintron communications systems to support launch operations from coast to coast.” Click here to watch an interview on the launch by Central Coast News with Mr. Wilhite. (5/16)

Space Station Team Receives 2009 Collier Trophy Honoring America’s Greatest Achievement (Source: CSA)
The 2009 Robert J. Collier Trophy has been presented to NASA and the International Space Station Team by the National Aeronautic Association. The Collier Trophy is awarded annually "for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year." (5/15)

NASA Ames Stimulates Economy With Jobs And Innovation (Source: CSA)
NASA's Ames Research Center generated 5,300 jobs and $877 million in total annual economic activity in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area in 2009, according to a new economic benefits study. The study found that nationally, NASA Ames supports more than 8,400 jobs and generates $1.3 billion in annual economic activity. Coordinated by the NASA Research Park Office and prepared by Emeryville-based Bay Area Economics (BAE) in association with Architecture, Engineering, Consulting, Operations and Management's San Francisco office, the study also reported that NASA Ames produced 5,900 jobs and contributed $932 million to California's economy in 2009. (CA section)

Bring a Shuttle Launch Countdown into Your Classroom (Source: CSA)
Bring a launch countdown into your classroom! Would your students like to serve as console engineers for a launch countdown? Now they can! Based on the actual software currently used for training at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Control Center, this software enables a launch countdown simulation with a networked system of computers. Materials are created by teachers for teachers and aligned with national education standards. There are five console stations for your student engineers: Main Engines, External Tank, BioMed, Weather and Environmental Control. While this is targeted for middle school students, it is easily scaled up to the high school level. Click here for information. (5/15)

Lazy Media Mischaracterizes Space Exploration Policy (Source: Pajamas Media)
I find much of the current debate on the new policy direction quite infuriating, not least because many of the debaters don’t even understand it, nor does the media who report it. President Obama's plan isn’t the “death knell for U.S. human space exploration.” It’s simply the death knell for an egregiously unaffordable NASA program. And Constellation is not a replacement for the shuttle. It is both more and less than that. It is an entire architecture to get humans all the way to the lunar surface and back, something that the shuttle has never been able to do. And the total cost for Constellation is projected to be much greater than thirty billion (as is sometimes reported). That price tag is for the Ares I rocket alone.

All of this mischaracterization and flawed reporting fuels hysterical and nonsensical cries of “the end of the U.S. human spaceflight program.” To try to remedy it, I decided that it would be useful to put together a little glossary, so that people could understand what the old plan was, versus the new one, and have a better basis for deciding whether or not it is an improvement. Unfortunately, I’m sure those who take it to heart will continue to find themselves confused by the awful reporting and pontificating, or (as I am) frustrated. Click here to read the article. (5/15)

JPL Opens Doors to Public (Source: Pasadena Star News)
Thousands of visitors descended on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory campus Saturday for the annual open house event that allows the public to have a glimpse of state-of-the- art space exploration technology. Most of the visitors were parents with young children in tow, hoping some of the science would rub off on them. "We came just to show them outer space," said Joo Lee, who brought his son, Andrew, and daughter, Annabelle, from El Segundo for their first open house event. (5/16)

Japanese Solar Sail Headed for Venus and Beyond (Source:
An ambitious solar sail mission designed by Japan is poised for launch Monday could become the first successful mission powered solely by sunlight, but that's not all. The spacecraft is also aimed at Venus and beyond, and could pave the way for a future hybrid space engine. The solar sail will hitch a ride aboard an H-2A rocket slated for launch on Monday from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center. That rocket carries the main mission of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Venus Climate Orbiter called Akatsuki — which means "Dawn" in Japanese. (5/16)

NASA, Congress Inch Toward Exploration Compromise (Source: Aviation Week)
U.S. space exploration policy remains the object of heated debate as the federal funding cycle grinds on, but powerful members of Congress are softening their outright opposition to the plan advanced by the White House in the Fiscal 2011 NASA budget request.

That is not to say the plan stands much chance of passing as-is. Opposition to the new approach among committee chairmen who will shape the congressional response to it remains. But upcoming retirements and the passage of time make it less likely some of them will remain in place when the final decisions are made. And Sen. John D. Rockefeller, 4th, (D-W.Va.), is indicating it’s time for a change as he prepares to help draft new NASA-authorizing legislation.

“We here in the legislative branch are going to try to continue to work with the administration to refine his plan, and change some parts of it,” says Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), whose “Space Coast” constituents around Kennedy Space Center face serious job losses as the space shuttle fleet is retired. (5/16)

UF Sends Seeds of Alternative Fuel to Space with Atlantis (Source: Gainesville Sun)
A University of Florida experiment sent Friday aboard the space shuttle Atlantis could help expand the use of an alternative fuel. The experiment contains cells of the jatropha plant, which produces seeds used to make biodiesel. The shuttle experiment is an attempt to see if low gravity will trigger genes that allow for widespread cultivation, said Wagner Vendrame, an assistant professor of horticulture at UF's research center in Homestead.

"We need to do the research to find out. Nobody has done that before," he said. "In that sense, this is pioneering work." Jatropha oil was hailed several years ago as a miracle fuel and was successfully used by airlines to fuel their jets. Its major advantage was the plant's ability to grow on land unsuitable for food production, but farmers have faced problems growing the plant on a large scale. (5/16)

Sea Launch Expects To Resume Launch Operations by Mid-2011 (Source: Space News)
Commercial launch services provider Sea Launch Co., which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization since June 2009, expects to return to flight by mid-2011 with a stripped-down cost structure that will allow the company to be profitable with no more than four or four-and-one-half missions per year, Sea Launch President Kjell Karlsen said. In addition to removing its large debt load, which Karlsen said had been an unsustainable weight Sea Launch had carried since its creation in the late 1990s, the yearlong Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding has forced the company to operate with a minimum of personnel and other resources. (5/16)

Mikulski ‘Troubled’ by Approach to Constellation Termination (Source: Space News)
U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) is urging top White House officials to stop NASA from compelling contractors to slow or halt work on the agency’s Moon-bound Constellation program in order to preserve enough money to cover the cost of shutting down the project as soon as this fall. Mikulski, who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA spending, gave White House budgtet chief Peter Orszag until May 25 to review NASA’s contract termination liability practices and develop a detailed plan to implement and pay for a new standard “to deal fairly with industry.” She asked Orszag to “direct NASA to withhold any further action regarding termination liability obligations until we resolve this matter.” (5/16)

Support for Space Center at Dueling Texas Rallies (Source: Galveston Daily News)
Two rallies were held in support of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in League City on Friday night. The underlying message of saving local jobs was the same, but the ralliers’ approaches were very much different. The Galveston County Democratic Party teamed with labor unions for its rally that officials said was focused on positive lobbying in support of the space center. Members of local tea party groups and Republican activists pledged the only way to support manned space flight was to bounce President Barack Obama and Democrats who hold the congressional majority from office.

While pledging more money for NASA overall, the president’s proposed budget includes a major dismantling of the Constellation program that was to have returned man to the moon and set up future missions to Mars. Thousands of jobs in this region are tied to that program and the soon-to-be ended space shuttle program. County Commissioner Ken Clark, who helped organize the Save NASA, Stop Obama rally, said he was motivated by a guest column by Galveston County Democratic Party Chairman Lloyd Criss, who laid some of the blame for the proposed cutting of the Constellation program at Bush’s feet.

“I was a little incensed over it because it is time for Obama to man up and take responsibility for his own actions,” Clark said. He claims Obama’s plan would result in about $983 million a year in economic losses for the region around the Johnson Space Center. Some Democrats, such as former Congressman Nick Lampson, whose district included parts of Galveston County as well as the Johnson Space Center, said the president made changes to his initial policies because of lobbying from labor unions and pro-NASA Democrats. (5/16)

Commercial vs. Ares? (Source: Space Politics)
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said his subcommittee plans to markup a NASA authorization bill by the middle of June. One key issue is likely going to be the emphasis in the administration’s plan to rely on commercial providers for crew transportation to the ISS. “You heard the skepticism among the members the other day about the commercial boys being able to man-rate their system without NASA basically having to do it for them,” he said. “I think, if I had to guess, I would say that you boys are going to have to show us that you can walk before you run,” he added, meaning that commercial providers first had to demonstrate the ability to transport cargo to the ISS before they could be considered for carrying astronauts.

Nelson suggested that commercial crew funding in the budget proposal might be better used for continued testing of heavy-lift vehicles based on the Ares design. Nelson has advocated continued testing of Ares (or at least Ares-derived) vehicles as one way to mitigate job losses at the Kennedy Space Center with the shuttle’s pending retirement, as well as accelerate a 2015 deadline for a decision on a heavy-lift concept. “I think the question is out there whether or not we’re going to man-rate commercial rockets and instead use that $6 billion trying to do a shuttle-derived man-rated system such as Ares,” he told Central Florida News 13. (5/16)

Officials Talk About Prospect of Extra Atlantis Mission (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
In a press conference after the launch of space shuttle Atlantis on its final scheduled flight, NASA officials talked about the possibility of an additional flight next year. Because Atlantis will need to be ready for a possible rescue flight for STS-134, the orbiter will be processed as if it has another scheduled flight – once it returns to earth May 26.

Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier said at the press conference that ideally officials would need to know by this June if another official mission is in Atlantis’ cards. He also said that officials have only done early estimates but such a mission would cost an estimated 600 million to 1 billion dollars and would likely fly in June 2011. (5/15)

Special Setup Thrills Select 150 'Tweeters' at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
One hundred and fifty lucky "tweeters" packed the Tweetup tent at Kennedy Space Center on Friday to send messages into cyberspace about shuttle Atlantis' last scheduled liftoff. The participants traveled from more than 30 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, The Netherlands, New Zealand and England. Applicants signed up through NASA's Twitter Web page, and the winners were randomly selected from more than 1,000 people who registered online. (5/15)

Russia Developing New Weapon for Space Defense (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's air and space forces are preparing for future threats from space with a "fundamentally new weapon," a senior officer said. "We are developing a fundamentally new weapon that can destroy potential targets in space," Col. Eduard Sigalov of Russia's air and space defense forces said. The 5th Brigade of the air and space defense forces, which is deployed in the Moscow Region, is ready to protect the capital against potential threats from outer space.

"In the near future we will have to perform the task of protecting Moscow from space-based threats," Sigalov said, adding that he hoped the potential protection would be enough and it would not actually have to be used. He said the brigade currently had S-300 and S-400 missile systems and was capable of destroying any airborne threat. The colonel added that improvements in recent years meant that units could now be ready to fire within 10 minutes. (5/15)

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