January 18, 2011

California Space Authority Picks Contractor for Space Center Development (Source: CSA)
The California Space Authority (CSA) has selected Specialty Construction of San Luis Obispo as the apparent successful offeror to complete the first phase of the California Space Center, and education-oriented visitor complex near the entrance to Vandenberg Air Force Base. The first phase will include preparations of the 71-acre site, including the removal of existing concrete pads and the installation of basic utilities. Contract negotiations are scheduled to begin on January 28. Specialty Construction was one of six companies that submitted formal proposals for the first phase. Work under the contract is scheduled to begin the first quarter of 2011. (1/18)

NSF CubeSat Program Hits Budgetary Speed Bump (Source: SPACErePORT)
The first of the National Science Foundation (NSF) CubeSat missions, the Radio Aurora Explorer (RAX), is now in space following a perfect launch on-board a Minotaur rocket from Kodiak Alaska on Nov. 19. The other five NSF already-funded CubeSat projects are also making great progress and the program is looking forward to the next launches in the Fall of 2011.

Unfortunately, the uncertain budget situation for NSF for FY 2011 has caused a delay in starting any new CubeSat projects from among the proposals submitted in May 2010. (NSF still plans to start at least one new project from this pool and expects to announce the winner(s) soon.) NSF will postpone its next CubeSat competition, shifting the deadline for proposals to Nov. 2011 rather than May 2011 as announced earlier. (1/18)

Virginia Space Flight Authority Seeks Protection for Pricing Information (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Virginia legislature will consider Senate Bill 1337 to protect from public disclosure information from the Commercial Space Flight Authority "relating to rate structures or charges for the use of projects of, the sale of products of, or services rendered by the Authority; or [trade secret and financial] records provided by a private entity". The proposed measure is similar to Florida public-records exemptions afforded to Space Florida for its dealings with private companies. (1/18)

Virginia Legislature Commends STS-1 (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The Virginia House of Delegates has passed House Joint Resolution 560 commending NASA for 30 years of scientific and technological excellence resulting from flying the Space Shuttle and for continuing to power us into the 21st century, which will preserve United States leadership in space exploration, states the resolution offered by six members of the 100 member House. The measure now goes to the 40-member Virginia Senate which is expected to pass the measure this week.

The Virginia General Assembly commending resolution references the upcoming utiltization of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Va. for re-supply of the International Space Station beginning late this year. The resolution notes that the spaceport well positioned to be a leader in the space industry to develop future space vehicles and provide commercial space launch services that will create new jobs and inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. (1/18)

Virginia Cited as Space Law Trendsetter (Source: Spaceports Blog)
Virginia was cited as space law trendsetter by Eva-Jane Lark, a Vice-President and Investment Advisor with BMO Nesbitt Burns, in a paper Economic Incentives & Tax Credits for Space Resource Development. "Virginia is [a] state with space-specific incentives. Their Zero-G, Zero tax Act of 2008 provides for tax exemptions on income earned from the sale of training for spaceflight participants, launch services to them or from delivering payloads for NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) resupply services contracts."

"The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority and the operations of the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) and Wallops Island can also exempt equipment imported for the purposes of launch from import/export duties and launch consumables from sales tax," the investment advisor notes. "It has the authority to issue bonds for infrastructure development and provides liability protection for space transportation companies and their contractors. These incentives led to Orbital Sciences Corp.’s decision to launch its Taurus II vehicle (partially funded by NASA COTS) out of MARS." (1/18)

Some JWST Hardware Nears Completion Amid Reviews (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Contractors and instrument teams working on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will deliver critical pieces of the observatory this year, despite growing anxiety over the mission's ultimate launch date and price tag. Engineers and scientists on two continents are building and testing gold-coated mirrors, the observatory's scientific heart and four astrophysics payloads that will peer back in time to observe the genesis of stars and galaxies. Although key components of the telescope will be finished by the end of 2011, integration of those parts, construction of the spacecraft bus and years of testing are still to come.

The mission has been mired in budget and schedule trouble since NASA formally green-lighted the project in 2008, and problems were brewing even before then. The rising costs caught the attention of Congress this year, when Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., requested an independent review of the budget difficulties, which were threatening other high-priority science probes and the future of NASA's astronomy program.

The review panel concluded the earliest JWST could launch is September 2015. The board predicted the project's life-cycle cost would be at least $6.5 billion. Before the report's release in November, NASA was estimating the mission's cost around $5.1 billion and forecasting a launch in June 2014. (1/18)

Dragon "Pusher" Escape System Could Enable Touch-Down on Land (Source: Spaceports Blog)
Under NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDev2) proposal to NASA, a primary focus is the launch abort system for Dragon. SpaceX is seeking to implement the crew-related elements of Dragon’s design with specific hardware milestones, including: initial design of abort engine and crew accommodations; static fire testing of the launch abort system engines; and prototype evaluations by NASA crew for seats, control panels and cabin.

SpaceX has proposed an integrated "pusher" style launch abort system design [with thruster engines integrated underneath the Dragon capsule], thereby reducing cost since the escape system returns with the spacecraft. Such a system also enables superior landing capabilities since the escape engines can potentially be used for a precise land landing of Dragon under rocket power with an emergency chute retained as a backup system for maximum safety. (1/18)

Galileo Price Rises 1.9 Billion Euros (Source: BBC)
Europe will have to spend a further 1.9 billion euros ($2.54 billion) to complete its Galileo satellite-navigation system. The European Commission says the money will be needed beyond 2014 to raise the number of spacecraft in orbit to 30. EC Vice-President Antonio Tajani said the 3.4bn euros already committed to Galileo was money well spent.

Contracts have already been issued to build and launch 18 spacecraft which should give Galileo an initial operating capability from 2014 onwards. To be able to offer all the services envisaged for the system will require 12 more satellites, however. Galileo will work alongside the American Global Positioning System (GPS). It is expected to improve substantially the availability and accuracy of timing and navigation signals delivered from space.

Editor's Note: Galileo has been a source of concern for the U.S. military. The DOD currently can restrict access to GPS high-accuracy geolocation data (for weapons targeting, etc.), but they won't have such control over Galileo. With Galileo, Glonass, Beidou and other geolocation satellite systems under development, non-DOD users and devices will soon have access to signals from multiple on-orbit platforms, combining them for ultra-precise and redundant geolocation services. (1/18)

NASA Panel Warns Of Space Policy Confusion (Source: Aviation Week)
Continuing uncertainty over U.S. civil space policy is increasingly a safety and economic risk to the nation, according to a new report by the independent ASAP review panel charged with overseeing safety at NASA. “A key point has been made by each Center that the ASAP has visited over this past year — the lack of guidance, clarity, and mission has increased the potential for risk, negative consequences to the workforce."

“...More importantly, from the aspect of safety, the lack of a defined mission can negatively affect workforce morale and the ability to attract and maintain the necessary skill sets needed for this high-technology venture.”

The panel also raised questions about the proposed shift to commercial crew transport, including exactly who will provide safety oversight for astronauts and the general public and how they will do it. The report stresses the need for NASA to work closely with FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation as it moves toward commercial flights to the Space Station, melding NASA’s experience operating human spacecraft with FAA’s 25-year history overseeing commercial launches. (1/18)

Northrop Grumman Verifies Crosslink Capability Between STSS Demo Satellites (Source: Northrop Grumman)
The effectiveness of the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) Demonstration satellites has been expanded after a communications crosslink was activated and successfully tested by Northrop Grumman and Raytheon.

The radio frequency (RF) relay between the missile defense satellites establishes communications between one spacecraft that is out of view of a ground station through the other satellite, which is in range, according to Doug Young, vice president of Missile Defense and Warning programs for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. (1/18)

Orbiting [Chinese] Dragons (Source: Heritage Foundation)
At the 2009 Sino-American summit, President Obama committed the US to dispatching the head of NASA to China, in return for a reciprocal visit by his “appropriate Chinese counterpart,” i.e., a player to be named later. A year later, NASA Administrator Bolden has visited China (although it remains unclear to what end), yet there is no sign that an “appropriate Chinese counterpart” has even been designated. This should be a warning sign, since China’s presence in space has been steadily improving.

In 2010, China launched a record 15 satellites, the first time since the Cold War that any state has matched the rate of American launches in a year. In 2011, China will launch the Tiangong-1, a spacelab, and engage in docking maneuvers with their Shenzhou spacecraft. Meanwhile, China is striving to complete its indigenous Beidou navigation satellite system, a rival to the American GPS system. And China’s network of Yaogan remote sensing satellites, capable of providing essential military intelligence, is also progressively expanding.

The Administration must act to safeguard its superiority in space. Chinese (and Russian) efforts at space arms control are often blatantly one-sided (such as forbidding space-based anti-satellite weapons, but not ground-launched systems such as the one China tested in 2007), and should be viewed with appropriate skepticism. As the Administration looks beyond the summit with President Hu, it must recognize that not only will the United States and China interact on Earth, but increasingly it will do so in the heavens. (1/18)

Sino-American Space Communique Coming? (Source: Spaceports Blog)
Chinese President Hu Jintao, who is expected to step down as president and general secretary of China's Communist Party in 2012, arrives in Washington for his first and last state visit, billed as the most important by a foreign leader to the United States in thirty years. During President Obama's visit to Beijing in 2009, there were discussions and a diplomatic communique on space relations between the two nations. However, no measurable progress has been made on joint space missions, access by the Chinese to the International Space Station, or protocols for in-space rescue missions between the US and China or among the three human space flying nations. (1/18)

Industry Urges GOP Freshmen to See Benefits of Pentagon Contracts (Source: AIA)
The defense industry is working to urge the new class of freshman Republican lawmakers to consider that Pentagon contracts strengthen the economy and create jobs as Congress moves toward spending cuts. With many GOP freshmen tied to pledges to Tea Party backers to cut federal spending, however, the industry could face an uphill battle. "There is no question many freshmen were elected with reducing the deficit as job one," said Marion Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association. (1/18)

Corporate Sponsorship Could give Mars Mission a Big Boost (Source: AIA)
When the first manned mission to Mars is launched, the rocket could easily be draped in the logos of some big-spending corporate sponsors. In the latest issue of the Journal of Cosmology, one scientist asserts that clever marketing and advertising could help raise between $30 billion and $90 billion to help with the nearly $150 billion that is needed to develop the program. (1/18)

Advertising Could Pay for a Mission to Mars, Scientist Says (Source: FOX News)
Corporate sponsorships may be the key funding boost for a mission to Mars, researchers say. Welcome to the manned mission to Mars -- brought to you with limited interruptions by Bud Light. It's not so crazy, actually: One of the biggest obstacle to a potential space mission is finding the almost $150 billion dollars needed to develop the program. And tagging a future spaceship with the word “Drinkability” may seem ridiculous, but it's exactly what Rhawn Joseph has proposed in the latest issue of the Journal of Cosmology.

“With clever marketing and advertising and the subsequent increase in public interest, between $30 billion to $90 billion can be raised through corporate sponsorships, and an additional $1 billion a year through individual sponsorships,” wrote Joseph, a scientist with the Brain Research Laboratory in California. Two straight years of intense worldwide scrutiny seems like the opportunity of a lifetime, yet the dozen or so companies FoxNews.com contacted were hesitant to speculate about their potential involvement. (1/18)

NASA's Hansen Prefers Rule by Decree to Fight 'Global Warming' (Source: Washington Times)
November's election made it quite clear that the people of the U.S. do not want to radically change our society in the name of global warming. Pretty much every close House race went to the Republicans, while the Democrats won all the Senate squeakers. The nation's most prominent publicly funded climatologist is officially angry about Congress' inaction, blaming democracy and citing the Chinese government as the "best hope" to save the world from global warming. He also wants an economic boycott of the U.S. sufficient to bend us to China's will.

NASA laboratory head James Hansen's anti-democracy rants were published while he was on a November junket in China. According to Mr. Hansen, compared to China, we are "the barbarians" with a "fossil-money- 'democracy' that now rules the roost," making it impossible to legislate effectively on climate change. Unlike us, the Chinese are enlightened, unfettered by pesky elections. (1/18)

WikiLeak: German Firm's CEO Removed Over Leaked Cable (Source: Bloomberg)
A German company involved in the building of European navigation system Galileo says it has removed its chief executive after he was quoted in a cable obtained by WikiLeaks as describing the project to a U.S. official as "a stupid idea." OHB-System AG's supervisory board decided to revoke Berry Smutny's appointment as CEO. It said the firm "saw no alternative to this decision in order to effectively avert any further damage to the company."

OHB-System last year won a $754 million contract to build the first 14 satellites for Galileo, Europe's planned rival to the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS. Galileo claims it will be technologically superior to the U.S. Global Positioning System because it will provide more accurate locations for cars, ships and people using navigation devices. (1/18)

New Mexico Spaceport Leadership Changes Concern Former Commissioners (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Some of the former members of the New Mexico Spaceport Commission have expressed concern that the commission, which oversees the $200 million Spaceport America project, is currently devoid of an executive director or a board of directors. On Friday, Gov. Susan Martinez announced that she had removed the members of the spaceport commission's board of directors. She had earlier asked for the resignation of executive director Rich Homans.

Two of the former commissioners said they've been involved in supporting and helping to build the space industry in southern New Mexico for many years and are concerned that the commission, which oversees the $200 million Spaceport America project, is left without leadership. "There's no executive director, there's no legal counsel," one said. Jon Barela, who has been nominated to be the Economic Development Secretary for the state, will oversee operations of the spaceport. Calls to his office and cell phone were not answered on Monday. (1/18)

A Private Space Shuttle Replacement (Source: MIT Technology Review)
Once the space-shuttle program ends this year, the only way to get people into orbit and to the International Space Station will be to buy seats on Russia's three-person Soyuz capsules. So NASA, through its Commercial Crew Development program, has given $50 million in grants to companies developing new spacecraft capable of carrying people and supplies into orbit and to the space station.

The recipient of the biggest chunk of this money was the Sierra Nevada Corporation, which received $20 million to develop the Dream Chaser. This spacecraft, the size of a business jet, will take cargo and up to eight people into low Earth orbit, where the space station is located, and then return and land on commercial airport runways.

The company reached all its development milestones for the Dream Chaser last year and is now finishing a battery of tests on the craft's carbon-composite frame. The shell of the spacecraft must be able to endure heavy loads and intense vibrations. So the Dream Chaser frame has been mounted on an earthquake simulator in a lab at the University of Colorado in Boulder. So far, the design has performed as expected. (1/18)

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