July 22, 2010

Kosmas Successful in Fight for Additional Shuttle Mission (Source: Rep. Kosmas)
Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24) successfully amended the House NASA Reauthorization Bill to add an additional Shuttle mission to the current manifest, minimizing the spaceflight gap by extending the life of the Shuttle program through at least June of 2011. Kosmas’ action will help ease the transition for the Space Coast and slow the loss of jobs in order to protect the highly skilled workforce.

Kosmas also added a measure to determine what parts will be required to meet the needs of the five year extension of the International Space Station and if those parts can only be delivered through additional Shuttle missions. Kosmas fought for additional changes to the House NASA bill that would bring the legislation more in line with a bipartisan proposal offered by Kosmas and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), but committee members did not adopt her amendments to increase funding for technology demonstration and commercial crew development. (7/22)

Senate Compromise May Be Setting NASA Up for Another Failure (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The Senate's NASA authorization bill orders NASA to build a heavy-lift rocket and capsule capable of reaching the International Space Station by 2016. But it budgets less money for the new spacecraft — about $11 billion during three years, with $3 billion next year — than what the troubled Constellation program would have received. That — plus the short deadline — has set off alarms.

Days before the compromise was announced, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver told its two champions -- U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R- Texas — that NASA could not finish the proposed new rocket before 2020, according to three sources present at the meetings. Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin said the NASA officials were responding to lower dollar figures than what Congress ultimately approved.

The path for the NASA compromise to become law runs through must-pass spending bills that likely will come up for votes later this year. There remains an outside chance that it could be scuttled by dissenters in the House, but the combined support of the White House and Senate means compromise backers have the heavy advantage when dealing with House leaders. (7/22)

Orbital Plans Taurus 2 Test Flight with Extra Money (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The Taurus 2 rocket could be launched on a standalone test flight next summer if NASA provides supplemental funding for commercial cargo services, Orbital Sciences Corp. officials said. Orbital is designing the Taurus 2 rocket and Cygnus cargo freighter to deliver supplies to the Space Station through 2015. The commercial resupply system is scheduled for its first test flight in the second quarter of next year.

"If Congress approves NASA's request for COTS augmentation funds, as now appears reasonably likely, our plan would be to conduct a Taurus 2 test flight with the first production Taurus 2 rocket vehicle next June without the Cygnus spacecraft," said CEO David Thompson. (7/22)

Huntsville Space Professionals To Host Free Career Fair On July 27 (Source: WHNT)
The Huntsville Space Professionals will host a free career fair on July 27. More than 35 space, technology, military and private firms are signed up to participate. The career fair will be from 1 to 4 p.m. at UA-Huntsville's University Center. Huntsville Space Professionals, which is a non-profit organization, invites everyone passionate about space exploration, policy and education to join the community to help keep Huntsville viable within the space industry. (7/22)

Russia Unveils Manned Spacecraft (Source: BBC)
The Russian space agency, Roskosmos, is putting the finishing touches to the design of a spacecraft, which could carry the nation's cosmonauts into space in the coming decades. The work is a culmination of a multi-year effort to define the architecture of a replacement to Russia's 40-year-old Soyuz spacecraft. With the upcoming retirement of the US space shuttle, Russian ships could, for several years at least, be the only means of taking humans into space.

This would include any American and European astronauts traveling to the International Space Station (ISS). According to officials at RKK Energia, Russia's chief contractor in manned spaceflight, the agency plans to make the final decision on all critical elements of the new ship's architecture at the beginning of August. (7/22)

House Panel Backs Additional Shuttle Flight (Source: Florida Today)
NASA would get an extra shuttle flight in 2011, under a key House panel vote Thursday. The vote matched action that Senate panels already took, making the extra flight more likely. Funding for extending the program is budgeted at $1.6 billion. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach, proposed the shuttle flight as important to supply the International Space Station and to preserve the Kennedy Space Center. The amendment was adopted by voice vote. (7/22)

Claims of 100 Earth-Like Planets Not True (Source: Space.com)
Despite overzealous news headlines this week, NASA's Kepler spacecraft has not indentified more than 100 Earth-like planets in the galaxy. The planet-hunting telescope, launched in April 2009, has so far confirmed only five alien planets beyond the solar system, mission scientists said. The erroneous reports of new planets were generated in response to a recent videotaped speech Kepler co-investigator Dimitar Sasselov gave at a TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) conference in July. (7/22)

Congress to NASA: "Help is on the Way" (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The House bill is similar to the Senate bill, but instead of adding one final space shuttle mission next summer, it puts the additional money into development of a heavy-lift rocket by 2015. "We're looking to build upon the good work done in the Senate," Rep. Pete Olson said. Also similar to the Senate bill, the work in the House was a bipartisan product of both House Science Committee Chairman Bart Gordon and Arizona Democrat Gabrielle Giffords as well as Texas Republicans Ralph Hall and Olson.

"This has really been a bipartisan effort. I can't tell you how refreshing that has been. We all realized we had to get this done. We spent a lot of time working together to make the tough decisions." The President's budget, as well as that of the House and Senate, provide $19 billion for NASA. The difference is in how the money is spent. The President's budget focused on developing new technologies, whereas the House and Senate bills want NASA to press ahead with building a government rocket.

However, Olson believes that because efforts to reach accords in both the House and Senate were bipartisan, President Obama will sign off on a bill Congress agrees upon. The big, unaddressed question in both the House and Senate budget is what NASA's mission should be. The President has said NASA should largely skip the moon and go for other destinations, including Mars. Some House members, including Olson, favor a return to the moon. For now, Congress seems intent on having NASA develop a heavy lift rocket, with the contentious decision about where to go to be made later. (7/22)

Media Alert: Florida, Texas Trying End-Run for Space Shuttle (Source: National Aviation Heritage Alliance)
"Florida and Texas are trying to make an end run around NASA's competitive process to decide where to give the retired space shuttles by getting Congress to weigh the decision in their favor. ... Tucked into the NASA reauthorization bill that Congress is now taking up is a provision which directs NASA to give "priority consideration" to a site with a historical relationship with "either the launch, flight operations, or processing of the Space Shuttle orbiters." (7/22)

Academy to highlight NASA’s Apollo Program (Source: Hollywood News)
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that they will explore the physical realities of science fiction movies in the three-evening series “Out of This World: The Science of Space Movies” beginning on Thursday, August 5. “Out of This World” will continue on Friday, August 6, with a presentation of Fritz Lang’s 1929 silent classic “Woman in the Moon” and conclude on Saturday, August 7, with screenings of “Project Apollo” (1968) and “For All Mankind” (1989), documentaries that focus on NASA’s Apollo program. All three evenings are being presented by the Academy’s Science and Technology Council. (7/22)

Caltech Team Finds Evidence of Water in Moon Minerals (Source: Caltech)
That dry, dusty moon overhead? Seems it isn't quite as dry as it's long been thought to be. Although you won't find oceans, lakes, or even a shallow puddle on its surface, a team of geologists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), working with colleagues at the University of Tennessee, has found structurally bound hydroxyl groups (i.e., water) in a mineral in a lunar rock returned to Earth by the Apollo program. The team found the water in a calcium phosphate mineral, apatite, within a basalt collected from the moon's surface by the Apollo 14 astronauts. (7/22)

Are Space Aliens Cheap? (Source: Orange County Register)
Radio astronomers have searched in vain for signals from extraterrestrials since 1960. That might be because they're looking in the wrong place, a UC Irvine scientist says. In this case, the "place" is a slice of the microwave spectrum. Physics professor and science fiction writer Gregory Benford and his twin brother, microwave physicist James Benford, propose in two recent scientific papers that the signaling aliens might simply be penny pinchers, opting for the cheapest way to broadcast.

A powerful broadband pulse would require far fewer resources, the Benford brothers say, than blasting out constant narrow-band signals -- the kind scientists have been searching for all these years. "They're looking for a signal that probably won't appear," Benford said. That search has been mainly conducted by SETI, or the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, based in Mountain View, Calif. The SETI project celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, though the SETI Institute was not established until 1985. (7/22)

Twin Astronauts Will Meet up in Space (Source: Fox Tampa Bay)
Next year, NASA is set to hit one more milestone in space before retiring their space shuttle fleet -- twins in space. Mission commanders Scott and Mark Kelly are identical twins from New Jersey. They are getting ready to do another first at NASA as the first blood relatives to meet in space. Scott will head off to the space station in October and take over command there for six months. Mark will meet up with him in February when he commands the final shuttle flight on the retiring Endeavour. (7/22)

United Technologies Sees 14% Rise in Q2 Profit (Source: AIA)
United Technologies raised its 2010 earnings guidance on Wednesday after reporting strong second-quarter earnings. The parent company of jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney, Otis elevators and Sikorsky Aircraft said its second-quarter profit rose by nearly 14% and revenue increased for the first time since the fourth quarter of 2008. (7/22)

NASA: NRC Cost-Cutting Recommendations Already Tried, Without Success (Source: AIA)
The National Research Council issued recommendations this month for NASA to control cost and schedule problems, but the space agency says many measures the NRC recommended have already been taken, without success. One official said suggestions such as conducting multiple cost reviews and spending more time and money to flesh out projects during their early design stages were already applied to James Webb Space Telescope as well as other large projects, but they showed little effectiveness in changing things. (7/22)

Astronaut for Hire: Space Tourism Will Help Science (Source: New Scientist)
Brian Shiro, president of Astronauts4Hire, explains how the commercial space race is changing what it means to be an astronaut. Q: What's the idea behind Astronauts4Hire? A: Our aim is to train a highly qualified group to become the first scientist-astronauts for hire by researchers wanting to fly experiments in space. People will be able to go to our website and search for astronauts with the type of scientific and flight expertise they want. Click here to read the interview. (7/22)

Bandits Rob Khrunichev Space Center in Moscow (Source: Itar-Tass)
Bandits robbed the Khrunichev state space research-and-production center in Moscow, a source in the Moscow police said. The crime was committed overnight to Thursday. “Five unidentified gangsters broke into the Khrunichev space center in Novozavodskaya Street and threatening with the use of force to the secretary and an engineer broke down the doors of five rooms. The robbers have stolen money and jewelry items belonging to center employees. The damage is preliminarily estimated at 300,000 roubles,” the source said. (7/22)

Iridium Extends Relationship With Boeing for Network Operations and Support (Source: Iridium)
Iridium has entered into two comprehensive, long-term agreements with Boeing that redefine the relationship between the companies for maintenance, operations and support of Iridium's satellite network. The first agreement, relating to the operation and maintenance of Iridium's current satellite constellation, transforms an agreement that Iridium and Boeing have had in place for the last ten years. Under the new agreement, Boeing will continue operating Iridium's current satellite constellation and will provide support for Iridium's satellite control system (SCS). Iridium will receive significant cost savings and benefit from the release of more than $15 million in restricted cash required under the prior agreement. (7/22)

UK Space Agency and NASA Sign Joint Statement of Intent (Source: UK Space Agency)
The UK Space Agency and NASA have agreed on a statement of intent for potential cooperation in civil space activities. The statement, signed yesterday, at a meeting in London, by the Minister and the NASA Administrator, Charles F. Bolden Jr, confirms the mutual desire of the two agencies to identify new cooperative activities related to Earth and space science, life sciences, and space exploration, in addition to other areas of mutual interest. (7/22)

Ohio Firm Wins $18M NASA Contract for Glenn Flagship Building (Source: Crain's)
A North Olmsted firm has won an $18 million contract to build what NASA Glenn Research Center considers the flagship building in its effort to consolidate its campus. Northstar Contracting Inc. will build a centralized office building that will house 300 workers and include an auditorium with seating for 400. The maximum value of the contract if all options are exercised is $19,426,435.00. The projected is scheduled to be complete by Feb. 28, 2012. (7/22)

Boeing's New Crew Spacecraft (Source: MIT Technology Review)
The company wants to be the first from the private sector to build a human-rated capsule. Boeing is building a capsule to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station and to future private space stations. Yesterday, at a media briefing, the company presented designs of its cone-shaped spacecraft, which is bigger than the Apollo capsule of the 60s and 70s, but smaller than NASA's possible future crew capsule, Orion. Boeing also announced a partnership with Bigelow Aerospace, a private company that is building inflatable space habitats with plans to launch the first private space station by 2014. (7/22)

Historic Space Deal Between UK and Russia (Source: UK Space Agency)
The UK has concluded an historic agreement with Russia leading the way to greater collaboration in space between the two nations. In signing the agreement, UK Space Agency’s Chief Executive, Dr David Williams said it marked a new stage in cooperation between the UK and Russia in civil space activity. “Space provides governments with the possibility to improve lives across their communities, along with offering novel commercial opportunities,” said Dr Williams. “It is a truly global activity and one where it is right that we should work together”. (7/22)

Key Senate Panel Approves NASA 2011 Funding (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science subcommittee quickly approved its version of NASA’s Fiscal 2011 spending bill July 21, providing a $19 billion topline — the same level as the Obama administration’s request - in a key step that furthers a nascent compromise between Capitol Hill and the White House. Of the total, $1.6 billion funds the two remaining scheduled space shuttle flights to the International Space Station (ISS), and possibly a third summer flight that must be negotiated with the House, where a pending authorization bill does not explicitly support a third flight. (7/22)

California: The Place for Space (Source: San Diego City Beat)
Here’s how sci-fi writer Douglas Adams described “space” in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mind-boggling big it is….” You know what else is mind-boggling big? California’s space industry. That term, “mind boggling,” was dropped numerous times during the more than dozen interviews conducted to get a grasp on the story. As of 2007, California’s space industry accounted for 44 percent of the U.S. space market and 21 percent of the global space market.

The California Aerospace Portal, maintained by the San Diego East County Development Council at Connectory.com, currently lists 3,554 companies engaged in the aerospace industry in California (641 in San Diego County alone), making everything from small components to launch vehicles. Combine those companies with the complex budget wrangling of Congress; factor in the global economy and international markets as countries compete against each other, states compete against each other, and states compete against countries and—blast it, we’ve just boggled ourselves.

Moving forward, the California Space Authority’s No. 1 project will be to support the creation of a 71-acre, $220-million California Space Center outside the Vandenberg base. It will include conference facilities, mission-control buildings, a rocket garden, a launch viewing area and a visitor center that in eight to 10 years could be “bigger and better” than the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

In the short term, however, all eyes are on the 2010-2012 California Space Enterprise Strategic Plan, which will lay out the goals for the state’s entire space industry. More than 200 individuals representing 100 organizations contributed ideas and goals through meetings and webinars held in the spring. In previous incarnations, the plan focused primarily on military based aerospace industries--but, with the rise of “new space” endeavors, there’s pressure for the plan to include greater focus on space tourism and other enterprise that don’t involve government funding. Click here to read the article. (7/22)

Russian Company Plans Mercury Mission in 4-5 Years (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian NPO Lavochkin intends to send an interplanetary research mission to Mercury in 4-5 years, Lavochkin's deputy general designer said. "[The mission will consist of] a flight to Mercury and a landing on its surface," Maxim Martynov said. "We assume that the device will be a modified Phobos-Grunt satellite."

He added that the NPO is currently engaged in a pre-design mission. Martynov also said that similar missions are planned for Venus and the Moon. Mercury is the smallest planet in the Solar System and the closest planet to the Sun, orbiting it once every 87.969 days. (7/22)

Thirty Thousand Employees to be involved in "Vostochnyi" Spaceport Building (Source: Vladivostok Times)
“From 5 to 12 thousand employees will be involved directly in the building process. The staff will change subjecting to the goal and can increase in number to 30 thousand people,” Mr. Perminov says. According to him, they are going to build the space launching facilities, right and left starting lines, the runway, oxygen and nitrogen plant, the hydrogen plant and roads.

The Head of Roscosmos believes that the best world practice will be adopted in building of the new spaceport. It takes less funds for this project in the comparison with Baikanur and it is more compact; besides, we are going to erect all subjects of social infrastructure in the cosmodrome, Perminov notes. (7/22)

Senate Panel's Vote May Add $1.1 Billion to Orion Project (Source: Denver Post)
Work on the Orion crew capsule has proceeded despite a few turbulent months of NASA budget issues, a Lockheed Martin official said Wednesday. The Orion capsule received a huge potential boost Wednesday when a Senate subcommittee approved adding $3 billion to NASA's budget to support development of Orion and a heavy-lift rocket to take the capsule into deep space. That's a far cry from February, when President Barack Obama proposed canceling the Constellation program, of which Orion is a part. Obama revived the spacecraft in April as a "lifeboat" for the international space station. (7/22)

Editorial: Is Congress About to Hand Russia the Keys to Space? (Source: AOL News)
With the coming retirement of the Space Shuttle, the most immediate issue in human spaceflight is how to get U.S. crews to the International Space Station. When the decision was made in 2004 to retire the shuttle, the plan was to have a small "gap" starting this year, during which the Russians would provide this service, as they did for the two-and-a-half-year period after Columbia was lost. But if lawmakers in the House have their way, we could be buying rides from Russia to the space station for the foreseeable future.

Ares and Orion costs were climbing much higher and development was taking far longer than planned, with only a small chance of meeting even a 2017 goal, at a cost of tens of billions of dollars. On Thursday, the House Science Committee is due to mark up a bill that would slash the $6 billion Barack Obama had planned for the commercial crew initiative by about 96 percent, to $250 million. At the same time, the committee seems determined to resurrect the flawed Ares/Orion program. If this plan were to become law, it could leave the U.S. reliant on Russian rockets to get to the space station indefinitely. (7/22)

Hispanics Proud as Ramon Lugo Takes Charge at NASA Glenn (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
The Hispanic influence at the NASA Glenn Research Center, long a source of pride in the Latino community, just gained a little more propulsion. This week, Ramon Lugo III became the first Hispanic director in Glenn's 70-year history. An engineer of Puerto Rican descent, Lugo will lead a 3,000-plus workforce and a research center that plays critical roles in the national space program and the regional economy. (7/22)

Orbital Announces Second Quarter 2010 Financial Results (Source: Orbital)
Orbital Sciences Corp.'s second quarter 2010 revenues were $337.7 million, up 25% compared to $270.1 million in the second quarter of 2009. Second quarter 2010 operating income was $12.2 million, compared to $12.8 million in the second quarter of 2009. Net income was $6.3 million in the second quarter of 2010 compared to net income of $8.7 million in the second quarter of 2009. (7/22)

Odds for Life Better in Photosynthesis Zones (Source: Astrobiology)
When seeking to figure out where life might evolve, researchers have often focused on the "habitable zones" around stars, where the heat from the star is at the perfect level for liquid water to exist on the surface of a planet in that zone. The reasoning there is that wherever there is water on Earth, there is a chance for life. Although primitive life can exist without photosynthesis, researchers argue it would be necessary for more complex multi-cellular organisms to emerge. This is because the main source for oxygen on Earth comes from photosynthetic life, and oxygen is thought to be necessary for multi-cellular life to arise. (7/22)

NASA Stennis Supports Taurus-2 Rocket Engine Testing (Source: Space Daily)
Engineers at NASA's Stennis Space Center installed an Aerojet AJ26 rocket engine for qualification testing as part of a partnership that highlights the space agency's commitment to work with commercial companies to provide space transportation. Stennis has partnered with Orbital Sciences Corp. to test the AJ26 engines that will power the first stage of the company's Taurus II space launch vehicle. The company is under contract with NASA through the Commercial Resupply Services program to provide eight cargo missions to the Space Station through 2015. (7/22)

NASA Ames Tests Launch Abort System At Supersonic Speeds (Source: Space Daily)
Aerospace engineers at NASA's Ames Research Center are conducting a series of wind tunnel tests to develop technology for future human space exploration. Using a six percent scale Orion model, featuring complex moving parts, engineers are simulating various launch abort conditions the spacecraft might encounter during ascent to characterize the effects of launch abort and control motor plumes on the aerodynamics of the Orion spacecraft. (7/22)

Florida Propulsion Group Plans Research Symposium on Aug. 9-10 (Source: FCAAP)
The Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion (FCAAP) will sponsor its Second Annual Symposium and Exhibition on August 9-10 in Tallahassee, FL. The Symposium will feature presentations and papers describing the broad, highly interdisciplinary FCAAP-supported research being conducted by faculty, students and scientists from Florida State University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, University of Central Florida, and University of Florida. Click here for information. (7/22)

Kosmas Amendment for Commercial Space Funding Denied by Committee (Source: SPACErePORT)
Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas, during a House subcommittee hearing on the NASA Authorization Bill, offered an amendment that would have increased funding for the agency's Commercial Crew program to the same level authorized by the Senate. Her amendment was supported by California Rep. Rohrabacher (R-CA), but not by Chairwoman Giffords (D-AZ) or Rep. Hall (R-TX). It was not approved for inclusion in the bill. (7/22)

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