July 30, 2010

Richard Shelby Accused of Steering Earmarks to Former Aides (Source: AL.com)
Since 2008, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby has steered more than $250 million in earmarks to entities represented by former staffers, according to Politico. The sum includes $175 million for the University of Alabama System, which employs to Ray Cole, a former Shelby campaign manager, as a lobbyist. The website reports the beneficiaries of Shelby's earmarking have given nearly $1 million to his campaign committees. The earmarks do not appear break Senate rules or ethics laws.

The Washington Post reports that Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has rejected Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions' call for hearings into the New Black Panther Party. Sessions wanted a hearing on alleged voter intimidation by the group in 2008, but in a sharply-worded letter, Leahy notes the Bush administration sought civil and not criminal penalties against the group, and called the "partisan focus" of the charge "a product of the election year calendar more than credible evidence of wrongdoing." (7/30)

Lockheed Martin Commends Bi-Partisan Support For NASA FY 2011 Budget (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed Martin applauded the recent actions taken by House and Senate NASA oversight committees as Congress moves forward on a bi-partisan spending plan for NASA. This important legislation provides an achievable path forward for a robust human space flight program that continues the Orion crew exploration vehicle to help achieve that goal and includes funding for advancements in technology that will ensure U.S. leadership in space. "We commend the cooperation between Congress and the Administration in achieving this important step to assure continued U.S. leadership in space.”

The Orion team has completed ground testing for major subsystems and is expected to complete the critical design review next year that will finalize 90 percent of the design. A test of the Orion Launch Abort System was successfully conducted in May 2010 and the NASA and industry team completed a rigorous Phase 1 safety review in early July 2010, assuring that mission critical safety requirements have been met. (7/30)

Vote on NASA Bill Appears Unlikely Before September (Source: Space News)
With little time remaining in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) sought to bring the measure to the House floor under suspension of the rules -- a move that prevents amendments to a bill and requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass. But Gordon encountered resistance from House members hoping to weigh in on the measure during floor debate. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and other House Democrats met with Gordon early July 29 to address concerns with key elements of the legislation. (7/30)

Raytheon Wins NASA Neutral Buoyancy Lab Contract (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded a contract to Raytheon Technical Services to operate, maintain and provide sustaining engineering at the Johnson Space Center's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory and Space Vehicle Mockup Facility in Houston. The contract has a maximum value of $119.9 million. The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, or NBL, includes a large pool where astronauts use pressurized spacesuits to train for spacewalks. (7/30)

NASA Rocket Launch Scheduled August 4 (Source: NASA)
A three-stage Black Brant X suborbital sounding rocket is schedule for launch August 4 from NASA’s launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The purpose of the mission is to test the performance of the vehicle’s third stage Nihka motor. A Black Brant X sits on the pad. Based on the approved range schedule, the rocket is set for launch between 4:30 and 6:30 a.m. EDT. The backup launch days are August 5 and 6. (7/30)

Russia: China Leads in Outer Space Pollution (Source: RIA Novosti)
China has topped the list of the world's major polluters of the near-Earth space environment, followed by the United States and Russia, the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said. All together, the three main space powers produce 93% of space debris, according to a statement published on the agency's website. "According to estimates, 40% of space debris is produced by China. The U.S.'s share accounts for 27.5%, and Russia's [share] for 25.5%, with 7% falling on other countries involved in space exploration," the statement said.

The NASA Orbital Debris Program Office has named Russia and CIS countries as the main polluters of outer space. According to the organization, Russia and its former Soviet allies disposed of a total of 5,833 spacecraft or their parts, including 1,402 satellites and 4,431 parts of carrier rockets, by ejecting them into near-Earth space. Some 15,550 "dead" spacecraft, rocket stages, upper-stage rockets and their parts are orbiting around Earth, according to the U.S. space agency.

NASA also named France, Japan and India as major polluters of the near-Earth space environment, with the figures standing at 472, 190 and 170, respectively. Russian scientists have proposed the creation of an international airspace system for monitoring the near-Earth space environment. The idea has already been supported by the international community, Roscosmos said. (7/30)

Russia's Defense Spending to Rise by 60% by 2013 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian defense spending will increase by 60 percent, to more than 2 trillion rubles ($66.3 million) by 2013 from 1.264 trillion ($42 million) in 2010, a leading Russian business daily said on Friday. The Russian government made the relevant decision during a meeting on Thursday. The largest growth is planned for 2013, when the figure will rise by 0.5 trillion rubles ($16.6 million), Vedomosti reported. (7/30)

MDA Struggling to Find Customer for Satellite Servicing Business (Source: Space News)
Canada’s MDA Corp. is ready to scrap its attempt to create a commercial business from servicing in-orbit satellites if an inaugural customer does not materialize within the next couple of months, MDA Chief Executive Daniel E. Friedmann said July 29. In a conference call with investors, Friedmann said Richmond, B.C.-based MDA appears to have cleared most technical hurdles confronting the service, which would be a first for the space industry. But substantial financial and liability-related questions remain, he said. (7/30)

Wyle Scientist to Participate in NASA Mars Study (Source: Daily Breeze)
Valerie Meyers, a scientist with El Segundo-based engineering and health sciences firm Wyle, will participate in a NASA study on how a manned trip to Mars would affect astronauts. Meyers will serve as principal investigator for the NASA research as well as one of the subjects in the six-week study. Meyers will study how the stress of human isolation affects the immune system. The research will occur at the Haughton-Mars Project Research Station on Devon Island, above the Arctic Circle. (7/30)

This Isn't Rocket Science (Source: Houston Chronicle)
April Evans resigned from her position as leader of a team of aerospace engineers at NASA after her concerns about radiation experiments on monkeys went largely ignored. Now she's working to halt the tests while trying to get by without an income. Growing up in Lake Jackson, April Jean Evans recalls sitting on her grandfather's lap, watching space shuttle missions on TV and going outside to look up at the stars with him. There was never any doubt, she says, that she wanted to work for NASA. Evans, 32, reached that goal after graduating from Texas A&M University, and her career remained ascendant until she learned of the space agency's plan to irradiate monkeys as part of a $1.75 million experiment. Scientists want to assess health risks astronauts will face from radiation when flying beyond Earth's orbit. (7/30)

Japanese Spaceports to Open for Year-Round Rocket Launches (Source: Mainichi)
Year-round rocket launches at two space centers in Kagoshima Prefecture will become possible from the next fiscal year as local fishermen's associations have agreed to lift a 190-day limit, the science ministry and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Thursday. The agreement is "highly appreciated," according to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., which markets commercial rocket launches, said in a statement.

Rocket launches at the Tanegashima Space Center and the Uchinoura Space Center, operated by the agency known as JAXA, are currently limited to the periods from June to September and November to February. The 190-day limit is aimed at avoiding disruption to fishing during high seasons as fishing boats are banned from entering local waters just before and after rocket launches. (7/30)

NASA Glenn Research Center Bringing Research 'Down to Earth' (Source: WKYC)
Big changes could be coming to NASA's budget next year but the folks at NASA Glenn Research Center say they are not focusing on that. They are looking at what they have and will continue to accomplish. The goal is to be responsible and innovative stewards of taxpayer dollars. Over the last 25 years, $87 million has gone to Ohio businesses. Side-by-side they work to create technology that can work in space and in the lives of regular people. Two examples of that private public partnership are Goodyear in Akron and Zin Technologies in Cleveland. At Goodyear, they've worked to create a tire made of springs that could navigate the rocky surface of the moon. (7/30)

Musk: Support U.S. Space Builders (Source: Florida Today)
A NASA spending plan approved by a U.S. House committee would delay commercial crew launches at Cape Canaveral and instead funnel money to Russia while American jobs are being lost, the founder of SpaceX said Thursday. Elon Musk said the development of U.S. commercial space vehicles offers "the only hope for the average citizen to one day travel in space." He urged people to encourage congressional opposition of the House NASA authorization bill.

Separately, Musk said reducing investment in U.S. commercial spaceships would only increase reliance on Russia to fly America astronauts to the International Space Station. "It seems like just a basic rule of thumb -- maybe you want to spend as much on the American team as you do on the Russians," Musk said in a meeting with Florida Today's editorial board at Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Musk said the House bill authorizes "five times as many taxpayer dollars to fly NASA astronauts on the Russian Soyuz than it invests in developing an American commercial alternative, moreover at a time when jobs are sorely needed in the United States... Quite simply, the bill represents the sort of senseless pork politics that has driven our national debt to the point where our economy can barely service it." (7/30)

Florida Teacher Spaces Out (Source: TBO)
As a child, science and engineering - as well as watching the Apollo space missions - all fascinated Mary Vaughn. That interest eventually led her into teaching the gifted math and science programs at FishHawk Creek Elementary School, which in turn, led her into space - well, almost. Vaughn was one of seven teachers from Hillsborough County and 220 worldwide to attend Honeywell's "Educators at Space Academy," held June 11 to 23 at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, near the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, where camp classes were held. Vaughn, 46, said the experience of learning what it takes to become an astronaut or ground-control crewperson was "pretty real" and the hands-on aspect of the instruction was sometimes almost too realistic. (7/30)

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