February 17, 2011

Worldwide Government Spending On Space To Flatten Over The Next Five Years (Source: Space Daily)
Euroconsult, the leading international consulting and research and firm specializing in the space and satellite sectors, announced the findings of its just-published report "Government Space Markets, World Prospects to 2020." According to the report, government spending on space hit a number of major milestones in recent years, including a historic peak in combined government spending of $71.5 billion in 2010.

However, after 10 years of spending increases across the globe, this trend is about to come to a halt. According to Euroconsult, public space program financing will slow dramatically in the next five years due to several factors. Click here to read the article. (2/17)

NASA Funds Keep August Debut of Orbital's Taurus 2 on Track (Source: Space News)
Satellite and rocket manufacturer Orbital Sciences on Feb. 17 said it has begun receiving cash from NASA to prepare for an inaugural flight of the Taurus 2 rocket, now set for August, to prove the vehicle’s operational status in advance of a flight carrying the company’s Cygnus cargo capsule. Orbital said NASA has committed about $40 million of a planned $120 million needed for the no-payload Taurus 2 launch, being funded in part by NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.

While doubts remain about how much NASA can spend in 2011 while it awaits final budget approval, the agency has found the initial funds needed to permit Orbital to work on the Taurus 2 risk-reduction flight at least through early April, Orbital Chief Executive David W. Thompson said. If NASA’s budget authority is confirmed by then, he said, the remaining $80 million should be forthcoming. (2/17)

Most Republicans in House Opposed NASA Cuts (Source: Huntsville Times)
House Republicans in Washington opposed Wednesday's vote to move money from NASA to a community policing program, a Republican freshman from a NASA district pointed out. U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-AL, who represents a district that is home to Marshall Space Flight Center, also says "the House got it backwards" with Wednesday's vote.

The House voted 228-203 to move $298 million from NASA's budget this year to COPS, a community policing program. The measure was introduced by Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-NY. Republicans cast 169 votes against the Weiner amendment and 70 for it. But it passed when 158 Democrats voted yes. Democrats opposing the move totaled 34. "If the White House had argued for NASA among House Democrats, we would have protected NASA from this cut," Brooks said. (2/17)

Tampa-Area Company Selling Scrap Metal From Shuttle Launch Tower (Source: Tampa Tribune)
As a kid growing up in Orlando, Matt Goldman used to sit in the bleachers at Kennedy Space Center and watch the space shuttle launches. As the shuttle program comes to an end, there's a certain nostalgia for the era of NASA's manned space program. But as he points out the pile of twisted aluminum grates that once served as catwalks for NASA astronauts, Goldman can't afford to be too sentimental.

In his world, it's a commodity – and no more valuable than a nearby container full of soda and beer cans. As president of Pasco Iron & Metal, it's Goldman's job to find a buyers for 4,000 tons of scrap metal as contractors for NASA disassemble the iconic launch tower 39B at Kennedy Space Center. Though his Land O' Lakes company is just 3 years old, Goldman's family has been in the scrap metal and recycling business for decades. He was able to win the bid for one of the largest metal recovery jobs in the state of Florida. (2/17)

NASA IG Says NASA Could Save Money By Using Minotaur Rockets (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA Inspector General (IG) Paul Martin released a report today criticizing NASA's acquisition strategy for commercial launch vehicle services because it does not take advantage of the Minotaur rocket for medium-class missions. "Our analysis shows that use of the Minotaur for certain NASA science missions offers significant savings when compared to the available commercially provided intermediate class launch vehicles cited in NASA's report to Congress."

"Moreover, it also would be less expensive than SpaceX's Falcon 9, which is still under development and not yet certified to carry NASA science missions. For example, if NASA used the Minotaur rather than Falcon 9 or the intermediate-class Atlas V for the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission scheduled for launch in November 2014, the Agency could save between $61 million and $156 million..."

The IG report continued that NASA's explanation for not using Minotaur is that it "could have a negative impact on the domestic commercial rocket industry because it might discourage companies from entering the launch services market," but the IG concludes that it is unlikely they would be ready in time for the SMAP mission. "We believe that NASA should consider using the Minotaur as a launch vehicle for appropriate science missions until cost-effective and reliable commercial launch services are available." (2/17)

Space Florida Preparing Launch Pad for Minotaur Missions (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida recently won a DOD contract to provide facilities and services for Minotaur missions from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The state agency is now engaged in its first task under the contract, to provide a detailed plan for accommodating the new rockets at Launch Complex 46. Minotaur missions could begin in Florida as early as next year.

Minotaur rockets are developed by Orbital Sciences Corp. using components from deactivated military intercontinental and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, including Minuteman and Peacekeeper stages. The newly approved START treaty could expand the Minotaur family's access to Air Force and Navy owned launch facilities at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (2/17)

House Committee Passes FAA Reauthorization Bill (Source: AIA)
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed an FAA reauthorization bill on Wednesday. The bill would nearly eliminate subsidized air service for 155 rural communities across the U.S., though some services in Alaska would continue. In addition, the bill did not contain a provision that would have made it easier for unions to organize on a local basis. The bill will go to the House floor, and the Senate is expected to pass a similar measure later this week. (2/17)

Space Operations, Inc. Announces Orbital Manned Commercial Spacecraft by 2012 (Source: Space Ops. Inc)
Space Operations, Inc. announced plans today to build a two-seat manned orbital spacecraft for commercial and government use. The company plans a test launch on Feb. 20, 2012, with a regular flight schedule beginning in late 2012 or early 2013. The Eclipse spacecraft will utilize the highly successful legacy Gemini technology that was developed by NASA to allow SOI to bring this product to market in a very short time frame.

"We will incorporate modern materials and the latest proven technologies into the design to improve performance. This design was flown successfully 13 times back in the sixties, 10 of those missions were manned," said James Hopkins, company CTO. "The technology will allow for land recoveries and quick refurbishment for future missions," said Hopkins. In addition to the crew, the Eclipse will be able to carry approximately 10,000 pounds of cargo into orbit.

More information about the capsule and company are available at www.SpaceOperationsInc.com. The company will utilize the services of other commercial rocket manufacturers to launch the spacecraft. (2/17)

University Denies Justice to Moon-Rock Thief (Source: Daily Utah Chronicle)
Few life stories are as extraordinary as that of Thad Roberts. Roberts is back at the University of Utah, having served time in prison and worked at NASA. His story is almost beyond belief, involving high-stakes larceny and possibly resolving modern physics with itself. Roberts has served his prison time, but apparently his punishment is not over, thanks to bureaucracy at the University.

At NASA, Roberts orchestrated a heist, stealing $7 million to $20 million worth of moon rocks. He was convicted of grand larceny, conspiracy to commit theft and interstate transportation of stolen property. He was sentenced, pleaded guilty and went to federal prison. While in prison, Roberts received a letter from the university's geology department, insisting that he return work equipment that he had been using at the time of his arrest. He replied by giving the exact location of the equipment and asking for it to be picked up, because he was obviously unable to comply, as he was writing from a jail cell.

The geology department and the U were unsympathetic and suspended him from the program. When he was released, he was still denied the opportunity to complete his degree, despite being readmitted. The mind-bending exercise in absurdity suggests abuse on the part of university officials, and it seems as though Roberts' legal right to due process was violated. (2/17)

The ITAR/Immigration Bifecta of Suck (Source: Selenian Boondocks)
When you combine the stupidity of ITAR as it exists with the difficulty of getting even a green-card for your typical foreign engineering student studying in the US, you get a particularly pathetic situation. While they’re in school, they can get plenty of training, they can even work on aerospace related research (there are certain exemptions in ITAR for research done at places like universities). But then when they graduate, they’re screwed. They only have two options, either go home, or find a job outside aerospace.

This point was driven home to me talking with an India-born aerospace engineering student at the University of Michigan last week. I was out there giving a talk on space entrepreneurship, and afterward this gal comes up to me to ask for help on what to do about work after graduation. She loves being in America, and doesn’t want to leave. She loves aerospace, and it has been her passion. But some folks in DC think that somehow preventing her from using her hard-won education to benefit our country is somehow protecting national security or protecting our borders.

Conversations like this just make me sick inside. Here’s a talented young lady who wants to contribute to our society. But because of a combination of stupid laws, that politicians aren’t willing to change for fear of looking “soft on defense” or “weak on immigration”, I bet there are thousands or tens of thousands of foreign-born engineering students facing similarly crappy choices. (2/17)

Space Coast High School Academy to Visit Embry-Riddle (Source: SPACErePORT)
The aerospace-focused Da Vinci Academy at Merritt Island High School will visit Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Daytona Beach campus on Feb. 23 for tours and briefings at the university's various labs and classrooms. The academy is supported by multiple space-related companies in Brevard County. (2/17)

Launch Domino Effect: STS-133 Launch Date Decision Expected Friday (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Because of a one-day delay in a supply mission launch to the International Space Station, the planned launch of space shuttle Discovery on STS-133 could be delayed one day as well — to Friday, Feb. 25 at 4:24 p.m. instead of what was originally slated — Thursday, Feb. 24 at 4:50 p.m. The reason is Wednesday’s delayed launch of an unpiloted European cargo ship, the Johannes Kepler Automated Transfer Vehicle-2, or ATV-2.

NASA originally stated that a launch of the ATV-2, one day later than originally scheduled, would definitely delay next week’s planned shuttle launch by one day because the ATV-2 had to dock with the ISS more than a day before the shuttle’s planned arrival to the ISS. NASA today, though, said through their twitter feed, “If ATV-2 launches today, STS-133 launch will not necessarily slip as previously thought.” The final decision is expected Friday. (2/17)

Huge Solar Flare Jams Radio, Satellite Signals (Source: AFP)
A powerful solar eruption that triggered a huge geomagnetic storm has disturbed radio communications and could disrupt electrical power grids, radio and satellite communication in the next days, NASA said.

A strong wave of charged plasma particles emanating from the Jupiter-sized sun spot, the most powerful seen in four years, has already disrupted radio communication in southern China. The Class X flash -- the largest such category -- erupted at 0156 GMT Tuesday, according to the US space agency. (2/17)

Wakata Named First Japanese Commander of Space Station (Source: Mainichi Daily News)
Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata has been named the head of the International Space Station (ISS) for the 39th expedition mission, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced. Wakata, 47, has been selected as a long-stay crew member for two consecutive missions scheduled to begin at the end of 2013. He will spend a total of six months on the space station. (2/17)

Editorial: Governor Sets Spaceport Project on New Path (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Eyebrows were raised and some jaws dropped when Gov. Susana Martinez canned the entire Spaceport America board shortly after she took office last month. Some thought it might indicate that Martinez was not going to back the $209 million project. But in fact, Martinez has moved professionally and expeditiously to reconstitute the board, appointing seven members last week.

She said, "New Mexico's taxpayers have made a significant investment in the spaceport project. It's time to see the project through to completion by bringing in private funding." Her words really resonate during these trying economic times. Although we think the spaceport was a good investment for tax money, taxpayers looking to make financial ends meet could use a break with the infusion of private money.

As Martinez said, "With the right leadership and the right approach, the spaceport can be a successful venture that brings jobs to New Mexico." We think she has enabled the spaceport to look forward to solid leadership and a starry future. (2/17)

Editorial: Favoring Cops Over Rocket Ships and Fighter Planes (Source: L.A. Times)
The House debate over HR 1 -- the continuing resolution that would fund the government through Sept. 30 -- has been full of surprises, some of them good ones. Take, for instance, the vote Wednesday to eliminate the back-up engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Having rejected four proposed cuts of varying sizes to the defense budget, the House turned around and killed a project championed by Speaker John A. Boehner (R-OH). The proposal came from second-term Republican Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida, and it passed with broad bipartisan support.

But it's hard to extrapolate from the actions Wednesday to a coherent vision of smaller government. The vote that really confounds me is the one in favor of a proposal by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) to restore $298 million for COPS, a neighborhood policing program. The money is to come out of NASA's budget, shrinking that agency's funds by an additional 1.6%.

I wouldn't argue that hiring cops is more or less important than conducting space missions. But hiring cops is clearly a local responsibility, and NASA is clearly a federal responsibility. If you're going to shrink the federal government, the starting point should be eliminating its involvement in what are purely local affairs. You can't get more local than neighborhood policing... Until NASA has a mission as sexy as winning the race to the moon, it will never be able to compete with programs like COPS. (2/17)

NASA Chops Budget For Upgrades At KSC (Source: Aviation Week)
Efforts to update infrastructure at Kennedy Space Center to accommodate a mix of commercial and government rockets is off to a slow start under the Obama administration’s $18.7 billion spending plan for NASA for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The Florida spaceport would receive $128 million to kick off its 21st Century Launch Complex program and a total of $470 million over five years, the president’s new budget shows. Obama last year requested $500 million in 2012 and $1.9 billion over five years for the project. The new spending plan includes $1.8 billion for a new heavy-lift launch vehicle, a program that should buttress overall spending at KSC (and include some infrastructure upgrades). (2/17)

Bobby Block Leaves Orlando Sentinel for SpaceX Job (Source: SPACErePORT)
Award-winning space journalist Robert Block is leaving journalism and has accepted a job as Vice President of Communications with SpaceX. He says he'll be starting on March 1, based initially at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (2/17)

Virginia Commercial Human Space Flight Revenue Measure Passes House (Source: Spaceports Blog)
On a vote of 89 to 8, the Virginia House of Delegates, followed the Senate (40 to 0), in sending to Gov. Robert McDonnell a measure to earmark any human space flight or human space flight training generated state income tax revenue to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. Gov. McDonnell offered administration support to the bill in the House following Virginia-based Space Adventures support in the Senate.

The measure, upon signature of the governor, is expected to become effective July 1, 2011 for tax years 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Space Adventures is expected to resume commercial space flights on the Soyuz to the ISS in 2013-2014 and, perhaps, enlist two lunar space tourists for a $300-million flight around the Moon in 2015. The income tax paid by Space Adventures to Virginia would be promptly directed to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority for spaceport infrastructure. The Virginia corporate tax rate is 5%. (2/17)

Google Lunar X PRIZE Announces Official Final Roster of Competing Teams (Source: SpaceRef.com)
The X PRIZE Foundation announced the official roster of 29 registered teams competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, an unprecedented competition to send a robot to the Moon that travels at least 500 meters and transmit video, images, and data back to the Earth. This group of teams signifies this new era of exploration's diverse and participatory nature as it includes a huge variety of groups ranging from non-profits to university consortia to billion dollar businesses representing 17 nations on four continents. The global competition, the largest in history, was announced in September 2007, with a winner projected by 2015.

Today's announcement reveals seven teams that had not been previously announced: Mystical Moon of the USA, targeting a global youth audience as active participants in designing their mission; Space Il of Israel, aimed to promote scientific awareness among Israeli youth as well as develop the nation's space industry; Puli of Hungary, composed of young Hungarian professionals and space enthusiasts; SpaceMETA of Brazil, a group with experience in creating start-ups in fields like wireless and power line communications and design thinking processes; and Plan B of Canada, utilizing existing technologies in software, microprocessors, communication, guidance, and robotic systems for their technology.

Also included are Penn State Lunar Lions of the USA, a combination of students and faculty and engineers from the Applied Research Laboratory at the Pennsylvania State University; Angelicum Chile of Chile, a mix of students, professionals, and entrepreneurs with engineering backgrounds; Indus of India, led by a serial entrepreneur with more than ten years of experience in developing new businesses; and Phoenicia of the USA, a former Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X CHALLENGE competitor who has worked for a variety of small groups and companies interested in building small launch vehicles. (2/17)

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