September 30, 2010

Obama's Message to Private Sector: You Have Lift-Off (Source: The Independent)
The US has agreed a $1.61 billion down-payment on the development of a private-sector space program, as part of a revamp of NASA designed to outsource much of the day-to-day business of travel to the stars. After months of wrangling, Congress has approved a $58.4 billion three-year budget plan for the US space agency, which will funnel huge subsidies to a host of private companies engaged in a 21st-century space race – to make profits beyond the Earth's atmosphere. (9/30)

NASA Shuttle Program Extended for One Year (Source: MyFoxHouston)
Houston Mayor Annise Parker is applauding a new plan laid out for NASA by lawmakers last night. The shuttle program would be extended by one year - adding another flight to the two that were remaining. International Space Station operations would continue for an additional 5 years through 2020. And in a big morale boost, NASA would be able to go back to planning manned deep-space exploration that had been cut by the Obama Administration early this year. Editor's Note: Sorry Fox News, the Obama Administration did not cut planning for manned deep-space exploration.

Moon Exploration Is Not Dead, NASA Official Says (Source:
NASA's new space exploration program may be skewed toward sending astronauts to an asteroid and onto Mars, but a return to Earth's moon is not completely lost, NASA's deputy chief told reporters. NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver, the space agency's second-in-command, said the moon has a role to play in the new space exploration plan set by President Obama and approved by Congress this week. NASA, she added, won't turn its back on Earth's nearest neighbor. (9/30)

Hundreds Are Laid Off At Michoud (Source: WGNO)
Hundreds of Lockheed Martin employees at the NASA Michoud facility were laid off today. But, they may not be out of a job for long. Congress just passed a bill that will keep the space program alive and could bring hundreds of jobs back to Michoud. 600. That's how many Lockheed Martin employees are left at the NASA Michoud facility. Since January, 838 people have been laid off. But these men and women knew this was coming. President Bush announced in 2004 that September 30th, 2010 would be the day the program shut down. (9/30)

NASA Plan OK for Hampton's Langley (Source:
Congress ended a month's long stalemate Wednesday by approving a NASA policy that promotes the commercial space industry and adds an extra shuttle flight. The agreement, which also supports a heavy-lift rocket to send people to asteroids and Mars, will have little effect on staffing at Langley Research Center in Hampton. "There's nothing in there that's detrimental to Langley," said Bruce Hoogstraten, chairman of the Virginia Aerospace Advisory Council. (9/30)

NASA Bill Passes Despite Worries it Will Hurt Glenn Research Center (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Ohio GOP Rep. Steve LaTourette said he'd oppose the NASA bill because it will lead to job losses at Glenn Research Center, reduce research funding and force NASA to completely depend on the commercial sector for crew and cargo transportation to the Space Station. "I am concerned that the language in the underlying bill sends the agency on a path toward privatization, and privatization undermines the agency and its workers," agreed Cleveland Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

The measure passed 304-118, with Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy of Columbus, and Republicans Steve Austria of Beavercreek, John Boehner of West Chester, Jim Jordan of Urbana, Bob Latta of Bowling Green, Jean Schmidt of Clermont County, Patrick Tiberi of Genoa Township, and Mike Turner of Dayton joining the opposition. (9/30)

Retired Space Shuttle May Come to Manhattan, After All (Source: New York Times)
The campaign to bring a retired space shuttle to a pier in Manhattan appeared to be fizzling out until one of New York’s senators slipped a phrase into a bill that Congress passed just before midnight on Wednesday. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on the West Side has been lobbying to land one of the orbiters. Last month, the Intrepid appeared to be out of the running because an earlier version of the bill limited the contenders to sites that had a historical relationship with the shuttle program.

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, a Democrat, managed to amend the qualifications to include applicants that had been involved in “the retrieval of NASA manned space vehicles.” Back in the 1960s when the Intrepid was an operating aircraft carrier, its crews plucked a few astronauts from the sea after they hit the ocean in space capsules. (9/30)

Obama Expected to Sign NASA Budget Soon (Source: Reuters)
President Barack Obama is expected early next month to sign into law a new NASA budget that adds a space shuttle mission, begins work on a new deep-space rocket and seeds development of commercial space taxis, the agency's deputy administrator said. "The President is expected to sign this," NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver told reporters, adding that the signing would likely occur within 10 days. (9/30)

New Direction From Congress Doesn't Avert NASA's Near-Term Challenges (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Despite passage of the NASA Authorization bill, the future of the space agency remains bleak -- at least in the near term. A number of fault lines are already apparent: To build a new heavy-lift rocket and its Orion capsule, Congress recommended that NASA receive about $11 billion over the next three years -- less money than Constellation would have received over the same period.

Also, as mandated by the bill, engineers at KSC are looking to build a Shuttle-derived rocket for a test flight in 2014. But program managers in NASA headquarters are looking at flying the Orion capsule aboard a commercial Delta IV rocket as early as 2013. And the bill does little to stem the brain drain within NASA, though its addition of a third shuttle flight next year extends the life of perhaps 1,500 jobs at KSC. Still, about 1,100 space shuttle workers lost their jobs Thursday – and a total of at least 7,000 will be gone within a year. (9/30)

Russia Sends Military Satellite Into Space (Source: Xinhua)
Russia on Thursday successfully launched a military satellite, said spokesman for Russian Space Forces Alexei Zolotukhin. A "Molniya-M" carrier rocket blasted off from the Plesetsk spaceport in northern Russia, carrying a military satellite of the "Cosmos" series. (9/30)

Eshoo: Ames Wins With NASA Authorization (Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal)
Rep. Anna Eshoo on Wednesday called the passage by the House of Representatives of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010 "a win for NASA and a win for our state and work force." Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) said S. 3729 is designed to reauthorize America’s space programs, reinvest in science and technology research and education, and encourage the development of the commercial space industry. (9/30)

NASA Reauthorization Takes Solid Rocket Industry Off Life Support (Source: Main Street Journal)
The House’s passage late Wednesday of the Senate version of the NASA Reauthorization Bill helps ensure the book is not closed on northern Utah’s storied solid rocket motor industry, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said. “Though we will have hurdles to face in the future, the House passage of the Senate bill builds a foundation for the future of the civilian solid rocket motor industry in Utah,” Hatch said. (9/30)

ATK Laying Off 426 Workers in Utah, Florida and Alabama (Source:
The Utah company that makes rocket boosters for the soon-to-be-retired space shuttle laid off 426 employees Thursday because of uncertainty over the future of the U.S. space program. An ATK spokesman said the company dismissed 414 engineers, factory workers and others at three northern Utah locations. Another dozen ATK workers are being laid off at Florida's Kennedy Space Center and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Company spokeswoman Trina Patterson told KSL 66 employees volunteered to be laid off. All of those being let go will receive severance packages -- up to 26 weeks in some cases -- based on their employment with the company. Officially, the last day for those losing their jobs is Oct. 5, though many chose to make Thursday their final day. (9/30)

Grounding Shuttle Costs Lockheed Martin Jobs (Source: Washington Business Journal)
Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp. has built external fuel tanks for NASA’s space shuttles since the first launch, but with the Space Shuttle program coming to an end, there is no longer a need for tanks to fuel them. After 37 years and the production of 136 external tanks, Lockheed delivered its final space shuttle tank to Kennedy Center this week. Lockheed won its first contract to produce the tanks in 1973. (9/30)

Michoud Declares End of External Tank Production (Source: Florida Today)
Lockheed Martin declared the end of shuttle external tank production at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans. Lockheed's external tank, or ET, contract began Sept. 5, 1973. The last flight-ready tank, numbered ET-122, arrived at Kennedy Space Center this week and was offloaded into the Vehicle Assembly Building on Tuesday. In total, Lockheed built 136 tanks for what is expected to be 135 shuttle missions before the shuttle program retires. Each tank measures 154 feet tall and 27 feet around and holds 535,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel. (9/30)

Symbol of Russia's Space Power Found Rusting Outside Moscow (Source: Pravda)
Russia's space shuttle Buran, which used to be the symbol of the nation's space power, has recently been found in Moscow. The model of the legendary shuttle is currently on display in Moscow's Gorky Park, but the one that has been found on the outskirts of the city is unfinished. It is a real shuttle that was built for space flights, the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper said.

Journalists found the shuttle on Lodochnaya Street, not far from the water reservoir in Khimki, a town in the Moscow region. The found construction looked like a thick short aircraft, without the tail part. The construction of the Buran was frozen after the shuttle was nearly 50 percent ready. The works on the spacecraft stopped after the USSR collapsed and the funding of the project was suspended. Click here for photos. (9/30)

Lightning Strikes Near Shuttle Launch Pad (Source: Aviation Week)
Kennedy Space Center engineers plan to meet Sept. 29 to evaluate data collected after five lightning strikes hit within 5 mi. of the space shuttle launch pad. Preliminary sensor readings indicate no damage to Launch Pad 39A or shuttle Discovery, which is at the pad in preparation for its last flight. Liftoff is targeted for Nov. 1. (9/30)

Looking for E.T.? Try His Artificial Intelligence Instead, Astronomer Says (Source:
People have always held a biased view of the world around them. It's an aspect of being human. It took until the 17th century for us to reject Aristotle's vision of a universe where our sun and the stars revolved around the Earth. SETI senior astronomer Seth Shostak points out that up until a century ago, the scientific community believed a vast engineering society was responsible for building an irrigation system on the surface of Mars.

Our idea of extraterrestrial life has changed drastically in 100 years, but our search strategies have not kept up. Shostak argues that SETI might be more successful if it shifts the search away from biology and focuses squarely on artificial intelligence. Shostak sees a clear distinction between life and intelligence: he says we should be searching for extraterrestrial machines. (9/30)

NASA Authorization Bill Benefits Florida (Source: Space Florida)
The newly passed NASA Authorization Bill holds numerous benefits for Florida, including: Extension of ISS utilization through 2020; A focus on commercial crew and cargo; Investment in robotics and other advanced technologies; An additional Shuttle launch in 2011 will extend employment opportunities for Florida’s KSC workforce; and 21st Century Spaceport Infrastructure Funding. In addition to these Florida-related benefits, the new bill authorizes increased overall funding for NASA at $19 Billion, a 14.7% increase from FY2010 funding. (9/30)

Germany First European Nation To Commit to Space Station Extension (Source: Space News)
Germany has committed to paying a 38 percent share of an estimated 3.8 billion euros ($5.2 billion) that European governments will need to continue their work on the International Space Station in the next 10 years, the head of Germany’s space agency said Sept. 29. (9/30)

Cecil Field Spaceport Among Winners of FAA Space Transportation Grants (Source: FAA)
The FAA has made its first awards under a new grant program designed to fund projects that develop and expand commercial space transportation infrastructure. The Space Transportation Infrastructure Matching Grants will be awarded to four separate projects located in Alaska, California, Florida, and New Mexico.

The grants include: $43,000 for the New Mexico Spaceport Authority to provide an Automated Weather Observing System; $227,195 to the Alaska Aerospace Corporation for a Rocket Motor Storage Facility; $125,000 to the East Kern Airport District in Mojave, Calif., for an emergency response vehicle; and, $104,805 to the Jacksonville Aviation Authority in Florida to develop a Spaceport Master Plan for Cecil Field. (9/30)

Russia: Existing Propulsion Technology is Close to Reaching its Limits (Source: Roscosmos)
The attempts to improve parameters of the existing rocket propulsion systems are unreasonable, Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov says. “No matter how many experts in the world, and no matter how much they work, they would provide maximum improvement of any existing propulsion...measured in a fraction of percent only. The most has been made of the available propulsions – liquid or solid-propellant. Any attempt to [significantly] improve the thrust or momentum is hopeless,” he said.

On the other hand, he believes, nuclear propulsion is able to improve these parameters significantly: “To make an example of a mission to Mars. With the current propulsion it takes 1.5-2 years, with the nuclear one it would be 2-4 months.” According to Perminov, an alternative option may appear in the future, but the current technologies do not provide it. (9/30)

DIRECT Team Claims Victory with Passage of Senate Bill (Source: SPACErePORT)
The DIRECT Team that has coordinated and advocated the design of a Jupiter family of Shuttle-derived heavy-lift rockets is thanking their supporters in the wake of Congress' passage of the Senate's version of the new NASA Authorization Bill. The bill directs NASA to develop a Shuttle-derived rocket that could closely resemble the Jupiter design. Editor's Note: While it's true that the Senate-prescribed rocket is similar to Jupiter, Constellation advocates are also saying it is similar to the Ares-5 rocket. In my view, there's nothing wrong with everyone taking credit, if it helps get the job done! (9/30)

Florida (and Alabama) Members Vote Overwhelmingly to Pass NASA Bill (Source: SPACErePORT)
All but two of Florida's House members voted "Yea" on the NASA bill last night. Connie Mack (R) voted no and Bill Young (R) didn't vote. Interestingly, every member of the Alabama delegation voted for the bill, despite the vocal opposition of former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin to the bill. Griffin is now an Alabama resident who has lobbied hard against the cancellation of Constellation. Click here to view the state-by-state vote tally. (9/30)

NASA Legislation Averts Potential Gutting of Nation’s Space Agency (Source: Rep. Bill Posey)
“Had the House had failed to pass a NASA bill this week, the Administration, whose NASA plan failed to keep the promise of closing the gap and keeping us first in space, would have been empowered to dismantle key exploration programs even further and shift the program money elsewhere. I wasn’t willing to let that happen. I think that would have created a worst case scenario. So while the bill falls short of legislation that I authored last year which closes the human space flight gap, the good news is that this final bill is at least somewhat of a departure from the plan outlined by the Administration in February." (9/30)

EDA Awards $400,000 Grant to Space Florida (Source: Space Florida)
The Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded Space Florida $400,000 for development of a strategic economic development strategy for Florida’s Space Coast Region, to include Brevard and surrounding counties. Space Florida will provide an additional $100,000 in matching funds to the project. Grant funds cover a 12 month period, allowing the agency to conduct a "Cluster Analysis" and develop a "Flagship Florida Capital Resource Program". Click here for details. (9/30)

House Passes NASA Authorization Bill (Source:
The House of Representatives approved a NASA authorization bill Wednesday night that previously passed the Senate. The House approved the bill, S. 3729, by a 304-118 margin, more than the two-thirds majority needed to approve the bill. The bill, identical to the one the Senate passed in early August, authorizes funding for NASA for the next three years, including $19 billion in the 2011 fiscal year that starts Friday. The bill includes a number of policy provisions, including calling for one additional shuttle flight and immediate development of a heavy-lift launch vehicle. The bill does not itself provide any funding for the agency; that will come in appropriations bills to be considered by Congress after the November elections. For the time being NASA and other federal government agencies will operate under a stopgap funding bill through at least early December.

ATK Bill Passes Congress (Source: Standard-Examiner)
A federal plan supporting the development of a heavy lift rocket for the U.S. space program, similar to the Ares vehicle being partially built in the Top of Utah, is on its way to President Barack Obama. The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation late Wednesday night that reauthorizes the NASA budget -- which includes the launch vehicle specifications -- and will send the plan to the White House for approval.

But the legislation, already approved by the Senate, may not help more than 1,000 shuttle employees Congressional leaders expect to be laid off nationwide this week after ongoing aerospace cutbacks in the shuttle program. Work force levels in Utah for the Alliant Techsystems Aerospace Division also have been a constant concern in the last two years. More than 2,000 people in Northern Utah are employed by ATK to build the Ares motor. (9/30)

House Passes Legislation To Protect Space Coast Jobs (Source: WESH)
A new hope is within NASA's grasp as the U.S. House voted Wednesday night to pass legislation helping thousands of workers on the Space Coast hang on to their jobs. U.S. House members passed that legislation, and local lawmakers said the bill will minimize the spaceflight gap, protect jobs and provide much-needed direction for NASA and its workers. Editor's Note: Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL), Congressman Kendrick Meek (D-FL), and Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL) spoke on the House floor in favor of the bill. (9/30)

NASA Private Spaceflight Funding Approved by House (Source: Bloomberg)
The House of Representatives approved $1.61 billion in funding through the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for private companies to send astronauts, cargo and space tourists into orbit. The House today passed a $58.4 billion bill that authorizes funding for NASA through 2013 and includes the allocation for commercial spaceflight companies. The bill, approved by the Senate in August, will go to President Barack Obama for his signature. Of the commercial funding, $1.31 billion will be used for NASA’s commercial crew program and $300 million will go to its commercial cargo program. (9/30)

Budget Deal Propels NASA on New Path (Source: Wall Street Journal)
In unusual bipartisan fashion, the House on Wednesday approved a three-year $58-billion compromise bill intended to revive NASA's manned-exploration programs while funding plans for pioneering private rockets able to blast astronauts into orbit. Capping nearly a year of intense industry turmoil, agency uncertainty and congressional debate, the vote reflected last-minute decisions by House leaders from both parties to embrace a previously-passed Senate blueprint for NASA, though it doesn't completely satisfy any of the rival interest groups or regional factions maneuvering to shape the agency's future.

By adopting the measure, the House sought to end the agency's drift and pave the way for some of the exploration and research initiatives proposed by the White House. If congressional appropriators end up following that path after the November elections, it could result in saving thousands of aerospace jobs in Alabama, Utah, Florida, Texas and elsewhere that likely would have been lost under President Barack Obama's initial proposals. (9/30)

UC Santa Cruz Scientists Help Identify Planet in Perfect Position to Foster Life (Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel)
After 11 years of detailed research, a team of astronomers and astrophysicists, led by UC Santa Cruz's Steven Vogt and the Carnegie Institute of Washington's Paul Butler, say they have discovered the most Earth-like planet outside of our solar system yet. Vogt and Butler announced their findings Wednesday, but rather than a culmination, the event was seen as more of the initial spark that would lead to the discovery of many other extrasolar planets with the right conditions to sustain life. (9/30)

NASA Craft Reveals Unexpected Unpredictability of Our Protective Bubble (Source: National Geographic)
It's cold, dusty, and bereft of planets, but the outskirts of our solar system are anything but dull, according to increasing evidence from NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) craft. As charged particles flow out from the sun, they eventually bump up against interstellar medium—the relatively empty areas between stars. These interactions "inflate" a protective bubble that shields Earth and the entire solar system from potentially harmful cosmic rays. Now IBEX has surprised astronomers by showing that this force field-like structure, the heliosphere, is an unexpectedly dynamic, unpredictable boundary. (9/30)

UTMB Experts Researching Commercial Space Guidelines (Source: Bay Area Citizen)
Healthy, fit astronauts make up the vast majority of space travelers to date. But as commercial space travel zooms closer to reality, the next generation of space travelers — namely, tourists — may not be so fit. “The joke is, ‘you give up your youth and health to earn enough to buy a ticket,’" said Dr. James M. Vanderploeg, associate professor of aerospace medicine in the UTMB Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health. Actually, even people with health issues can safely fly in space. It’s just a matter of understanding and controlling their medical conditions, Vanderploeg said. (9/30)

Did The Stuxnet Worm Kill India’s INSAT-4B Satellite? (Source: Forbes)
On July 7, 2010, a power glitch in the solar panels of India’s INSAT-4B satellite resulted in 12 of its 24 transponders shutting down. As a result, an estimated 70% of India’s Direct-To-Home (DTH) companies’ customers were without service. India’s DTH operators include Sun TV and state-run Doordarshan and data services of Tata VSNL.

What does this have to do with the Stuxnet worm that’s infected thousands of computer systems, mostly in India and Iran? India’s Space Research Organization is a Siemens customer. According to the resumes of two former engineers who worked at the ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre, the Siemens software in use is Siemens S7-400 PLC and SIMATIC WinCC, both of which will activate the Stuxnet worm. (9/30)

Common Exploration Plan will be Slow in the Making (Source: Space News)
The world’s principal space-faring nations, which have spent the past three years talking about a common exploration strategy, are committed to producing, by June, a document setting out specific measures to enable an international program to take shape, space agency representatives said. Members of the 14-agency International Space Exploration Coordinating Group (ISECG) reported little concrete results from their three years’ labors. They stressed that the mere fact the space agencies of the United States, China, Russia, India, Europe, Japan, South Korea and others are able to talk about exploration strategy with a view to coordinating efforts should be seen as a signal achievement. (9/30)

No comments: