December 9, 2010

South Africa Unveils Space Agency (Source: Space Daily)
South Africa unveiled its national space agency on Thursday, aiming to become a leader in earth observation technology across the continent in 10 years, the minister of science and technology said. "Our combined efforts at enhancing South Africa's space capabilities will be of immense value to the scientific community in the Southern African region," Naledi Pandor said. (12/9)

NASA Adds Boeing Contract for Advanced Aircraft Concepts (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded a third contract for studies designed to identify advanced concepts for airliners that could enter service in 2025, fly with less noise, cleaner exhaust and lower fuel consumption. NASA refers to technology that is two generations more advanced than what is on aircraft in service today as N+2.

A team led by The Boeing Company of Huntington Beach, Calif., was selected for a contract worth $5.29 million. The contract has a performance period of one year beginning this month. As part of the same research effort, NASA previously awarded contracts worth $2.99 million and $2.65 million to teams led by Lockheed Martin in Palmdale, Calif., and Northrop Grumman in El Segundo, Calif. (12/9)

SpaceX Flight a Flashback to Our Future in Space (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The secret to SpaceX's discount price is that Falcon-9 didn't have to go through six redesigns, four space centers, 20 layers of bureaucracy and six congressional committees, each with a chairman carving off dollars for his state. Falcon 9 also wasn't designed and built by massive aerospace companies with hefty built-in profit margins and armies of lobbyists. SpaceX has its own skin in the game. It can't afford overruns and failures.

The shuttle did not become the cheap, weekly ride into orbit we were promised. It did not replace unnamed rockets for launching satellites. Likewise, the space station has gone from a promised $8 billion research panacea to a $100 billion boondoggle. That ultimately is what is killing Constellation and Ares. It's just more of the same.

We don't need NASA in low-Earth orbit. We don't need NASA astronauts. SpaceX can hire and train its own crews to fly to the space station. We don't need NASA to develop a heavy-lift rocket, the latest boondoggle mission concocted in Congress, where we actually have politicians now designing launch vehicles to ensure their states get a cut of the action. If we need a big rocket, we should give a company like SpaceX a fixed-cost contract to build one. We can't afford NASA if we want to stay in space. (12/9)

Black Holes and Warped Space: New UK Telescope Shows Off First Images (Source: STFC)
This dramatic image is the first to be produced by e-MERLIN, a powerful new array of radio telescopes linked across the UK. Spearheaded by the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory and funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the e-MERLIN telescope will allow astronomers to address key questions relating to the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars and planets. (12/9)

Florida Could Get More High Speed Rail Funds (Sources: Bloomberg, SPACErePORT)
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said $1.2 billion in high-speed rail funds originally designated for Wisconsin and Ohio will be redirected to states “eager” to develop faster-rail corridors. California and Florida will be the top recipients of the money, receiving as much as $624 million and $342.3 million respectively. States are to receive $8 billion in rail money as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Wisconsin and Ohio elected Republican governors in November who campaigned against the rail projects. Wisconsin Governor- elect Scott Walker said he’d refuse the $810 million designated for connecting Milwaukee and Madison. Ohio’s John Kasich has said the planned Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati train would be too expensive to operate. Unfortunately, similar questions are being asked about Florida's high speed rail project and some Florida legislators would like to halt the project. (12/9)

Mica Confirmed as Chairman of Transportation Committee (Sources: Land Line, SPACErePORT)
As expected, U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-FL, has been confirmed to chair the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the next Congress. He is currently the ranking Republican on the committee, and will take the helm as chairman when the Republicans assume control of the House of Representatives in January, 2011.

As chairman, Mica will appoint a vice chairman for the full committee and chairs of various subcommittees. He will have major influence over issues of critical importance in Florida, like high speed rail, and FAA programs for aviation and commercial space transportation. (12/9)

Army Nanosatellite Another First for Dragon Flight (Source: US Army)
The first U.S. Army nanosatellite lifted off along with the Dragon capsule atop the SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket. This is the launch of the first U.S. Army-built satellite in more than 50 years. U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command is the Army lead for the SMDC-ONE nanosatellite program.

The primary objective of this maiden flight is to receive data from a ground transmitter and relay that data to a ground station. The intent of this technology demonstration is to build a number of identical satellites and deploy them together into Low Earth Orbit to simulate enhanced tactical communications capability and evaluate nanosat performance. (12/9)

New Company Lets You Send Your Photo Into Space (Source: AOL News)
For years, Joe Latrell pictured himself in space, but wasn't able to make it happen. Now, he's ready to send his picture going into orbit -- and is inviting others to join his mug on the flight. Latrell is the man behind "Photos To Space,"a new company that is being launched that allows cosmically aware consumers to send digital photographs of themselves and loved ones 70 miles into the atmosphere -- about 8 miles more than is considered space by scientists.

The rocket carrying the photos will launch in April from Spaceport America, a commercial space landing field located near Las Cruces, New Mexico, and the total flight will last about 15 minutes total including a four-minute ascent. Latrell is only charging $4.95 to send the digital photos into space and and, for that dough, he's throwing in a certificate, a launch image, stats about the rocket and customers will be able to watch the rocket trip. Click here for information. (12/9)

President Obama Announces More Steps Toward Export Control Modernization (Source: AIA)
President Obama presented a series of initiatives at today’s meeting of the President’s Export Council chaired by Boeing's James McNerney to speed the progress of export control modernization. The announcement included the launch of a process to revise the U.S. Munitions List (USML) and Commerce Control List (CCL), along with the results of a first attempt at revising export controls on military vehicles, proposals to eliminate Commerce licensing requirements for low sensitivity, dual-use exports to close partners and allies and establishment of a consolidated list of entities that require extra scrutiny by U.S. companies before exporting. (12/9)

SpaceX Reveals Dragon’s "Secret" Payload (Source: Collect Space)
Before the successful launch, voyage, and recovery of SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft, the first time in history a commercial company has recovered a spacecraft from orbit, reporters were buzzing with news of a "secret" payload, stowed on board. It was a payload so secret, SpaceXers made it Top Secret (think Val Kilmer 1984, not official US Government). So what was inside the mystery package? Their tribute to Monty Python. A wheel of cheese. See photos here. (12/9)

Defense Contractors Brace for Impending Military Cuts (Source: AIA)
With major budget cuts looming for the Pentagon, many defense contractors are beginning to doubt whether the military will ever get to actually see the $100 billion that Defense Secretary Robert Gates hoped would be made available for military modernization as the result of a broad attempt to reduce wasteful spending. Many say the midterm election results, which put fiscal conservatives into office to rein in federal spending, likely pose a big threat to Gates' plan. (12/9)

GeoEye To Purchase Spadac for $46 Million (Source: Space News)
Earth imagery provider GeoEye on Dec. 8 said it has agreed to purchase 100 percent of geospatial services company Spadac for $46 million in cash and stock in a transaction GeoEye hopes will expand its customer portfolio in defense and intelligence markets. (12/9)

Hall To Chair House Science & Technology Committee (Source: AmericaSpace)
Politico is reporting that Ralph Hall will be the next Chairman of the House Science & Technology Committee, after beating back a challenge from Dana Rohrabacher. For those who support a strong national human space flight program, this is very good news. Rep. Hall has been a staunch supporter of NASA, our human space flight program, and returning to the Moon. (12/8)

Hawaii Asteroid-Hunting Telescope Launch Delayed (Source: AP)
The University of Hawaii expects to delay by about two years the launch of a new asteroid-hunting telescope it plans to build at Mauna Kea's summit. The school's Institute for Astronomy plans to build the Pan-STARRS telescope on the site of the university's existing 2.2 meter telescope after demolishing the older facility. The telescope will scan the sky for asteroids as well as phenomena like supernova, or exploding stars. (12/9)

Island Clearcut Could Serve As Home For Canadian Spaceport (Source: West Coaster)
Dr. Redouane Al Fakir, an astrophysicist at Green College, the University of British Columbia, says he’d like to use a clearcut as the site of a spaceport, which would launch rockets and satellites into space. “I want to find a place that is in a remote location, preferably a place already logged out,” he said. “For me to do something with that land’s almost like bringing it back to life.”

Earlier this week, Al Fakir made headlines when media outlets reported he’d like to build a spaceport in either Prince Rupert or Tofino. He was actually referring to the area between Tofino and Prince Rupert, and a logged off section of northern Vancouver Island would do, too. A launch facility, he said, would need about as much space as a school occupies and would cost $50 million to $100 million to build. (12/9)

Successful Test Flight is Giant Step for SpaceX (Source: LA Times)
"There was just so much to go wrong and it all went right," said Elon Musk, the founder and chief executive of SpaceX. "It was just mind-blowingly awesome... If there had been people sitting in Dragon today they would've had a nice ride," Musk said. SpaceX said it has spent about $600 million developing its technology. In the late 1950s, the U.S. government sunk about $3 billion into developing NASA's Mercury program, which carried the nation's first man into space.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said Wednesday's mission was akin to Charles Lindbergh's first nonstop flight from New York to Paris in 1927 that helped launch commercial aviation. "This successful demonstration flight is an important milestone in meeting the objectives outlined by President Obama and Congress, and shows how government and industry can leverage expertise and resources to foster a new and vibrant space economy," Bolden said. (12/9)

CR Passes House, With an Interesting Shuttle Provision (Source: Space Politics)
The House narrowly approved a yearlong continuing resolution that splits the difference between the authorized level of $19 billion for NASA and the FY10 level of just over $18.7 billion, and includes funds for HLV development as well as COTS and commercial crew. The Senate plans to develop its own omnibus spending bill which, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) says would also fund NASA at $18.9 billion, but allocate funds among various programs differently. There’s some question, though, if the Senate version would win out over the House’s CR.

The House CR includes a minor but interesting item on page 34. The CR devotes nearly a page to issues associated with the disposition of shuttle orbiters, in particular cutting a special deal for the Smithsonian. “[S]hould the [NASA] Administrator determine that the Smithsonian Institution is an appropriate venue for an orbiter, such orbiter shall be made available to the Smithsonian at no or nominal cost,” the CR states. The Smithsonian had earlier been given, in effect, right of first refusal on Discovery, but was still on the hook for the costs to accept it, estimated by NASA to be $28.8 million. (12/9)

House CR Includes $60 Million for Post-Shuttle Economic Adjustment (Source: SPACErePORT)
The House's newly passed year-long Continuing Resolution for NASA's budget includes a provision allowing $60 million to be transferred to the Economic Development Administration (EDA) "to spur regional economic growth in areas impacted by Shuttle retirement and Exploration programmatic changes". President Obama had requested $100 million for the program, $40 million for Florida and $60 million for other states that will be impacted by the Shuttle's retirement.

$5 million of the Florida funds would be used to fund start-up of a new FAA Tech Center for commercial space transportation at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The other $35 million would be distributed in the form of EDA "Regional Innovation Cluster" grants. Proposals have already been submitted by Florida organizations, and awards are scheduled to be announced in January. Click here to see the CR bill. (12/9)

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