June 5, 2010

Space X Did It: Here's Why Brevard County Should Be Smiling (Source: Florida Today)
America has a new rocket. And, its home base is Cape Canaveral. That’s a big deal for the future of the United States’ space program and for the future of Florida’s Space Coast. The launch market in the U.S. and worldwide is disrupted, in a big way. Falcon 9’s first flight starts a ripple through the business and politics of space flight.

Here’s why we, here in Brevard County, are big winners: 1) Falcon 9 can deliver a payload to a target orbit for a fraction of the cost of other rockets in its class. The company advertises a typical fare to orbit of about $40 million. The government currently pays about three to four times that price for each Delta IV or Atlas V. 2) The new rocket launches from Florida. SpaceX employs 1,000 people across the country now, including about 100 here. SpaceX hopes to employ as many as 1,000 launch operations workers in Florida in the coming years. 3) Badly needed positive hype. Amid all the worrisome news about the future of the space program, the next super-cool big thing is SpaceX and the Space Coast is part of it.

4) A shot in the arm for NASA’s new mission to privatize the delivery of cargo and people to low-Earth orbit and, specifically, the space station. 5) Cape Canaveral is now home to three viable expendable rocket families. Falcon 9 has an impressive list of scheduled launches for NASA, commercial satellite operators and some specialty military projects. The Cape side of the spaceport looks to be busier in the coming decade than it was in the last decade. (6/5)

Four Inducted Into Astronaut Hall of Fame (Source: Florida Today)
Former U.S. astronaut Ken Bowersox did it all during almost two decades in NASA's Astronaut corps. Now, with SpaceX, he's at the forefront of President Barack Obama's push to shift the responsibility for launching astronauts to private industry. Last week, Bowersox became one of four astronauts slated for induction in the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. The three others in the Class of 2010 include:

Guion Bluford, 49, the first African-American to fly in space; Frank Culbertson, 61, commander of the third expedition to the International Space Station; and Kathryn Thornton, 57. A physicist and a former "Cape Crusader" -- astronauts on temporary duty at Kennedy Space Center -- Thornton was a mission specialist on two of the most exciting shuttle missions of all time. (6/5)

Economic Development Group Hosts Senate Candidates (Source: EDC)
Congressman Kendrick Meek (D-FL), a candidate for one of Florida's U.S. Senate seats, visited the Space Coast on Saturday to discuss space policy with local industry, government and university officials. The Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast has hosted multiple Senate and Gubernatorial Candidates for similar space industry discussions. (6/5)

Venture Dollars Needed on Space Coast (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
For companies like XCOR Aerospace, crucial venture-capital dollars can be hard to come by. In recent decades, there has not been a strong tradition of venture-capital investment in the aerospace sector. Combine that with Florida's generally lackluster record for attracting big private investment dollars, and the odds don't look good for the Mojave, Calif.-based company that makes reusable launch vehicles and others in the industry to find the money they would need to grow here.

That is emerging as a big stumbling block as the space shuttle program winds down, potentially leaving thousands jobless as early as year's end during one of the weakest economic periods in a generation. If Central Florida is going to retain a dominant source of its brainpower in the form of the Space Coast's workforce, the region must find a solution to the venture capital problem.

The answer could lie in the $40 million President Barack Obama has designated to help the region get back on its feet once the shuttle flies its last mission. On Friday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who Obama appointed to lead a task force to determine how to spend the $40 million, held a meeting in Orlando. XCOR Chief Operating Officer Andrew Nelson told them his company needs more venture-capital dollars. (6/5)

Tesla CEO's Other Venture Goes Into Orbit (Source: San Jose Business Journal)
Tesla Motors Inc. CEO Elon Musk's SpaceX successfully put a rocket into orbit Friday afternoon from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Hawthorne company's Falcon 9 rocket reached orbit about 155 miles above Earth about nine minutes after takeoff. SpaceX has received $3.5 billion in contracts from NASA to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. (6/5)

Distant Gas Blob Threatens to Shake Nature's Constants (Source: New Scientist)
The basic constants of nature aren't called constants for nothing. Physics is supposed to work the same way across the universe and over all of time. Now measurements of the radio spectra of a distant gas cloud hint that some fundamental quantities might not be fixed after all, raising the possibility that a radical rethink of the standard model of particle physics may one day be needed.

The evidence comes from observations of a dense gas cloud some 2.9 billion light years away which has a radio source, the active supermassive black hole PKS 1413+135, right behind it. Hydroxyl radicals in the gas cloud absorb the galaxy's radio energy at certain wavelengths and emit it again at different wavelengths. This results in so-called "conjugate" features in the radio spectrum of the gas, with a dip in intensity corresponding to absorption and an accompanying spike corresponding to emission. (6/5)

Huntsville Leaders to 'Turn Up the Noise' About Importance of Constellation (Source: Huntsville Times)
Huntsville leaders fighting Obama administration plans to scuttle NASA's Constellation program said Friday they want to work with the current Congress to secure the program's future rather than risk success on who might be in Washington after the November election. So they want to "turn up the noise," Mayor Tommy Battle said. They want people to show Congress their support for the manned space flight program by e-mail, letters, phone calls, web videos and other ways of getting Washington's attention.

"The next 90 days is going to be pretty important for us," he said. "With as many issues sitting out there Congress is facing right now ... we've got make sure that our cause and our efforts stay on the radar screen of both Congress and the administration." In about a month, Congress will begin to consider and "mark up" the 2011 budget, said former U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer. He's now a lobbyist and chairman of the mayor's Second to None initiative. (6/5)

NASA Scientists Discover Evidence 'That Alien Life Exists on Saturn's Moon' (Source: Telegraph)
Researchers at the space agency believe they have discovered vital clues that appeared to indicate that primitive aliens could be living on the planet. Data from NASA's Cassini probe has analysed the complex chemistry on the surface of Titan, which experts say is the only moon around the planet to have a dense atmosphere. They have discovered that life forms have been breathing in the planet’s atmosphere and also feeding on its surface’s fuel.

Astronomers claim the moon is generally too cold to support even liquid water on its surface. The research has been detailed in two separate studies. The first paper, in the journal Icarus, shows that hydrogen gas flowing throughout the planet’s atmosphere disappeared at the surface. This suggested that alien forms could in fact breathe. The second paper, in the Journal of Geophysical Research, concluded that there was lack of the chemical on the surface. (6/5)

Help Sought for NASA Workers in Texas (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Job transition assistance is on its way to Houston-area aerospace workers facing potential job losses from the retirement of NASA's shuttle fleet and threatened cancellation of the moon program, the Texas Workforce Commission said on Friday. Spokeswoman Ann Hatchitt said the agency is preparing a grant request for $5 million in emergency federal assistance to enable Workforce Solutions for the 13-county Houston-Galveston region to provide employment services for an estimated 450 NASA-related employees and contractors who may lose jobs tied to JSC. In addition, $1.7 million from a recent $10 million statewide grant by the Department of Labor also will be used to help an estimated 250 JSC-linked workers who face potential layoffs, Hatchitt added. (6/5)

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