June 27, 2010

ATK: NASA Releases Funds: Ares Rocket Work May Continue Through at Least September (Source: McClatchy-Tribune)
Thousands of Alliant Techsystems workers in Utah will likely have their jobs at least through September. Company officials confirmed Thursday that NASA released to them the remainder of the 2010 funding for work on the Ares rocket, a project that employs the majority of ATK's Utah workers. NASA in the last month threatened to withhold funding and enforce a contract clause that could force ATK to put up $500 million in termination costs for Ares, which is part of the Constellation space project. ATK officials would not confirm it, but NASA projected the termination clause would cost more than 2,000 jobs at the Top of Utah company. (6/27)

With Cheaper Launches, Sky's the Limit for Colorado Rocket Maker (Source: Denver Post)
In his Highlands Ranch workshop, Jerry Larson works on hardware and avionics for the 20-foot-high Spaceloft XL rockets that he builds. Larson's UP Aerospace Inc. is a one-man company — started in his home — that is making its mark with low-cost launches of small payloads from Spaceport America. Since 2006, UP Aerospace has launched nine times from Spaceport America, including in 2007 when Larson sent up ashes of "Star Trek" actor James "Scotty" Doohan and astronaut Gordon Cooper into space, along with student experiments and some commercial payloads.

"The beauty of Spaceport America is it is being built from the ground up," said Larson, whose company was the facility's first tenant. Larson, who leases the spaceport's vertical- launch facilities on a per-launch basis, said it means less red tape "and a leaner and faster operation." It also is a less-expensive alternative to reaching suborbital space than launching from Cape Canaveral in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California — two sites where Larson assisted in launches during his 20 years with Lockheed Martin. (6/27)

Names From Space Exploration History Pushed for New Mexico's Future (Source: Denver Post)
Barely a month after Gov. Bill Richardson took office in 2003, a contingent of grizzled space veterans crowded into his top aide's office. They had plans, seed money and dreams of building a spaceport in New Mexico's Jornada del Muerto — "Route of the Dead Man" — a desert locale with a lot of launch attributes despite its forbidding name. "These guys are the space pioneers," said Rick Homans, who was Richardson's economic development secretary. Earlier this month, Homans was named the spaceport's executive director.

The "space pioneers" — men with long space backgrounds — "had been talking about building a commercial spaceport since 1994," said Lou Gomez, the spaceport's program manager. Gomez was familiar with the site from his 26 years at NASA Johnson Space Center's White Sands Test Facility on the other side of the San Andres Mountains. The late astronaut Pete Conrad talked with Gomez about the site's potential in 1964 while Conrad was doing flight training at White Sands.

Stanford University's Burton Lee formally proposed the concept in 1990. Lee made designs, secured a $1.4 million earmark from Congress and developed spaceport support. Lee worked with other "space pioneers" with New Mexico State University in nearby Las Cruces. The group formed the Southwest Space Task Force in 1992 to push commercial approaches, and made spaceport proposals to earlier state administrations. It wasn't until Homans that the idea found fertile ground. (6/27)

Stars Were Aligned for New Mexico's Spaceport (Source: Denver Post)
A new gateway to space is nearing completion in this sunbaked Southwestern desert, a site that is a day's drive down Interstate 25 but has nonetheless caught the attention of Colorado's aerospace community. Billed as the world's first "purpose-built" commercial spaceport, Spaceport America in southern New Mexico owes its existence to public money, political will, a rich space heritage and the tenacity of its visionaries.

"A lot of things came together at the right time," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said in a phone interview last week. "We couldn't do it now." State coffers were rich with oil and gas revenues. It was pre-2008, before the economy tanked. Richardson's popularity was at its peak. The governor also landed Virgin Galactic as the spaceport's anchor tenant, persuaded the legislature to appropriate $140 million and led the campaign that resulted in two adjacent counties approving a 25-cent sales tax on every $100 to build Spaceport America. (6/27)

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