December 27, 2010

The Promises Obama Wants You to Keep Forgetting (Source: Salon)
In early December, a combative President Obama challenged reporters at a press conference: "Look at what I promised during the campaign. There's not a single thing that I've said that I would do that I have not either done or tried to do. And if I haven't gotten it done yet, I'm still trying to do it." As it turns out, there are plenty of clearly stated promises, in areas big and small, that Obama has not kept. PolitiFact, which pretty much has this market cornered, has been tracking hundreds of Obama promises.

Back to the Moon: Candidate Obama's space policy -- an issue that is closely watched in the crucial state of Florida -- had this to say: "[Obama] endorses the goal of sending human missions to the Moon by 2020, as a precursor in an orderly progression to missions to more distant destinations, including Mars."

After the campaign, returning to the Moon faded from Obama's agenda. Finally, in the 2011 budget, the administration completely abandoned the idea, calling the NASA Moon program "over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation due to a failure to invest in critical new technologies." The budget said the Moon program had drawn funding away from the more important areas of "robotic space exploration, science, and Earth observations." (12/27)

Skylon Hypersonic Spaceplane Should See Major Funding Decision in Mid-2011 (Source: Next Big Future)
Skylon is a design by Reaction Engines Limited for an unpiloted, airbreathing single-stage to orbit, combined cycle jet engine based spaceplane. A fleet of vehicles is envisaged; the design is aiming for reusability up to 200 times. In paper studies, costs per kilogram of payload are hoped to be below the current costs of launch, including the costs of R&D, with costs expected to fall much more over time after the initial expenditures have amortised. The cost of the program has been estimated by the developer to be about $12 billion.

The vehicle design is for a hydrogen-powered aircraft that would take off from a conventional runway, and accelerate to Mach 5.4 at 26 km using atmospheric air before switching the engines to use the internal LOX supply to take it to orbit. It would then release a 12-tonne payload, then reenter the atmosphere. The payload would be carried in a standardised payload container or passenger compartment

The UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills was aksed what the recent assessment he has made of the potential viability of the Skylon Spaceplane; what assessment he has made of his merits of Government support for that project; and if he will make a statement. Minister David Willetts said: "The European Space Agency is funding proof of concept work for Skylon from UK contributions. This work is focusing on demonstrating the viability of the advanced British engine technology that would underpin the project. Initial work will be completed in mid 2011 and if the trial is successful, we will work with industry to consider next steps." (12/27)

New Mexico: 2010 was Full of Spaceport Milestones (Source NM Politics)
Exactly five years ago this month, Governor Bill Richardson announced a bold plan to build the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport — aiming to be for the emerging “new” space industry what Silicon Valley has become for the computer industry. What a difference five years makes! 2010 will be considered a milestone year for the commercial spaceflight industry, and for Spaceport America. Click here to see a few of the accomplishments in the year just past. (12/27)

Colorado Region Could Reach New Heights with NASA Project (Source: Coloradoan)
Since early December, economic development specialists across the Front Range have set their sights on landing a deal that could bring 10,000 jobs to their doorsteps. When NASA signed a contract with the Colorado Association for Manufacturing and Technology on Dec. 13, the race started to find the best site for a technology park somewhere between metro Denver, Boulder and Loveland. As proposed, the NASA campus would house businesses that develop and build technologies to benefit the agency and boost the state's manufacturing industry. (12/27)

NASA's Ares Rocket Dead, But Congress Lets You Pay $500 Million More For It (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Thanks to congressional inaction, NASA must continue to fund its defunct Ares I rocket program until March — a requirement that will cost the agency nearly $500 million at a time when NASA is struggling with the expensive task of replacing the space shuttle. About one-third that money — $165 million — will go to Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, which has a $2 billion contract to build the solid-rocket first stage for the Ares I, the rocket that was supposed to fill the shuttle's role of transporting astronauts to the International Space Station.

But under a new NASA plan signed into law by President Barack Obama in October, there's no guarantee that the new rocket required by that plan will use solid-fuel propulsion. And, in fact, many in the agency say a liquid-fueled rocket would be cheaper, more powerful — and safer. The money to ATK is part of the $1.2 billion NASA will spend on its canceled Constellation program from Oct. 1 through March. Most of the rest will go to Lockheed Martin, which is building the Orion capsule intended to take astronauts into space aboard whatever rocket NASA selects. That program was largely spared by the new NASA plan.

What's more, constraints on NASA spending resulting from congressional budget gridlock will delay the scheduled start this year of a program to modernize aging facilities at Kennedy Space Center to transform it into a "21st-century spaceport." It's now not clear when the program will begin. Click here to view the article. (12/27)

The Top 7 Space Stories of 2010 (Source:
In the year 2010, humanity made first contact with extraterrestrials — at least according to the sequel to the acclaimed film "2001: A Space Odyssey." Nothing quite so earth-shattering happened in the real world this year. But space-science researchers did make a number of extraordinary discoveries in 2010, including finding what may or may not be the first habitable alien world and uncovering clues to the nature of dark matter. Click here to see the list. (12/27)

Monument to Honor Space Shuttle Workers (Source: Florida Today)
Mercury. Gemini. Apollo. The nation's storied space programs are all remembered here, at Space View Park in Titusville. And, now, with the shuttle fleet just three flights away from retirement, fundraising is under way to bestow the same honors on this nearly three-decade-long program. Dozens of astronauts, former Kennedy Space Center directors, community leaders and aerospace companies are behind an effort to build a $500,000 granite Shuttle Monument that would take its place near the other space monuments that dot the park. (12/27)

NASA Facility Awaits Word of Possible Cuts (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Two years ago, NASA said more than 8,000 contractor jobs connected to the space program could be eliminated after the space shuttle program was shut down. With the shuttle's final days imminent - the last flights are scheduled for next year - the questions that now must be asked are: Will there be layoffs at NASA's White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces and, if so, what effect will that have on the local economy?

Right now, the answer is unclear. The test facility has about 700 workers, with about 50 of them employed by the government and the rest by private contractors, said Robert Cort, the facility's associate manager of technical operations. The two biggest employers at the facility - where rocket motor testing takes place as does refurbishing of flight hardware and other tasks - are Jacobs Technology and Enterprise Advisory Services Inc. (12/27)

India Checks Rocket Failure Data (Source: PTI)
India’s top space scientists are analyzing data to find out what caused the satellite launch to fail yesterday and an expert committee is likely to be formed soon. “Teams are looking at the data to find out the reason,” said Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) spokesperson S. Satish. “A failure analysis committee is likely to be formed in the next one or two days,” he added. Initial data indicated that the control command signals from the rocket’s onboard computer failed to reach the first-stage circuits, causing the vehicle to lose altitude, veer off its flight path and crack up under the heavy load on its structure. (12/27)

Job Cuts Loom in Arizona as Military Eyes Cuts (Source: AIA)
Arizona's defense and aerospace contractors could face cutbacks in the coming year as the U.S. Defense Department reduces spending. The state, which received upwards of $12.4 billion in military contracts last year, saw its share fall by 19% in 2010. The decline is attributed to a slowdown in defense spending following the post-9/11 buildup and the winding down of the war in Iraq. (12/27)

Report: Air Traffic Control Upgrades Seeing Delays, Higher Costs (Source: AIA)
The Federal Aviation Administration's effort to overhaul the air traffic control system will experience significant delays and unforeseen costs, according to a new report by the inspector general. In the report, DOT Inspector General Calvin Scovel said he is particularly concerned about a computer program that manages aircraft flying at high altitudes. The FAA may need to pay up to $500 million more to contractor Lockheed Martin to finish the project. (12/27)

Outer Space Issues 2011 – Upcoming Trends Forecast by Secure World Foundation (Source: NewsWise)
There are outstanding issues in the coming year that deserve increased attention in terms of global outer space activities – from tackling the growing problem of orbital space debris, enhancing Earth security via satellite data, protecting our planet from Near Earth Objects, and assuring a sustainable space environment for all nations to improve their well-being. Click here to read the article. (12/27)

Disaster Leaves India With One Cryo Engine (Source: Times of India)
ISRO is staring at a crisis: it is left with just one Russia-made cryogenic engine and its indigenous version is far from ready. The launch of communication satellites weighing more than 2 tons into a geosynchronous transfer orbit need Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicles (GSLV) powered partly by cryogenic engines.

The cryogenic engine that went up in flames with GSLV-F06 on Saturday was the sixth of the seven such engines the country had procured from Russia. Post-Pokhran-II, the US had armtwisted Russia to deny the engine to India. ISRO tried the indigenous cryogenic engine for the GSLV-D3 launch on April 15, 2010, which was a failure. The engine has gone back to ISRO's workshops for ground tests and there is no definite word on when the improved version would be ready. (12/27)

Failure Sparks Safety Fears for 2016 Manned Space Flight (Source: DNA)
What if there were live Indian astronauts on board the geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) rocket that exploded a minute after lift-off on Saturday afternoon from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota? This is the question that is bothering scientists of the Indian space research organization (ISRO), which is on track to launch its first manned space flight in 2015-16.

The cause for worry among the ISRO scientists is this: the manned space flight mission will also be launched on board a GSLV rocket. At stake will not only be the Rs12,400 crore mission and the Indian space agency’s reputation, but also the lives of two vyomanauts (as the Indian astronauts will be referred to). (12/27)

Failure of Japan's Venus Probe Akatsuki Likely Due to Faulty Valve (Source: Mainichi)
The failure of the Akatsuki Venus Climate Orbiter to enter orbit around Venus earlier this month was most likely due to a blockage in the backflow valve installed in the fuel-supply pipes of the engine that was used for reverse engine thrust, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) taskforce has concluded. The valve is structured in a way that it cannot be manipulated from Earth, and whether the space probe can be inserted into Venus's orbit -- at its next chance six years from now -- will not be clear until various experiments are conducted on Earth. (12/27)

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