October 4, 2010

Brevard Snags Nearly $600,000 in State Grants to Boost Aerospace (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Brevard County said Monday it has landed two state grants together worth $585,470 to support development of the county's defense and space infrastructure. The largest of the two deals is a $500,000 grant to help finance the renovation of a communications system for Launch Complex 46 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, according to the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast. The county also received an $85,000 grant to study and develop initiatives to help it deal with the job-loss impact of NASA's phasing out of the space shuttle program. (10/4)

Federal Dollars Fueling Cecil Field Spaceport Plans (Source: WOKV)
A six figure grant is headed to the Jacksonville Aviation Authority to help send you into space. The FAA selected JAA as one of four space port cities to get a cut of a half-million in matching grants. Michael Stewart with the Jacksonville Aviation Authority says our city will receive about $105,000. "To assist with the completion of a space port master plan at Cecil Field," says Stewart. The money should be in their hands within the next few months, and work on the nine-month space port master plan should begin at the start of 2011. (10/4)

Funds Flow To Florida As Shuttle Winds Down (Source: Aviation Week)
Space Florida, a state-backed economic development agency, has been awarded a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Commerce Department to help beef up the economies of Brevard County and nearby regions affected by the shutdown of the space shuttle program. The grant is part of a $40 million pool of federal funds the Space Coast hopes to snare for worker retraining programs, business loans, economic analysis, venture-capital recruitment and other programs designed to mitigate the loss of thousands of jobs related to the end of the shuttle program.

The grant, which was matched by $100,000 in Space Florida funds, is to develop an economic strategy for the Space Coast and surrounding regions. The county-backed Brevard Workforce economic development group received a $15 million National Emergency Grant in June from the Labor Department to help shuttle workers transition into new jobs. Most of those funds are for on-the-job training programs. Brevard Workforce pays 50% of employees’ salaries for up to 90 days. (10/4)

Bill’s Passage Should Bode Well for ATK (Source: Davis County Clipper)
Passage of the NASA Reauthorization Bill by the House of Representatives late Wednesday night, here, should bode well for hundreds of Davis County and Northern Utah solid rocket motor ATK jobs. “Though we still 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,” Sen. Orrin Hatch said. He noted the “collaborative effort” that included Sen. Bob Bennett and Rep. Rob Bishop. (10/4)

Sky-Mapping Satellite Runs Out of Coolant but Keeps Going (Source: MSNBC)
NASA's sky-mapping spacecraft has embarked on a new phase in its mission after running out of coolant designed to chill its heat-sensitive instruments. The space agency said that two of the telescope's infrared detectors can still function at warmer temperatures and will continue to search for near-Earth asteroids and comets. Since launching in 2009, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has completed its primary mission to map the entire sky. WISE has discovered more than 33,500 new asteroids, 19 comets and numerous brown dwarfs. (10/4)

NASA's Kepler Mission Wins 2010 Software Of The Year Award (Source: NASA)
NASA's Kepler mission Science Operations Center software system was named winner of the 2010 NASA Software of the Year Award by the NASA Software Advisory Panel. Designed, developed and operated by the Kepler Science Operations Center (SOC) at NASA’s Ames Research Center, the SOC software system is used to find Earth-size planets using photometric data acquired from the Kepler spacecraft.

The SOC software system is a suite of 22 custom-designed tools for processing, analyzing, and storing transit photometry and engineering data for the Kepler Mission. The Kepler mission is the first NASA mission capable of finding Earth-size planets in the "habitable zone," the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist on the surface of the orbiting planet. (10/4)

NASA Confusion Reverberates Throughout Globe (Source: Aviation Week)
U.S. space companies trying to plot a course as NASA reconfigures its approach to exploration and technology are not alone in their frustration and confusion. The space policy debate in Washington is reverberating around the ever-more collaborative world of space activities, leaving companies in Europe and elsewhere unsure of their best strategies for the changing marketplace.

“Definitely the European scenario is impacted and will be impacted more and more by something that is going to happen outside of Europe,” says Luigi Pasquali, CEO of Thales Alenia Space. “Something very important is going to happen in the United States... A number of long-term objectives, particularly in exploration and science, are not completely clear.” (10/4)

ESA and Oil Industries Explore Applications From Space (Source: ESA)
Members of the space and oil and gas sectors have come together in the first meeting of its kind to discuss current Earth observation capabilities and the evolving information requirements within the oil and gas industry. While remote-sensing experts and specialist value-adding companies shared information about routine and innovative Earth observation-based services, industry experts outlined the challenges in their present and future operations and provided examples of important environmental parameters needed. (10/4)

Sen. Jeff Sessions Warns of Massive Budget Bill Looming, Direction of NASA (Source: Huntsville Times)
U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions told chamber of commerce members this morning that Congress' failure to pass any of its 13 appropriations bills before adjourning for the fall recess will result in a massive all-in-one bill that will be rushed through in December. Sessions, R-Mobile, anticipates all the appropriations bills to be rolled into one "omnibus" bill, that will open the opportunity to slip in unwise spending. "They'll tell us, "If you want to go home for Christmas, you'll pass this bill,'"

Sessions said he's worried about NASA's new direction, which he says cedes the United States' leadership in space. However, he credited U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby for putting language in the NASA authorization bill that assures that Marshall Space Flight Center will lead the development of a new heavy lift rocket. (10/4)

Is Mining Rare Minerals on the Moon Vital to National Security? (Source: Space.com)
The seemingly barren moon may actually be a treasure-trove of priceless resources: a potentially bountiful, mineral-rich – yet untapped – cosmic quarry. Still, few see the moon as an alluring mining site, ripe for the picking of rare elements of strategic and national security importance. As the scarcity of Rare Earth Elements (REE) grows, so too does the concern about the availability of this limited resource.

A recent report from the Congressional Research Service reviewed the worldly use of REEs for national defense. The report looked at the production of elements such as europium and tantalum, among others, outside the U.S. and flagged the important issue of supply vulnerability. The study pointed out that rare earth elements are used for new energy technologies and national security applications and asked: Is the U.S. vulnerable to supply disruptions of these elements? Are they essential to U.S. national security and economic well-being?

Given all the mineral mischief here on Earth, the moon could become a wellspring of essential resources – but at what quality, quantity and outlay to extract? Providing a lunar look-see is Carle Pieters, a leading planetary scientist at Brown University. "Yes, we know there are local concentrations of REE on the moon," he said. Click here to read the article. (10/4)

Aspiring Rocket Scientist Earns $10K Astronaut Scholarship (Source: UCF)
Whitney Keith is helping NASA find out if craters formed by rocket exhaust would jeopardize future landing pads and outposts built on the moon. So, it only seems fitting that an Apollo astronaut and moonwalker will present the UCF junior with a $10,000 scholarship. Keith, an Electrical Engineering major, developed a love for math and a curiosity of electrical power from her father, an electrician, as she grew up in the small town of Lake Alfred, Fla.

“I never envisioned contributing to a project involving outer space,” said Keith. Keith is part of a team studying the effects of rocket exhaust on planetary surfaces for NASA. The research is led by Mathematics Professor Brian Moore. Keith hopes to one day work on industry projects for NASA or the National Security Agency. (10/4)

Will We Die of Cosmic Loneliness? (Source: Discovery)
Top astronomy news items last week wrestled with the question of whether we are alone in the universe. One story gave a dire warning that aliens are already here because they are mad at us. The other report, that inhabitable planets are everywhere in our Milky Way galaxy. In reality, our own civilization's biggest threat to long-term survival may be cosmic boredom, say a pair of theorists. Click here to read the article. (10/4)

Russia's Rokot Rockets to Launch Two ESA Satellites (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's Rokot carrier rockets will take two European Space Agency (ESA) scientific satellites to orbit in 2012-2013. The first launch will deliver to orbit the SWARM satellite, which will survey the geomagnetic field of the Earth. It is unknown what spacecraft will be conveyed into space on the second Rokot, but the launch is expected to take place in 2012-2013. (10/4)

Construction of Ohio's New Air Force Museum Building Could Start in 2012 (Source: Dayton Daily News)
Construction of a building to house the spacecraft collection and former presidential aircraft at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force could start in 2012 if fundraising stays on track, museum officials said Monday. That 200,000-square-foot building would house a retired space shuttle, if the Air Force museum is ultimately awarded one by NASA for permanent display. It would also house the museum’s seven former Air Force aircraft dubbed “Air Force Ones” that carried U.S. presidents. (10/4)

Lockheed Martin-Built Commercial Earth Imaging Satellite Marks 11 Years On-Orbit (Source: Lockheed)
IKONOS, the world's first commercial, high-resolution Earth-imaging satellite, designed and built by Lockheed Martin and currently operated by GeoEye, Inc., has achieved 11 years of successful on-orbit operations. A first-of-its-kind satellite, IKONOS was launched in 1999 to provide high-resolution imagery of the Earth for worldwide commercial and government customers. (10/4)

Spaceport of the 21st Century to be Built in Russian Far East (Source: RIA Novosti)
The construction of the new spaceport “Vostochnyi”, that is now under way in the Amur region in Russian Far East, will determine the future of Russian space flights for at least the nearest century. It is expected to be the most up-to-date spaceport in the world – two rocket launching complexes, an international airport, an industrial area and a town for the spaceport’s workers and tourists.

A modern spaceport is, in fact, a large city with its plants, highways and railways. All this is planned to be built in 5 years – in 2016 “Vostochnyi” will launch its first rocket. 30 thousand specialists are involved in this project. (10/4)

NASA Bill Protects KSC's Advantage in "Orbiter Derby" (Source: Florida Today)
The space shuttle orbiters remain a hot commodity, and a big-time political football, as elected officials hammer out the final details of NASA's future. Apparently the new NASA Authorization legislation still gives Florida's Space Coast a leg up on places like New York City. A single sentence in the 100-plus page bill gives priority in the shuttle orbiter derby to the communities of NASA centers with a "historical relationship with either the launch, flight operations, or processing of the space shuttle orbiters." (10/4)

Lawsuit: NASA Queries Too Nosey (Source: Florida Today)
NASA's efforts to question workers about their finances, their drug use and even their sexual behavior is unconstitutionally intrusive, contractors say. On Tuesday, they'll make their case in oral arguments before the Supreme Court. The space agency created in-depth background checks on contractors in 2007 based on concerns related to the 2001 terrorist attacks. Twenty-eight workers at the Jet Propulsion Lab in California -- engineers and scientists who don't handle secret information -- fought back with a lawsuit and won a ruling from an appeals court blocking the investigations.

"We think these are illegal and unjustified violations of our privacy," said Robert Nelson, the lead plaintiff in the case. "The prospect of the government creating dossiers packed with details about the private lives of employees is frightful." Nelson has worked at the lab for 32 years on projects that include the Voyager program to explore the solar system and the Cassini spacecraft hurtling toward Saturn. The government says national security requires detailed background checks, even on workers who don't have security clearances. (10/4)

Iridium Secures $1.8B for Satellite Constellation (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Iridium Communications has signed a $1.8 billion financial package with nine banks to fund the company's next-generation satellite constellation, a loan that features key guarantees from the French export-credit agency, Coface. The Iridium Next constellation of satellites is being built by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy. The Coface-guaranteed package includes a $1.537 billion tranche with a fixed annual interest rate of 4.96 percent. A second tranche of up to $263 million will carry an interest rate that will vary with the London Inter-Bank Offered Rate (LIBOR), plus 1.95 percent per year. (10/4)

Milestones and Transitions (Source: Space Review)
Fifty-three years after the Space Age began with the launch of Sputnik, NASA finds itself in transition as it moves away from the Vision for Space Exploration towards a new program of human spaceflight. Jeff Foust recounts the recent events that have shaped this transition and the prospects of success for the new plan now endorsed by Congress. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1706/1 to view the article. (10/4)

The Relevance of Mars (Source: Space Review)
How do you sell a human mission to Mars to a public skeptical about both the cost and utility of such exploration? Frank Stratford discusses why he thinks such exploration can be made relevant to the general public. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1705/1 to view the article. (10/4)

Metal From "Outer Space" Falls Down on Chinese Villages (Source: Gizmodo)
Villagers in the Suichuan County in Jiangxi, China, were threatened with large pieces of rocket debris as the lunar probe Chang'e II's rocket scattered across the county after launching on the Oct. 1. It's not really ideal to scatter this stuff all over your country's villages, but what a sight that must've been for the inhabitants. Let's hope they're more accurate with shedding boosters in the future too, to keep the fatality rate at zero for rocket-based deaths. Click here for photos. (10/4)

Huntsville Group Offers Support to Latest Round of Laid-Off NASA Contractors (Source: WAFF)
More layoff notices are expected for NASA contractors in the coming week. A Huntsville group formed before the first round of layoffs earlier this year is continuing its mission to help those laid-off find work. The Huntsville Space Professionals already have a career strategy session planned for these workers. Group leaders say they're confident the jobs will come back. (10/4)

Good Night, Moon: The Point of No Return (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Her first-born son peered into the night sky, pointed to the moon and uttered his first word. "Moon," recalls NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. After humbling and inspiring mankind for centuries and looming as the go-to destination for a generation of astronauts, the Earth's orbiting partner has been shelved as the premier mission for the next generation of America's space travelers in favor of a dark and hurtling asteroid by 2025 and the beckoning planet of Mars a decade after that.

"We all look up in the night sky and see the moon, and it is an inspiration to us," concedes Garver, 49, the behind-the-scenes architect for the most dramatic shift in NASA destinations since the agency began work in the late 1950s. "The fact that we are turning to the next destination - an asteroid - is nothing against the moon." A distant asteroid will serve as a way station "in the outward migration of humanity" into space, a steppingstone on "the road to that next great mission, which will be a human going to Mars," Garver says. (10/4)

Space Coast Launch Services Continues Spaceport Support with USAF Contract (Source: DOD)
Space Coast Launch Services, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., was awarded a $25,548,758 contract modification. The contract provides for launch operations support to provide operations maintenance and engineering support to critical launch, spacecraft and ordnance facilities and support systems owned by the 45th Space Wing. (10/1)

Supreme Court to Hear NASA Privacy Case (Source: AP)
For the past three years, Robert Nelson has been juggling two lives. He's a senior research scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory by day, attempting to determine whether Saturn's giant moon Titan is volcanically active. When he's not exploring the cosmos, he's leading a legal fight to prevent his employer from asking private details about his life. "It's almost like having a second job," Nelson said. "It takes you away from something you'd rather be doing."

Since Nelson and two dozen other JPL scientists and engineers sued the government in 2007, the case has crawled through the court system. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday. At issue is whether the government has the right to probe the personal lives of low-risk contractors with access to federal facilities. The lab employees objected to the background checks, saying they were intrusive and violated their privacy. (10/3)

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