June 11, 2010

UK Space Agency to Spearhead Mars Mission (Source: UKPA)
Britain's new space agency is to spearhead a search for life on Mars, with teams from Imperial College London helping to develop its life-detecting instrument, it has been announced. The UK Space Agency is providing £10.5 million to develop life-seeking instruments for an advanced Martian rover. ExoMars is due to land on the Red Planet in 2018 as part of a joint European and US mission.

The robot vehicle will bristle with sophisticated technology, much of it developed in the UK, designed to look for signs of past or present life. Unlike previous rovers, ExoMars will carry a ground-penetrating radar capable of peering under the Martian surface at promising locations. A drill will enable it to extract samples from a depth of up to two metres to analyse using an on-board laboratory. (6/11)

SpaceX Seeks To Drop a Dragon Flight from COTS Plan (Source: Space News)
Buoyed by the successful debut of its Falcon 9 rocket June 4, SpaceX is hoping to persuade NASA to waive one of three planned test flights designed to prove its reusable Dragon capsule can ferry cargo to the space station. SpaceX is making its case for condensing the demonstration phase even as it prepares to launch its first full-fledged Dragon spacecraft late this summer.

Under its $278 million Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) agreement with NASA, SpaceX is on the hook to complete three increasingly sophisticated demonstration flights of Falcon 9 and Dragon before beginning regular supply runs to the space station next year. Although the Falcon 9 delivered a model of the Dragon capsule into orbit June 4, the flight was not meant to count as a COTS demonstration. (6/11)

Review of New Ariane 5 Upper-stage Design Finds Weight Issue (Source: Space News)
An initial design review of a new, more-powerful upper stage for Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket has concluded that the stage is too heavy to deliver the required performance. One official said the evaluation is almost certain to revive questions about whether the proposed Ariane 5 Mid-life Evolution (Ariane 5 ME) investment is worthwhile. European government officials have been debating for more than a year whether spending some 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) on Ariane 5 ME, which likely will not be in service before 2017, should be scrapped in favor of proceeding directly with a next-generation rocket to replace Ariane 5. (6/11)

Congressmen Still Want Probe of NASA Constellation Decisions (Solurce: Huntsville Times)
U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith, R-Huntsville, has reiterated his desire and that of U.S. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, for a Government Accountability Office investigation of NASA's attempts to end the Constellation rocket program. (6/11)

Russian Firm Blames Control System for South Korean Rocket Failure (Source: Xinhua)
Defects in the control system were to blame for the failure to launch a South Korean rocket on Thursday, spokesman for Russian company Energomash said. The company built the first stage of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) rocket, also called naro-1 rocket, which functioned as planned, according to the spokesman.

"What happened was not our fault. We did everything right. The Russian-made engine functioned as planned," he said, adding that no reports on any problems linked with its operations were made. The explosion was reported to have occurred during its first-stage ignition. (6/11)

Life on Titan? Maybe – But Only a Lander Will Tell Us (Source: New Scientist)
Hints of unexpected chemical activity on Saturn's moon Titan have sparked speculation that there may be alien life there. The new measurements are intriguing. Taken alone, however, they don't constitute evidence of extraterrestrials. Several missions to Titan's surface would be needed to find unambiguous evidence for life.

One of the first steps may be to send a robotic lander equipped with a mass spectrometer, which could look for complex organic molecules – Titan analogues of molecules like ATP and chlorophyll – that could provide additional evidence of life. A team of researchers is asking NASA to fund one such spacecraft, the Titan Mare Explorer. If accepted, it will launch in 2017. A larger Titan mission that would include a balloon and lander was deferred by NASA last year in favour of first sending two probes to explore Jupiter and its moons. (6/11)

GAO: Environmental Sat Data Gaps Looming (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. government still has not established plans to fully restore the environmental sensing capabilities removed from the Npoess and GOES-R satellite programs, and gaps in coverage are expected to begin in 2015, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Both Npoess and GOES-R were envisioned to fulfill requirements for weather, space weather, and climate monitoring,” GAO says in its report. “However, in 2006, both of these programs were restructured due to growing costs.” (6/11)

Russian Media Says Premature Separation Would Have Caused the Failure (Source: Arirang)
Seoul and Moscow have initiated a joint probe into the crash of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle or Naro space rocket, which exploded 137 seconds after its launch on Thursday afternoon. An anonymous source from the Russian aerospace industry said that a flash caught on camera during the communication cut-off could have been associated with a premature separation of the first-stage and second-stage rockets, leading to the failure. Korean specialists also say that the incident might have been caused by a fault in the pyrotechnical system of the separation between two rockets. (6/11)

NASA's Uncertain Course (Source: The Week)
The Obama administration is charting a new direction for the space agency. Is it the right one? NASA's status is in limbo. The federal budget squeeze has sapped the space program’s ambitions, and the public’s fascination with space exploration has dwindled ever since its high point during the first moon landing, in 1969. One recent poll found that by a 50 percent to 31 percent margin, Americans say that given the current state of the economy, the U.S. should cut back on space exploration.

NASA was given a temporary reprieve when President George W. Bush launched the Constellation program, which was aimed at designing and developing spacecraft to send astronauts back to the moon, establish a manned base there, and then launch a mission to Mars. But a government panel recently concluded that Constellation would need an additional $45 billion to $60 billion to achieve those goals. As a result, President Obama has proposed killing Constellation and moving NASA in a radically different direction. Click here to read the article. (6/11)

GAO Report: Pentagon Agency Spends billions on Unneeded Parts (Source: AIA)
In what one senator called an "unbelievable" waste of taxpayer money, the Pentagon's Defense Logistics Agency spends more than $7 billion per year on spare parts that it doesn't even need. The finding, from a new report from the Government Accountability Office, comes from an examination of purchases by the agency between 2006 and 2008. (6/11)

Official: DOD Spending Should Stay Steady, But More Efficiency Likely (Source: AIA)
While U.S. defense spending on the development and acquisition of new weapons systems should stay steady in the near future, new measures should be expected in the acquisition process to make it more efficient and increase oversight, according to a top Pentagon acquisition official. The country is likely not heading to the type of major consolidation seen in the mid-1990s, but there should be some consolidation as part of the "natural course of events," said Frank Kendall, principal deputy undersecretary for acquisition and technology. (6/11)

Jacksonville Area Among First to Get New NextGen Equipment (Source: AIA)
The equipment forming the base of the new NextGen air traffic control system was introduced in the Jacksonville, Fla., area in May, one of the first places in the country to receive the equipment. The upgraded system is expected to allow pilots to operate more efficiently and save fuel and time. (6/11)

AIA Supports Space-Related Sections of Fiscal 2011 Defense Authorization Bill (Source: AIA)
The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) is encouraged by several space-related provisions included in the Fiscal 2011 Defense Authorization Act passed recently by the House of Representatives. The increase in top-line funding for missile defense; language supporting a joint DOD and DNI national security space architecture; and the inclusion of report language urging the U.S. military to evaluate the costs of government refurbishment and modification of excess ICBM assets for space launch, are viewed as positive developments.

Regarding re-use of ICBM assets, by explaining the costs incurred by the use of excess assets, the proposed analysis takes a step towards recognizing the cost effectiveness of commercial options for responsive space and small launch, which is critical to the vitality of the U.S. propulsion and solid rocket motor industrial base. (6/11)

Congressional Group Identifies $1 Trillion in Potential Defense Savings (Source: Huffington Post)
In April, a bipartisan group of iconoclasts in Congress led by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) formed a task force to examine the possibility of defense budget reductions. The group of defense experts released their report on Friday, identifying nearly $1 trillion in defense budget cuts over the next 10 years that could contribute to deficit reduction "while not compromising the essential security of the United States." Click here to read the article. (6/11)

Group Sues NASA, Alleges Abuse of Small Business Contract Set Asides (Source: Parabolic Arc)
On Wednesday, April 28, the American Small Business League (ASBL) filed suit against NASA in Federal District Court, Northern District of California. The case was filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) after NASA refused to release subcontracting reports for contracts awarded to General Dynamics C4 Systems Incorporated. The ASBL requested information from NASA on a contract awarded to General Dynamics after discovering that a contracting officer reported the award as a small business contract. (6/10)

French Export Restrictions Snare Vega Flight Software (Source: Space News)
French government technology-transfer restrictions have forced managers of Europe’s Vega rocket program to embark on an 11th-hour effort to develop new Vega flight-control software in Italy to replace the planned French system, according to European government and industry officials. The French technology will be given an exemption from the normal export restrictions for use on Vega’s first flight, scheduled for early in 2011. Depending on whether the replacement flight control system being developed in Italy is ready, it may be used for the second flight as well. But Italy’s ELV, which is prime contractor for Vega, will not be given details of the French technology’s makeup. (6/11)

Congress and Contractors Reject NASA Move on Constellation Moon Plan (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Some members of Congress and a major contractor working on NASA’s Constellation program on Thursday expressed outrage at the space agency for stopping work on the moon program because of alleged violations of federal spending rules by the contractors. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, accused NASA leadership on Thursday of using Anti-Deficiency Act spending rules as a ploy to skirt the law to shut down Constellation.

NASA claims that Constellation contractors have not been accurately accounting for their termination liability costs, and the result is a shortfall of $991 million in funds for Constellation in this fiscal year. Alliant Techsystems said that “NASA has chosen to create this funding shortfall by changing its decades-long management practice with respect to termination liability.” The email said ATK was specifically instructed on “numerous occasions” during both Shuttle and Constellation contracts not to account for termination liability costs.

The company supplied several emails and correspondence dating from 1976 to 2007 in which NASA officials told the company that NASA does not require contractors to withhold a portion of their funds to cover cancellation costs. “NASA does not fund termination liability,” one email dated July 26, 2007, from a NASA official to ATK said. ATK also accuses NASA is using the ADA as an excuse to cancel Constellation in violation of law passed by Congress last year that prohibits the administration from killing the program without congressional approval. (6/11)

Griffin: "I Had No Concern Whatsoever About It" (Source: NASA Watch)
"Regarding your question, 'What was your attitude/instruction regarding this set-aside law when you were administrator?,' I had no discussions in connection with and issued no instructions on this matter. In fact, I had no concern whatsoever about it. The NASA Administrator rarely (if ever) is involved in the technical details of procurement and contracting, and certainly I was not. I had, and still have, great regard for and confidence in NASA legal and procurement staff, and am confident that the decisions they made in regard to the apportionment of termination liability will withstand examination."

Contrary to Griffin's statement, the following statement was issued by the NASA Inspector General in 2006: "The ADA violations occured because of the lack of internal controls within the OCFO and OCFO personnel's misunderstanding of OMB apportionment requirements...Management's response: The Administrator concurred, stating that the OCFO will demonstrate that appropriations available to be spent in FY 2006 can be traced from appropriations, to apportionments, to allotments, to commitments, and to obligations." (6/10)

New NASA Direction Spurs Hopes for Cooperation (Source: Space News)
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver told a largely European audience that NASA’s proposed new direction leaves substantially more room for international partnerships than the Moon-focused Constellation program. Garver said Constellation, which President Obama is asking Congress to cancel, ultimately would have consumed 50 percent of NASA’s budget and “was closed off to international cooperation.” European government authorities have said in the months since NASA unveiled its spending plans that the U.S. agency intends to invite non-U.S. collaboration in space exploration in areas once reserved for U.S. technologies only. (6/11)

Loral Delivers EchoStar XV (Source: CSA)
Loral has shipped a new communications satellite built for DISH Network to the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan, where it is scheduled to launch in early July aboard an ILS Proton Breeze M vehicle provided by International Launch Services (ILS). (6/11)

NASA Announces Group Achievement Awards Including Regolith Excavation Challenge Team (Source: NASA)
Greg Schmidt, Matt Everingham, and Mark Newfield will soon be in receipt of NASA certificates in recognition of their work on the Lunar Regolith Excavation Challenge, recipients of a 2010 NASA Honor Award. The Lunar Regolith Excavation Challenge was held last Fall under NASA's Centennial Challenges program at NASA Ames Research Center in conjunction with the NASA Lunar Science Institute. The event was administered by the California Space Education and Workforce Institute and the California Space Authority. Click here for information. (6/11)

CSA's Andrea Seastrand Opens Toulouse Space Show (Source: CSA)
Opening ceremonies at the Toulouse Space Show were inaugurated with a keynote address from Andrea Seastrand, Executive Director of the California Space Authority (CSA). Introduced by Dr. Marc Pircher, President of the French Aerospace Valley for Space and Director of the CNES Space Center in Toulouse, Mrs. Seastrand welcomed an audience of over 1000 registered attendees by identifying the 2009 partnership agreement between CSA and the French Aerospace Valley as the foundation for continued and cooperative opportunities between businesses and educational entities in both California and the Southwest of France. Receiving Mrs. Seastrand and offering an official welcome was Madame Valerie Precresse, French Republic National Minister of Research and Education. Click here for information, and here for a copy of Mrs. Seastrand's remarks, and here for a copy of the Governor's letter to Dr. Pircher. (6/11)

California Space Center Topic of Toulouse Space Show (Source: CSA)
Andrea Seastrand delivered the keynote address promoting the California Space Center. As a life-sized Arianne 5 Rocket loomed overhead, and space enthusiasts explored replicas of the Mir Space Station and Soyuz, the Toulouse Space Show ramped up the inspiration level with an evening gala at the nearby Cite de l'space. Motivated by the scientific energy of the venue, Andrea Seastrand, Executive Director of the California Space Authority (CSA), delivered a rousing address which tied the educational experiences offered through the Cite de l'space to the vision that is the California Space Center (CSC). (6/11)

NSF Grants Available to Support Industry-University Collaboration (Source: NSF)
Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) promotes university-industry partnerships by making project funds or fellowships/traineeships available to support an eclectic mix of industry-university linkages. Special interest is focused on affording the opportunity for: Faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and students to conduct research and gain experience in an industrial setting; Industrial scientists and engineers to bring industry's perspective and integrative skills to academe; and Interdisciplinary university-industry teams to conduct research projects. This solicitation targets high-risk/high-gain research with a focus on fundamental research, new approaches to solving generic problems, development of innovative collaborative industry-university educational programs, and direct transfer of new knowledge between academe and industry. GOALI seeks to fund transformative research that lies beyond that which industry would normally fund. Click here. (6/11)

Loral Files for $100 Million IPO (Source: Reuters)
Loral filed with U.S. regulators to raise up to $100 million in an initial public offering of common stock. The Palo Alto, California-based company told the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission in a preliminary prospectus that Credit Suisse and JP Morgan are underwriting the IPO. The company designs, manufactures and integrates satellites and satellite systems. (6/11)

ESA: ISS Needs Transport Policy Agreement (Source: Aviation Week)
European Space Agency (ESA) head Jean-Jacques Dordain says Europe will not embark on development of a cargo return capsule to serve the International Space Station until the ISS partners agree on common transportation requirements. “One thing the shuttle retirement has taught us is that we need to adopt a common approach to space transportation, from cargo download/upload to crew transport,” says Dordain. ESA is circulating a common transportation policy proposal as part of the give-and-take aimed at finalizing plans to extend use of the ISS until at least 2020.

The policy document calls for defining requirements, identifying the vehicles currently available to meet those requirements and then pinpointing missing capability gaps, but also determining standard interfaces to ensure that new capabilities are not dependent on any one platform to be deployed. Some partners have reacted positively to the proposal but others, including the U.S., remain reticent.

An industry team led by EADS Astrium is studying the feasibility of building a cargo return capsule based on the Automated Transfer Vehicle that serves ISS cargo upload and reboost missions. ESA wants the study to be completed by year’s end so planners can start drawing up a full-scale development proposal to be presented at the agency’s next ministerial summit in late 2011/2012. (6/11)

Colorado's Delegation Seeks to Save Lockheed Jobs (Source: Denver Post)
Six members of Colorado's congressional delegation urged President Barack Obama on Thursday to save jobs that may be eliminated from NASA's Orion crew-capsule program. Lockheed Martin has said it may have to cut some of the 600 to 650 employees who work on Orion in Colorado because NASA expects it and other contractors to shoulder the cost of terminating the Constellation spaceflight project, of which Orion is a part. The company said May 27 it is cutting project costs by 20 percent.

About 1,000 people in the state and 4,000 nationwide work on Orion for various contractors. Reps. Ed Perlmutter, Diana DeGette, Doug Lamborn and Betsy Markey, and Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet wrote a letter Thursday to the president asking him to stop NASA's effort to shift Constellation's termination costs to contractors. (6/11)

Major Satellite Launch Next on Cape Canaveral Schedule (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Now that last week's Falcon-mania has subsided at Cape Canaveral, attention turns to preparations for the Florida spaceport's next launch of the Atlas 5 rocket to place a crucial national security communications satellite into space. United Launch Alliance technicians have erected the rocket's first stage and the Centaur upper stage aboard the mobile launching platform that's parked inside the Complex 41 assembly building. The Advanced Extremely High Frequency spacecraft will be launched on July 30 with a window extending from 8:05 to 10:05 a.m. EDT. (6/11)

Japanse Mission Unfurls Solar Sail in Deep Space (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Japan's space agency confirmed Friday its Ikaros mission successfully unfurled a solar sail nearly 5 million miles from Earth, but it could be much longer before officials confirm whether the craft is being accelerated by the power of sunlight. The final deployment of the sail membrane came Wednesday, but the Japan Aerospace Exploration agency waited to receive confirmation of the event before announcing its success in a press release Friday. (6/11)

2,000 ATK Jobs at Stake for Utah Industry (Source: Standard-Examiner)
A NASA plan to force Alliant Techsystems to set aside $500 million to deal with potential termination costs of the Constellation rocket program could end up decimating the ATK space systems workforce in the Top of Utah, according to space agency documents. "The preliminary adjustments and funding reductions needed ... are expected to be put into place in the coming weeks, but beginning immediately," NASA's Charlie Bolden wrote. ATK has 2,000 employees dedicated to the NASA project, which includes the first stage of the Ares rocket, but the space agency document doesn't exactly define the number of jobs that may be lost in Utah. (6/11)

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