September 17, 2010

Omega Launch Systems Among Several Companies Tied to Controversial E'Prime (Source: SPACErePORT)
Back in February 2010, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) received an "out-of-the-blue pitch" to re-open an old Aerojet rocket motor manufacturing facility in the Everglades. The facility--now owned by SFWMD--was originally developed in the 1960s. William Childers made the pitch on behalf of Omega Launch Systems. His presentation offered that Omega would reopen the facility to produce rockets for launching commercial satellites, employing up to 600 people who would produce their first rockets within 18 months of SFWMD approval. SFWMD board members labeled the Omega plan a "non-starter."

Turns out that Omega Launch Systems is another incarnation of E'Prime Aerospace, a firm founded in Titusville that claimed to have government approval to use Peacekeeper missile tooling to develop an "Eagle" family of space launch vehicles. E'Prime became a publicly held company but ran afoul of its shareholders when its president, Bob Davis, sold the company in 2007 without shareholder consent, and the buyer later sued Davis saying that the Peacekeeper approval claim was fraudulent. Shareholders were not happy to find that Omega Launch Systems' "Registered Agent" is Bob Davis' wife Betty, who also served as an officer for E'Prime.

Back in 2007, an internal investigation showed that certain E'Prime Officers and Directors claimed ownership and control of numerous companies including USTM, Inc., Space Plane Systems, Inc. and E'Prime Development, Inc. that were in direct competition with E'Prime. Add Omega Launch Systems to the list of companies with questionable ties to E'Prime. Now, it turns out another company has been formed by Betty and Bob Davis. This one is called Alpha Enterprise & Holding and its purpose is unclear. (9/17)

International Space Transport Association Trade Organization Launched (Source: SpaceRef)
Today at the international conference 'The regulation of suborbital flights in the European context' - with members of EU, NASA and ESA present - the International Space Transport Association (ISTA) was launched. ISTA will facilitate the development of new regulations for the commercial space industry, which will help establish a more precise responsibility and liability structure, in line with UN resolution 2222-XXI Art VI*.

"Commercial space has an annual global turnover of 120 billion euro and is one of the fastest growing markets. This makes a global trade organization necessary", says Ronald Heister, director general of ISTA. "Space enables enormous possibilities to improve life on earth. An industry that explores these new frontiers needs regulation alongside stimulation. ISTA will help influence and advise governments and safety organizations in the drafting of new space legislation." (9/17)

Finalist for NASA Space Mission Just Got More Interesting (Source: UCF)
The focus of one of three projects competing for a slot on NASA’s New Frontiers Mission into space just got a lot more interesting. Scientists from the University of Arizona at Tucson and the University of Central Florida are developing a plan to launch a spacecraft that would rendezvous with asteroid 1999 RQ36, collect samples and then return home so the team can analyze the findings. The project, named OSIRIS-Rex, is one of three finalists bidding for NASA’s space mission set to launch in 2016.

There’s been much interest in this particular asteroid because it has been predicted to potentially collide with earth in 2182. UCF Physics Professor Humberto Campins said the possibility of a collision is small, but there are other reasons to focus on the asteroid, which has a mean diameter of about 560 meters. “It may hold some of the building blocks of life — ancient molecules that existed before life as we know it began on earth,” said Campins. (9/17)

Satellite Sector Seeks EU Funds to Meet Broadband Targets (Source: Telecom Paper)
The European Satellite Operators Association (ESOA) is lobbying the European Commission for funding for new communication satellites. Along with industry players such as satellite manufacturers Astrium and Thales Alenia Space, ESOA has written to the EC's two vice presidents to request a financial effort for telecommunications, described as the poor relation of Europe's space policy. Under the EU Digital Agenda, the EC wants all of its citizens to have a minimum internet download speeds of 30 Mbps by 2020, and half of them to have 100 Mbps both ways. (9/17)

SpaceX Founder Musk to Receive Potomac Institute Award (Source: Daily Breeze)
Elon Musk, founder of Hawthorne-based rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies and head of electric car maker Tesla Motors, will be honored for his contributions in the arena of science and technology. Musk will be one of the recipients of the 2010 Potomac Institute for Policy Studies' Navigator Award. He will receive the award on Oct. 21 at a banquet at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC. (9/17)

Japan's H2A Rocket to Receive Major Upgrade to Compete with Russia (Source: Mainichi Daily News)
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) intends to embark on major improvements to Japan's domestically-developed H2A rocket, adding high-performance capabilities and cutting down on launch costs in order to compete with Russia and Europe, which currently dominate the market for launching commercial satellites.

The improvements will be the first major overhaul of the H2A rocket since its introduction in 2001. JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will form a project team in the near future, aiming for a 2013 launch of the improved rocket. The size of the rocket will stay the same as the current model, and the H2A name will carry on. The total cost of the project is estimated at 16.1 billion yen. MEXT will request around 2.2 billion yen of next fiscal year's budget for development of the new rocket fuselage and other parts. (9/17)

Helms to Receive Third Star (Source: Air Force Times)
The first U.S. military woman to fly in space, Maj. Gen. Susan Helms, has been nominated for her third star. Helms now serves at U.S. Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., as director of plans and policy. Her next assignment has not been announced. She previously served as the commander of the 45th Space Wing in Florida. (9/17)

Colorado Governor Congratulates Lockheed Martin, ULA on NASA Launch Deal (Source: Gov. Ritter)
Gov. Bill Ritter congratulated two Colorado aerospace companies for winning NASA contracts. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver and United Launch Alliance of Littleton were two of four companies awarded contracts by NASA to be used for various NASA satellite launch projects.

“Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance are two great companies at the forefront of one of Colorado’s largest and most innovative economic sectors,” Gov. Ritter said. “The fact that two out of the four contracts awarded were to Colorado companies, highlights the strength of the aerospace industry here in Colorado. This will add jobs to an industry that is already strong in this state and position the aerospace industry to continue to be a huge part of Colorado’s future.” (9/17)

Jacobs Lays Off 129 at NASA JSC (Source: Friendswood Journal)
One hundred twenty-nine employees of Jacobs Engineering are being notified today they will lose their jobs in two weeks, Bob Mitchell, President of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, confirmed. Uncertainty in NASA funding has prompted the Clear Lake company to take this action. Mitchell said “These (129) layoffs aren’t necessary.” He points to NASA Headquarters in Washington as the culprit, accusing them of improperly redirecting funding for current programs: “They are required to spend the money the way Congress appropriated that money.” (9/17)

KSC Helps Launch Job Search (Source: Florida Today)
Don Stephan was more of a curious observer at the first Kennedy Space Center job fair he attended in June. On Thursday, the 47-year-old father of three from Merritt Island arrived at the latest fair knowing he had just two weeks left in his shuttle quality control job with United Space Alliance. "It definitely caught me totally off guard," he said of the July notification that he would be laid off Oct. 1. "It started sinking in a little more. I better start looking a little harder."

Stephan was one of about 200 people who attended the fair at the Radisson Resort at the Port to meet with more than 30 potential employers, which included local and out-of-state companies and federal agencies. The fair began Tuesday at the space center, where access was limited to current employees. More than 600 attended. (9/17)

AIA Proposes "Cash for Carbon" Plan to Help Fund NextGen Upgrades (Source: AIA)
The Aerospace Industries Association unveiled a proposal for a "cash for carbon" plan on Thursday that would allow airlines that reduce carbon emissions to receive government financing to help pay for aircraft upgrades related to the FAA's Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, to modernize air traffic. In addition to helping fund an overhaul of the aging air traffic network, the plan would represent an incentive for airlines and manufacturers to meet voluntary carbon emissions targets. (9/17)

FAA Allows Army to Fly UAVs in National Airspace (Source: AIA)
The Army has received permission from the FAA to fly unmanned aircraft in national airspace at night. Ground-based radar and GPS systems will allow the drones to avoid civilian and commercial traffic. The Army is implementing this "zero-conflict airspace" system in several phases, the first of which involves detecting a manned aircraft coming into airspace occupied by the unmanned aircraft.

Editor's Note: Some folks in the FAA view this kind of UAV experience as a first step toward understanding how space vehicle operations can be integrated into the National Airspace System. (9/17)

Boeing Gets $89 Million for UAV That Can Stay Aloft for 5 Years (Source: Network World)
One of the more unique unmanned aircraft took a giant step toward reality this week when DARPA inked an agreement with Boeing to build the SolarEagle, a plane capable of remaining at heights over 60,000ft for over five years. Boeing says the first SolarEagle under the $89 million contract could fly as early as 2014. The SolarEagle is built under DARPA's Vulture program. The idea is to build a single aircraft that could support traditional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance functions over country-sized areas - while at the same time providing an unblinking eye over a critical target, monitoring that target night and day. (9/17)

Boeing Disputes EU's Assessment of WTO Ruling (Source: AIA)
Boeing issued a statement declaring that a World Trade Organization ruling that was confidentially released to U.S. and European Union officials amounts to a "massive rejection" of an EU case alleging that Boeing received illegal subsidies from the U.S. government. "Nothing in (the ruling) even begins to compare to the $20 billion in illegal subsidies that the WTO found last June that Airbus/EADS has received (from the EU)," the company said. The AIA's Marion Blakey said the WTO ruling called the subsidies "essentially R&D contracts that Boeing has received, largely from NASA" and are "very different from [aircraft development] launch aid, which is a unique form of subsidy."(9/17)

US Dept. of Commerce and Embry-Riddle Collaborate to Promote Aerospace Manufacturing (Source: ERAU)
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) and the Center for Aviation and Aerospace Leadership (CAAL) at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University signed an agreement to promote the competitiveness of the U.S. aerospace manufacturing industry. The Aerospace Team within ITA’s Manufacturing and Services unit will work with CAAL to collect, analyze, report and distribute information about the U.S. and international aerospace industry. This relationship will enable collaboration on activities including organizing industry outreach events, sharing industry data, and including ITA reports in Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus curriculum. (9/17)

What Will the House Vote On, and When? (Source: Space Politics)
Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), said there was “behind-the-scenes lobbying by special interest groups” to get the House to vote on the Senate’s version of the NASA Authorization bill, as opposed to the version passed by the House Science and Technology Committee. “While I appreciate some aspects of the Senate authorization bill, the House of Representatives deserves a vote on its own committee bill, and I hope Democrat House leadership schedules that soon,” he said.

Despite the lack of a clear resolution to the ongoing debate, Bob Mitchell of Houston’s Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership believes a resolution will come soon. “We feel confident that we’re going to get a bill passed within the next two weeks,” he said. A resolution in two weeks would almost certainly require the House to pass either the Senate bill or an amended House bill that emerges from the preconferencing process with the Senate. If the House passes a version that requires a formal conferencing process with the Senate, some have speculated that nothing will pass before the end of the current Congress.

Mitchell blamed impending layoffs at Jacobs Engineering on NASA for “improperly redirecting funding for current programs.” That appears to be a reference to past reports that NASA had been asking contractors to withhold money for termination liabilities, although the cuts instead appear linked to the end of the fiscal year and an anticipation that a continuing resolution (a virtual certainty even if the House and Senate differences are patched up in the next two weeks) would reduce funding going to contractors. (9/16)

Lockheed Martin and ATK Athena Launch Vehicles Selected for NASA Launch Services (Source: ATK)
NASA announced yesterday that the Lockheed Martin and Alliant Techsystems Athena Launch Vehicle Family has been selected to become part of the agency's Launch Services II contract. Vehicles selected fulfill NASA's requirements for domestic launch services with a minimum performance capability of placing a 250-kilogram (550 pound) spacecraft in a 200-kilometer low Earth orbit (LEO) at an inclination of 28.5 degrees. Athena can carry payloads up to 1800 kilograms (3968 pounds) to LEO. Under this contract the rockets could be launched from east and west coast launch sites, such as the Cape Canaveral Spacecport and Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska. (9/17)

Russia Hopes US Lawmakers Approve New START Treaty (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia hopes that U.S. lawmakers will consider a new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia "coherent and mutually-beneficial" and speed up its ratification, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. On Thursday the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee recommended that the Senate ratify a new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia signed by the U.S. and Russian presidents on April 8 in Prague as a replacement for the START 1 treaty that expired in December 2009.

U.S. President Barack Obama and other top officials also urged the Senate to speed up the ratification of the Russian-U.S. pact. Andrey Nesterenko said the U.S.-Russian pact would have a positive influence on international stability and security. Click here for a chart showing the reductions planned. Editor's Note: The new treaty may have some space implications, as its predecessor prevented some U.S. missile assets and (indirectly) launch pads from being used for space missions. (9/17)

Dark Energy: Astronomers Ask if Both US and European Space Missions Are Needed (Source: Space Policy Online)
Discovering the nature of dark energy is the top scientific priority for astronomy and astrophysics as indicated in the National Research Council's Astro2010 Decadal Survey released last month. It set both a space mission, the Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST), and a ground-based telescope, Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), as the top priorities for space- and ground-based astronomy respectively.

Both would search for answers about dark energy, a mysterious force that is causing the universe to expand at an accelerated rate. At the same time, the European Space Agency (ESA) is set to decide next summer on whether its dark energy probe, Euclid, will get the nod for one of its upcoming space missions.

Members of the NASA Advisory Council's Astrophysics Subcommittee heard from Astro2010 chairman Roger Blandford, as well as from NASA Astrophysics Division Director Jon Morse and Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Jason Rhodes about the space-based dark energy missions and raised questions about potential overlap between them. The Astrophysics Subcommittee reports to NAC's Science Committee, which in turn makes recommendations to NAC and the NASA Administrator. (9/17)

Kosmas Hosts Space Coast Small Business Development Meeting (Source:
On Sep. 17, Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas hosted a meeting of local community leaders to discuss efforts to ensure that small businesses and start-up companies have accesses to federal economic development funding for the Space Coast provided through the Presidential Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development. Kosmas was joined by officials from Space Florida, the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast, and community bankers.

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) recently announced a $35 million in grant opportunities aimed to assist economic development efforts on the Space Coast. The grant program, named the Space Coast Regional Innovation Cluster (RIC) Competition, is a fast-track competitive grant process with the aim of identifying and funding promising job creation and economic development initiatives to sustain the coordinated economic development and diversification of Florida's Space Coast region. (9/17)

Members Sought for CSTA Board of Directors (Source: CSA)
The California Science Teachers Association invites nominations for board members for the 2011-2013 term. Visit for information. (9/17)

CalTech and Stanford Among Top 5 in World University Rankings (Source: CSA)
CalTech and Stanford continue to operate within the best-of-the-best worldwide, helping to maintain California's leadership role in research, technology development, and high-end education. Click here for more. (9/17)

Steep Drop for U.S. in Competitiveness Rankings (Source: CSA)
The World Economic Forum released its Global Competitiveness Report, which shows that the United States has fallen to fourth place. Two years ago, the United States ranked first. Among the top four problem factors identified by the World Economic Forum for doing business in the United States are tax rates and regulations and inefficient government bureaucracy. (9/17)

Aerospace Makes Jobs and Exports Soar (Source: Noozhawk)
For the naysayers who argue that American manufacturing is dead (it’s not!), let me suggest that they take a look at what’s happening in the aerospace industry. Despite the recent economic downturn, aerospace achieved $215 billion in sales last year, all while providing more than 644,000 good-paying jobs. This critical industry — which is essential to national defense, transportation and technological innovation — is also a leader when it comes to exports. Click here for more. (9/15)

Lockheed Martin Awarded $298 Million Missile Defense Contract (Source: Bloomberg)
A Lockheed Martin Corp. subsidiary has won a contract modification worth up to $298 million to produce missile interceptors for the Defense Department. The Pentagon announced the award by the Missile Defense Agency on Wednesday. Lockheed's Space Systems Co. subsidiary in Sunnyvale, Calif., will make and deliver 26 interceptors. Final assembly will be done at a Lockheed facility in Troy, Ala. The contract is expected to run through June 2013. (9/15)

Open for Questions with Dr. Sally Ride (Source: CSA)
Dr. Sally Ride, former astronaut and first American woman in space, took questions from students across the country on the importance of getting a strong education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects and discussing how her education helped her in her career. (9/15)

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