January 5, 2010

Reorganization at NASA: More Smoke and Mirrors (Source: SpaceRef.com)
Not everyone is happy with the proposed merger of ESMD (Exploration Systems Mission Directorate) and SOMD (Space Operations Mission Directorate). Sources report that the White House is not sold on the idea and Congress is not exactly keen on it either. One concern is that the merger would make it harder to see how Constellation cancellation is being handled (paid for), how Shuttle is being phased out, how ISS is being operated, and how commercial access to ISS is being brought online.

NASA is forever changing mail codes (and printing new phone books). Indeed, they often seem to spend more times changing management trees and mail codes than they spend on actually executing projects. Oh, and then try and follow program costs as they weave back in time from one organization to another via these managerial reshuffles. Never a straight line can be drawn, making it hard to see what things actually "cost". NASA clearly has no standard operating and managerial paradigm that they follow. (1/5)

Jan. 5, 1972: Nixon OKs ‘Low-Cost’ Space Shuttle (Source: WIRED)
The Mercury and Gemini programs had put Americans into Earth orbit. Apollo had been to the moon seven times — landing four times — and would return to land twice again later in 1972. But NASA wanted a reusable rocket ship to explore Earth orbit and to supply and staff a space station. Nixon gave the go-ahead:

"I have decided today that the United States should proceed at once with the development of an entirely new type of space transportation system designed to help transform the space frontier of the 1970s into familiar territory, easily accessible for human endeavor in the 1980s and ’90s."

"This system will center on a space vehicle that can shuttle repeatedly from Earth to orbit and back. It will revolutionize transportation into near space, by routinizing it. It will take the astronomical costs out of astronautics. In short, it will go a long way toward delivering the rich benefits of practical space utilization and the valuable spinoffs from space efforts into the daily lives of Americans and all people." (1/5)

Bolden: Third Shuttle Flight Would Be Safe (Source: Florida Today)
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden today reiterated a commitment to fly a third shuttle mission this year and said the agency has determined the mission would be safe. The 2010 NASA Authorization Act requests the flight pending an assessment of its safety, which Bolden said is not yet final.

Since no rescue shuttle would be available, the mission dubbed STS-135 would rely in Soyuz spacecraft to gradually return crew members from the International Space Station. Bolden said he was excited about efforts to build up a commercial capability to provide access to low Earth orbit for cargo and people, saying it would allow NASA to focus on a sustainable exploration program.

Bolden also offered assurance Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station would remain the hub of human spaceflight for the foreseeable future. (1/5)

Gates Pushes Back Against White House Proposals for Pentagon Cuts (Source: AIA)
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has reportedly made headway in resisting attempts by the White House to slash weapons spending more severely than the Pentagon was prepared for. Gates originally proposed finding $100 billion in savings over five years from unnecessary programs and reinvesting the savings into troop costs and weapons programs, but the White House proposed bigger cuts and applying the savings instead to narrowing the deficit. Gates has reportedly reduced the proposed cut to $80 billion and is due to brief lawmakers on the plan on Thursday. (1/5)

Defense Forecast for 2011 Sees Industry on Edge (Source: AIA)
A forecast of the defense climate in 2011 suggests continued reductions at major defense companies amid White House plans to possibly scrap major programs such as the F-35B and Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor and slash overall procurement spending by 15%. (1/5)

Ruppersberger: Relaunch the U.S. Space Program (Source: Baltimore Sun)
In 1957, the United States was shocked into action after Russia launched the first man-made satellite. A robust American industry was born. Exciting careers were created for the brightest American scientists. Unprecedented emphasis was put on science research and education. Just about every kid on Earth wanted to be Neil Armstrong.

Today, America is slipping. The president announced plans to cancel Constellation, the plan to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. This move jeopardizes an $11.5 billion investment, puts thousands of skilled scientists out of work, and shakes the very heart of the space industrial base.

Four years ago, I took over as chairman of the Technical and Tactical (T&T) Intelligence Subcommittee. We found undisciplined program management and skyrocketing costs, outdated export controls, no comprehensive space plan and inadequate spacecraft launch capability. Click here to read the editorial. (1/5)

An Incoherent Mess (Source: Transterrestrial Musings)
Congressman Ruppersberger (D-MD) has an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun on space policy. His bottom line: To give up our quest for the moon, Mars and beyond is not what is best for America’s space program. We need a new road map. We must commit to return to the moon through a program run by NASA in partnership with private companies that will invest in bigger, American-made engines to get us to the moon without relying on Russia. This plan must reinvigorate our space industrial base and inspire people, especially younger generations, to dream about our future in space.

While I sort of agree with this, it’s hard to see how he gets there from everything that came before. The implication was that Constellation was actually going to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. Is he aware that this was unlikely to happen before 2030? Is he aware of the Augustine report at all? In complaining about the “investment,” is he familiar with the sunk-cost fallacy? Does he know very few of the people being laid off are “scientists” (perhaps none of them, in fact)? Where is the evidence that China is “pumping money in its space plan” or that it plans a moon landing by 2020? (1/5)

Spacepower and Warfare (Source: NDU Press)
It is a rule in strategy, one derived empirically from the evidence of two and a half millennia, that anything of great strategic importance to one belligerent, for that reason has to be worth attacking by others. And the greater the importance, the greater has to be the incentive to damage, disable, capture, or destroy it. In the bluntest of statements: space warfare is a certainty in the future because the use of space in war has become vital. . . . Regardless of public sentimental or environmentally shaped attitudes towards space as the pristine final frontier, space warfare is coming. (1/5)

NASA Recalculates To Save Weight On Launchers (Source: Aviation Week)
New analysis of one factor that drives structural design in launch vehicles suggests that weight savings of as much as 20% can be achieved in some large components and gives designers a much better understanding of the level of robustness needed for safety.

The NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) at Langley Research Center has spent $13 million since 2007 recalculating and experimentally validating shell-buckling “knockdown factors” that have been in use since the beginning of the space age. Derived from engineering testing that started in the 1920s, the original knockdown factors determine how much additional margin designers need to add to the predicted buckling load of a rocket body.

In the past 30 years, engineers have developed a better understanding of just why a cylindrical structure buckles, and the NESC-led project is using that knowledge to develop and validate less restrictive, more robust knockdown factors. “The original design factors, or knockdown factors, were developed in an era when we didn’t have the great computing capabilities that we have now,” says Mark W. Hilburger, a senior research engineer in the Structural Mechanics and Concepts Branch at Langley. (1/5)

3 South Florida Agencies Sell Virgin Galactic Space Trips (Source: Sun-Sentinel)
Three South Florida travel agencies are among a select list of firms accredited to sell space travel on Virgin Galactic, the space travel company launched by Sir Richard Branson. Virgin Galactic recently flew their first spacecraft over the Mojave Desert in California and will soon operate from a Spaceport America terminal in New Mexico.

Forest Travel of Aventura, Sixth Star Travel of Plantation and Unique Travel of Delray Beach are among 76 travel agencies nationwide — and just six in Florida — authorized to sell space travel by Virgin Galactic. Tickets costs $200,000 and deposits stard at $20,000. Plans call for Virgin Galactic to offer three flights a day, five days a week. Each flight can carry six passengers and two pilots. (1/5)

India to Launch Two Communication Satellites This Year with Arianespace (Source: PTI)
India plans to launch at least two large communication satellites within this calendar year to tide over the scarcity of transponders due to the failure of two consecutive GSLV missions. The space agency has also decided to turn to the tried and tested Arianespace for the twin launches scheduled for March and December this year. (1/5)

India Plans Regional Navigation Satellite System (Source: The Hindu)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is planning to implement the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) to provide the PNT (Position Navigation and Timing) service to India and neighbouring countries. The government had approved the IRNSS project, which would be implemented in the next few years. The proposed system would comprise seven satellites initially and 11 later. (1/5)

Japan May Make Second Try at Akatsuki-Venus Rendezvous One Year Earlier Than Planned (Source: Mainichi)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is now considering making a second attempt to insert the Akatsuki probe into Venus' orbit in about five years time -- one year earlier than it was believed possible. The Akatsuki probe failed to enter Venus' orbit on schedule on Dec. 7 last year after its engine cut out during a reverse thrust burn, sending it shooting past the planet and into an orbit around the Sun faster than its destination planet.

JAXA had said the craft would be in position for another attempt in six years, but despite the Akatsuki's loss of engine power, the agency now says it may be possible to bump up the second run by slowly decelerating the craft and letting Venus catch up with it. (1/5)

GSLV Failed as German-Made Connectors Snapped (Source: IBN Live)
The 10 connectors that snapped prematurely destroying the geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) on December 25 were imported from Germany, an Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) official said. Commands from the rocket's on-board computers - located atop other equipments including the three stages/engines - are relayed through wires. Asked if it was a failure of the connectors, Alex said: "A committee has been set up to study the reasons for the connectors to snap. Even the back up connectors snapped." (1/5)

Forecasts 2011: Space - Changes Ahead (Source: Flight Global)
After a year of policy U-turns and a funding rollercoaster, 2011 should come as a relief to NASA, after passing at least part of the spaceflight burden to commercial firms. But that means the pressure is on commercial spaceflight companies such as SpaceX and Orbital Flight Sciences, which are not only expected to stage successful launches, but also, ultimately, to turn a profit. Click here to read the article. (1/5)

Long-Term Space Flight May be a Problem for Human Reproduction (Source: Kansas City Star)
Ever dream about a honeymoon in space? You may want to think twice after you hear about Joe Tash’s research. The near-zero gravity of Earth orbit may do serious harm to the male and female reproductive systems, the University of Kansas Medical Center biologist has discovered. Sperm counts drop. Egg-producing ovary cells waste away. At least that’s been the case among the laboratory and space-traveling rodents that Tash has studied. (1/5)

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