June 10, 2010

Koreans Fault Russian Component in Launch Failure (Source: Moscow Times)
The unsuccessful launch of a South Korean rocket on Thursday may have been caused by a malfunction of its first-stage booster, which was designed and produced in Russia, according to Korean media. The Moscow-based Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, which built the booster, did not comment on the allegations, but a source in the Russian space industry told Interfax that premature launch of the second-stage engine, developed by Korea, might be to blame. The first KSLV-1 rocket was launched in August and exploded because of problems with the Korean module. (6/10)

Manned Space Flight for Japan: One JAXA Doctor's Dream (Source: Yomiuri Shimbun)
Japan welcomed astronaut Soichi Noguchi back to Earth on June 2, after a six-month stay at the International Space Station. Yet behind his great achievement stands Shoichi Tachibana, leader of the medical team that supported Noguchi. A self-described optimist who will "try anything without thinking about the consequences," Tachibana took a job at JAXA in 2003. His initial assignment was to support Noguchi on his first space flight.

"Space isn't a place for adventure any more. It's become a place to live," said Tachibana after overseeing Noguchi's latest mission. Noguchi is the second Japanese to stay long-term in space. Thanks to his six-month journey, Tachibana has been able to add to existing medical data on humans in space. "I want to use the data to help Japan carry out its own manned space flight," he said. (6/10)

Boeing Announces Huntsville Constellation Job Cuts (Source: AP)
Boeing will let go of up to 60 percent of the 300 people working on the Constellation program rocket in Huntsville. The company says it will issue advance notice of job terminations July 2. Boeing spokesman Ed Memi says workers will leave Sept. 3. The cuts come after a Wednesday NASA announcement that funding to the program will shut down within weeks. NASA says contractors haven't set aside nearly $1 billion the law requires for possible program shutdown costs and that money must be found in what's left unspent of NASA's budget this year. (6/10)

Many Famous Comets Originally Formed in Other Solar Systems (Source: SWRI)
Many of the most well known comets, including Halley, Hale-Bopp and, most recently, McNaught, may have been born in orbit around other stars, according to a new theory by an international team of astronomers led by a scientist from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). Researchers used computer simulations to show that the Sun may have captured small icy bodies from its sibling stars while it was in its birth star cluster, thereby creating a reservoir for observed comets. (6/10)

Feinstein Congratulates SpaceX (Source: Space Politics)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who doesn’t speak out much about space issues, issued a press release Wednesday congratulating SpaceX for last Friday’s successful launch of the first Falcon 1. Calling the launch “an enormous success” and “a glimpse of the future of space transportation”, she said it was a sign that “California will continue to lead the way for technological innovation and space flight”. (6/10)

CAIB Members Clash on Safety and Constellation (Source: Space Politics)
Roger Tetrault, who served on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) argues that for crew vehicles “safety must be the primary consideration above all other design parameters – including performance, cost, reusability, and advance space operations...[T]he choice to commercialize our launch capability provides insufficient safety for the brave men and women that will be asked to ride these rockets.”

Another person who served on the CAIB disagrees with Tetrault, though. John Logsdon told Space News that Tetrault is making “an ideological judgment, not a technical statement” by concluding that commercial providers would provide “insufficient safety” for crewed launches. “You can’t make such a judgment in advance of something being done.” (6/10)

$75M for Innovation Incentive Fund in Florida Budget (Source: SSTI)
Florida's FY11 budget, signed into law last month by Gov. Charlie Crist, replenishes the Innovation Incentive Fund with $75 million. The recruitment fund was immediately tapped by lawmakers for $50 million toward enticing Maine's Jackson Laboratory to open a branch in Collier County, leaving $25 million for other major R&D projects and create high wage jobs throughout Florida.

Editor's Note: With tens of millions in state and federal funding now being committed to mitigating the impacts of the Space Shuttle's retirement, including space-related economic expansion and diversification, now's the time for companies to implement their expansion plans in the Sunshine State. Incentives are now available for workforce training, infrastructure development, R&D, and expansion/relocation activities. (6/10)

Value of Space Economy Rose 7% in 2009, Says Space Foundation (Source: Flight Global)
Last year brought a 7% increase in the size of the space economy, as measured by the sum of space industry revenues and government space budgets, which totalled $262 billion. Overall growth reflected a 16% increase in government spending, which amounted to $86 billion and accounted for one-third of the space economy. The US government alone allocated $63 billion to space, a 9% rise on 2008's spend.

However, the value of the space infrastructure sector - which comprises spacecraft manufacturing, launch services, in-space platforms and ground equipment - fell 1% to $84 billion, accounting for 32% of the total. Meanwhile, the commercial satellite services sector generated 35% of total value as it rose 8% to $91 billion, and the infrastructure support and space commercial transport sectors had values of $1.15 billion and $80 million, respectively. (6/10)

Will Sun Storms Destroy Civilization? (Source: The Week)
Bad space weather could put a serious damper on modern technology, warns NASA. So what are we doing about it? A group of scientists congregated in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss how to protect the planet from powerful bursts of energy from the sun that have the potential to devastate civilization. Do they pose a threat to the Earth? Not directly. But a sun storm emits massive amounts of radiation capable of causing havoc with our technological systems. The X-rays and UV radiation emitted by powerful solar flares could, for starters, disable satellites and communications equipment. Click here to read the article. (6/10)

Germany Eyes High-Resolution Optical Imaging Satellites (Source: Space News)
The German government is looking for commercial or government partners to develop a high-resolution optical Earth observation satellite as part of Germany’s strategy of complementing its current radar observation satellites, German Aerospace Center (DLR) officials said. DLR officials said Germany no longer feels bound by a tacit agreement with France that Germany would stick to radar satellites and leave optical imagery to France. (6/10)

One Giant Leap for Oiled Birds (Source: MSNBC)
Rehabilitated birds from Louisiana's oil-spill zone are being airlifted to a new home that's famous for flight: NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Six brown pelicans, four laughing gulls and one common tern were flown from a bird-rescue center at Fort Jackson in Louisiana to Florida over the weekend. The birds were released on Sunday at the 140,000-acre Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, which is co-located with the space center. "They looked pretty normal," the refuge's supervisory park ranger, Dorn Whitmore, told me today. "They acted happy to be free again. If pelicans could look happy, that's how they'd look."

Bird-rescue crews were gearing up for another Louisiana-to-Florida transfer on Thursday, but Sharon Taylor, a veterinarian with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Louisiana, said the trip had to be postponed. "There was a problem with a last-minute health check," she told me. After the birds are cleaned up, they need a few days of drying and preening to make their feathers waterproof again, Taylor explained. During this evening's final check, she and her colleagues determined that the feathers weren't quite right yet. So it'll be another couple of days before the next airlift can take place. (6/10)

South Korea Launch Fails, Rocket Explodes (Source: AP)
South Korea says a rocket that it sent into space Thursday carrying an observation satellite is believed to have exploded in flight. Officials believe the two-stage Naro rocket operated normally for 137 seconds after liftoff from the country's space center. But then communications with the rocket were lost. The rocket was launched after a one-day delay due to malfunctioning firefighting equipment near the launchpad at the coastal Naro space center in Goheung, 290 miles (465 kilometers) south of Seoul.

The rocket lifted off successfully Thursday, loaded with an observation satellite for studying global warming and climate change, but aerospace officials lost contact with the rocket 137 seconds later, the state-run Korea Aerospace Research Institute said. It was not immediately clear whether all chance of contact with the satellite was lost or if communications could be restored later. The first stage of the two-stage Naro rocket was designed and built by Russia and the second by South Korea. (6/10)

Is NASA's Surprise Order the Death Knell for Constellation Program? (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
In a surprise move, NASA has told the major contractors working on its troubled Constellation moon rocket program that they are in violation of federal spending rules -- and must immediately cut back work by almost $1 billion to get into compliance. As many as 5,000 jobs from Utah to Florida are expected to be lost over the next month. The effect of the directive, which went out to contractors earlier this week and which Congress was told about on Wednesday, may accomplish something that President Barack Obama has sought since February: killing Constellation's system of rockets, capsules and lunar landers that has already cost at least $9 billion.

The decision caps a bitter, three-month behind-the-scenes battle between aerospace giants and NASA managers over who is responsible for covering the costs of dismantling the Constellation program. The fight has dragged in members of Congress and the White House -- and has dramatically raised the stakes in the struggle over the future of the country's human spaceflight program. The federal Anti-Deficiency Act that requires all federal contractors to set aside a portion of their payments to cover costs in case the project is canceled.

New NASA calculations say contractors are $991 million short of what they must withhold – and the agency has ordered the companies to find that money from the roughly $3.5 billion they're budgeted to get for Constellation projects this year. In a letter to Congress released Wednesday, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said: "Given this estimated shortfall, the Constellation program cannot continue all of its planned ... program activities [this year] within the resources available. Under the Anti-Deficiency Act (ADA), NASA has no choice but to correct this situation." (6/10)

NASA Management Failed to Enforce Termination Liability Requirements (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA chief financial officer Beth Robinson told members of Congress that contractors had "erroneously assumed" that they didn't have to set aside any funds to cover the Constellation program's cancellation and instead put everything they had into production of the various systems. But she also admitted that NASA did not manage the contractors properly. Privately officials are pointing fingers at former NASA administrator Michael Griffin, the architect of the Constellation program, for turning a blind eye to termination liability requirements in order to try to sink as much money as possible into the program to make it harder to cancel. NASA officials say they assume there will be investigations ordered by Congress in coming months. (6/10)

SpaceX Illustrates Privatization Risk (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Space entrepreneur Elon Musk made history last week with the successful launch of his Falcon 9 rocket, but he has acknowledged that he worried a few years ago that his project would have to shut down for lack of cash. President Obama believes his commercial spaceflight policy will both save money and spawn a vibrant U.S.-based space industry. But Congress has stalled the plan, and some critics say that portions of it amount to a back-door bailout of companies like Mr. Musk's.

Mr. Musk's closely held company still needs a cash infusion of more than $1 billion in the next year or two to reach its goal of transporting astronauts to the international space station later this decade. That's twice the total investment by SpaceX, as the company is known, since its creation in 2002. And while Mr. Musk tapped his own fortune for some $100 million of that, U.S. taxpayers are the most likely source of future assistance. (6/9)

Elon Musk Disputes WSJ Article (Source: NASA Watch)
Andy Pasztor's article in the Journal was, I'm sorry to say, rife with errors. He was off by a factor of ten on what it would cost SpaceX to develop a launch escape system. Also, under no circumstances would SpaceX be seeking a financing round from the taxpayers. That doesn't make any sense. (6/9)

No comments: