July 10, 2010

Webb Telescope Cost Growth Prompts Mikulski Demand for Outside Review (Source: Space News)
Concerned NASA is taking too long and spending too much to build its next-generation flagship astronomy mission, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) is calling for an independent review of how to complete the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) within budget and on schedule. In a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Mikulski took the U.S. space agency to task for ongoing cost overruns associated with JWST development, giving Bolden 30 days to assemble an independent review team comprising experts from outside NASA who would report directly to his office. (7/10)

Competition Under Way for U.S. Satcom Services Contracts (Source: Space News)
The U.S. government kicked off a $3.5 billion effort July 6 to select companies to provide custom commercial satellite communications networks to the military and civil government agencies. As a part of the U.S. General Services Administration’s Future Comsatcom Services Acquisition (FCSA) program, multiple companies will be awarded contracts to provide end-to-end managed communications networks. The task-order style Custom Satcom Solutions contracts will be worth a total of $2.6 billion over five years, according to a posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website. There will be another $900 million set aside for small businesses under the program. Bids are due Aug. 12. (7/10)

Globalstar Expects To Meet Loan Terms Despite Competition (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Globalstar has fully accounted for the competitive threat posed by Inmarsat’s new hand-held satellite telephone in Globalstar’s revenue and gross-profit projections for 2010 and 2011, which are trigger points for the company’s package of bank loans, a senior Globalstar official said July 7. (7/10)

Rosetta Makes Spectacular Asteroid Flyby (Source: ESA)
Asteroid Lutetia grew larger in Rosetta's view as the ESA spacecraft zoomed in for a spectacular flyby on Saturday. Lutetia is the largest asteroid ever visited by a spacecraft. Rosetta was perfectly lined up to skim by at a distance of 3162 km, close enough to enable detailed scientific investigations of its surface and environment. The spacecraft passed Lutetia at a relative speed of 54,000 km/h, when both were some 454 million km from Earth. (7/10)

The NASA 'Feel Good' Mission: Reagan Commentary (Source: Jersey Journal)
After hearing about Charlie Bolden's Muslim statement, my deepest fears about the dangerous priorities being put forth by this administration were confirmed. Could someone please explain to the hard-working men and women of NASA, or, even more importantly to us as taxpayers who fund the agency, why the leader of that organization is being asked to essentially serve as a diplomat?

Why such a foolish edict to a leader who is already facing severe budget cuts at his agency and is being continuously challenged on the viability and affordability of the space mission? Where in NASA’s mission statement does it discuss the role of the agency in making nations "feel good"? With such an egregious misuse of resources, personnel and priorities, I hardly know where to start.

Now this is not to say that the United States should not engage in efforts to improve the usually rocky relations we share with so many nations in the Middle East. Doing so can build a level of trust and a greater understanding of our diverse cultures. But that is a job for the U.S. State Department, not an agency dedicated to space exploration. (7/10)

Yamazaki Touts Japan's Space Tech (Source: Japan Times)
Praising the level of Japanese space technology, astronaut Naoko Yamazaki expressed hope Friday that the government will allocate more money for science despite the pressure to cut overall expenditures. Science funding has drawn great attention during recent intensive government budget-screening sessions. Technologies, including those developed through space exploration, are key to a country's overall strength in the long run, Yamazaki said. (7/10)

Laid-Off Huntsville Contractors Plan Strategy for Re-Employment (Source: WAFF)
The proposed budget that cancels NASA Constellation program has already affected some in North Alabama. Dozens of contractors with Marshall Space Flight Center were forced to cut about 500 local jobs. The contractors who have announced layoffs include Boeing, Jacobs Engineering, and United Space Alliance. Now those laid-off employees are turning to each other for help.

About one hundred people turned out for the kickoff meeting of the Huntsville Space Professionals at UA-Huntsville's Chan Auditorium Friday afternoon. HSP is a non-profit group formed to help those laid-off, like Timothy Hardin. Hardin was working a dream job as a NASA contractor, up until a short time ago. (7/10)

Countdown Starts for India's PSLV Rocket Launch (Source: Sify News)
The countdown for Monday's launch of India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket carrying five satellites, including a cartography one for land mapping and information, began Saturday at the rocket port Sriharikota.

The 44-meter tall PSLV is a four-stage rocket powered by solid and liquid propellants alternatively. 'Everything is going smoothly and we are getting ready for the Monday launch. The 50 hours, 30 minutes countdown started at 6.52 a.m. Saturday,' S. Satish, director at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said. (7/10)

Commercialized Human Space Flight - A Possibility In Huntsville (Source: WHNT)
NASA contractors know it's part of their job; programs wind down, and new opportunities arise. As the Constellation program appears to be coming to a close with layoffs and financial cuts, there's the possibility for something new. NASA plans to retire the space shuttle next year. To replace it, President Obama suggests looking to commercial entities to create a vehicle that will take humans to space.

The question is, would those businesses set up shop in Huntsville? Politicians from the Tennessee Valley are trying to understand what Mr. Obama's proposed NASA plan means for the Rocket City and how a commercialized system of taking astronauts into space would actually work.

"Is it going to get done? When is it going to get done, and how long are we going to have to use the Russians to get in space?" asked Huntsville Attorney Mark McDaniel. Friday, a US congressman from South Tennessee announced he's appointed McDaniel to advise him on space issues. McDaniel has guided presidents and a NASA administrator on space policy. He says if Mr. Obama's plan is to send astronauts into lower orbit on commercial vehicles, he needs to sell that vision to the American people. (7/10)

Huntsville Lawyer Chosen to be NASA Advisor for TN Congressman (Source: WAFF)
Huntsville lawyer Mark McDaniel has been tapped for his NASA expertise. McDaniel will serve as NASA advisor to Tennessee congressman Lincoln Davis. Davis serves on both the house appropriations committee and the house committee on science and technology.

Davis said McDaniel's vast experience on two presidential NASA advisory councils will be a huge asset as he fights for NASA jobs. An estimated 7500 to 8000 of Davis' constituents commute from Tennessee to jobs in the Huntsville area every day. (7/10)

Russian Proton-M Orbit US Telecom Satellite (Source: Itar-Tass)
A Russian Proton-M launcher successfully placed a U.S. EchoStar-15 telecommunications satellite into orbit from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan on Saturday. The rocket’ s dead first stage fell down in Kazakhstan’s Karaganda region, the second stage and the nose cone fell down in Russia’s republic of Altai, and the upper stage fell down into the Pacific. (7/10)

Ariane 6 Study Launched (Source: Aviation Week)
Astrium will lead a 15-month, 10-company study intended to identify basic concepts for a Next Generation Launcher to replace Europe’s Ariane 5. The €10 million NGL project, commonly known as Ariane 6, aims to come up with a basic configuration that could be approved for preliminary definition at the next European Space Agency ministerial summit in late 2011-12.

France has already targeted a €250 million enabling technology program, to be supported by a special bond issue set to be finalized this summer, in order to prepare the way for the 3-8 metric ton modular vehicle, which is expected to be ready around 2025. A midlife update, known as Ariane 5 ME, is currently in definition and is expected to be approved for development at the next summit for an expected service introduction around 2016. (7/10)

Space Coast Job Plans Set for Discussion (Source: Florida Today)
An effort to build local networks that could help the Space Coast prepare for a post-shuttle future resumes Monday with a public meeting in Viera. Consultants Ed Morrison and Linda Fowler will pick up where they and more than 250 participants left off in April, working to identify strengths and gaps that could point out new business opportunities and help overcome challenges presented by the loss of an estimated 8,000 aerospace jobs.

"It's about, as a community, can we start to really work together and take action on these items and get them done?" said Brevard Workforce President Lisa Rice, an organizer of the initiative called "Overcoming the Space Challenge Through Regional Innovation." (7/10)

Funding May Alter NASA's Spaceflight Direction (Source: Florida Today)
A U.S. Senate committee is likely to approve a compromise authorization bill next week that would allow NASA to develop back-ups to commercial rockets by funding a government rocket and spacecraft, Sen. Bill Nelson said. "We've got quite a few senators that are coming together, senators that have been very critical of the president's proposals," Nelson said. "I think that by next Thursday we'll be able to join all together."

Still, Nelson said, it will take a "near miracle" for Congress and the White House to approve a 2011 NASA budget before the fiscal year starts Oct. 1. "But I believe in miracles," he said. "I think we're going to be able to pull this off." (7/10)

Bolden: Glenn Research Center Will Fare Well Under Obama's Plan (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
President Obama's controversial plan to turn away from a moon mission and focus instead on new space-exploring technologies will "significantly raise the profile" of NASA Glenn Research Center, says Charles Bolden, head of the space agency. Bolden, speaking today at the City Club of Cleveland, said NASA Glenn, between its Brook Park campus and spacecraft-testing facility near Sandusky, will benefit "quite a bit" from efforts to bolster advanced propulsion, communications and astronaut health in deep space. Those are all areas of strength for NASA Glenn, Bolden noted. (7/10)

Dark Matter May Be Building Up Inside the Sun (Source: WIRED)
The sun could be a net for dark matter, a new study suggests. If dark matter happens to take a certain specific form, it could build up in our nearest star and alter how heat moves inside it in a way that would be observable from Earth.

Dark matter is the mysterious stuff that makes up about 83 percent of the matter in the universe, but doesn’t interact with electromagnetic forces. Although the universe contains five times as much dark matter as normal matter, dark matter is completely invisible both to human eyes and every kind of telescope ever devised. (7/10)

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