August 2, 2010

House Sci & Tech Committee Slams NASA Goddard on SCNS Contract (Source: NASA Watch)
"Committee staff received several allegations about contract misconduct by the management and acquisitions staff of the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). These all related to large support contracts managed out of the Center. Many of the allegations were tied to the current Space Communications Networks Services (SCNS) contract competition. After a thorough review of the materials provided to the Committee by NASA and others and many interviews ... we believe that staff at GSFC have engaged in conduct that is inconsistent with either the provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) or the agency's own rules. The result is that the SCNS competition has been skewed in such a fashion that, at a minimum, creates the appearance of the agency favoring one bidder over another." (8/3)

Meek Criticizes White House NASA Budget (Source: Space Politics)
In response to a series of questions posed by the Orlando Sentinel, Florida Democratic Senate candidate Kendrick Meek called the White House’s NASA budget proposal its biggest policy mistake to date. The proposal “does not provide adequate funding to implement NASA’s priorities”, Kendrick responded in the excerpted responses published by the paper, adding that it would also “disproportionately impact Florida’s economy”. In response to another question, Meek identified NASA as one area, along with clean alternative energy, that deserved additional federal funding. Meek’s opponent, Jeff Greene, who has a 10-point lead over Meek in a new poll, did not address NASA in the responses published by the Sentinel. (8/1)

NASA Hosts Workshop to Discuss Exploring Near Earth Objects (Source: NASA)
NASA will host an interactive workshop to identify objectives for exploration missions to near-Earth objects, or NEOs, on Aug. 10-11 at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington. The event will bring together experts and key leaders from NASA, other government agencies, industry, academia, and international communities. They will discuss past experiences and focus on objectives, capabilities, and concepts of operations for human and robotic exploration of NEOs.

The primary goals for the workshop are to increase the collective understanding of NEOs, communicate NASA's preliminary plans for a human mission to a NEO, and get input on proposed mission objectives. The workshop includes a series of briefings, panels, and breakout sessions. (8/2)

Safe And Efficient De-Orbit Of Space Junk Without Making The Problem Worse (Source: Space Daily)
Global Aerospace Corp.'s Dr. Kristin Gates will present a paper on de-orbiting space junk at the AIAA Astrodynamics Specialists Conference in Toronto. Dr. Gates will describe GAC's Gossamer Orbit Lowering Device (GOLD) for safe and efficient removal from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) of dangerous space objects. The patented GOLD system concept uses a very large ultra thin balloon envelope to increase the aerodynamic drag by a factor of several hundred. This will cause the space junk to enter the earth's atmosphere quickly and burn up. (8/2)

Boeing Should Lose $271 Million in Rocket Billings, Audit Says (Source: Bloomberg)
The world’s second-biggest commercial-jet builder posted a 21 percent drop in profit after delivering fewer planes. Net income fell to $787 million, or $1.06 a share, from $998 million, or $1.41, a year earlier. Boeing should lose as much as $271 million in government payments for satellite launch services because it violated federal accounting rules, according to the Pentagon’s audit agency.

The Defense Contract Audit Agency, in a July 23 audit, recommended that the Pentagon require Boeing to reimburse $72 million that was previously paid, agency director Patrick Fitzgerald said in an e-mail statement. An analyst also said the Defense Contract Management Agency, which monitors contractor performance, also should notify the joint Boeing-Lockheed Martin Corp. United Launch Alliance that the government won’t pay another $199 million in “unallowable” pending support costs. Boeing was notified of the finding on July 28 and doesn’t agree, a company spokesman said.

The auditors reviewed whether Chicago-based Boeing improperly billed the Air Force in a 2006-2008 contract for labor, management, quality control and support costs that had been incurred between 1998 and 2006 in the Delta IV rocket program. In Boeing’s case, a regional manager for the audit agency approved “a flawed audit that could have allowed Boeing to recover” the $271 million. (8/2)

Space-Based Solar Power: Nearing the Tipping Point? (Source: Solar Novus)
Upcoming demonstrations could settle once and for all the question of whether of converting sunlight to electrical power via space satellites is not only possible but economically viable. Such tests involve various technologies needed to gather solar energy in space, beam it to ground stations and distribute the resulting electrical power to the grid.

Today, with costlier oil, along with emissions and climate change concerns, organizations around the world are aiming to prove the practicality and profitability of solar from space. They are betting on improvements in solar cell and other electrical components' efficiencies, spacecraft control techniques, robotic assembly methods and structural materials will tip the scales to practical applications.

Editor's Note: Surprisingly, no mention of space-based solar power was included in the new national space policy, despite the concept's supposed near-term feasibility and its potential for reducing the nation's reliance on non-renewable energy sources. (8/2)

NASA Delays Deciding Where Retired Space Shuttles Will be Displayed (Source: CollectSpace)
NASA waved off last month revealing where its soon-to-be-retired space shuttles will be making their final landing for public exhibit. Delayed launch dates, coupled with congressional acts -- including bills proposing adding at least one more mission to the two remaining for the 30-year shuttle program -- resulted in the space agency postponing its selection of museums where its winged orbiters will go on display.

A July announcement had been expected since January of this year, when NASA made a last call for suitors. NASA had originally intended to retire its shuttle fleet by the end of 2010, but more time was needed to process the payloads for its final two planned missions. (8/2)

Homans: New Mexico Delegation Advances New Space Policy in Congress (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
There is a major battle taking place in Congress over the future of the nation's space program, and the respective roles of NASA and the commercial spaceflight industry. New Mexico and members of its congressional delegation are right in the center of the arena. President Obama's proposed reliance on the private sector to handle suborbital and space station missions is a direct affirmation of the mission of Spaceport America - to be the launch pad for the nation's newly emerging commercial spaceflight industry.

One relatively small but critical component of the president's plan is a $75 million appropriation ($15 million a year for five years) to purchase sub-orbital flights for scientific research purposes. The program is called Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR), and it will do more than any other NASA program to build the business base for Spaceport America. The types of companies that will benefit from CRuSR include UP Aerospace, Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace, Masten Space Systems and Armadillo Aerospace, all of whom have either expressed interest in operating from Spaceport America or have signed commitments to do so. (8/2)

At Rush Hour?! YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING! (Source: Clarke Daily News)
At 4:59 pm Bricker Transport, of Laredo, Texas began a brief, but unwelcome, visit to Clarke County, Virginia. That’s when a truck belonging to the company hauling a huge tank labelled “MARS” (Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport) crested Snickers Gap trailing a four mile traffic jam. By 5:15pm the load had only reached the western end of the Shenandoah River bridge. The vehicle was both preceded and followed by vehicles with “Wide Load” warning banners and amber caution lights. While drivers stuck in the traffic jam probably appreciated the presence of the safety equipment, most surely would have preferred a warning that their evening commute was going to be extended by nearly an hour.

One driver caught in the traffic backup and reached by phone on her way to Strasburg, Virginia to close on a home purchase expressed frustration. “Why is this being allowed at rush hour? the exasperated driver lamented. “I’m never going to make it to my appointment!” A Sheriff’s Department dispatcher said that hazardous load violations were handled by the Virginia State Police. It was not clear if the Sheriff’s Department intended to refer the matter to the State Police or not. (8/2)

Entrepreneur Elon Musk On Weathering the CEO Storm (Source: Business News Daily)
Entrepreneur Elon Musk is no stranger to corporate success. At 39, he's parlayed his success from co-founding PayPal, the online payment system, into the bustling private rocket company SpaceX and the electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors, both of which have made great leaps in recent months. But sometimes leading a company – especially one that blasts rockets into the final frontier – can be a rocky road and Musk has had his share of those experiences, too.

As CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, Musk has overseen both companies through two major hurdles over the last two months. It caps years of work through what, at times, has been a dismal economy. "If you're the CEO of a company, you have to work your bloody ass off. And if you're the CEO of two companies you have to work two bloody asses off and you don’t have two asses," Musk said. "And then if you combine that with a terrible economy, that just makes the job even harder, it's been a really grueling several years." (8/2)

Packing for Mars (Source: NPR)
A mission to land humans on Mars would take a minimum of two years from lift off to homecoming, but the most difficult engineering problem isn't how we get there; it's what we do once we're on our way. Mary Roach writes about the challenges of sending the glitch-prone human body into space. Physically, she says, space travel is incredibly taxing. "Particularly with a long-term mission," she says, "you have a tremendous amount of bone loss." Experts estimate that on a Mars mission, astronauts would lose one-third to one-half of their bone mass.

The psychological challenges of space travel are also considerable because simple acts like eating, crossing the room or going to the bathroom can suddenly become incredibly difficult. Boredom is another serious factor because of the length of missions, as we've learned from astronauts who spent time on the Mir Space Station or the International Space Station. "The scenery doesn't change, you can't go out for a walk," Roach says. "The repetitiveness and the lack of color just begins to seem mundane." (8/2)

Politifact Updates Status of Obama Space Promises (Source:'s "Obameter", the website that tracks the status of President Obama's campaign promises, has updated its section on space-related promises, labeling one promise "Broken" and another one as "Compromise". The broken promise refers to the re-establishment of the National Space Council as a multi-agency body for space policy and program coordination. The "compromise" promise refers to a proposed code of conduct for space-faring nations. Read the descriptions of these and other space-focused promises here. (8/2)

Space Policy Keeps Rocketing to Prominence (Source:
Though the economy, overseas wars, health care reform and an oil spill have taken up much of President Barack Obama's time -- and sucked up most of the media oxygen -- space policy has been a quietly simmering issue for the administration. When Obama released his proposed budget in February, he said that NASA would cancel Constellation, the successor system for the space shuttle, after the space agency had already spent $9 billion on the program. In the meantime, Obama offered an alternative road map for human space exploration over the next decade or more.

This change in priorities immediately prompted a backlash among lawmakers, companies and constituents dependent on Constellation and the plans that NASA had for it, including in the pivotal electoral state of Florida. Then came a blogosphere and cable-news brushfire stemming from an interview that NASA chief Charles Bolden gave to the Arabic-language television network Al-Jazeera. Click here to read the article. (8/2)

Space Station Crew Safe After Coolant Failure (Source: Information Week)
NASA said the problem began when a circuit breaker tripped on Saturday night, causing the failure of a pump that feeds an ammonia-based coolant solution to key systems and avionics instruments. Crewmembers attempted to reset the breaker and restart the pump on Sunday but the effort was not successful. Despite the breakdown, NASA said the ISS remains in a "stable configuration," with backup systems working to ensure that critical components on the ISS don't overheat. (8/2)

Ball Aerospace Ships STPSat-2 to Kodiak Launch Complex (Source: Ball Aerospace)
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. has shipped the STPSat-2 satellite built for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Space Development and Test Wing (SDTW) to Alaska's Kodiak Launch Complex for scheduled liftoff aboard a Minotaur 4 rocket for a fall 2010 launch. STPSat-2 is the first spacecraft for the Department of Defense (DoD) Space Test Program Standard Interface Vehicle (STP-SIV) program managed by Space Development and Test Wing at Kirtland Air Force Base. The STP-SIV architecture developed for STPSat-2 supports the Operationally Responsive Space strategy to ensure U.S. space superiority. (8/2)

Canadian Space Agency contributing to 2016 Mars Mission (Source: CSA)
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) will share leadership for a new science instrument that will probe the atmosphere of Mars in search of biological sources of methane, and consequently, signs of life. The instrument, known as MATMOS (Mars Atmospheric Trace Molecule Occultation Spectrometer), is a partnership between the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the CSA and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). MATMOS has been selected by NASA and the European Space Agency for launch on board the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, slated for launch in 2016. (8/2)

Wayne Hale, Jr. Joins Special Aerospace Services (Source:
Special Aerospace Services (SAS) of Boulder, Colorado, is pleased to announce that N. Wayne Hale, Jr. has joined SAS as Director of Human Spaceflight Programs. Mr. Hale brings comprehensive experience in the field of human spaceflight following a career of more than 30 years with NASA. As one of his many instrumental assignments at NASA, Mr. Hale served as Program Manager for NASA's Space Shuttle Program during the critical period following the Columbia accident. Editor's Note: SAS has leased an office at Space Florida's facility near the South Gate entrance to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (8/2)

Garriott: The New Space Race? (Source: Public Service)
On October 12, 2008 I had the great fortune of becoming the 483rd person to orbit Earth, one of only seven private citizens who have flown in space. I grew up near NASA during the Apollo years and my father was a NASA astronaut who flew in Skylab and the Space Shuttle. This exposure gave me a unique perspective on space exploration. During the Apollo race to the moon, the world was captivated by the space race and subsequent technological advancement that both propelled and resulted from it. The human inspiration and national pride that space exploration provided the people of that era is undoubted. Click here for more. (8/2)

Astrium Signs Contract with Vietnam for Earth Observation Satellite (Source: EADS)
Astrium has signed a contract worth €55.2 million with the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) for the development, manufacture and launch of an Earth observation optical satellite system. This follows on from last November’s intergovernmental agreement on space co-operation between France and Vietnam, in which the French government affirmed its commitment to building a closer partnership with Vietnam in the domain of science and technology. (8/2)

Payload Selected for 2016 U.S.-European Mars Mission (Source: Space News)
NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have picked five science instruments that will fly aboard the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, a European-built spacecraft slated to launch to the red planet in 2016 atop a U.S. rocket. The instrument selection marks the beginning of a joint Mars exploration program NASA and the 18-nation ESA agreed to pursue. The five ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter instruments were selected from 19 proposals submitted in January. The instruments and their principal investigators are listed here. (8/2)

Is a Cosmic Chameleon Driving Galaxies Apart? (Source: New Scientist)
A shape-shifting fifth fundamental force could neatly explain the mystery of dark energy – and some other puzzling astronomical observations. Ask a cosmologist for a potted history of the universe, and it might go something like this: the cosmos began some 13.6 billion years ago with a big bang, exploding from a pinprick of searing heat and incredible density. Since then, it has been cooling and expanding: at first exponentially fast, but soon at a more measured, steady tempo.

At that point our friendly cosmologist might give voice to a little embarrassment. Because if measurements of the distance to faraway supernovae are to be believed, around 5 billion years ago the universe's expansion started to accelerate again. We don't know why. Click here for more. (8/2)

Space Travel as Exploration (Source: Space Review)
What exactly does "exploration" mean as a rationale for spaceflight? Stephen Pyne examines the history of exploration on Earth as a means of better understanding the significance of the exploration of space. Visit to view the article. (8/2)

Parsing the Policy (Source: Space Review)
Since the release of the new national space policy just over a month ago, many people have analyzed the policy, scrutinizing the language in search of an underlying message. Jeff Foust reports on what people both inside and outside the administration are saying about the policy's meaning and intent. Visit to view the article. (8/2)

Station Problem Shows How Shuttle Will Be Missed (Source: Space Review)
NASA is girding for a pair of unplanned spacewalks this week to fix a critical cooling system aboard the International Space Station, work that will whittle down the station's limited supply of spare parts that can only be delivered by space shuttle. The suspect component in the cooling loop problem is a 780-pound pump module that can only be transported on the shuttle.

Currently the station has two spare pumps in storage, one of which would be used this week to repair the cooling system. That would leave just one backup unit for a station that is now expected to remain operational until at least 2020. (8/2)

More Detail Sought On Commercial Crew Plan (Source: Aviation Week)
A NASA Advisory Council (NAC) subcommittee is echoing frustrated members of Congress in asking NASA to provide more detail and justification for its plan to substitute commercial space taxis for the Orion crew exploration vehicle and its Ares I launcher as a route to the Space Station. Members of the panel’s commercial space subcommittee expressed dissatisfaction with some of the information they have received from NASA managers on the agency’s approach to what is known as commercial crew.

Panel members complained that the agency has not been clear on just how it would use commercial vehicles to deliver astronauts to the ISS, which the panel found would make it difficult for industry to set up the kind of public-private partnerships NASA seeks. The NAC subcommittee wants a better strategy for spending the $6 billion requested for commercial crew transportation over the next five years.

“We strongly feel that you need to go do this, because what we’re hearing from you is all over the map,” said Bret Alexander, who as chairman of the commercial space panel will ask the full NAC to endorse his subcommittee’s position at the JPL meeting. (8/2)

Sally Ride Science Academy Aims to Make Kids Starry-Eyed (Source: USA Today)
Ask a third-grader to draw a scientist, and you'll probably get a white-haired man dressed in a lab coat. But Sally Ride, America's first woman in space, would like to change that. Once teachers attend her Sally Ride Science Academy, she hopes those third-graders will show men and women hiking, exploring the oceans and flying in space. And maybe the scientists will resemble the young artists themselves.

Getting students to see scientists as normal people who work in places besides laboratories is one of the goals of the Sally Ride Science Academy. Launched in 2009, the academy trains teachers how to engage kids in math and science. Click here to read the article. (8/2)

The Apollo Model: Stronger than Obama (Source: Hudson New York)
Perhaps the primary goal of the Obama administration's 2011 budget NASA proposal was to kill, once and for all, the Apollo Moon mission model that has determined the way the US space agency operates for nearly the last 60 years. The so-called compromise proposal that unanimously passed the Senate Commerce Committee on July 15th gutted most of the Obama proposal. The House version does even more damage to the administration's proposal.

While the Bush era Constellation program would seem to be dead, at least in name, its substance has survived for at least another year. There is a lesson here, not only for those who would reform NASA, but also for those who want to reform any reasonably sized government agency. The first lesson is: Do not ignore Congress. NASA as it exists is the product of decades of Congressional action. Reformers may believe that they know what the agency needs, but without Congressional support, they have no hope of making a difference; all they can achieve is to demoralize and confuse their workforce.

Second, do not think that a study committee can substitute for in-house policy development. The Augustine Committee included some of the best minds in the US space industry, but it must, in the end, be regarded as a failure. Its conclusions seem to have been based on arbitrary budget assumptions. To many in Congress and elsewhere, its report was pre-cooked and was largely designed to undo the progress made by Mike Griffin towards a return to the Moon. (8/2)

Space Shuttle Worker Eyes New Career (Source: Florida Today)
As if from the pages of a screenplay, the drama is building in a Port St. John subdivision. Will the story end in heartbreak, as aspiring writer Gary Whitmore returns, dejected, to engineering? Or will it be a happy experience, with Whitmore still returning to engineering?

Will his faithful wife Robyn put her foot down because Whitmore won't cook dinner when the shuttle program ends, leaving him without a job? Or will she continue to be sweet and supportive as he bangs out potentially obscure screenplays when he could be cooking? "I thought you were going to stay home and be my house-husband," she said with a giggle.

One thing is certain: Gary's getting the ax, and soon. The safety engineer for 271/2 years at United Space Alliance at Kennedy Space Center is sure to lose his job, along with 8,000 others, after the final shuttle flight sometime next year. Scriptwriting is his "Plan B," and he's got 19 stories stacked up on his hard drive. (8/2)

South Florida Seeks to Boost Aviation with International Air Show (Source: AIA)
South Florida's economy is increasingly dependent on aviation, with 282,000 jobs in Miami-Dade County alone tied to the aviation sector. Miami International Airport is home to 87 airlines and counted 347,000 flight operations last year. MIA is the No. 1 airport for international cargo and No. 2 for international passengers, due largely to its status as a gateway to Latin America. With manufacturers, suppliers and other aviation companies calling Miami home, economic development authorities are seeking to boost the industry still further with a biannual commercial air show. "The Paris Air Show attracts 300,000 people every other year and exhibitors from all over the world," says a top development official. "We don't have a major commercial air show in the U.S." (8/2)

Lawmakers Still Hope to Pass FAA Reauthorization in 2010 (Source: AIA)
Lawmakers will have about one month to pass a long-term FAA reauthorization bill after returning to Washington from their August recess. Prior to leaving town, both chambers extended the agency's authority through the end of September, while separately passing new pilot-safety rules for regional airlines. Some observers fear Congress will now feel less pressure to pass a wide-ranging bill, but congressional leaders insist they can get it done. "We see no reason why Congress cannot return in September and work through these remaining issues in a larger FAA bill," said Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn. (8/2)

Sometimes a Compromise Can Be Counterproductive (Source: Space Program & Project Management)
NASA does not need to be directed to build a crew capsule for ISS access. If NASA issued an RFP, it would probably get that capsule sooner than if it attempts to build it via its traditional process, and at a lower cost.

Is is truly sad that so much of the yelling and screaming that passes for reasoned debate in [in Congress and among pundits] ignores a crucial point; a commercial, competitively priced, reliable, and frequent Earth-LEO transportation infrastructure (complete with on-orbit commercial propellant depots) will facilitate NASA's exploration, industry's development, and humanity's settlement of the Moon and beyond. (8/2)

Group Plans Energy Symposium to Advance Post-Shuttle Alternatives (Source: SPACErePORT)
One outcome of the Space Coast's recent "Strategic Doing" initiative for post-Shuttle economic revitalization is a realization that the region's space industry workforce may be very well suited for supporting the state's emerging interests in renewable energy. They are planning an energy-focused event on Sep. 14 to explore and highlight the area's energy industry interests and resources, including the potential for using the Cape Canaveral Spaceport as a focal point for energy self-sufficiency. Details on the event are forthcoming. (8/2)

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