February 10, 2011

Virgin Galactic Plans Orlando Presentation on Feb. 28 (Source: FSGC)
George Whitesides, CEO and President of Virgin Galactic, will discuss the promise of space tourism and how new vehicles in development will open new avenues for science and technology. The presentation will be hosted by UCF on Feb. 28 at 8:00 p.m. at their Pegasus Ballroom. Click here for information. (2/10)

House Appropriators Will Cut $100 Billion from President's FY2011 Request (Source: Space Policy Online)
Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, announced this afternoon that his committee will yield to demands of the Tea Party Republicans and cut $100 billion from the budget in the upcoming Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government for the rest of FY2011. The cut will be from the FY2011 President's budget request, not current spending levels at the FY2010 level.

The cuts announced by the committee yesterday totaled $74 billion from the FY2011 request, meaning that an additional $26 billion in cuts are needed. The cuts will have an even greater impact because they will have to be absorbed by the affected agencies over just 7 months instead of 12 months because the new legislation will not be enacted until at least March, when five months of FY2011 will have elapsed. Click here for a spreadsheet detailing the cuts. (2/10)

ATK: We’ll Build Liberty With or Without NASA Funding (Source: Parabolic Arc)
It looks like ATK and Astrium would move ahead with building its Liberty rocket even if it doesn’t get a portion of the $200 million NASA is set to distribute next month as part of the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program:

Regardless of whether the government agrees to help fund ATK’s rocket... the Utah company intends to move forward with its project because it believes there will be no shortage of commercial customers. "With that seed money we would be able to test launch Liberty in 2013 and have it fully operational by 2015,” said an ATK spokeswoman. “Absent that funding, our first test would be in 2015, with the Liberty fully operational a couple of years later.”

Editor's Note: Would ATK's plan be consistent with a separate and concurrent NASA heavy-lift program? They probably could both use the VAB, and one of the Shuttle launch pads and a Mobile Launcher Platform (MLP) have already been converted for the similar Ares-1X. And NASA has two Crawler-Transporter vehicles. But the MLP that was converted (at much expense) for Ares-1X might be preferred by NASA to support the heavy-lift program. (2/10)

Giffords for Senate? (Source: Space Policy Online)
Senator Jon Kyl's (R-AZ) announcement that he will not run for reelection in 2012 set off rampant speculation as to who will compete to replace him. One of the often mentioned names is Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). Almost unthinkable four weeks ago, her miraculous recovery to date continues to spur optimism about her future. (2/10)

NASA Considering Soyuz Flyaround to Photograph Discovery and ISS (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
NASA managers are investigating a proposed plan that would see a Soyuz spacecraft undock from the International Space Station (ISS) during the upcoming STS-133 mission in order to take photographs of the orbital outpost, along with its record number of attached Visiting Vehicles (VVs) and the docked Space Shuttle Discovery. (2/10)

Editorial: Florida, Listen Up (Source: Florida Today)
A space cowboy named Robert Bigelow came to town last week and offered an enticing glimpse of what the future might bring: A Space Coast manufacturing plant that could employ 1,500 to 2,000 workers later this decade to build inflatable modules for commercial space stations. Bigelow is not an entrepreneur to dismiss.

We trust those in attendance got the message about the need for aggressive, pro-business space policies in Florida, but we have continuing doubts about lawmakers in Washington and Tallahassee. That’s because politics is indeed screwing up the plan to grow the private launch business here as members of Congress’ battle over federal budget cuts threatens increases in NASA’s nearly $19 billion budget. (2/10)

For OHB, 2010 Looks Good, 2011 Even Better (Source: Space News)
Satellite and rocket-component builder OHB Technology of Germany on Feb. 10 said it expects to report a 43 percent increase in revenue for 2010 compared to 2009 and that 2011 is likely to see a further increase of 30 percent. OHB said that when its final 2010 figures are reported in March, they likely will show a pretax profit of 22 million euros ($30 million) on revenue of 460 million euros. For 2011, it said, revenue will increase to more than 600 million euros, with pretax profit of more than 27 million euros. (2/10)

NASA Announces Plan To Win The Future With FY-2012 Budget (Source: SpaceRef.com)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will brief reporters about the agency's fiscal year 2012 budget at 2 p.m. EST on Monday, Feb. 14. Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Robinson will join Bolden. The news conference will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency's web site. Questions will be taken from news media representatives at headquarters and NASA field centers. (2/10)

Massive Layoffs Await NASA Workforce as Shuttle Program Winds Down (Source: TPM)
As NASA's space shuttle program comes closer to its long-scheduled termination later this year, concern is growing in Florida and around the country about the future of the massive workforce currently employed both directly and indirectly by the program. Brevard County -- home to tens of thousands of highly trained and specialized aerospace workers -- is bracing itself for the worst.

Many fear the impending end of the shuttle program will bring about a repeat of the economic devastation of 1975, when NASA abruptly cancelled the Apollo program; everything from rocket science to real estate was impacted, practically overnight.

Some analysts in Brevard County, however, believe the area is better prepared than it was 35 years ago. "I think, basically, the job losses won't be as large in sheer number and they won't be as dramatic in terms of abruptness," says Dale Ketcham, director of the Spaceport Research & Technology Institute. "The local community is also substantially larger and more diversified to absorb that kind of a blow." (2/10)

Pentagon to Request $7 Billion Less Than Expected for Budget (Source: AIA)
The Pentagon plans to request about $113 billion for weapons in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, down $7 billion from the $120.3 billion the Defense Department had forecast for base budget procurement last year for fiscal 2012, according to government sources. The budget will include 32 F-35 jets for the Air Force and Navy, software upgrades for the F-22 fighter and additional MC-130 transports for special operations. (2/10)

General to Defense Contractors: Stop "Blowing Smoke" (Source: AIA)
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz had harsh words for defense contractors this week in the latest example of Pentagon officials underscoring the need to change to adapt to the new fiscal environment. Schwartz said defense firms need to stop "blowing smoke" in overpromising what they deliver and when it will be ready. "There's no time for it. There's no patience for it. OK?," he told a ballroom of defense industry executives. (2/10)

Report: Obama Budget May Cut $1.1 Billion in Airport Grants (Source: AIA)
In an effort to upgrade the nation's aging air traffic control system, President Barack Obama may propose a 31% cut in airport construction grants. An expected move to cut the grants from $3.5 billion to $2.4 billion "would obviously have an impact" on airports across the country, the American Association of Airport Executives told a House aviation panel on Wednesday. Airport executives hope to make up for the federal cutbacks by raising passenger facilities charges from $4.50 to as much as $7.00 per passenger, a proposal that the airlines oppose. (2/10)

Apophis Asteroid Could Hit Earth In 2036, Scientists Say (Source: Huffington Post)
Apophis Asteroid is back in the news after a Russian report concluded it could hit Earth in 2036. They even have a date for the potential impact. "It's likely collision with Earth may occur on April 13, 2036," Professor Leonid Sokolov of St. Petersburg State University concluded, according to UPI, which also reports an unrelated 4-foot-wide asteroid passed by Earth this week. (2/10)

House Tea Party Republicans May Force Deeper Cuts (Source: Space Policy Online)
The cuts proposed by the House Appropriations Committee reportedly are not being warmly received by the conservative Tea Party Republicans in the House who promised to cut $100 billion in spending during their campaigns. Using NASA as an example, its FY2010 level is $18.724 billion, while the FY2011 request is $19 billion.

The House appropriations committee proposed a $379 million cut to NASA's FY2011 request, which would give the agency $18.621 billion, $103 million less than its FY2010 level. Under the Tea Party Republican approach of using the FY2010 level as the baseline, NASA would end up with $18.345 billion. Any cut would have to be absorbed in just 7 months instead of 12 months, since 5 months of FY2011 will have passed by the time the current CR expires on March 4. (2/10)

Boeing Still Seeking $356M from Sea Launch Partners (Source: Space News)
Boeing has not abandoned its effort to collect $356 million from its former Sea Launch commercial launch service partners in Russia and Ukraine despite an initial setback at a Swedish arbitration panel, saying the companies in question “have the wherewithal to pay,” Boeing said Feb. 9.

Long Beach, Calif.-based Sea Launch is emerging from bankruptcy with fresh cash provided by an affiliate of RSC Energia of Korolev, Russia, the company that Boeing says owes nearly two-thirds of the money it is seeking for reimbursement of loans and bank guarantees it made to Sea Launch. (2/10)

Telenor Ordering Ka-Band Satellite for Maritime Customers (Source: Space News)
Norwegian satellite fleet operator Telenor Satellite Broadcasting on Feb. 10 said it will order a new satellite equipped with Ka-band capacity for high-bandwidth transmissions to maritime customers in the North, Baltic and Mediterranean seas. It will be Telenor’s first use of Ka-band and represents a regional challenge to Inmarsat’s planned global Ka-band satellite network. (2/10)

A Race Against Time to Find Apollo 14's Lost Voyagers (Source: NASA)
In communities all across the U.S., travelers that went to the moon and back with the Apollo 14 mission are living out their quiet lives. The whereabouts of more than 50 are known. Many, now aging, reside in prime retirement locales: Florida, Arizona and California. A few are in the Washington, D.C., area. Hundreds more are out there -- or at least, they were. And Dave Williams of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., wants to find them before it's too late. Click here. (2/10)

Boeing Probes International Market for Human Spacecraft (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Boeing is weighing international sales of its CST-100 commercial crew spacecraft if NASA selects the firm to continue development of the capsule, a company official said Wednesday. The aerospace powerhouse is designing and testing systems for its CST-100 space capsule, a craft the company says could begin flying astronauts to low Earth orbit by 2015. It will launch on existing rockets to lessen development risk and costs. (2/10)

NASA IG: Major Challenges Facing NASA in 2011 (Source: Space Policy Online)NASA's Inspector General (IG), Paul Martin, told the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee that NASA is in a "state of significant uncertainty" and its "most immediate challenge" is managing the agency's programs "amid the continuing lack of clarity caused by conflicting legislative directives."

He went on to list six key challenges facing NASA: Future of U.S. Space Flight; Acquisition and Program Management; Infrastructure and Facilities Management; Human Capital; Information Technology Security; and Financial Management. (2/10)

Astronomers Suggest Crowdsourcing Letters to Aliens (Source: WIRED)
Before trying to contact aliens, maybe we should test our messages on ourselves. In a new paper, three alien-hunters suggest designing a standard protocol for writing intelligible letters to extraterrestrials, and building a website where teams can decode candidate messages to ensure they make sense.

“The basic idea is, if you’re going to talk to aliens, you’d better have something that’s understandable to humans,” said UCLA planetary scientist Michael Busch, who has previously tried to design an ideal alien postcard but was not involved in the new work. (2/10)

Liberty CCDev-2 Rocket Entry Would Carry Any Capsule (Source: Aviation Week)
A hefty entry in the next round of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev-2) seed-money effort would be able to lift 44,500 lb. of payload to the International Space Station, enough for any of the commercial crew capsules under development as potential space shuttle replacements.

Dubbed “Liberty,” the proposal would combine the uprated version of the shuttle’s solid-fuel booster rockets developed as a first stage for the terminated Ares I crew launch vehicle, and the first stage of Europe’s powerful Ariane 5 , with a Vulcain 2 main engine modified to start at altitude. (2/10)

Private Contractors Fight to Keep the Shuttles Truckin' (Source: TechNewsWorld)
Though they're not holding their breath, several contractors are clinging to a thread of hope that the old space shuttles, plus a new rocket that borrows from shuttle technology, may get NASA's nod -- and the funds needed -- for development as privately operated commercial spacecraft.

After the Space Shuttle Program completes its final flight this year, United Space Alliance (USA) -- the Boeing-Lockheed-Martin joint venture presently charged with shuttle operations -- hopes to keep the old birds flying commercially. USA would retain all three existing shuttles: Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour. For-hire flights would head into orbit twice a year, starting in 2013.

A different joint venture seeks to transform the overpriced Ares I rocket that Congress canceled into the Liberty, a commercially viable marriage of the European Ariane 5 rocket with a longer version of the space shuttle booster rocket manufactured by Alliant Techsystems (ATK). (2/10)

Erickson: NASA's Boldness Will be Limited (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
America's space programs have thrilled three generations since the beginning of the space race, and captivated the world with the Apollo missions to the moon in the 1960s. The spectacular shuttle missions have given us breathtaking beauty and heartbreaking tragedies. And with the retirement of the grand dame of space comes the questions of the future of our manned space flight program.

Our Brevard neighbors are also concerned because the Space Coast represents an important economic engine, and a technological heritage that everyone wants to preserve. Yet the question of the direction of future manned exploration is just one of many needed to chart the course of NASA's future. And there is no simple answer, since space exploration is anything but simple. Click here to read the article. (2/10)

Mars, Brought to You by Corporate Sponsors (Source: Astrobiology)
Should space be the next commodity? NASA scientists and their colleagues are now proposing corporate financing for a human mission to Mars. This raises the prospect that a spaceship named the Microsoft Explorer or the Google Search Engine could one day go down in history as the first spaceship to bring humans to the red planet.

The proposal suggests that companies could drum up $160 billion for a human mission to Mars and a colony there, rather than having governments fund such a mission with tax dollars. Click here to read the article. (2/10)

Russia Raises ISS Orbit (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's Mission Control has adjusted the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) by raising it 900 meters (2,950 ft). The ISS orbit was raised to about 353 km (219.3 miles). Corrections to the space station's orbit have been conducted periodically before launches of Russian cargo ships and U.S. shuttles to compensate for the Earth's gravity and to safeguard successful dockings. (2/10)

Space Florida Board (Such As It Is) Will Meet on Feb. 18 (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Board of Directors for Space Forida will hold a public meeting in Tallahassee on Feb. 18. The board currently consists of five statutorily established members (one each appointed by the House and Senate, one from the Florida Dept. of Transportation, and one from Workforce Florida) with the Governor or Lt. Governor serving as chairman. The House and Senate members (Rep. Steve Crisafulli and Sen. Thad Altman) are non-voting members.

The board is supposed to include a total of 13 voting members, but Governor Scott has not yet appointed nine of them. Also, the seat statutorily assigned to the president of Enterprise Florida is empty after Gov. Scott dismissed John Adams in January, and the agency's interim leader wouldn't statutorily be able to vote as a Space Florida board member.

Former Governor Charlie Crist, after approving legislation to dissolve the previous board in mid-2010, was required to appoint new board members by August 24, 2010, but he never got around to it. Click here for information on the Feb. 18 meeting. (2/10)

Gov. Martinez Appoints Seven to New Mexico Spaceport Board (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Gov. Susana Martinez today appointed seven people to the Spaceport Authority Board of Directors. Martinez removed all the previous board members upon taking office in January. Among the new members is Sid Gutierrez, a former NASA astronaut, who serves as chief of safety for Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque. Each member has agreed not to conduct business with the Spaceport for two years after leaving their position on the board. (2/9)

Bolden: NASA Needs Commercial Space Partnerships to Survive (Source: Space.com)
NASA can't survive without strong partnerships with private space companies, Charles Bolden said at the 14th annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference. Bolden outlined NASA's two main goals: to allow access to low-Earth orbit and to continue space exploration. Opening up low-Earth orbit and making it accessible to commercial launch providers will be especially crucial once the space shuttle fleet is retired this year, he said. (2/9)

A Budgetary Haircut Ahead for NASA? (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The ongoing debate about the 2011 budget is about five months late. Under the current system, the federal government is supposed to start its fiscal year with a new budget on Oct. 1. But because lawmakers couldn’t agree, they gave themselves more time by extending the 2010 budget levels though March 4. Left undecided, however, is how Congress would fund the federal government for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year after March 4.

Cuts announced by the appropriations committee call for a $379 million reduction to NASA’s budget. A sizable sum if true. But it’s another example of what happens when politicians start doing math. In actual dollars, the $379 million cut would be something closer to $103 million. (2/9)

Northrop's Fourth-Quarter Profit Falls 9% (Source: LA Times)
Northrop Grumman Corp.'s earnings dropped 9% in the fourth quarter as the nation's third-largest military contractor saw sales decline in aerospace, electronics and information systems. The aerospace giant experienced a 3% drop in sales to $8.6 billion for the quarter. For the quarter, Northrop earned $376 million, down from $413 million a year earlier. (2/9)

Minor Tank Damage on Discovery Won't Need Repair (Source: Florida Today)
Insulating foam on the back side of Discovery's external tank sustained minor damage when pieces of a technician's tool fell from the launch pad Tuesday evening, but no repairs are necessary, NASA reports.

A feeler gauge used to take measurements fell apart. Nine of its 13 metal blades fell to various levels of launch pad 39A, including one that reportedly stuck in the side of the tank briefly. No one was injured and all the lost components were located. (2/9)

ISRO May Have to Pay Big Penalty (Source: Deccan Herald)
As many key questions continue to remain unanswered on the controversial Antrix-Devas deal over S-band spectrum, the Union Cabinet is likely to scrap the entire contract because of its implications on internal security, possibly after paying a hefty penalty for exiting the contract. (2/9)

Heading Into the Bonus Round -- in Space (Source: NASA JPL)
A bonus round is something one usually associates with the likes of a TV game show, not a pioneering deep space mission. "We are definitely in the bonus round," said Stardust-NExT Project Manager Tim Larson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "This spacecraft has already flown by an asteroid and a comet, returned comet dust samples to Earth, and now has almost doubled its originally planned mission life. Now it is poised to perform one more comet flyby." (2/9)

NASA Announces Candidates for Cubesat Space Missions (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 20 small satellites to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard rockets planned to launch in 2011 and 2012. The proposed CubeSats come from a high school in Virginia, universities across the country, NASA field centers and Department of Defense organizations. Click here to see the list. (2/9)

Lockheed Gets Contract for 5th MUOS Satellite (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Navy awarded Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., a $339.6 million contract to build a fifth ultrahigh frequency mobile communications satellite. The MUOS constellation will provide narrowband coverage to U.S. military users around the world and Australian defense forces. The system will replace the Navy’s aging Ultra High Frequency Follow-On (UFO) constellation. (2/9)

Launch Delay To Cost ViaSat $15 Million (Source: Space News)
ViaSat Inc. on Feb. 8 said the three-month delay in the launch of its ViaSat-1 consumer broadband satellite, to July, will cost it up to $15 million in operating expenses that are tied to the earlier launch date and cannot be deferred. The ViaSat-1 satellite is now scheduled for launch in July following a glitch that occurred during testing by prime contractor Loral. (2/9)

Telenor Poised to Reap New Revenue from Old Satellite (Source: Space.com)
Norwegian satellite fleet operator Telenor Satellite Broadcasting on Feb. 8 reported a 5 percent increase in revenue for 2010 and said it expects to start commercial service within weeks from an aging satellite it moved to a new orbital slot. (2/9)

No comments: