June 9, 2010

Florida Projects Selected for Phase-2 Small Business / University Partnership Grants (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 18 innovative technology proposals for negotiation of Phase 2 contract awards in the Small Business Technology Transfer program, or "STTR." The selected projects have a total value of approximately $11 million. The contracts will be awarded to 18 high technology firms that are partnering with 15 universities in 12 states. Five of the projects involve Florida-based universities or small businesses, including...

Keystone Synergistic Enterprises of Port Saint Lucie, for Thermal Stir Welding of High Strength and High Temperature Alloys for Aerospace Applications; Streamline Numerics, Inc., of Gainesville, for Advanced Simulation Framework for Design and Analysis of Space Propulsion Systems; University of Florida in Gainesville for High-Fidelity Gas and Granular Flow Physics Models for Rocket Exhaust Interaction with Lunar Soil; University of Central Florida in Orlando for HPC Benchmark Suite NMx; and University of Florida in Gainesville for Integrated Component and System Analyses of Instabilities in Test Stands. Click here to view the entire list of funded projects. (6/9)

SpaceX Profitable Despite CEO’s Cash Problems — But is an IPO Needed? (Source: Venture Beat)
Since news broke that Elon Musk is personally running out of money, most of the focus has been on how his situation will impact Tesla Motors, the electric vehicle company he heads. But Musk has recently been placing more and more emphasis on his spaceflight venture SpaceX — finally drawing questions about how that company will survive without his continuous investments.

The Wall Street Journal reported that SpaceX will need to get $1 billion from somewhere in order to achieve its goal of busing astronauts back and forth from the International Space Station in the next 10 years. Considering that Musk likely can’t pump any more money into the company, and Congress is still blocking the Obama administration’s desire to support privatized space exploration, it’s unclear where these funds will come from. In fact, Musk has already had to sell off 20 percent of his stake in SpaceX.

Going public may be an option for SpaceX to raise the money it needs to deliver on its promises to NASA and other satellite-building companies. The launch of the Falcon 9 attracted a lot of attention and positive press suggesting that privatized spaceflight might be a viable industry. Going the IPO route seems to be the chosen strategy for Musk. Many analysts are saying that Tesla Motors, his other high-profile venture, needs to go public (it filed at the end of January) in order to keep its plans on track as well — plans that include the acquisition of the NUMMI automotive plant in Fremont, Calif., and vehicle-building partnership with Toyota. (6/9)

Bolden: Funding Shortfall Requires Slowdown on Constellation (Source: Space News)
NASA’s Constellation program is facing a potential $1 billion funding shortfall in the remaining four months of the current budget year, a situation that likely will force contractors to scale back work on major elements of the program before the agency obtains the congressional authority it needs to officially terminate the effort. In a June 9 letter to key U.S. lawmakers, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the work slowdown could result in “contractor workforce reductions estimated at 30-60 percent of the current population, or 2,500-5,000, for the balance of the year.” (6/9)

Columbia Accident Investigator Speaks Out Against NASA Commercial Crew Plan (Source: Space News)
Roger Tetrault, a member of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) formed in the wake of the February 2003 space shuttle disaster, has joined the chorus of critics of NASA’s plan to cancel the Moon-bound Constellation program and rely on commercially oriented firms like Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to fly astronauts to the space station.

“America’s path is now threatened by the decisions being proposed in the NASA budget,” Tetrault wrote in a May 27 letter to U.S. Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), a critic of President Barack Obama’s proposed human spaceflight overhaul. “We are cancelling a program built around the findings and lessons learned from Columbia. There is no clear mission or direction given to NASA, and the use of proven-technologies is being shunned. Further, the choice to commercialize our launch capability provides insufficient safety for the brave men and women that will be asked to ride these rockets. Surely, they deserve the best we can provide.” (6/9)

Boeing's Insitu Inc. in Deal with FAA to Test Unmanned Aircraft (Source: AIA)
Insitu Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing, signed a research deal with the FAA on Tuesday to develop safety standards and procedural rules for flying unmanned ScanEagle aircraft in the U.S. The aircraft will be tested at the New Jersey Air National Guard's Warren Grove Range. Researchers hope the technology could allow companies such as UPS and FedEx to transport commercial cargo across the U.S. on unmanned planes in as little as 20 years.

Editor's Note: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University hosted a meeting this week of UAS industry and government officials. The FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation participated. They view efforts to integrate UAS traffic into the National Airspace System as providing a potential path forward for supporting spaceflight operations. (6/9)

German Space Escapes Budget Cuts (Source: BBC)
Professor Jan Woerner, chairman of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), says he does not expect space to be affected by the nation's big austerity drive. Berlin plans to cut the national budget deficit by a record 80bn euros ($96bn; £66bn) by 2014. Only education and research will be spared from the cutbacks, receiving an extra 12 billion euros as planned. "So far we don't see any impact on space and aeronautics," Professor Woerner said. Professor Woerner said he hoped also that countries across Europe could follow Germany's lead and maintain spending on science and education. (6/9)

ESA Needs to 'Tighten the Belt' Amid Budget Crisis (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The European Space Agency's spending freeze is not delaying missions yet, but all options will be on the table as the cash-strapped agency prepares for even tighter budgets in 2011 and 2012. Ludwig Kronthaler, ESA's director of resources management, said the space agency should have enough money to avoid a moratorium on contract signings this year. But more serious consequences may be in store for the next two years.

"For 2010, I don't see a huge problem in the budget," Kronthaler said. "But it's clear we have to prepare ourselves that 2011 and 2012 might be tighter." ESA is freezing spending for 2010 and 2011 at last year's level of 3.35 billion euros, or $4 billion. The space agency's budget remains higher, but ESA's expenditures will be stretched out through contract modifications. (6/9)

A New Type of Space Race, Museums Vie for Shuttles, Other Items (Source: Kansas City Star)
When NASA puts three space orbiters up for grabs, that’s what a president of one of the nation’s space museums does. Look to see if the cost numbers work. They didn’t. “We stopped counting at over $80 million,” said Orwoll, CEO of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center. “And to raise that kind of money?” Orwoll laughs at the thought. “That would be tough.”

So the Cosmosphere, which draws about 150,000 visitors a year, won’t be getting one of the flown orbiters NASA plans to retire at the end of the year when the shuttle program is discontinued. Neither will the Stafford Air and Space Museum in Oklahoma nor the Strategic Air and Space Museum in Nebraska. They’re leaving the orbiters for bigger museums in larger metro areas.

But there’s so much more to choose from in what some are calling a mammoth garage sale of shuttle program artifacts. NASA isn’t “selling” the items, so to speak, but museums, institutions and schools have to cover costs for shipping and handling, which includes getting items ready to be sent. The takers are lining up, eager to get a spacesuit, orbiter engine, a training simulator or even some dehydrated food that made it into space. (6/9)

FastSat Ready for Shipping to Alaska (Source: NASA)
NASA has successfully completed a comprehensive pre-shipment review of the Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite, or FASTSAT, a small, microsatellite class spacecraft bus that will carry six experiment payloads to low-Earth orbit. The pre-shipment review was completed in May, demonstrating the flight hardware has successfully passed all environmental and performance tests and is authorized for shipment to Alaska's Kodiak Island spaceport for final integration on the Minotaur IV launch vehicle, built and operated by Orbital Sciences Corp. FASTSAT is scheduled to launch no earlier than Sep. 1, 2010. (6/9)

Editorial: Going Private in Space Makes Sense (Source: Kansas City Star)
It was a nearly flawless initial flight: The rocket’s engines fired, it lifted off from the pad, the stages separated and the payload went into orbit at the expected altitude. Friday’s maiden flight of the Falcon 9 rocket was an important step forward for President Barack Obama’s goal of using private contractors to deliver people and cargo to the Space Station. It makes sense to rely more on private contractors for crew and cargo lift. Falcon 9’s success has shown that the policy has real promise. (6/9)

Editorial: Mars Simulation an Inane Waste of Effort (Source: Star Phoenix)
Seven astronauts-in-training are now locked in a land-based "space ship" for the next 17 months. Under the project name Mars500, seven men will simulate traveling to Mars, and three of them will even replicate a 30-day lay-over on a dark, Martian rockscape back-lit with ruby light and overarched by a starry sky.

If they don't first go stir crazy (or just plain crazy) or become cage fighters or dangerously ill, they'll emerge from their claustrophobic quarters in November of 2011. Apparently, 1,000 or so women applied for the "mission." One suspicious stipulation was that they had to be at least 6-foot-1. But the managers of the project weren't very receptive to them. "It's harder for a woman to be taken out of life and put in isolation," declared project director Boris Morukov.

Boris may have had in mind a 1999 incident in which, during an earlier long-term capsule lock-up, two of the men engaged in a bloody brawl over a forced kiss of a female astronaut -- thereby begging the question that it's women who find isolation more difficult. (6/9)

Task Force: Consider University Involvement, High Speed Rail (Source: Florida Today)
In discussing what kinds of support should be provided on Florida's Space Coast, NASA's Charles Bolden and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said the key will be for local workers to determine what paths they want to pursue. "They have got to reach out to academia and find out what it is they can do," said Bolden, who also praised the quality of the state's universities. "Because we've got a workforce that does not want to go flip hamburgers. They want to do highly technical things. They want to feel like they're making a difference."

Locke said the panel must find ways to harness workers' skills to expand the region's economic base. He warned that unemployment on the Space Coast could reach 20 percent before the end of the year. "The problem is immediate," Locke said. "The impact is substantial. The need for help is critical."

Bolden suggested to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that high-speed rail planned from Tampa to Orlando and then south to Miami could potentially be extended to Titusville. "The end of the high-speed rail should probably go to the end of the road where industry is, and that's Titusville, not Orlando," Bolden said. (6/9)

Task Force Gathers at White House (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Top administration officials met at the White House on Tuesday as part of a months-long effort to save the Space Coast economy, which expected to crater once NASA flies it final space shuttle mission. No decisions were made, but NASA chief Charlie Bolden and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said they were in the process in trying to decide how to spend $40 million in federal dollars to help thousands of Kennedy Space Center workers set to lose their jobs after the shuttle’s retirement.

“The problem is immediate. The impact is substantial. And the need for help is critical,” said Locke, who opened the one-hour meeting. Also in attendance: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, science adviser John Holdren and Christina Romer, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.

“If there is a major obstacle it is helping the community decide what direction [it] wants to go. How do they want to diversify?” said Bolden, who pointed to efforts to bring bio-medical research to Central Florida. “We have a workforce that does not want to go sell hamburgers.” (6/8)

Maryland Businessman Arrested; Among Six Charged in Iranian Satellite Scheme (Source: Washington Post)
A Montgomery County man who was president of a Maryland-based satellite company has been accused of illegally providing technology to his native Iran that resulted in the 2005 launch of an Iranian satellite, equipped with a camera, federal authorities in Maryland said Tuesday.

Nader Modanlo, 49, a U.S. citizen who once told The Washington Post he came to the United States to study science and engineering, was among six people charged in what authorities say was a years-long conspiracy to illegally provide technology and hardware to Iran in violation of a U.S. trade embargo. The indictment alleges that Modanlo received $10 million for his "assistance to Iran and the Iranians." (6/9)

South Korean Launch Postponed (Source: Space Today)
The launch of a South Korean rocket was scrubbed Wednesday because of a problem at the launch pad. The KSLV-1 rocket, also known as Naro-1, was scheduled to launch a demonstration satellite Wednesday, but about three hours before liftoff the fire extinguisher system at the launch pad went off, spreading chemicals around the rocket.

The cause of the problem isn't known, and no new launch date has been announced. Officials said that it may be necessary to take the rocket off the pad to make sure none of the vehicle's components were affected by the fire retardant chemicals. The launch would be the second for the KSLV-1; its inaugural launch in 2009 failed to place a satellite in orbit when the rocket's payload fairing failed to separate. (6/9)

Teal Group Forecasts 38% Growth in LEO Satellites for 2010-2014 (Source: Teal)
Teal Group Corp. is forecasting a total of 416 satellites to be launched to low earth orbit (LEO) aboard 184 launch vehicles during 2010-2014. The study, based on the company's Worldwide Mission Model Online that tracks space payloads proposed worldwide, assumes a 38 percent growth in LEO satellites in the next five years, compared with the past five years and a 17 percent increase in the number of launch missions.

"The numbers of satellites that we have been launching to low earth orbit over the past decade have averaged in the upper 40s or 50s, but we expect these numbers to spike in the next five years," said Marco Caceres. "We're seeing an upward trend in nanosatellites and picosatellites that are being launched... We've seen more nanosats and picosats go up in the past four years than in the previous 16 years, and we expect this trend to continue."

A second factor that will contribute to the near-term expansion of the LEO satellite launch market is the launch of replenishment satellites for the Globalstar, Iridium, and Orbcomm mobile communications satellite constellations. While all three systems have added replacement satellites in recent years, the first major wave of replenishments is scheduled to begin this year and continue through 2015-2016. Approximately 24 Globalstars are scheduled to be launched by Soyuz rockets during 2010-2011 and at least 12 Orbcomms by Falcon 1s in 2011-2012, followed by dozens of Iridium satellites beginning in 2014. (6/9)

JSC's Future Relies on Moon Program Compromise (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The political potshots have subsided and the serious horse-trading lies ahead as the White House and Congress grind toward a compromise to salvage parts of the NASA moon program crucial to Houston's Johnson Space Center. The legislative end-game is up in the air, as is any clear date to declare success or defeat. But the mood surrounding the space program in the nation's capital has shifted from seizing partisan advantage to pursuing at least some political pragmatism.

The predictable uproar in NASA-dependent states that greeted President Barack Obama's proposal to cancel the $108 billion Constellation program and the jobs that go with it has broadened geographically into a both a Republican and Democrat drive on Capitol Hill to protect features of the nation's legendary program of manned space exploration.

“What's changed is that lawmakers without a direct constituent stake in the space program now want a deal with the White House,” says space program historian John Logsdon, former head of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. “Everyone recognizes that it's untenable to have a schizoid situation where the White House wants to kill the moon program and Congress wants to save it. They're searching for common ground.” (6/9)

Lawmakers Push for Space Compromise with White House (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Reps. Gene Green, D-Houston, and John Culberson, R-Houston, are helping to orchestrate an effort by 33 House members from eight states urging Obama to abandon cancellation of the back-to-the-moon program. Lawmakers' conciliatory approach contrasts with catcall rhetoric initially unleashed by disappointed space-state Republicans who accused Obama of imperiling national security and control of the high ground in space.

“We look forward to working with you in the coming weeks to make the necessary changes (to the White House budget proposal) in order to support an exploration program that continues our elite astronaut corps, preserves an irreplaceable workforce, protects our defense industrial base and ensures that the U.S. will leave low-earth orbit within the decade,” the lawmakers tell the president in a letter to be delivered to the White House Friday.

The letter signed by lawmakers from Texas, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, Colorado, Louisiana, Ohio and Missouri is “getting a good response” because it lays out both a bipartisan and a multi-state perspective," says Rep. Kevin Brady. (6/9)

NASA, White House Consider Space Policy Trade-Offs (Source: Houston Chronicle)
So far, the White House and Congress are sketching space policy trade-offs from afar. For all the wrangling ahead, outside experts say Congress will not have easy time of overturning Obama's vision for NASA. Congress routinely overrides presidential decisions to cancel cherished Pentagon weapons programs but it “has never before gotten into this degree of specifics on the technical content of the space program,” says John Logsdon, a long-time NASA adviser. “This is unprecedented.”

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has responded to pressure from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Dallas, and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., for a two-year extension of shuttle operations beyond scheduled retirement in November by signaling NASA's willingness to convert an emergency stand-by shuttle mission into an add-on cargo flight to the station next year.

Bolden also hinted that the $40 million in workforce transition assistance promised workers along Florida's Space Coast could be expanded to include other NASA facilities facing potential layoffs or contract cancellations. (6/8)

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