December 14, 2010

SpaceTEC Featured on Space Show on Dec. 20 (Source: SpaceTEC)
SpaceTEC will be featured on the Dec. 20 edition of The Space Show, with Dr. David Livingston. The show will start at 5 p.m. and will explore the past, present, and future of SpaceTEC educational and certification programs and how they relate to our nation's next steps in space. Listeners are invited to join-in live using toll free 866-687-7223 and by sending e-mail during the program to (12/14)

$18.9 Billion Included for NASA in Senate’s Draft Omnibus (Source: Space News)
A draft omnibus appropriations bill circulating in the U.S. Senate would give NASA a $186 million budget boost in 2011 and includes funds to begin building a heavy-lift launch vehicle and develop commercial crew and cargo delivery services for the international space station. The draft document, which would fund NASA at $18.9 billion this year, mirrors top-line funding levels approved by the House of Representatives.

The draft Senate bill includes $5.24 billion for Space Operations (including $989 million for the space shuttle); $1.8 billion to initiate development of a heavy-lift rocket; and $1.2 billion for Orion. (12/14)

California Missile-Defense Launch Delayed (Source: LaunchAlert)
Tuesday's scheduled Missile Defense Agency ground-based interceptor flight test has been delayed due to poor weather conditions downrange. The flight test has been rescheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 15, with a launch window from 8 a.m. to noon, PST. The ground-based interceptor test will defend against an intermediate-range ballistic missile target launched from Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands. (12/14)

Boeing Completes Skyterra 1 Antenna Deployment (Source: Space News)
Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems on Dec. 14 announced that the 22-meter-diameter L-band antenna on the SkyTerra 1 mobile broadband satellite had been successfully deployed after a problem that had threatened to torpedo the mission. Boeing said that all Skyerra 1 systems are healthy, and that further satellite checkout procedures will continue “over the next several months” before the satellite, which was launched Nov. 14, is handed over to its customer, LightSquared.

LightSquared is building a multibillion-dollar network to provide mobile broadband throughout the United States using radio frequencies available to it only if it maintains a functioning satellite to serve customers outside the reach of its terrestrial network. Harris Corp. in Melbourne, Florida, built the satellite antenna, the largest ever on a commercial satellite. (12/14)

France to Spend $336 Million to Build Future Rocket Launcher (Source: Bloomberg)
President Nicolas Sarkozy said France will invest 250 million euros ($336 million) for scientific research to build Europe's next generation rocket and satellite launcher. “Having autonomous access to space is about our national independence, not about prestige,” Sarkozy said.

The future launcher will replace the current Ariane 5 and should become operational around 2025. It’s aimed at helping Arianespace keep its position as the world’s biggest commercial satellite launcher. Arianespace is a partnership of 24 shareholders including European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. (EADS) with about 30 percent and the French state with 24 percent. (12/14)

Op-Eds Say the Darndest Things (Source: Space Politics)
Homer Hickam claims he knows how to fix NASA in three easy steps, as he describes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. First, he says, “suck it up and fund SpaceX” and other companies to take over access to low Earth orbit. Second, “convince the president to install new management at NASA.” Why? Hickam believes the president “has opted out of the decision-making process” and turned things over to presidential science advisor John Holdren and the administrator and deputy administrator of NASA, people Hickam clearly isn’t happy with.

The third step: “order up a mission beyond Earth orbit” analogous to the Apollo missions to the Moon; he specifically suggests a base at the Moon’s south pole. How much will that cost? “You don’t have to add a cent to the paltry amount NASA gets,” he claims, just point it in the right direction “and watch its excellent engineers pull it off.” He notably doesn’t give a specific timetable for establishing that base on NASA’s current budget.

North of the border, Matt Gurney of Canada’s National Post is worried the US is risking the expertise NASA has built up over the years with its current plans and funding levels. “Under President Obama, NASA has become an afterthought. There is no plan in place to return to the moon or Mars, no manned missions planned to the asteroid belt,” he claims (although the president did set a goal of a human mission to a near Earth asteroid by 2025 in his April 15 speech at the Kennedy Space Center). (12/14)

Wanted: Space Strategy (Source: DOD Buzz)
So says a group of civilian space experts who today urged the United States to adopt a national space strategy that would unify U.S. government efforts in the final frontier. Aimed at reducing redundancy and guiding government agency policies and investments, the Secure World Foundation’s National Space Strategy Project seeks the establishment of a space strategy taking into account the nation’s military, civilian government and commercial space needs in a way that reflects the county’s overall strategic goals, said the project’s principal investigator Eligar Sadeh.

Within that context, the strategy would focus on addressing challenges associated with space launch, the space industrial base, space assurance and space governance, said Sadeh. All of this would make it easier for the White House and Congress to ensure the nation’s various space faring agencies are working in a coordinated manner that advances the national interests with regards to space, according to Sadeh. Click here to read the article. (12/13)

NASA Agreement will Build Colorado Technology Park (Source: AP)
Colorado high-tech firms are getting a boost from NASA to speed up manufacturing in hopes of providing 10,000 new jobs over the next five years. The new program will promote manufacturing of new products like thin film solar cells developed in Colorado. NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said an agreement signed Monday with the Colorado Association for Manufacturing and Technology will help build a technology park somewhere between Loveland and Boulder. (12/13)

The Agency That Cried "Awesome" (Source: Huffington Post)
On December 2, NASA administrators forgot the agency's mission, they forgot science, they forgot their responsibility to their own people and to the public. Instead, they apparently decided that all publicity is good, as long as they don't misspell your name... I kept thinking that perhaps in my lifetime we might find an unambiguous independent life sample. Then, at long last, astrobiology would lift off and whole new scientific domains would unfurl and soar with it.

Instead of that, last week we got bacterial isolate GFAJ-1. We got an agency which appears so desperate that it shoved experiments with inadequate controls into a high profile journal and then shouted from the rooftops that its researchers had discovered a new form of life (de facto false, even if the results of the increasingly beleaguered Science paper stand). Let's investigate a major claim in the Science paper: that GFAJ-1 bacteria incorporate arsenic in their DNA, making them novel, unique, a paradigm shift. Click here. (12/14)

Beyond Rocket Science, a Space M.B.A. (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The classrooms are filled with physicists and engineers, lectures come from former astronauts and field trips include a visit to NASA headquarters in Washington. The International Space University's new executive M.B.A. is unusual in the world of business education, but organizers hope it will give a big boost to scientists forced to grapple with matters of money and management as the space sector grows increasingly commercialized.

The first class of 12 students, mostly technical experts in their 40s who have been promoted into management roles, collected their degrees on Nov. 19 at the private space university, based in Strasbourg, France. The university started the executive M.B.A. last year in response to demand from companies that asked for business training with a focus on the particulars of their industry. The program includes M.B.A. basics like finance, accounting and marketing, but builds everything around issues pertinent to space, said an ISU official. (12/14)

NASA Accepts Proposals to Advance Commercial Crew Systems (Source: Florida Today)
Today is NASA's deadline for industry partners to submit proposals seeking a piece of roughly $200 million expected to be awarded in 2011 for advancing commercial crew transportation systems. The funding is being offered under the second round of NASA's Commercial Crew Development program, known as "CCDev," which in February awarded $50 million in federal stimulus funds to five companies: Blue Origin ($3.7 million), The Boeing Co. ($18 million), Paragon Space Development Corp. ($1.4 million), Sierra Nevada Corp. ($20 million) and United Launch Alliance ($6.7 million).

The second round plans to further mature launch vehicle or spacecraft systems such as crew capsules and systems for life support, launch abort and emergency detection. Contract awards for the second round are expected to be made in March, when first round projects were scheduled for completion. (12/14)

Editorial: U.S. Putting NASA Expertise at Risk (Source: National Post)
Speaking to faculty and students at a technical college last week, President Obama worried that America was sliding in the technology race against other world powers. “Right now, the hard truth is this: in the race for the future, America is in danger of falling behind,” the President said. He feels that a “Sputnik moment” has arrived, and that Americans must work together to keep their country on the top.

The Sputnik example is apt. But this administration, ably assisted by both parties in Congress, is guaranteeing that, at least in outer space, the United States could not possibly hope to mount that kind of effort again. Under President Obama, NASA has become an afterthought. There is no plan in place to return to the moon or Mars, no manned missions planned to the asteroid belt. (12/14)

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Awarded Heavy-Lift Launch Vehicle Studies Contract (Source: PWR)
NASA has awarded Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne a contract worth approximately $622,000 to help NASA lay the groundwork for a flexible space transportation system that could deliver humans to asteroids, the moon, Mars and beyond. The study will include an assessment of how key development decisions may affect launch systems and overall mission architectures; how innovative or non-traditional technologies may be applied to heavy-lift systems to improve affordability and sustainability; and how aspects of a heavy-lift system, to be developed by NASA, could be leveraged by the Department of Defense, commercial entities and international partners. (12/13)

How About a Moon Base? (Source: Wall Street Journal)
American space exploration has had two remarkable successes this month. On Dec. 3, the Air Force's X-37B, an unmanned mini-shuttle whose precise capabilities are secret, made a picture-perfect landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base after nine months in space. Then on Dec. 8, SpaceX successfully launched and landed Dragon, a cargo spacecraft that can be outfitted to carry astronauts, a first for a private U.S. company. All of which raises the question, what's NASA up to these days? The answer: Not much. (12/14)

Hollywood Goes JPL at Science-Fact Symposium (Source: Pasadena Star News)
The colonization of Mars as a means of preempting hostile alien takeover may not be on a typical agenda at a meeting of NASA's top science minds - unless you invite Hollywood. Science fact and fiction peacefully collided at NASA-101, a seminar designed to encourage collaboration with the entertainment industry's storytellers.

The event was hosted by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which has provided inspiration for the robotics featured in Pixar's "Wall-E" and a mission control in Disney's forthcoming "Mars Needs Moms." Four panels covered a range of topics of presumable interest to filmmakers - from earth sciences to first-hand accounts of space flight to autonomous robots to, most prominently, the possibility of life "beyond." Click here to read the article. (12/13)

Boeing Submits Proposal For Second Round Of NASA CCDev Program (Source: Space Daily)
Boeing has submitted its proposal for the second round of NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. Boeing plans to advance the design of its Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft and Commercial Crew Transportation System and continue to demonstrate key technologies. Boeing is proposing an approach that will significantly mature the CST-100 design through demonstrations of critical subsystems.

The CST-100 spacecraft is designed to support NASA's primary objective of affordable access to Low Earth Orbit. It will carry up to seven crew and passengers, is reusable up to 10 times, and is compatible with a variety of expendable launch vehicles. The spacecraft - which is comprised of a Crew Module and a Service Module - draws on Apollo-proven aerodynamic characteristics in a design that uses commercial, off-the-shelf, cost-effective technologies. (12/14)

Bolivia Orders Chinese Telecom Satellite (Source: Space News)
China’s satellite and launch-services export company on Dec. 14 announced it had signed a contract with the Bolivian government to launch a telecommunications satellite into a Bolivia-registered orbital slot in late 2013. The Tupak Katari Satellite, or TKSat-1, named after an 18th Century Bolivian national who led a rebellion against the Spanish presence in Bolivia, will be based on China’s DFH-4 platform and will carry 30 transponders. It is the sixth export order for satellites booked by China, and will be launched aboard a Chinese Long March 3B/E rocket. (12/14)

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