August 18, 2010

ASRC Wins NASA Glenn Contract Extension (Source: NASA)
NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland has awarded a one-year contract option to ASRC Aerospace Corporation of Greenbelt, Md., for engineering and scientific services. The option has a value that will not exceed $50 million. (8/18)

FAA Creates Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation (Source: FAA)
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected New Mexico State University (NMSU), Las Cruces, NM, to lead a new Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation. The center is a partnership of academia, industry, and government, developed for the purpose of creating a world-class consortium that will address current and future challenges for commercial space transportation.

In addition to Stanford, University of Colorado at Boulder, and the University of Texas Medical Branch, the NMSU team includes multiple Florida partners, including Florida State University, Florida Institute of Technology, and the Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion. Click here to see the FAA news Release. (8/18)

NASA Plans Green Aviation Summit at Ames on Sep. 8-9 (Source: NASA)
NASA will host a Green Aviation Summit Sept. 8-9 to highlight the agency's work to develop environmentally responsible aviation technologies. The two-day meeting at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., will bring together experts from NASA, other federal government organizations, industry and academia. They will discuss groundbreaking solutions that NASA and its research partners are developing to reduce aircraft noise, emissions and fuel consumption, and to ensure the safe and manageable growth of the aviation system. (8/18)

Kosmas Plans "Innovation Tour" of Job-Creating Technologies and Small Businesses (Source: Rep. Kosmas)
This week, Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24) will highlight local job-creating business and innovative entrepreneurs as part of her "Central Florida Innovation Tour." Kosmas will visit with small business owners and entrepreneurs to discuss emerging industries, technologies, and ideas that can boost Central Florida's economy and create high-quality jobs.

On Aug. 18, Kosmas will visit AVT Simulation, a defense modeling and simulation small business in Orlando. On Thursday, August 19, Kosmas will address the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission (EDC) bioOrlando meeting where she will highlight local research and development projects and the importance of Orlando's "Medical City" at Lake Nona. She will then visit Aero Industries, a woman-owned small business in Titusville that specializes in producing metal and electronic parts for the military and aerospace industries. (8/18)

Space Tourism: KSC Gears Up For Final Shuttle Launches With New Attractions (Source: PR Web)
With only two missions left before the US space shuttle is retired, the Kennedy Space Center has developed a range of new attractions to welcome visitors. After nearly thirty years of service, the US space shuttle fleet is finally being retired by NASA, with two final launches in November 2010 and February 2010. To celebrate, the Kennedy Space Center has launched a number of new attractions – including Star Trek Live, the dramatic IMAX film Hubble 3D, and the Family Astronaut Training Experience, which gives families the chance to train for a shuttle launch, all under the watchful eye of a veteran astronaut. (8/18)

NASA and Mary J. Blige Encourage Science Careers for Women (Source: NASA)
NASA is collaborating with award-winning recording artist Mary J. Blige to encourage young women to pursue exciting experiences and career choices by studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). A public service announcement featuring veteran NASA space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin and Blige debuts this week on NASA TV and the agency's website at: (8/18)

It's All About NASA, Space Jobs in Bill Posey's District 15 (Source: Sunshine News)
If the 2010 midterm elections are all about jobs, jobs, jobs, then the race for Florida's 15th Congressional District is about space, space, space. U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Melbourne, and other Space Coast politicians are scrambling for ways to save jobs and set a course for the space industry in the wake of the inevitable end of the space shuttle program.

Posey can be forgiven if he has a slight twinge of déjà vu when it comes to this issue. He was laid off from NASA subcontractor McDonnell Douglas as the Apollo space program started to wind down in the mid-1970s. "Brevard County went from having the lowest per capita age in the country to one of the most economically depressed centers in America," Posey said. The end of the Apollo program resulted in 25,000 layoffs, and although there will be fewer jobs lost this time around, Posey believes the economic impact could be even more catastrophic.

The Democratic challenger is Cape Canaveral Councilwoman Shannon Roberts, who has 30 years of experience working for NASA and space-related private companies. Posey does not have any Republican primary opponents. They disagree on the nature and scope of America's long-term space designs. Posey supports the bipartisan House bill which calls for NASA to develop spacecraft for low-earth orbit by 2015, and provides $150 million in the next three years for commercial space flight. But Roberts and other Democrats want to find a compromise between Obama's and Congress' plans, and have more faith in the emergence of the commercial space flight. (8/18)

NASA Astronaut, Coach, and Embry-Riddle Grad Lands at Little League Baseball World Series (Source: PR Newswire)
NASA astronaut and Little League coach Terry Virts will be honored at this year's Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pa. on Aug. 20 at 11 a.m. at Volunteer Stadium. During his visit, Virts will make other appearances to educate and excite Williamsport youth about space exploration and NASA science research and technology that benefits life on Earth. Virts, originally graduated with academic distinction from the U.S. Air Force Academy, and earned a Master's Degree in Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. (8/18)

Analysis - UK Space Sector Takes Off (Source: Reuters)
Britain's fast-growing space sector is confident it is just the sort of high-tech industry needed to rebalance the nation's fragile economy, but more state involvement is vital for it to flourish on the world stage. Driven by the private sector, the UK space industry supports about 68,000 jobs and generated a turnover of 5.8 billion pounds in 2006-2007, the last year for which data is available, on a tiny government spend of 218 million pounds. Britain has captured about 6.5 percent of the global space business despite state investment being a fraction of that spent by India, Germany, Canada and many other countries, but analysts warn of British complacency as competition mounts. (8/18)

Can NASA Launch a Rocket with a Laser? (Source: Good)
Launching rockets into space takes a lot of fuel and costs a lot of money. Will a theoretical plan to use lasers to beam enough energy to launch things into space ever take off? Low earth orbits don't even begin until you get about 100 miles up, and a geostationary orbit is 22,000 miles high. Traditional chemical rockets have hit a wall: Currently, it costs about $10,000 a pound to get something into orbit. For a large communications satellite on the order of 5 tons, that's more than a $100 million in launch costs alone.

That amount hasn't changed in decades. Companies like Elon Musk's SpaceX claim they'll be able to launch satellites for $1,000 a pound just by streamlining operations—-basically, replacing government red tape with ruthless entrepreneurial efficiency-—but there are no near-term technological breakthroughs that promise to fundamentally change how we get things away from the pull of Earth's gravity.

One radical solution to the problem is to leave most of the energy-containing stuff required to get a rocket into space on the ground. Ninety percent of the weight of a rocket on a launch pad is fuel, after all, leaving only a tiny sliver of usable mass left over for cargo. The notion, first proposed in 1972 by inventor Arthur Kantrowitz, is called beamed energy. The idea is simple: A massive power plant on the surface of the Earth sends energy to a rocket via an improbably huge laser or "maser"—which operates on the same principle as a laser, but involves microwaves. (8/18)

Neptune Finally Makes First Orbit Around the Sun Since Discovery In 1846 (Source:
The planet Neptune will be in opposition — when the sun, Earth, and a planet fall in a straight line on Aug. 20. The planet will be exactly opposite the sun in the sky, being highest in the sky at local midnight. Usually this is also the point where the planet is closest to the Earth. This opposition is special because Neptune will be returning close to the spot where it was discovered in 1846, marking its first complete trip around the sun since its discovery. (8/18)

Air Force History Center Opens (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
The Air Force Space & Missile History Center celebrated its grand opening this week in Cape Canaveral. The new 3,200-square-foot history center, located at 100 Space Port Way, is free to the public and includes a variety of exhibits from the 1950s through today. “As we move forward into the future of space operations, this center provides everyone with a detailed history of where the Air Force’s space launch program started and how much it has progressed in relatively very little time,” said Brig. Gen. Ed Wilson, 45th Space Wing commander. The center features information on every launch complex on Cape Canaveral, as well as other artifacts, displays and presentations, including nose cones, rocket engines, static displays, launch consoles and launch vehicles. (8/18)

$40 Million on Launching Pad for Florida (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The White House on Tuesday spelled out $40 million in emergency economic adjustment assistance to help Florida's hard-hit Space Coast recover from the end of space shuttle operations and changes in the moon program, prompting yet more criticism from Texans in Congress about why the Lone Star State got nothing.

"I am disappointed that the administration has yet to detail plans of assistance for Texas," said Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, a lawmaker who has been working behind the scenes to rescue parts of NASA's back-to-the-moon Constellation program which is crucial to Houston's Johnson Space Center. "Other cities and states provide essential support and thousands of jobs in local economies tied into NASA." The Obama administration has promised another $60 million in unspecified help for other areas across the country that will be affected by changes to the nation's space policy, including $15 million in job retraining. (8/16)

Queens Assemblyman Nudges NASA to Land Shuttle at Intrepid (Source: NY Daily News)
NASA still hasn't decided where three retiring space shuttles will end up, but New York pols who want one for the Intrepid aren't taking a wait-and-see approach. In the latest instance of shuttle diplomacy, Queens Assemblyman Michael DenDekker is sending to Cape Canaveral a copy of a unanimous Assembly resolution supporting the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum's bid for one.

NASA originally promised to make a decision by last month; the space agency now plans to announce where the shuttles are headed by the end of the year. "We're very patient," DenDekker said. "But we are going to be diligently pushing to get one for the city of New York." (8/18)

A Hop, Skip and a Jump on the Moon — and Beyond (Source: MIT)
Although unmanned, wheeled rovers have explored the surfaces of the moon and Mars for decades, these vehicles have limits — they can’t crawl inside craters, scale cliffs or travel long distances. For more than two years, a team of students led by Professor of the Practice of Astronautics and former NASA astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics has been collaborating with engineers from the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory to design and build a prototype for a new type of robotic explorer that would hop over, rather than traverse, a planetary surface. Hopping, they believe, would make it easier for an explorer to access tricky sites and travel greater distances, and thus collect more data during a mission. (8/18)

The Decade when Health Trumped Space Ambitions (Source: Houston Chronicle)
A new article in 'PLoS One' provides a "state of the union" of sorts for scientific research in the United States. There are few surprises in the report. In the aggregate, U.S. funding for science is sound although our research enterprises face rising competition from around the world, particularly Asia. One graphic stood out amid the dozens in the report. It shows the budgets for NASA and NIH as a percent of US federal discretionary spending during the last six decades.

It's interesting that federal funding for biomedical research has only outstripped NASA for about a decade. If the nation were polled I have little doubt they would want more money spent on health research than space research. I think that's reflected in the fact that, in less than a decade, NIH went from trailing NASA to more than doubling its share. Click here to see the chart, which shows NIH surpassing NASA in the late 1990s. (8/18)

Spaceflight Can Cause Astronauts' Muscle Tissue to Waste Away by Nearly Half (Source: Daily Mail)
The muscles of astronauts waste away on long space flights and reduce their capacity for physical work by nearly a half, a new university report has revealed. Damage caused to the tissue is such that it is equivalent to a 30- to 50-year-old crew member's muscles deteriorating to that of an 80-year-old. Despite in-flight exercise, the report warns that the destructive effects of extended weightlessness to skeletal muscle poses a significant safety risk for future manned missions to Mars and further afield.

NASA currently estimates it would take a crew 10 months to reach Mars, with a one year stay, or a total mission of approximately three years. If astronauts travelled to Mars today their ability to perform work would be compromised and, with the most affected muscles such as the calf, the decline could approach 50 percent. (8/18)

Pre-Launch Preparation of Russian Rokot Rocket Nearly Complete (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Plesetsk space center in northern Russia is about to complete pre-launch preparations of the Rokot carrier rocket, scheduled to blast off in early September. The rocket is expected to deliver into orbit the Gonets-M satellite to be used in Russia's Glonass satellite navigation project. Glonass - the Global Navigation Satellite System - is the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS, and is designed for both military and civilian use. Both systems enable users to determine their positions to within a few meters. (8/18)

Former NASA Official to Plead Guilty in Contracts Case (Source: AP)
Federal court records show that NASA's former chief of staff plans to plead guilty in a case stemming from a $600,000 contract awarded to Mississippi State University, a client of his consulting firm. Courtney Stadd faces nine charges, including conspiracy. Court documents didn't indicate to which charges he would plead during a hearing scheduled for Wednesday in Gulfport.

Prosecutors say Stadd conspired with Liam Sarsfield, NASA's former chief deputy engineer, to guide contracts where they wanted. Sarsfield pleaded guilty in November to one count. Stadd was NASA's chief and White House liaison from 2001 to 2003. Stadd was convicted in 2009 and sentenced to probation in a different case for steering a $10 million contract to MSU. (8/18)

Former NASA Worker Admits Stealing Space Suit (Source: Miami Herald)
A former NASA contract employee has pleaded guilty to stealing machine equipment and a space flight suit worn by the first U.S. female astronaut in space. The U.S. Attorney's Office statement issued Tuesday says 56-year-old Calvin Smith faces up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines at his sentencing scheduled for November.

Smith had been charged with having stolen and concealed property belonging to NASA. The flight suit bearing the name patch Sally Ride for the first U.S. woman astronaut in space is valued at more than $1,000. The machine parts Smith admitted stealing are worth around $7,400. Smith's estranged wife contacted authorities after finding the items in a suitcase. (8/17)

SpaceX Drops Dragon Capsule in Pacific (Sources: MURC, Hobby Space)
SpaceX lifted a Dragon spacecraft to 14,000 feet with a SkyCrane then dropped it to test the main parachutes and its ability to handle the landing impact. These tests were necessary because of changes to the pack before next months COTS-1 flight. Click here to see the photos. (8/18)

U.S. Aerospace Companies Boost Technical Education (Source: Reuters)
U.S. aerospace and defense companies are stepping up support for educational programs in hope of encouraging students to pursue technical careers to help replace an expected flood of worker retirements. Companies are sponsoring student robotics competitions, forming partnerships with technical schools and calling for higher national education standards in an effort to bring new urgency to the coming U.S. shortage of workers trained in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). "If we can work on retention and we can work on the excitement of STEM or engineering, then we can change the equation," William Swanson, chief executive of Raytheon Co, said. (8/17)

Do We Dare Let Aliens Know We're Here? (Source:
Even if humanity could reach out to an intelligent alien civilization, scientists are polarized over whether we should. Famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has argued that the extraterrestrials we contacted would be likely to harm us, a view that divided the experts here at the SETIcon convention. "No one can say that there is no risk to transmitting," John Billingham, former chairman of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Committee of the International Academy of Astronautics, said. "Personally, I agree with Hawking and think it may be unwise to transmit." (8/17)

Astronaut Muscles Waste in Space (Source: Psychology)
Astronaut muscles waste away on long space flights reducing their capacity for physical work by more than 40%, according to research published online in the Journal of Physiology. This is the equivalent of a 30- to 50-year-old crew member's muscles deteriorating to that of an 80-year-old. The destructive effects of extended weightlessness to skeletal muscle – despite in-flight exercise – pose a significant safety risk for future manned missions to Mars and elsewhere in the Universe.

An American study, led by Robert Fitts of Marquette University suggests that if astronauts were to travel to Mars today their ability to perform work would be compromised and, with the most affected muscles such as the calf, the decline could approach 50%. Crew members would fatigue more rapidly and have difficulty performing even routine work in a space suit. Even more dangerous would be their return to Earth, where they'd be physically incapable of evacuating quickly in case of an emergency landing.

The study – the first cellular analysis of the effects of long duration space flight on human muscle – took calf biopsies of nine astronauts and cosmonauts before and immediately following 180 days on the International Space Station (ISS). The findings show substantial loss of fibre mass, force and power in this muscle group. Unfortunately starting the journey in better physical condition did not help. Ironically, one of the study's findings was that crew members who began with the biggest muscles also showed the greatest decline. (8/17)

Space Coast Task Force Delivers Economic Strategies Report (Source: NASA)
The President's Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development, co-chaired by NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, today released its report to President Barack Obama with recommendations to enhance economic development strategies along Florida's Space Coast. The task force was charged with developing a plan for how best to invest $40 million in transition assistance from the federal government in the Space Coast region as the space shuttle program winds down. Click here to read the report. (8/17)

Wanted: A Solar Space Robot That Roves By Night (Source:
NASA is getting serious about its latest challenge to space-minded engineers: Design a solar-powered night rover for exploring other worlds. Unlike the solar-powered exploration vehicles being deployed on Mars, which have to bed down once the sun sets, the new rovers must function at a high level during the night as well as the day, NASA says.

The contest comes with a prize of $1.5 million and is open to private companies, student teams and independent inventors. It is one of three additions to NASA's Centennial Challenges competitions to spur innovation and interest in space technology and exploration. (8/17)

Aerospace/Defense Industry Seeks Talent, Diversity (Source: Aviation Week)
What has changed dramatically is that the new generation of workers grew up in intensely diverse environments -- fellow students hailing from all over the globe, friends with differing sexual orientations, and varying cultures and ethnicities within their own families. They expect the workplace to look more like what they grew up with, and Aerospace/Defense (A&D) has not yet caught up.

Thirty percent of today's young professionals are female, and yet the A&D industry figure hovers around 17%. Job categories such as finance and enterprise information have seen definite improvement. Others, such as engineering and test and evaluation, post much lower numbers.

More African-American university students are seeking degrees in sports management than in engineering. It is a situation that has university leaders struggling to find answers, and the A&D industry reaching deep into the nation's classrooms to encourage young people of every background to go into science, engineering, math and technology. (8/17)

Best Practices At Leading Universities, Industry Detailed (Source: Aviation Week)
U.S. universities are acutely aware of the challenges faced by the aerospace and defense industry because they have a front-row seat to students' shifting interests. This year's top schools, as identified by the Aviation Week Workforce Study, are implementing aggressive plans to align themselves and their students with industry. This year's top schools, in order, are: California Polytechnic State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania State University, Virginia Tech, MIT, and Purdue University. (8/17)

Demand For Talent Grows Despite Shrinking Economy (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. aerospace and defense industry is anxiously anticipating a wave of retirements that has been looming for years, and wishing that the restless, ambitious group of 20-somethings looking for more exciting opportunities would come up with an "app" to model what the next five years will bring.

If "there's an app for that" sounds like a foreign phrase, then you probably belong to the demographic the aerospace and defense (A&D) industry has been concerned about losing. Forecasts in the past several years spelled doom, foretelling of a mass exodus of "baby boomer" talent and leadership. But the global recession forced older workers to make very different plans in 2009 and 2010, and the landscape changed unexpectedly. Or rather, it stayed the same.

The 2010 Aviation Week Workforce Study found that approximately 33% of those eligible for retirement cited upside down 401(K) investments as the reason for putting off their exits. Between last year and 2010, the retirement rate dropped from 5.7% to 2% of eligible baby boomers. Click here to read the article. (8/17)

Eager Talent (Source: Aviation Week)
There is mutual concern among industry leaders and young professionals about whether uncertainty surrounding NASA?s human spaceflight strategy could deter students from pursuing a career in the field. Although salary is important to young professionals, a challenging work environment with interesting and varied assignments was higher up on the list of criteria in making a career decision. (8/17)

Companies Step Up to Build Interest in Aerospace Careers (Source: AIA)
As a generation of aerospace and defense workers in the U.S. reaches retirement age, companies are increasingly investing in educational programs to motivate students to pursue careers to replace those workers. Companies are taking measures such as partnering with technical schools and sponsoring student robotic competitions in order to boost enrollment in engineering programs and help build the workforce. According to an Aerospace Industries Association report, just 5% of U.S. bachelor's degrees are in engineering, compared with 20% in Asia. (8/18)

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