June 22, 2010

NASA Selects Wallops Spaceport Range Contractor (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected LJT & Associates for the Range Operations Contract at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The total value of this indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity cost-plus award fee contract is $117 million. The period of performance is five years. LJT & Associates will provide support services to manage the Wallops Research Range operations and maintenance; training; command, control, and communications information; and computer systems services. Contract support also includes testing, modifying and installing communications and electronic systems at launch facilities; launch control centers and test facilities; and range technology development engineering services. (6/23)

NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for OCO-2 Mission (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected Orbital Sciences Corp. to launch the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) mission. The spacecraft will fly in Feb. 2013 aboard a Taurus XL rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The total cost of the OCO-2 launch is approximately $70 million. The estimated cost includes the task ordered launch service for a Taurus XL 3110 rocket, plus additional services under other contracts for payload processing, OCO-2 mission unique support, launch vehicle integration, and tracking, data and telemetry support. (6/23)

Police: Naked Woman Steals Cop Car for ATK Drive-Through (Source: Deseret News)
A naked woman stole two vehicles, including a police squad car, crashed both vehicles and was Tasered before being arrested Tuesday morning by West Valley police. A man who was along state Route 111 posting advertising signs was outside of his vehicle when a woman who wasn't wearing anything pulled up next to his car, got into it and took off. The man responded by getting into her car and following, he said.

She drove through a fence and into Alliant Techsystems. The woman got out of the car and ran. An officer spotted the woman hiding behind a bush and as he was waiting for backup to arrive, the woman made a break and ran toward the officer. Two officers attempted to restrain the woman but she was able to slip free. The woman ran to the officer's car, got in, and started to drive off. The woman continued on a dirt road on ATK grounds, crashed through another large fence and continued to drive off a berm, launching 50 feet into another berm, McLachlan said.

She then scaled a chain-link fence with barbed-wire on top. Officers waiting for her on the other side used a Taser and were able to take her into custody at about 6:15 a.m., although she continued trying to resist while paramedics checked her out. No officers were injured in the incident. The woman was taken to a local hospital to be treated for her injuries and for a mental evaluation. (6/22)

Alabama Gov. Wants Huntsville's NASA Legacy to be Preserved Amid Job Cuts (Source: Huntsville Times)
Gov. Bob Riley today didn't speak in great specifics about the expected job losses for NASA contractors here. "It's going to be an administration decision," Riley said, referring to President Barack Obama. But Riley expressed concern that the cuts mandated by NASA could threaten north Alabama's elite status in the role of space exploration. "One of the things we're trying to do is to build more of a NASA presence here, more of a missile and space defense presence here," Riley said.

"When [UAH] had the ability to get (former NASA administrator Mike Griffin, who is now an eminent scholar at UAH), all of a sudden, that gave us an exponential way of attracting people from all over the world. "When he was the director of NASA, he made so many contacts. What we're trying to do now is build on that. This is going to be an administration decision but it has a huge impact on us here. We do have BRAC that's coming in to bring 6-7,000 jobs and a couple of more (new industry) announcements we're going to be making over the next couple of months. They will be large announcements." (6/22)

Government Waste Group Names Richard Shelby Porker of the Month (Source: CAGW)
Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, June Porker of the Month for blocking the Obama administration’s attempts to eliminate funding for the Constellation program, a NASA program which is chronically behind schedule and over budget.

NASA estimates that Ares I and Orion represent up to $49 billion of the over $97 billion estimated to be spent on the Constellation program through 2020. While the agency has already obligated more than $10 billion in contracts, at this point NASA does not know how much Ares I and Orion will ultimately cost, and will not know until technical and design challenges have been addressed.” CAGW recently released an Issue Brief on the Constellation program. Sen. Shelby co-sponsored an amendment that would shield the program from proposed budget cuts to the fiscal year 2010 emergency war supplemental.

“Americans are being forced to tighten their belts and the economy is limping along, but that doesn’t deter the porkers in Congress, like Sen. Shelby, who are still spending and rewarding government contractors orbiting the program. Sen. Shelby’s actions just perpetuate the notion that politicians in Washington are living on a completely different planet,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz. “This would be the time to move toward a more competitive model for space exploration. It is outrageous for Sen. Shelby to object to the private sector’s work on space exploration and characterize it as ‘corporate welfare,’ when his own actions are nothing but pure pork-barrel spending to contractors from his state.” (6/22)

Scientists' Group Issues Briefing Paper on Obama Administration’s Space Policy (Source: UCS)
The Obama administration is expected to release its National Space Policy sometime in the next few weeks. This public summary of the administration’s main principles and goals for using space will supersede the Bush administration’s policy, which was issued in 2006. Press attention likely will focus on the National Space Policy’s implications for changes at NASA and the future of the piloted spacecraft program, but experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) point out that the document language also will indicate how the Obama administration will approach space security, which is more important internationally.

If the administration’s public statements are any indication, the new policy likely will represent a return to a more international approach to space; a more balanced view of civil, commercial and military uses of space; and a greater openness to arms control and cooperative solutions to international space security issues. UCS today posted a backgrounder on its website by David Wright, co-director of UCS’s Global Security Program, and Laura Grego, a senior scientist with the program, that offers an overview of the key security issues surrounding the National Space Policy. Click here to view the paper. (6/22)

Canadian Space Agency Becomes SpaceX Customer (Source: Winnipeg Free Press)
The Canadian Space Agency is hitching a ride — for $10 million — aboard a commercial space rocket built by SpaceX. CSA's CASSIOPE communications satellite is designed to assist in scientific research and commercial efforts at digital file-storing. CSA president Steve MacLean said he expected the CASSIOPE communications satellite to be launched next year by SpaceX.

"I believe that commercial enterprise should be encouraged — but there are conditions on that," MacLean said. "Once they get a track record under them (at SpaceX), ... once you have solved all the problems and have two successful launches in a row, the third is bound to be a success as well." MacLean said the space agency got a discount for the flight because it is one of SpaceX's first customers. (6/22)

San Diego Premiere Of "Moon Beat" Set For July 17, 2010 (Source: I-Newswire)
On July 16, 1969, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off aboard Apollo 11 and soared into history as millions around the world watched. Their story has been told hundreds of times, but not so the tales of the NASA media officials and top news journalists who reported on that flight and every other NASA mission during the heyday of the 1960s Space Race. Moon Beat, a new award-winning documentary, rectifies that oversight, and will receive its San Diego premiere on Saturday, July 17th at 7:00 PM at the Space Traveler's Emporium, 1947 30th Street. Sponsored by the San Diego Space Society, the screening is open to the public. Admission is free, although donations to the San Diego Space Society are welcome. (6/22)

NASA Begins Review of Shuttle Launch Date Changes (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
NASA managers Tuesday asked shuttle engineers to assess retargeting the final two space shuttle missions, moving launch of a mid-September flight with Discovery to Oct. 29 and a late November flight by Endeavour to Feb. 28. The changes would give engineers more time to optimize payloads bound for the International Space Station and avoid launch conflicts with other flights to the lab complex.

The status of a proposed final fight of the shuttle Atlantis next June to deliver a final load of supplies and equipment remains unresolved. Bill Gerstenmaier, director of space operations at NASA headquarters, said earlier this year he hoped to have a decision by the end of this month, but officials said Tuesday the discussion had been deferred to the August timeframe. A decision on delaying the next two missions, however, is expected July 1, after a two-week review. (6/22)

Israel Launches New Spy Satellite (Source: Jerusalem Post)
In the face of Iran’s race to obtain nuclear weapons, Israel strengthened its foothold in space Tuesday with the successful launch of a spy satellite, which defense officials said would provide the IDF with unprecedented operational capabilities. Called Ofek 9, the satellite was launched at around 10 p.m. Tuesday from the Palmahim air base along the Mediterranean coast. It was placed in low orbit by an Israel Aerospace Industries-manufactured Shavit booster rocket of the same type used for the Ofek 7 satellite in 2007.

“This provides Israel with greater operational flexibility, since we now have another set of eyes on a target,” said an official with the Defense Ministry’s Research and Development Directorate (MAFAT). “This means that we have increased the rate we can visit a target.” The launch came as a great relief for the defense establishment, and particularly for IAI, lead contractor of the Ofek project. In Sep. 2004, Israel failed to launch the Ofek 6, which plummeted to the sea in its third boost stage. Last week, South Korea failed to launch a satellite, and a week earlier, India also failed. (6/22)

Report: FAA Has Not Laid Proper Groundwork for NextGen (Source: AIA)
The FAA has failed to establish crucial benchmarks to ensure that the NextGen air traffic control system lives up to its promise in its rush to roll it out, according to the agency's inspector general. "NextGen may not deliver the expected long-term benefits and ultimately puts billions of taxpayer dollars at risk" unless the necessary planning steps are implemented, the inspector general's report said. With dozens of complementary technologies under development simultaneously, the report acknowledged that "NextGen is the most complex effort FAA has embarked upon." The FAA did not dispute the findings but said in a statement that it "remains confident it will achieve the vision set out in the NextGen plan." (6/22)

Task Force Still Working to Save Constellation, Avoid Layoffs in Huntsville (Source: Huntsville Times)
Local leaders fighting to save NASA's Constellation program have enlisted the help of a key Democratic Congressman. U.S. Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger of Maryland was in town Monday meeting with members of Mayor Tommy Battle's "Second to None" task force. During a morning news conference, he said he hopes a compromise can be reached with President Obama to keep the Constellation workforce -- about 2,600 people locally -- intact. "You don't want to lose some of the best minds in the country and have them go someplace else," said Ruppersberger, who as a member of the House Appropriations Committee helps set NASA's budget. (6/22)

The Entrepreneurial Space Race (Source: ThomasNet)
Outside the U.S., there is great interest in the business of space but fewer strictly commercial space companies, says George Nield, Federal Aviation Administration associate administrator for commercial space transportation. "The space programs of Japan, Russia, Europe, China and India are funded by national governments," America.gov explains. "France's Arianespace is a quasi-private European space consortium founded in 1980 as the world's first commercial launch-services provider."

"We're departing from the model of the past, in which the government funded all human space activities," Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden, Jr., a NASA administrator, told Reuters. "This represents the entrance of the entrepreneurial mind-set into a field that is poised for rapid growth and new jobs. And NASA will be driving competition, opening new markets and access to space and catalyzing the potential of American industry." (6/22)

Will Hayabusa's Success Lead to a Japanese Space Encore? (Source: Science)
The heart-warming story of the Hayabusa spacecraft, which overcame failed engines, degraded solar panels, fuel leaks, and faulty communications to touch down on asteroid Itokawa and return to Earth, has captured the imagination of the Japanese public. And it could bode well for a follow-up mission. The spacecraft's fiery demise in the skies above Australia last week has triggered blanket TV and newspaper coverage of the capsule's return to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) labs near Tokyo, where the payload will be analyzed for the presence of asteroid dust.

Hayabusa's most important fan just might be Naoto Kan, the country's new prime minister. Kan praised the mission in comments to the Japanese legislature last week and voiced support for a second asteroid mission. But it's not clear whether such high-level backing will translate into more funding. A request for $19 million this year by JAXA's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) to begin planning Hayabusa 2 to launch in 2015 or 2016 was slashed to just $300,000. So Kan's kind words are welcome, says ISAS's Yasunori Matogawa. "But where will the money come from?" The budget for space science has been flat for years, he says, and shifting money from other space projects would "cause a lot of trouble." Kan's government has also pledged to reduce overall government spending. (6/22)

Letter: Commercial Rockets are ‘Fundamental’ to Space Exploration (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The war of words over President Barack Obama’s new plan for NASA continued this week when more than 50 ex-astronauts, aerospace businessmen and scientists signed a letter (click here) supporting his proposal to replace the space shuttle with commercial rockets. The 10-page letter, addressed to Congress and endorsed by former NASA science chief Alan Stern and former Kennedy Space Center director Jim Kennedy, is the latest volley in a months-long debate over the agency’s future that has fractured the space community.

More than two dozen space luminaries, including Griffin and Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan signed an opposition letter this spring, which urged Obama to save Constellation and “drop this misguided proposal that forces NASA out of human space operations for the foreseeable future.” Hoping to counter those arguments, commercial rocket advocates and others penned the most recent letter to Congress, hoping to reassure lawmakers that commercial rockets could carry astronauts to the station safely and allow NASA to further explore the cosmos.

Editor's Note: Commercial rockets cannot fully replace the Space Shuttle, at least not for the heavy-lift exploration missions that NASA should pursue. I'm not alone in advocating for a commercial crew capability that is developed alongside a government-managed heavy-lift rocket. I also believe this government-managed vehicle should be Shuttle-derived and capable of carrying humans as well as cargo. (6/22)

Embry-Riddle Establishes Engineering Program for Clean Energy Systems (Source: ERAU)
This fall, engineering students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will be able to convert their passion for renewable energy into a degree, with a new track in Clean Energy Systems. The program, offered to mechanical engineering majors at the university’s Daytona Beach, Fla., campus, will teach about turbines that convert wind and water power into electricity, systems that make energy from the heat of the sun, earth, and ocean, and systems for storing energy. Students will take courses and complete projects related to hybrid vehicles, solar lighting, green engineering, and eco-friendly aviation. They will learn from faculty researchers who are designing a low-emission hybrid automobile, engineering giant wind-power turbines, developing systems to harness electric power from the Gulf Stream’s currents, testing unleaded bio-fuel for general aviation, and building a zero-emission aircraft. (6/22)

NASA Hosts New Space Technology Industry Forum (Source: NASA)
NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist will host an industry forum July 13-14 to discuss the agency's proposed new space technology investments and announce three new Centennial Challenges prize competitions. (6/22)

Can New KSC Park Lure High-Tech Jobs to the Space Coast? (Source: CFL-13)
It’s been touted as what will become the premier place for aerospace research, and its location has been the premiere place for space missions since they all began. Exploration Park is a facility officials said they hope will bring high-tech companies to the Space Coast, and save high-tech jobs soon to be lost when the shuttle program retires. The park will be built right near the Kennedy Space Center.

The team is looking to woo industry and jobs to the park, all as thousands of shuttle workers are set to lose their jobs when the program ends either late this year or sometime next. The focus is aerospace and other commercial companies -- many of which may develop and perform clean energy research -- and others that will build and assemble spacecraft that may launch at the nearby pads to be converted as part of the 21st Century Launch Complex. It’s an investment expected to bring in $98 million and create more than 1,700 jobs. The groundbreaking takes place Friday, June 25, near the existing 100,000-square-foot Space Life Sciences Laboratory at KSC. The first phase of the park is expected to be completed in 2012. (6/22)

Space Race: 'Florida Needs to Work at Full Speed' (Source: Sunshine State News)
Florida has a lot riding on the future of manned spaceflght. The successful commercial launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center earlier this month lifts hopes that the Sunshine State will remain a major player in space -- even amid concerns about President Barack Obama's realignment of NASA. Sunshine State News interviewed John Gedmark, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF), about privatization of America's space effort -- and Florida's role in it.

Ward: Rate Florida's potential and capacity to compete for space business. Who are Florida's biggest rivals in this arena? Gedmark: CSF is proud to include Space Florida (the spaceport authority and economic development organization) as a member, and Space Florida's CEO Frank DiBello is highly regarded throughout the industry as being able to attract and retain new businesses. Florida also has the instant brand recognition of 50 years of space history. With that said, states such as Virginia, New Mexico, and California have been very successful in convincing entrepreneurial space companies to set up shop in those states, both for manufacturing facilities and as launch sites. So Florida will need to work at full speed in order to ensure that it can remain competitive in the new "commercial space race."

Ward: Are other states and localities better equipped to facilitate the kind of commercialization program your group advocates? Who, why and how? Gedmark: The industry is in flux, and many states are in a position to potentially capitalize on new industry developments. Of course, many commercial space companies such as SpaceX and United Launch Alliance already have significant facilities in Florida. Click here to read the article. (6/22)

Arianespace Orders 10 More Soyuz Rockets to Launch From Guiana (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Roscosmos and Arianespace signed a contract which covers 10 additional missions of Russian Soyuz-ST rocket from Guiana Space Center (CSG). The contract implies additional order of 10 Soyuz-ST’s and relevant support for the period up to 2016. Some launches of the Russian rocket will serve for deployment of European navigation system Galileo. Totally, 24 Soyuzes are to fly from French Guiana, including those ordered today. The two new members to Arianespace’s launcher family – Soyuz and Vega – will begin their service at the Spaceport beginning in 2010-2011. (6/22)

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