October 5, 2010

Marshall Director Looks Forward to NASA Appropriation (Source: Huntsville Times)
Robert Lightfoot, director of Marshall Space Flight Center, talked of "the signficant positive impact on Marshall" expected through the three-year NASA authorization bill in Congress and called it "a resounding vote of confidence in NASA's workforce." He voiced appreciation for Sens. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby and Reps. Parker Griffith and Robert Aderholt for their "staunch support to NASA and Marshall."

While Lightfoot talked of the excitement of "moving forward to get focus on our mission," it comes with the specter of the loss of 150 to 250 contractor jobs because of the demise of the Constellation program. Some 500 contract employees were laid off in June. "When the appropriations bill comes in ... we'll have to see what we can do, if we get to bring people back," he said. "The immediate reduction will be because of the replanning and restructuring. We'll see what happens." (10/5)

CU-Boulder Gets Go-Ahead to Develop $438 Million Mission to Mars (Source: Daily Camera)
A $438 million mission to Mars that is being led by the University of Colorado has the green light to move on to the development stage. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, or MAVEN, will be designed to probe the climate of Mars, including its potential to support life in the past. The mission, which was awarded to CU in 2008, is being led by the university's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. The spacecraft is scheduled to launch in 2013. (10/5)

AEHF-1 Orbit Raising Proceeding as Planned (Source: Space News)
A contingency plan to raise the altitude of the U.S. Air Force’s first Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite after one of its thruster systems failed on orbit is moving along on schedule, a service official said Oct. 5. (10/5)

Russian Soyuz Spacecraft Damaged (Source: AFP)
A Russian Soyuz spacecraft due to launch in December suffered damage to its container in transit, its chief constructor said Tuesday in the latest hitch to the country's space program. Engineers spotted damage to the Soyuz TMA-20's transport container after it was shipped by rail to the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan, the president of the Energiya spaceship factory, Vitaly Lopota, said. "We discovered damage, but to the container, not to the ship," Lopota said.

"We will check everything, do more work on it and in December, I hope, we will fly on time," Lopota said. The Soyuz is due on December 13 to transport Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and NASA astronauts Catherine Coleman and Paolo Nespoli to the International Space Station (ISS). (10/5)

Passage of NASA Bill Re-Starts Debate: Should NASA's Future Be Outsourced? (Source: Capitol News Connection)
The bitter Congressional battle with the White House over NASA seemed to reach an end of sorts last week when Congress passed the Senate version of the NASA reauthorization bill. But the struggle over the future of the government space agency continues as some lawmakers dig in deeper to oppose the very concept of outsourcing NASA's work to the rapidly growing U.S. private space flight industry. (10/5)

'Transformers 3' Turns Spaceport Into Movie Set (Source: Florida Today)
For Rockledge High senior Annie Rein, being an intern on the set of "Transformers 3" was like being in Wonderland. Rein helped Mandi Dillin, a "Transformers 3" locations manager, as the crew filmed scenes at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on Friday, the first day of Brevard County shooting for the sci-fi action movie. Filming is scheduled to continue through this week at Kennedy Space Center. A number of local residents, mostly employees of Kennedy Space Center and its contractors, as well as military personnel, were hired as extras for the local shooting. About 60 were on the set last week.

The extras have been or will be near many of the film's stars, including Shia LaBoeuf, Josh Duhamel, Frances McDormand and John Turturro. "Things are very hectic and fast-paced, but seem to be going very well," Space Coast film commissioner Bonnie King said. The film -- the biggest one to be shot in Brevard County in more than a decade -- will add $2 million or more to the local economy, King estimated. (10/5)

China to Launch Two Satellites to Monitor Space Environment (Source: Xinhua)
China will launch two environmental research satellites in the near future from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in north China's Shanxi province. The two satellites of the "Shijian VI-04" group are designed for carrying out space environment probes. The satellites and the launch pad are in "good condition", and preparations have been proceeding well, the launch center said. (10/5)

Russia Holds 1st Place on Space Launch Market (Source: Xinhua)
Russia held the first place in terms of space launches, according to the report of the Russian space agency, Roskosmos. Since the start of 2010, Russia made 22 launches. Of this number, 16 were made from Kazakhstan-located Baikonur site, five from Russian Plesetsk and one from a launching site of Dombarovskaya missile division, Roskosmos' report said. For the same period, the United States made 11 launches, and China sent to space 10 rockets. This is the third year in a row that Russia occupies the first place on the space launches market. In 2009, the frequency of Russian flights to the International Space Station rose twofold compared with that in 2008. (10/5)

NASA Technology Chief: We'll Decide What Rocket We Want to Build (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA engineers -- not Congress -- must determine the design of America's next big spaceship to take humans beyond the moon, according to Robert Braun, NASA's chief technologist. He said even though Congress passed legislation demanding that NASA use parts of the space shuttle and its now-defunct Constellation moon-rocket program to make a new heavy-lift rocket, sound engineering and not politics should ultimately determine the way to go.

"I think it remains to be seen what heavy lift will be," Braun said. "I would like to believe now that we are making progress in Washington towards the 2011 plan that the engineers…will weigh in and that we will move towards the technically correct choice." Braun, appointed by NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden earlier this year to advise the agency on technology issues, is the first NASA official to raise publicly the prospect that Congress may not get the rocket it wants. (10/5)

NASA's LCROSS Wins 2010 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award (Source: NASA)
NASA's Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, mission has won Popular Mechanics magazine's 2010 Breakthrough Award for innovation in science and technology. The sixth annual Breakthrough Awards recognize innovators and products poised to change the world in fields such as technology, medicine, aviation and environmental engineering. LCROSS was launched with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) on June 18, 2009. A team at Northrop Grumman built the LCROSS spacecraft, which was outfitted with commercial off-the-shelf instruments and ruggedized for spaceflight at Ames, saving the team time and the costly development of custom instruments. (10/5)

ILS Proton To Launch AsiaSat 7 in 2011 (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator AsiaSat has selected an International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket to place the AsiaSat 7 telecommunications satellite into orbit between August 2011 and November 2011 under a contract valued at $101 million. AsiaSat 7, under construction by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., was originally called AsiaSat 5C and was intended as a backup in case AsiaSat 5 failed early in its life. That satellite is healthy in orbit. (10/5)

Space Experience Curacao Announces Wet Lease of XCOR's Lynx (Source: XCOR)
Space Experience Curacao (SXC) and XCOR Aerospace have agreed on the wet lease of a production version of the Lynx suborbital spacecraft, pending U.S. government approvals to station the vehicle on the island of Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles. With a planned start date in January 2014, SXC will market, and XCOR will operate, suborbital space tourism flights and scientific research missions out of Space Port Curacao.

Recently, the Curacao government and airport authority announced plans for creating the conditions suitable for a commercial space flight services industry. An investigation of the legal and regulatory framework has commenced. Investment in the spaceport infrastructure and operator has been committed and made by Curacao Airport Holding, N.V. SXC is the entity chosen by the Curacao government and airport holding company to create a robust suborbital space flight business focused on research missions, space tourism, and science & technology education. SXC has in turn selected the XCOR Lynx as its vehicle of choice for Curacao operations. (10/5)

XCOR Aerospace Seeks Curacao Spaceport (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Space-tourism company XCOR Aerospace Inc. seeks to benefit from the wave of private investors scrambling to team up with local governments across the U.S. and overseas to participate in the budding commercial-space industry. The latest such effort is a nearly $25 million agreement between start-up space-plane maker XCOR of Mojave, Ca., a group of Dutch investors and the government of Curacao. The goal is to turn the Caribbean resort island's commercial airport into another Western hemisphere spaceport, and for the closely-held U.S. company to begin launching tourists from there to the outer limits of the atmosphere. (10/5)

Aldrin: Obama Has Better Space Plan (Source: The Age)
US President Barack Obama's new space program embraces technological advances and is an improvement on the former administration's plan to return to the moon, US moonwalker Buzz Aldrin said. Dr Aldrin was speaking in Sydney on Tuesday after coming out in April in support of President Obama's program, which controversially scrapped former President George W Bush's plan to return US astronauts to the moon by 2020. (10/5)

Cost Mounts for Florida Space Retraining, Strategizing (Source: Florida Today)
Costs are adding up for saving space jobs through all that retraining and strategizing, even as results remain uncertain. Federal agencies and the Legislature have committed $78.6 million in 2009 and 2010, or about $9,825 per potential job lost at Kennedy Space Center, according to a Florida Today tally.

Add $500 million for an extra shuttle flight pushed by Florida lawmakers, and the cost rises to $72,325 per job. Expect more spending as another round of 3,000 layoffs looms in January. "By no means are we somehow turning off the spigot and saying we're going to close shop... We are doing the opposite," said U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis during a visit to Kennedy Space Center in June.

State and federal money for job-saving efforts include: $29.95 million for worker retraining, career counseling and job-hunting help; $650,000 for studies, roundtable discussions and planning; $40 million for private-sector initiatives, including grants for startup technology or aerospace companies; $7.5 million for roads and infrastructure for a commercial office park at Kennedy Space Center; and $500,000 for communications upgrades at Canaveral Air Force Station, expected to support military and commercial rocket flights. (10/5)

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