January 13, 2011

Chairman Hall Assures Close Oversight of NASA Human Spaceflight Program (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Rep. Ralph M. Hall (R-TX), Chair of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, released the following statement regarding recent reports concerning NASA's human spaceflight program. "It was this Administration that killed the Constellation program, which Congress had repeatedly endorsed. Instead of providing the resources that the Augustine Committee said were necessary to have a program worthy of a great nation, this Administration simply said it was unaffordable, choosing instead to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on other priorities."

"We must work to restore U.S. capability to get American astronauts to and from the International Space Station, once the Shuttle is retired later this year, and I'm not convinced that the commercial market is ready to fill that role. ...NASA should be taking steps to prioritize spending on projects that are likely to have applicability in a future heavy lift vehicle, in an effort to maintain production lines and reduce inefficient use of taxpayer funds."

"However, I agree with the NASA OIG that this is an issue that the Appropriators will need to deal with in an expedient manner, in order to avoid wasteful spending. The Science, Space, and Technology Committee will be paying very close attention to NASA's human spaceflight program and holding several hearings to provide strong Congressional oversight." (1/13)

Excitement Building at Vandenberg for Delta-4 (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The excitement is building at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base for next Thursday's launch of the biggest rocket ever from the West Coast -- the Delta 4-Heavy. Liftoff of the giant rocket, standing 23 stories tall, remains scheduled for 1:08 p.m. (4:08 p.m. EST; 2108 GMT) to deploy a critical national security satellite into space.

The mammoth vehicle is created by taking three Common Booster Cores -- the liquid hydrogen-fueled motor that forms a Delta 4-Medium's first stage -- and strapping them together, then adding a powerful upper stage. The launch was recently delayed a couple of times, enabling technicians to resolve concerns and ensure the rocket will operate perfectly during its climb to orbit. (1/13)

Commercial Satellite Sector Sees Upside to New Space Policy, ITAR Reform (Source: Satellite Today)
The Obama Administration’s new space policy brings an increased emphasis to the commercial satellite industry as a key player in the future space roadmap. Specifically, the policy calls on government space-based agencies to look first to commercial assets – a strategy that it hopes will lead to faster innovation and more economical access to space while fostering international collaboration and shared risk-taking.

Patricia Cooper, president of the Satellite Industry Association (SIA), says the policy “legitimizes a lot of discussions that the satellite industry has been having with both military and civil space agencies on a host of issues, including hosted payloads and collaborating for more secure communications and on-orbit safety.”

To Marion Blakey of AIA, the new policy shows “tremendous potential” for providing healthy growth for both entrepreneurial start-ups and larger firms that have significant commercial space assets. While it’s too soon to determine how the policy ultimately will roll out, many space sector observers expressed optimism that the policy also signals a willingness to look at export control reform. (1/13)

NASA Safety Panel Raises Brain Drain Concerns (Source: SpaceRef.com)
"The panel's first and foremost concern is the lack of clarity and constancy of purpose among NASA, Congress, and the administration," panel Chairman Joseph W. Dyer said. "We believe this increases the likelihood that essential knowledge and competencies in the contractor or government workforce, such as those involving safety considerations, lessons learned, and past experience will not be present to effectively reduce risk in the future." (1/13)

NASA Safety Panel Urges Close Collaboration with FAA on Launch Operations (Source: ASAP)
"If a company is tasked with carrying out a launch, even if that launch is being conducted for the Government, the launch must be licensed by the FAA in order to ensure public safety. To ensure the safety of NASA employees and equipment aboard these launches, NASA must establish its own requirements, determine whether they have been met, and approve each launch. To ensure that NASA’s safety and mission requirements are satisfied, it will be very important for NASA and the FAA to work together closely in providing Government oversight for these operations."

"...Such a process has to envelop the vehicles’ design, maintenance, and operation; the launch/escape systems; and the ground infrastructure. Oversight is not an event; it is a process that continues as long as the system remains in service... The challenge will be for NASA and the FAA to avoid levying conflicting and/or unnecessarily burdensome requirements on the launch operators while still ensuring safe operations."

"...Advantages of this approach include the capability to use existing processes for insurance, cross-waivers, Government indemnification for third-party excess claims, and the FAA’s ability to take enforcement actions, if necessary, to ensure compliance with safety-related regulations. Continuing this same philosophy during the Commercial Crew Development demonstration missions, prior to the flights that are scheduled to carry NASA astronauts, would offer additional opportunities to ensure that the appropriate safety measures were being incorporated in the operations." (1/13)

Masten, Armadillo Updates (Source: X Prize)
2011 has been off to an eventful start for the two Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X CHALLENGE winners. Armadillo Aerospace—-which took home $850,000 in that competition-—is developing a new Tube Rocket design. “Same propellant mass as a MOD [their prize-winning vehicle], less a couple hundred pounds of dry weight and a whole lot less drag!” Click here for a photo.

Masten Space Systems, which took home $1,150,000, is also working on a few new vehicle designs. Last week they conducted the first hold-down test of the new XA-0.1-E2 rocket, also known as “Brutus”. “[We are] very happy with the performance of this first firing. After several more tied down engine tests, we will start flying the vehicle on a tether to verify its navigation skills. Free flights will follow after the tethered tests.” Click here for video.

Editor's Note: It's interesting to watch these two companies re-invent rocket and lander technologies that were demonstrated decades ago. I'm sure that, along the way, they are incorporating improvements that were simply not possible back then. (1/12)

Senate To NASA: Build Us A Big Rocket; It's The Law! (Source: Florida Today)
NASA cannot build a heavy-lift rocket and crew exploration vehicle under the cost, schedule and engineering constraints imposed last fall by Congress, the agency said. Legislators had a curt response: Tough luck. Buck up and get on with it. "The production of a heavy-lift rocket and capsule is not optional. It's the law," U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, and three other members of the Senate Commerce Committee said Wednesday evening in a joint statement.

Editor's Note: There's another emerging complication for NASA and Congress's heavy-lift plans. Since the HLV will be Shuttle- and Ares-derived, NASA expects to be able to convert existing Shuttle and Constellation contracts to support the new vehicle's development. But other contractors are demanding that NASA use a competitive process to develop the new rocket. (1/13)

NASA Says it Needs More Cash, Time to Build Rocket to Replace Shuttle (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Top NASA officials told lawmakers this week that they cannot build the replacement for the space shuttle that Congress wants on the budget and deadline they were given. "These [spacecraft] systems must be affordable, sustainable, and realistic," the agency said in a remarkably candid 22-page report. Congress' plan would not "meet … these goals."

"None of the design options studied thus far appeared to be affordable in our present fiscal conditions, based upon existing cost models, historical data, and traditional acquisition approaches," the report says, adding: "Any [spacecraft] designs selected … must meet the test of being realistic — not relying on assumptions of increased funding or other 'miracles' for attainment."

The bombshell is a major blow to hopes for the quick development of a new heavy-lift rocket and Apollo-like capsule capable of taking humans to the moon and beyond. It is also a major setback for Kennedy Space Center, which is set to lose at least 6,000 jobs during the next year as NASA retires the space shuttle. The center is expected to languish with no follow-on program imminent. (1/13)

NASA Tells Congress it Wants Ares/Shuttle-Derived Heavy-Lift Rocket (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA's wants its new heavy-lift rocket to be an Ares/space shuttle-derived design, the space agency has told Congress, but fears it can't be built with the money and on the schedule Congress wants. Neither can the new crew capsule, which is still called Orion, NASA told Congress. Congress ordered NASA to produce the report last year, and the space agency submitted it Jan. 10. NASA declined to release or discuss the report, saying it was produced for Congress.

NASA says the Ares/shuttle design comes the closest to meeting the schedule Congress wants "with opportunities for affordability that could bring costs down to acceptable levels." The rocket would be powered by five space shuttle main engines propelled by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen and two five-segment solid-rocket motors similar to but larger than those used on the shuttle.was released Wednesday by the Senate Commerce Committee.

Despite the report's clear preference, NASA noted that study teams are still working toward a March deadline for more detailed evaluations. That could mean more heavy-lift designs, even though NASA has already generated some 2,000 different launch vehicle concepts and architectures. Also complicating matters is the fact NASA has recently contracted with 13 companies for heavy-lift studies. Where those studies fit in isn't clear. (1/13)

Florida Hosts 2nd Aviation & Aerospace Manufacturing Summit (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Worldwide’s Center for Aviation and Aerospace Leadership (CAAL), in collaboration with the Aerospace States Association, will be holding its second annual Aviation and Aerospace Manufacturing Summit on February 23-25, 2011, at the Walt Disney World BoardWalk Inn Resort in Orlando. The summit is targeted toward small-to-medium manufacturers, service providers, government agencies, policy makers, economic developers, and educators who serve the aerospace industry.

The array of participating aviation and aerospace leaders reads like a “Who’s Who” in government and industry, including: USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz; Nichole Y. Lamb-Hale, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Manufacturing and Services; MarionBlakely, President and CEO, Aerospace Industries Association (AIA); Tony Velocci, Editor-in-Chief of Aviation Week; Phil McAlister, NASA HQ Special Assistant for Program Analysis; and many others. Click here for information and registration. (1/13)

Register Now for Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference at UCF (Source: UCF)
The 2011 Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference, hosted at the University of Central Florida in Orlando on Feb. 28 - Mar. 2, is just a few weeks away and early registration at discounted rates ends Friday Jan. 21. Visit http://nsrc.swri.org/ for information and registration, and follow on Twitter at @NSRC2011. (1/13)

With New Leadership, NSS Space Coast Chapter Plans 2011 Kickoff (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Space Coast chapter of the National Space Society ("NSSFL") will hold a 2011 kickoff meeting on Jan. 22, at noon, at Grills restaurant at Port Canaveral. The meeting will cover plans for this year, some already underway. NSSFL will provide some food for your enjoyment. Come kick back with us, meet your fellow members, and have a great time!

Want to know what NSSFL will be doing this year? Want to be a part of something brand new and exciting? Want to make an impact in your community? Want to network with space professionals? Want to meet other fun space enthusiasts and have a great time talking and learning about space? Want to get the politicians listening to us? If you answered yes to any of those questions, this meeting is for you! Click here. (1/13)

The Myth of America's Love Affair with the Moon (Source: Space.com)
An enduring American legend holds that the U.S. space program enjoyed broad enthusiastic support during the race to land a man on the moon. In reality, polls show that levels of public support look remarkably similar today as they did 50 years ago. Public opinion in favor of continuing human lunar exploration almost never rose above 50 percent during NASA's Apollo program – but the lone exception was in October 1965. Americans often ranked spaceflight near the top of programs to be cut in the federal budget during the 1960s buildup toward the first moon landing.

"It's contrary to what the space community wants to believe," said Roger Launius. The only time when more than half of the public believed Apollo was worth the expense came at the time of the Apollo 11 lunar landing in 1969, when Neil Armstrong took humanity's first steps on alien soil. Even then, only a lukewarm 53 percent of the public believed such a momentous historical occasion had been worth the cost.

Such findings suggest that the United States went to the moon not because the public demanded it, but because U.S. presidents and Congress believed it served a greater political purpose during the Cold War, Launius said. He added that any future U.S. effort to send astronauts to the moon would also require a similar political, economic or national defense reason to compel funding for the effort. (1/13)

Integral Mulls Strategic Alternatives, Including Sale (Source: Space News)
Satellite control systems provider Integral Systems has hired a financial adviser to assess “strategic alternatives” including the possible sale of the company. Integral, which is coming off what its management referred to as a rough 2010, said Stone Key Partners LLC will advise Integral management on its options and that management may or may not agree to the proposed course of action. Integral reported a 2010 operating loss of about $1.5 million on revenue of $180 million. (1/13)

NASA SBIR Research Money Wasted, Report Says (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is wasting more than $2 million a year in research funding targeted for small businesses, two senators complained Wednesday. Money from the Small Business Innovation Research program was supposed to stimulate technological innovation. Instead, the agency's inspector general said the program paid vendors multiple times for the same projects. Inspector General Paul Martin found that 25 percent of NASA's payment awards in 2008 were for undocumented or ineligible expenses. (1/13)

Hutchison to Retire from Senate (Source: Space Policy Online)
Politico reports that Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) will not run for reelection to the Senate in 2012. Senator Hutchison is a strong supporter of NASA's Johnson Space Center and the human spaceflight program. She played a critical role in writing and passing the 2010 NASA authorization act. Among other things, she is credited with convincing her Senate Republican colleagues to allow the bill to come to the Senate floor. The bill passed by unanimous consent. Known simply as "KBH" in the Senate, the 67-year old Senator is in her third term. (1/13)

ViviSat Venture Plans Satellite Life Extension Services (Source: ViviSat)
ViviSat provides in-orbit satellite life extension and protection services. ViviSat solutions will enable satellite operators to significantly extend satellite mission length, activate new markets, drive asset value and protect their franchises. ViviSat fulfills the need to extend the lives of the large base of geostationary satellites with life potential limited by fuel or servicing requirements.

U.S. Space and ATK Space Systems created ViviSat to provide satellite operators with the ability to extend satellite mission length with services that are flexible, scalable, capital-efficient and low-risk. U.S. Space is the operating entity, with responsibility for mission management, marketing, legal, and finance. ATK is the mission prime contractor, with responsibility for manufacture and delivery of the spacecraft, launch and ground segments. (1/13)

Backup Commander Replaces Kelly in Near-Term Training (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Veteran shuttle commander Frederick Sturckow will replace Mark Kelly in near-term training for a flight aboard the shuttle Endeavour in April, NASA announced Thursday. With Kelly's wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in critical condition in Tucson with a gunshot wound to the head, the substitution will free Kelly to remain at her bedside while ensuring his crewmates complete critical flight training. NASA officials said Kelly, who endorsed the decision, remains the designated commander of shuttle mission STS-134. Sturckow, a veteran of four previous shuttle missions, will begin training with Endeavour's crew next week. (1/13)

Forget Planet X! New Technique Could Pinpoint Galaxy X (Source: UC Berkeley)
Planet X, an often-sought 10th planet, is so far a no-show, but Sukanya Chakrabarti has high hopes for finding what might be called Galaxy X – a dwarf galaxy that she predicts orbits our Milky Way Galaxy. Many large galaxies, such as the Milky Way, are thought to have lots of satellite galaxies too dim to see. They are dominated by “dark matter,” which astronomers say makes up 85 percent of all matter in the universe but so far remains undetected.

Chakrabarti, a post-doctoral fellow and theoretical astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, has developed a way to find “dark” satellite galaxies by analyzing the ripples in the hydrogen gas distribution in spiral galaxies. Earlier this year, Chakrabarti used her mathematical method to predict that a dwarf galaxy sits on the opposite side of the Milky Way from Earth, and that it has been unseen to date because it is obscured by the intervening gas and dust in the galaxy’s disk. (1/13)

Bolivian President Defends Satellite Project (Source: Xinhua)
Bolivian President Evo Morales said a telecommunications satellite to be built and launched by China would greatly contribute to Bolivia's development. The two countries signed contracts in mid-December to build Bolivia's first telecommunications satellite, named Tupac Katari, and to put it into orbit within three years. Morales rejected opposition lawmakers' view that the project was "silly waste," saying that those who object the satellite construction are "Bolivia's enemies."

He urged the opposition to give up their "backward" political standpoints because the satellite will provide telecommunications service to the entire country and support the country's education and medical initiatives. The satellite is named after Tupac Katari, an 18th century indigenous hero who fought for the country's independence against Spanish colonialists. (1/13)

Indonauts Must Wait For A Better Rocket (Source: Space Daily)
The 2010 Christmas Day failure of India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle was a sad blow to India's space program. ISRO, India's space agency, lost a rocket and a major satellite. There's an obvious need to plan a replacement for the lost bird, and debug the problems that caused the failure. Beyond this, there could be further implications. The loss of this rocket will have an influence on India's fledgling human spaceflight program.

India announced plans for a space capsule in 2008, and planning has gone on without much comment ever since. The capsule is a blunt, conical spacecraft with a cylindrical service module. It's designed to carry up to three astronauts. The generically dubbed "orbital vehicle" is designed to be launched by a modified version of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, the same rocket that recently failed. (1/13)

SpaceX Getting Millions from NASA as it Hits Milestones (Source: LA Times)
SpaceX has received $25 million from NASA since successfully launching its 18-story Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon space capsule from Cape Canaveral last month. The company has developed the Dragon capsule under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. The spacecraft, which can carry as many as seven astronauts, is considered a contender for the multibillion-dollar job of ferrying crews to and from the International Space Station after the space shuttle is retired.

SpaceX already has a $1.6-billion contract with NASA to have the Dragon capsule transport cargo to the space station, a job that could start this year. In addition to the flight, SpaceX achieved four ground-based milestones worth $5 million each from NASA. The company successfully tested the effect of vibrations on cargo in the Dragon and demonstrated that it could carry out the test at its sprawling facility in Hawthorne. The company also tested the capsule's sensors and solar panels, which are key to docking with the space station. SpaceX employs more than 1,100 people, mostly in California. (1/13)

Pasadena's Latest Tenants Make Robots for Moon and Mars Missions (Source: Pasadena Star News)
At first glance, the new tenants at The Business Park on East Washington Boulevard look fairly ordinary. But on closer inspection, you realize you are staring at some of the most intricate robots found outside of a sci-fi movie. With two human employees and a whole lot of machines, Honeybee Robotics last August became one of the latest firms to join Pasadena's litany of scientists, engineers and developers.

The New York-based company makes and designs technologies and products for advanced robotic and spacecraft systems. After 27 years of operation, the company recently opened its West Coast operations facility with the help of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce. The company has completed more than 250 advanced projects for NASA, JPL, the Department of Defense, the mining industry and other sectors. The company uses its Pasadena facility to conduct much of the product testing that goes into development. (1/13)

No comments: