May 4, 2010

More Financing For Sea Launch (Source: SpaceDaily)
Sea Launch has accepted the terms of agreement for debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing from Energia Overseas Limited ("EOL"). As a result of the court-approved agreement, EOL will replace Sea Launch's existing DIP lender, Space Launch Services (SLS). The new DIP financing agreement with EOL, which received interim approval from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware on Apr. 27, provides additional funding to Sea Launch, totaling $30 million.

Part of the proceeds of this facility will be used to repay all outstanding SLS DIP loans to date, amounting to approximately $19 million. The remaining balance of this facility will be used to fund ongoing operations at Sea Launch through confirmation of its Plan of Reorganization. (5/4)

'Wet' Asteroid Could be Space Gas Station (Source: Florida Today)
The recent discovery of an asteroid wrapped in a layer of water ice has revived the possibility that some space rocks would be great potential pit stops – as well as destinations – for manned or robotic exploration missions. If a space destination has water, that means astronauts traveling there could potentially use it for drinking and washing. But much more importantly, the water could be broken down into its component parts (hydrogen and oxygen) to make rocket fuel, experts say. (5/4)

Can the Free Market Save the Space Program? (Source: Washington Monthly)
President Bush’s NASA budget was even more inadequate than it looked at first blush. The official plan was to use the money from the soon-to-be-canceled shuttle program to fuel Constellation’s growth. But the administration had ignored the fact that about half the shuttle’s budget was tied up in fixed costs that wouldn’t disappear with the craft itself, things like test facilities and Mission Control operations. It was magical thinking masquerading as fiscal responsibility.

...Preoccupied with his ambitions, former NASA Administrator Griffin had made the classic engineer’s error: in drawing up his grand designs, he had simply assumed the money he needed to make them happen would be there. As a result, he left his successors with a far bigger mess than he had inherited. If there was one thing his NASA tenure proved, it was that the human spaceflight program’s problem wasn’t a lack of ambition—it was getting someone to pay for it. In trying to figure their way out of the same box, his successors would steer a course in the opposite direction. Click here to read the article. (5/4)

China has Good Reason to Stay Quiet on US Military Space Tests (Source: Asia Times)
The US Air Force's launch of the mysterious robotic X-37B from Florida came just hours after the launch from California of the Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle-2 (HTV-2). The HTV-2 is an unmanned glider developed by DARPA which was reportedly supposed to travel more than 4,000 miles in just 30 minutes. While the X-37B launch was a success, DARPA announced that the Falcon test flight was a failure.

China could easily put the US in the hot seat for failing to disclose details about the true nature of the X-37B test-flight. Having such an opportunity to turn the tables on the US after listening to so many US complaints in the past about China's lack of transparency no doubt bemuses Beijing. However, China has good reasons for tempering its criticism.

Several days after the launches of the X-37B and Falcon HTV-2, for example, there was a report in the Chinese press attributed to Wang Chun, a senior engineer at the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute who serves as general director of Near Space Vehicle Research Laboratory, that China had successfully launched its own hypersonic "prototype space fighter". Akjll coverage of this story which commenced in China Aviation News suddenly ceased in the Chinese press, and a well-publicized retraction took place shortly thereafter. (5/4)

Kennedy Space Center Virtual Job Fair Planned for May 17-31 (Source: Brevard Workforce)
NASA and Brevard Workforce are sponsoring a Virtual Job Fair; a two-week-long 24/7 online recruiting tool for showcasing your jobs to the transitioning aerospace workforce. There is no cost to Employers or Job Seekers. Employers can register beginning May 10. For registration and information, visit (5/4)

Rep. Posey's Statement on Obama Workforce Transition Effort (Source: Rep. Posey)
“A better transition program for space workers and our nation’s continued leadership in space is to abandon the President’s proposal to cancel Constellation and for NASA to continue flying the Space Shuttle to close the space flight gap,” said Congressman Posey.

“In his memo, the President blames the previous Administration for eliminating thousands of high skilled jobs and outsourcing them to Russia, but makes no mention of his decision to cancel Constellation after $9 billion in investments and a successful test launch. At some point the President needs to take responsibility for his own Administration’s decision to widen the space gap and cede America’s leadership in space, which is the modern day military high ground." (5/4)

Should We Extend the Space Shuttle Program a Year? (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Now that the Space Shuttle schedule has changed due to delays in finishing work on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, the earliest the space shuttle program will end is early December. There continues to be talk in Congress of adding a fourth flight to the shuttle manifest, and possibly extending the program into 2011 or 2012 to minimize a gap in U.S. spaceflight capability. NASA could do this without tremendous new production costs as it already has a spare external fuel tank.

So how much would it cost to extend the shuttle program a year? During its heyday with full production (producing about four external tanks a year) the shuttle cost $3.2 billion a year. Because there are so many fixed costs with operations and shuttle maintenance, it would cost about $1.8 billion annually to extend the shuttle program even without new production.

And would a shuttle extension mission be of use to the International Space Station? Mike Suffredini said an additional flight to the station would be helpful, especially it if it came up next summer, when it could bring up plenty of useful supplies in an MPLM. "If someone said to me, 'You could have this extra flight,' I'd say, 'Don't give it to me until next summer,'" said Mike Suffredini, the space station program manager. (5/4)

California Space Authority Deepening Ties With France’s Toulouse Region (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The California Space Authority (CSA), representing the diverse space enterprise community of our state, will attend this year’s Toulouse Space Show in France during the week of June 8 through 11. In cooperation with member company ANewWorld Consulting, CSA will lead a delegation of California space companies to the international show, during which six contemporaneous space-related conferences and symposia will be featured. (5/4)

Can NASA Outsource Space Travel? (Source: Mother Jones)
I had dinner with some friends the other night, and one of the guys who showed up was Rand Simberg, an aerospace engineer who writes frequently about NASA and space flight in general. As it happens, Rand and I disagree about the value of a manned space program, and since he's a conservative, we disagree about nearly everything else as well. But it turns out there's at least one thing we agree about: Barack Obama's plan for space exploration is both pretty conservative and pretty good.

The genius of private enterprise, of course, is that it might work, and it might do so in ways that nobody can predict. That's why I support it: I'm not thrilled at the idea of spending massive amounts of taxpayer money on manned space flight, but I am willing to spend moderate amounts of taxpayer money on seed money to help the private sector do it. (5/3)

How Much Junk is in Space? (Source:
Space, a seemingly vast frontier, is actually pretty crowded with junk, and it's getting worse. Just this week the communications satellite Galaxy 15 lost control and joined the growing ranks of debris crowding the space around Earth. About 500,000 known pieces of space junk – down to items about 0.5 inches (1.27 centimeters) wide – are constantly tracked by the Department of Defense's U.S. Space Surveillance Network. Of those, about 21,000 objects are larger than 4 inches (10.1 cm) in diameter. These are items like spent rocket stages and broken satellites such as Galaxy 15. (5/4)

Congress Could Leave NASA Funding in Limbo This Year (Source: AIA)
As Congress continues to oppose President Barack Obama's proposal to shift space transportation from NASA to commercial enterprises, it is more likely that funding for the agency will be handled as a "continuing resolution" this year, instead of an appropriations bill. That will only make things more confusing, leaving NASA to continue work on the Constellation Program that is otherwise canceled under the proposal. (5/4)

Falcon-9 Launch Awaits Destruct-System Certification (Source: Florida Today)
The first flight of the Falcon 9 rocket is slipping back to May 23, but SpaceX is holding open an option to move the launch back up if the vehicle is ready and an opportunity opens. SpaceX had a "placeholder" launch date of May 11 on the schedule at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

But a subcontractor still is striving to complete Air Force-required tests on parts of the rocket's flight termination system. SpaceX Founder Elon Musk said in an e-mail Monday that the company would not be able to select a definitive launch date until the components pass certification tests. NASA aims to launch shuttle Atlantis on May 14. A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket is slated to blast off May 20. SpaceX is working around those operations, eyeing a May 16 or 17 date. (5/4)

New Mexico Students Poised to Launch Experiments (Source: KWES)
New Mexico students are hoping their experiments go into space Tuesday. A suborbital rocket is scheduled for liftoff at the New Mexico spaceport. All the experiments were planned and set up by New Mexico high school and college students. A company that does work at the spaceport, UP Aerospace, designed and built the rocket. Scientists have spent recent weeks checking the rocket's avionics systems and providing support for recovery testing to ensure the experiments can be recovered. (5/4)

NASA Readies Next Undersea Mission Off Florida Coast (Source: NASA)
NASA will send two astronauts, a veteran undersea engineer and an experienced scientist into the ocean depths off Florida's east coast this month to test exploration concepts and learn more about working in an unforgiving, treacherous environment. The 14th expedition of NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations, or NEEMO, begins May 10. (5/4)

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