May 6, 2010

Atlantis Cleared for Its Final Countdown (Source: SPACErePORT)
Atlantis and a six member crew will launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on the orbiter's final mission to the International Space Station on May 14 at 2:20 p.m. Atlantis is scheduled to be retired after this mission, and its ultimate resting place will be a museum to be identified in the near future. (5/5)

Bigelow Marketing Inflatable Space Stations (Source: Aviation Week)
Bigelow Aerospace is kicking off a marketing campaign to attract national space agencies and corporations to its privately funded inflatable space station. Bigelow currently has two test modules in orbit and is developing two commercial habitats: the 180-cubic-meter Sundancer and the larger BA 330. The company intends to launch a Sundancer in 2014 to test its capabilities. Provided the testing phase goes well, a second Sundancer and a docking node bus will be deployed by 2015, followed by a 330.

Bigelow sees his customers coming from two large buckets: the 50-60 nations that do not have the wherewithal to support an indigenous space program, and corporations. “A lot of countries have astronauts, but what they don’t have is much opportunity for those astronauts to fly,” he says. Prices will range from $200-400 million, depending on the number of “seats” that are purchased.

Bigelow also sees an untapped market in companies that would use a space platform to perform materials work, undertake pharmaceutical research or conduct experiments in microgravity. “We think the corporate community is fairly substantial,” he says. Three-quarters of the per-astronaut fees will go toward transportation, which Bigelow is buying in volume. The company is eyeing United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets as candidates to orbit both the inflatable modules and the propulsion and docking units. (5/6)

Horowitz: Constellation Cancellation “Politically Motivated” to Punish Texas, Alabama (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Scotty “Doc” Horowitz, the astronaut-turned-NASA-AA-turned-consultant who was chiefly responsible for overseeing the Ares rockets that the Obama Administration wants to cancel, has published a defense of the program on the Mars Society’s website. He dispels a number of supposed “myths” concerning why the program has been singled out for cancellation, and suggests that one motivation is purely political. "Their objective is to cancel the 'Bush' program and punish the states (Alabama, Texas) that 'didn’t vote for us anyway'," he wrote. NASA Watch points out that Horowitz is a paid lobbyist for Alliant Techsystems, the company that will be impacted most by shutting down the Ares-1 program. (5/6)

Celestis Launches Human Remains on Suborbital Flight from New Mexico (Source: Celestis)
The Celestis 09 Pioneer Flight, launched from Spaceport America, near Las Cruces, New Mexico, carried capsules and modules from the US, China, Taiwan, and Great Britain. The capsules and modules containing cremated remains will be returned to the families of Pioneer Flight participants. As always we welcomed friends, family members, and others as our special guests for a launch pad tour, launch viewing, and memorial activities.

This flight was an Earth Rise (suborbital) mission and was launched aboard an UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL launch vehicle. We were pleased to work with the primary sponsor of the mission, the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium, by providing matching funds that assisted students to launch their experiments into space. (5/6)

Telesat Profit Margin Grows, and so Might its Next Satellite (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Telesat on May 6 reported lower revenue but higher profitability for the three months ending March 31 compared to the same period a year ago, saying both lines would have shown better numbers but for the U.S. dollar’s drop in value against the Canadian dollar. The Ottawa-based company also said it would contract for the construction of an Anik G1 satellite by the end of May. What was originally envisioned as a relatively small spacecraft to provide 16 direct-broadcast television transponders for Canada’s Shaw Direct broadcaster may be enlarged to meet growing demand for satellite bandwidth in Latin America. (5/6)

Alliant Sees NASA Revamp Easing (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Alliant Techsystems Inc., potentially the biggest corporate loser in White House proposals to outsource large chunks of U.S. manned space exploration, Thursday sought to signal Wall Street that most of the programs are likely to survive the revamping. Alliant's share of NASA's Constellation program, which accounts for about $400 million of the company's $4.80 billion in fiscal 2010 revenue, will stay at roughly the same level through next March, company officials said. The forecast is surprising given White House's proposal to ax nearly all the program. (5/6)

EU Milspace Agencies Likely More Relevant (Source: Aviation Week)
Military planners hope that Europe’s revised institutional framework—as outlined in the Lisbon Treaty—will help broaden the mandate of a key satellite center and the European Defense Agency (EDA) so they can contribute more meaningfully to continental defense. Both the EDA and European Union Satellite Center (EUSC) suffer from insufficient funding and political limitations that severely constrain their missions.

Planners hope this situation can be corrected by new features introduced by the treaty, in particular the European External Action Service (EEAS)—the EU’s equivalent of the foreign ministry. The EEAS will assume responsibility for many military and security functions formerly under the European Council or the European Commission. (5/6)

A Difference of Opinion Between Space Subcommittee’s Leaders: Olson (Source: Space Politics)
In an op-ed last week, the ranking member of the space subcommittee, Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), is clearly opposed to the Obama plan, reiterating previous concerns about its affect on US space leadership. “The president acknowledged recently his initial proposal to alter NASA’s mission was dead on arrival in Congress,” he claimed (an assessment the White House would not likely agree with). “Unfortunately, his new vision isn’t much better.”

Among other things, Olson is critical of the space workforce task force formally established by the president earlier this week, saying it “discounts the important mission control team at Johnson Space Center in Texas and its historic role in human space flight”. (In fact, the task force’s charter allows it to examine workforce issues elsewhere, although the $40 million the president pledged is only for Florida.) Olson, at the end of the op-ed, was pushing for a restoration of Constellation with “adequate resources”. “Several of my colleagues have joined with me in requesting that NASA find the means within their budget to continue Constellation,” he said.

Olson, who described himself as “a proponent of returning to the moon”, took a full paragraph to explain why a human return there is important, for science and also preparation for later missions to Mars. (5/6)

A Difference of Opinion Between Space Subcommittee’s Leaders: Giffords (Source: Space Politics)
In an op-ed last week, the chair of the space subcommittee, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) expresses concerns with many aspects of the president’s plan, noting that “the president’s budget did not offer a serious path to realizing those dreams” of human exploration beyond LEO. However, she doesn’t call for a complete restoration of Constellation. “We cannot continue to argue between the president’s plan and the status quo.

There must be a third way,” she writes. That alternative approach would provide “assured access to the International Space Station on an American spacecraft” and also transfer those flights to the commercial sector “when it is mature and ready and demonstrably safe”. She acknowledges that a plan that does that and fits into the planned budget will be “challenging”, and she is working with her staff and fellow subcommittee members on this.

Giffords says this at the end of her essay: “I have every expectation that our astronauts will make the first human trips to an asteroid, deep into space and ultimately to Mars.” She makes no mention of future human missions to the Moon. (5/6)

2010 Florida Legislative Session Delivers $31 Million+ for Space Industry Growth (Source: Space Florida)
Faced with the impending Shuttle retirement (expected to result in 23,000 direct and indirect job losses, contributing to significant economic impact across the state), the Florida Legislature voted to unanimously support critical legislation designed to stimulate economic development and promote aerospace jobs. Strong leadership by House and Senate leaders - included incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos and incoming Speaker, Dean Cannon - along with a Space Caucus mobilized by Rep. Rich Workman, were key to getting $31+ million approved to focus on diversifying Florida's space industry and improving recruitment and expansion efforts of aerospace-related businesses. Click here for a summary of the approved investments. (5/6)

Ohio Town Trying to Preserve ASRC Tax Revenue in Glenn Deal (Source:
Officials at Ohio's Fairview Park are working hard to retain the nearly $400,000 income tax revenue generated by NASA contractors working at a Glenn Research Center building. Monday is the deadline for the parties to reach a consensus. Mayor Eileen Patton learned on April 28 that a plan to redevelop NASA Glenn’s north campus while retaining one firm, Arctic Slope Regional Corp., was tenuous. NASA was close to an agreement with the developer, Geis Construction, which remained interested in the project, but it appeared that the perimeters of the agreement changed, she said.

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich said he was told by a NASA staffer that the developer withdrew from consideration on April 16 because two timing issues that were not resolved, but that they were willing to return to the negotiating table. Patton said she has a commitment from GRC Director Ray Lugo, the developer and Kucinich’s office to continue discussions throughout the week. The goal is to have the developer and GRC form an agreement in which ASRC would either remain in the building, or move to a temporary location within Fairview Park. Late last year, the city reached an agreement with ASRC under which the company would receive a 10 percent tax incentive rebate to stay in its current location at NASA Glenn Building 500 until the end of 2011. (5/6)

DigitalGlobe Reports First Quarter 2010 Results (Source: Business Wire)
DigitalGlobe reported financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2010. First quarter 2010 revenue was $77.1 million, an increase of 14.7% compared with the same period last year. First quarter 2010 net income was $1.5 million, compared with net income of $10.6 million for the same period last year. (5/6)

Globalstar Announces Milestones and Timetable for Launch of New Satellites (Source: MarketWatch)
Globalstar's advanced second-generation constellation, which secures Globalstar's space segment beyond the year 2025, will be the world's newest commercial satellite network. The deployment of the constellation is expected to afford the Company up to a five-year competitive advantage over its primary competitor, which still has not yet named a manufacturer for its second-generation satellites. The launch of the new satellites is expected in the September or early October from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan using the highly reliable Soyuz launch vehicle. (5/6)

ATK Returns to a Profit in 4Q (Source: Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal)
Alliant Techsystems Inc. swung to a profit in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2010, as increased defense sales offset declining space program sales. ATK had net income of $58.4 million in the quarter ended March 31. That compares to a loss of $36.5 million a year ago. ATK reported total sales of $1.25 billion for the fourth quarter, down 0.6 percent from a year ago. Armament Systems sales surged 26 percent to $549.2 million, while Space Systems sales plunged 26 percent to $334.3 million. Mission Systems sales slipped 2 percent to $365.6 million. (5/6)

Former NASA Chief Calls Obama Space Policy Proposals "Drivel" (Source: Seattle Astronomy Examiner)
Former NASA administrator Michael Griffin takes strong exception to most of President Obama's proposed space exploration policy, disagreeing with the major points and calling much of it "drivel." Griffin spoke in Seattle Tuesday evening at the Museum of Flight. Griffin, who headed NASA from 2005 until 2009, noted that the space agency enjoys staggering popularity. Griffin does not limit his criticism to the current administration. He finds three decades of neglect, starting with President Nixon, who took the axe to the Apollo program mere weeks after Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon.

“Dismantling Apollo and underfunding the human space flight program for his tenure in office were far from the only things President Nixon did which damaged this nation," Griffin said. "But some of the longer-lasting damage certainly were the decisions that were made as to what to do with the American space program. We did a lot less than we should have done.” Griffin believes President George W. Bush got it right, responding to the shuttle Columbia disaster with "the best space policy we've had since John Kennedy." (5/6)

NASA Tests Astronaut Escape System for Spacecraft Cut in Budget (Source: BusinessWeek)
NASA tested a new way for astronauts to escape during an emergency on the launch pad or liftoff, even though the spacecraft intended to use the system may never carry humans into orbit. The launch-abort system tested early Thursday at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico was designed by Orbital Sciences Corp. for the Orion crew capsule, which was to take astronauts to the moon. President Barack Obama scrapped the lunar effort in a budget issued in February.

The test reflects efforts to keep spacecraft development alive while the administration spars with Congress on the future of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Democratic and Republican lawmakers want the U.S. to retain an ability to go to and from the International Space Station once the space shuttle program ends. The revised Orion wouldn’t need the system tested today, which is designed to pull the capsule away from the launch pad within milliseconds in case of an accident, allowing the astronauts inside to get to safety. (5/6)

Study: Commercial Satellite Launch Costs are Dropping Sharply (Source: AIA)
The cost of sending commercial satellites into geostationary orbit fell by as much as 34% between 1999 and 2008, and the trend is expected to continue, according to a new study from Arianespace with participation by International Launch Services. The price for launching a kilogram of payload to GEO declined from an average of $32,000 in 1999-2000 to $21,000 in 2007-2008, according to the report. (5/6)

MDA Sees Business Case for In-orbit Servicing (Source: Space News)
Canada’s MDA Corp., with little debt and now entering a period of predictably strong cash flows, believes its money is better placed investing in a future in-orbit satellite servicing business — something that has never been attempted — than in repurchasing its stock or increasing shareholder dividends. In the clearest indication yet that MDA believes it has found a sustainable satellite-servicing business model that has eluded everyone else, the company plans a major investment in the business starting late this year. The company's president did not say how much MDA thinks it will need to finance a first robotic mission to deliver fuel or to perform another service on a satellite in orbit. He said “it may be more or less than” an investor’s guess of 200 million Canadian dollars ($195 million). (5/6)

MDA Reports Q1 Profit Up, Revenue Down (Source: Money)
MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. reported an increase in first-quarter earnings compared with a year ago, despite a drop in revenue. The technology company said it earned $29.1 million for the quarter ended March 31 compared with a profit of $24.4 million a year ago. Revenue totaled $245.9 million, down from $272 million. (5/6)

NM Spaceport Work Causes Water Trouble (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Two residents of the tiny community of Cutter, north of Spaceport America, are experiencing a water outage tied to construction of the $198 million, state-owned spaceport. Seventeen-year resident Sylvia Smith, 56, said Wednesday she first began noticing water shortages about one month ago, but the problem became acute about 12 days ago, when faucets went dry completely. Since then, Smith and her ex-husband, Jim Smith, who both live at the home, have been without water from their domestic well.

At issue is heavy pumping from a certain well, called the Romero Well. It's privately owned and located on a ranch about seven miles from the spaceport site, near Cutter, but it's being used to supply contractors for their work on the project, state officials said. "We do have water down here, but they're pumping it out faster than what it can recover," Sylvia Smith said. (5/6)

National Security and Commercial Launch (Source: Space Politics)
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) issued a draft report titled “National Security and the Commercial Space Sector”, with an emphasis on the commercial launch sector. The release of a draft report during a 90-minute event at CSIS’s offices in Washington was a little unusual for the organization, which usually waits until a final product is ready. One reason for the draft release is to solicit input from the public (through the end of this month), but also, according to David Berteau, director of the Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group at CSIS, because of the ongoing policy reviews by the administration and a desire “to contribute where we can to those, rather than wait until they’re finished and then we come along and follow behind and critique them.”

Because the report is still in a draft stage, Berteau said that they were still at the “findings” stage, and they had yet to make specific recommendations or other conclusions. The draft report primarily notes the relatively weak standing of the commercial launch industry in the United States and the need for a more robust launch industry to meet national needs. It also includes four options for supporting the launch industry. One is to “leverage” foreign launch providers through strategic partnerships with the US government, potentially for the launch of government satellites on these vehicles, as well as export control reform.

A second option would be to encourage competition among US launch providers in an effort to lower prices and improve service. A third option would go in the opposite direction, with the US government taking a bigger role in the launch market, including “picking a winner” among domestic launch providers and/or providing direct subsidies to them. The fourth option would stimulate demand for launches, perhaps by launching more but smaller, less complex satellites and expand its use of commercial satellites, thus increasing demand for them. (5/4)

Obama's NASA Plans Appear in Jeopardy (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Three weeks after President Obama told an audience at KSC that he wants to land astronauts on an asteroid by 2025, Congress remains unconvinced, largely because Obama's proposal also puts commercial rocket companies in charge of getting astronauts to the International Space Station after the space shuttle is retired this year. Few Democrats have publicly endorsed the entire plan, while opponents such as Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, who looks after the interests of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, continue to blast the proposal as "unrealistic" and "destructive."

NASA itself also appears to be hedging its bets that the president's vision might not pass muster with Congress. KSC officials and contractors, under direction from Johnson Space Center and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, are pressing ahead with plans for test flights of a multibillion-dollar Ares I rocket that Obama wants to cancel. Meanwhile, big aerospace contractors like Boeing are trying to sell members of Congress on a new $8 billion rocket that could be fashioned from pieces of the space shuttle, which is supposed to be retired later this year.

Though there is little unity in Congress on what to do next, most experts agree it could stall — or even derail — White House aims to retire the shuttle and to cancel NASA's long-standing plans to return astronauts to the moon. "Purgatory is exactly the right word," said John Logsdon, a space expert at George Washington University. The White House can't marshal support to quickly pass the new NASA policy, while opponents have been unable to get enough traction to kill it outright. (5/6)

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