June 30, 2010

Florida-Based Federal R&D Obligations Rise to $2.7 Billion (Source: SSTI)
In 2007, the federal government dedicated $111.4 billion to R&D, an amount roughly equal to 0.81 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), according to a recent report from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Research-intensive states, such as California, Maryland, Massachusetts and Virginia were the leading recipients of this funding. Montana, Washington, Utah, Tennessee and Colorado led the country in expanding their federal R&D obligations. New Mexico ranked with the top states in federal obligations relative to their gross state product (GSP).

Despite a general pattern of positive growth around much of the country, federal obligation rates fell in many southern states during the five-year period between 2002 and 2007. Florida-based obligations in 2007 were $2.71 billion, an 18.06% increase over the five year period. (Colorado's 2007 obligations were $2.62 billion, but the state's five-year rate of increase was 63.19%.)

NASA's Last Two Space Shuttle External Tanks Are Being Built at Michoud (Source: SpaceRef.com)
The last two Space Shuttle External Tanks (ET's) likely to be produced in history are entering their final closeout assembly operations at the NASA-owned Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans as the shuttle program draws ever closer to its looming retirement date, now reset to early 2011. These two final tanks are destined for the last scheduled flight of the shuttle program - STS 134 - and what's currently base lined as the Launch-On-Need (LON) rescue mission (STS 335), respectively. They are designated as tanks ET-138 and ET-122. STS 134 is currently scheduled to lift off on Feb. 28, 2011. (6/30)

NASA Tests Engine Technology to Assist With Future Space Vehicle Landings (Source: NASA)
Spacecraft attempting to land on an unfamiliar surface need to perform a maneuver called “deep throttling" -- a step that allows the vehicle to precisely throttle down to perform a smooth, controlled landing. NASA, in partnership with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) headquartered in Canoga Park, Calif., has demonstrated this type of engine control capability to help design a more reliable and robust descent engine that could be used to land space exploration vehicles on the moon, an asteroid or another planet.

The Common Extensible Cryogenic Engine, also known as CECE, recently completed the fourth and final series of hot-fire tests on a 15,000-pound thrust class cryogenic technology demonstrator rocket engine, increasing the throttling capability by 35 percent over previous tests. This test series demonstrated this engine could go from a thrust range of 104 percent power down to 5.9 percent. This equates to an unprecedented 17.6:1 deep-throttling capability, which means this cryogenic engine can throttle up and back down quickly. (6/30)

Mysterious Rock Formations Discovered on Mars (Source: Astronomy Now)
The Mars Express mission, led by the European Space Agency, has discovered a windblown plateau and strange rocky mounds near to the Magellan crater on Mars. The Ferdinand Magellan crater, named after the famous Portugese navigator, is about 100 kilometers across, and was the target of the exploration that revealed the strange surface features. They were found in a region located to the southwest of the volcanic region Tharsis on the southern highlands of Mars that covers a surface area of about 21,280 square kilometres – roughly the size of Slovenia. (6/30)
Eutelsat Picks Astrium To Build W5A Satellite (Source: Space News)
Astrium Satellites of Europe will build the Eutelsat all-Ku-band W5A satellite for launch over Asia in late 2012 following a contract announced June 30 by the satellite fleet operator. The announcement came three weeks after Eutelsat awarded a contract to Thales Alenia Space of Europe to build the all-Ku-band W6A satellite and illustrates the Paris-based company’s policy of alternating suppliers, mainly between Europe’s two principal satellite prime contractors. (6/30)

102 Huntsville Constellation Workers Laid Off Tuesday; Total Nears 300 (Source: Huntsville Times)
A key NASA contractor laid off 102 aerospace workers in Huntsville Tuesday, sources said, bringing to nearly 300 the number reportedly sent home in the last week as the Constellation rocket program collapses toward a funding deadline. Jacobs ESTS group, a prime contractor for Constellation, made the cuts, according to workers who asked not to be identified and a new Facebook page called Huntsville Space Professionals. Jacobs terminated another 185 workers last week, according to one poster to the Facebook page created to link laid-off workers with jobs. (6/30)

Lockheed Martin to Get $163 Million to Keep Orion Work Going (Source: Denver Business Journal)
NASA is paying $163 million to Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. to keep the company from halting working on the Orion space capsule amid budget uncertainty. The Colorado-based division of Lockheed Martin Corp. is overseeing development of the capsule, which has been intended to replace the space shuttle as the nation’s manned spacecraft.

Earlier this year, NASA canceled the Constellation program — a pair of new rockets, a lunar lander and the Orion capsule — in its fiscal year 2011 budget. The agency decided to hold onto Orion, however, and use it as a lifeboat for the International Space Station. (6/30)

Another Florida Senate Candidate Visits Space Coast (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast will sponsor a discussion on aerospace policy and the future of this critical industry with Jeff Greene, U.S. Senate candidate. This policy forum will center on the substantive transition in the aerospace industry which has the potential for extreme effects on our economy. It will also afford you the opportunity for open communication directly with Mr. Greene in relation to this critical matter and provide information that could help shape national space policy. The meeting will occur on July 8 in Cape Canaveral. (6/30)

Building It and Hoping It Will Come (Source: Space News)
Hoping to land one of NASA's soon-to-be-retired space shuttle orbiters, Seattle's Museum of Flight broke ground June 29 on a $12 million glass-facade building to house the giant space artifact. Museum chief Bonnie Dunbar, a veteran of five shuttle missions, said it's not a done deal, but feels confident the Seattle museum is one of the few that meets all of NASA's requirements for publicly displaying a shuttle orbiter. (6/30)

House Panel Approves $4.2B for Obama's Space Plan, With Caveat (Source: AIA)
A House subcommittee voted on Tuesday to approve the entire $4.2 billion that President Barack Obama requested for manned space exploration next year, with the caveat that any expenditures be blocked until Congress approves a plan for NASA's future. The vote by the Democrat-led subcommittee gives Obama a symbolic victory while at the same time giving Congress a say in decisions. (6/30)

House Appropriators Look to Authorizers for NASA Direction (Source: Space News)
House appropriators fully funded NASA’s $19 billion budget request for 2011 in a June 29 mark-up of proposed spending legislation, though most of the $4.2 billion the agency requested for manned space exploration programs would be fenced off and therefore unavailable until a new NASA authorization bill is enacted.

“Any major change to the direction of the nation’s space program should come through an authorization passed by Congress,” Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), chairman of the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee, said in opening remarks at the mark-up hearing. Mollohan said it was unfortunate that NASA’s manned spaceflight plans have been “effectively on hold for over a year.” (6/30)

NASA Ames Research Center Helps Underserved School Receive Used Computers (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Times are tough, but none more so than for schools and their students. To promote equal opportunity for all children, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., recently helped Park Avenue Elementary School in the Yuba City Unified District, receive 24 used computers and servers for data storage. It was a perfect match. NASA had surplus computers and equipment that it wanted to give away, and Park Avenue Elementary School needed more computers for its 563 student population, which is 86 percent Hispanic. (6/30)

Editorial: The Challenge Ahead for SpaceX (Source: Space News)
While SpaceX and NASA couldn’t have hoped for a better maiden launch outcome for Falcon-9, it is only over a series of successful launches that any vehicle can establish a track record for reliability. Orbital’s air-launched Pegasus rocket, for example, was successful in its debut but suffered several glitches, including two outright failures, over its next eight missions. The next several Falcon 9 launches are bound to be white-knuckle affairs; SpaceX and NASA, along with other current and prospective customers, have to be prepared for setbacks.

SpaceX is well behind schedule on the three Falcon-9 / Dragon demonstration flights it signed up for under its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) agreement with NASA, and these must be completed before the company can begin fulfilling its $1.6 billion contract to deliver cargo to the space station. Originally scheduled to commence in 2008, the COTS demos are now officially slated for this year, but NASA and SpaceX recently acknowledged that the second and third have pushed well into 2011. Delays invariably cost money, which in this case presumably would come out of SpaceX’s pocket given the way the COTS program is structured. (6/30)

Russian Military Set to Continue Bulava Missile Tests (Source: RIA Novosti)
A state investigation commission has recommended the continuation of tests on the troubled Bulava ballistic missile following a probe into the most recent test failure, a first deputy defense minister said. Only 5 of the 12 Bulava launches have been officially reported as successful and late last month the commission sent the government the results of its investigation into the latest failure: a launch from the Dmitry Donskoy cruiser in the White Sea in early December 2009.

The Russian Navy is planning to resume the Bulava tests as early as November this year. The Bulava (SS-NX-30) is a three-stage liquid and solid-propellant submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). It carries up to 10 MIRV warheads and has a range of over 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles). The future development of Bulava has been questioned by some lawmakers and defense industry officials who suggest that the Russian Navy should keep using the more reliable Sineva SLBM. (6/30)

India To Relaunch GLSV Within One Year (Source: Space Daily)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is planning to relaunch the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) with a home-grown cryogenic engine in a year's time after the failure in April this year. "We have come across a few scenarios after detailed analysis of the failure. Now the immediate task is to test it on the ground and we look forward to relaunch it next year," ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan said.

The five earlier versions of the GSLV had Russia-supplied cryogenic engines. India's cryogenic upper stage (CUS) engine was meant to replace the Russian engines. The GSLV D-3, the satellite launch vehicle showcasing the country's indigenous cryogenic technology, trailed off its designated course and went out of control shortly after the lift-off on April 15. (6/30)

Piper to Furlough Florida Workers for One Week (Source: AIA)
Piper Aircraft plans to shut down its manufacturing plant in Vero Beach, Fla., for one week in August. The majority of Piper employees will take an unpaid furlough for the week of Aug. 9. Piper Aircraft employs more than 900 people in the region. (6/30)

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