February 12, 2011

Pentagon Expected to Propose Boost in Space Project Spending (Source: AIA)
Major military rocket and satellite programs are expected to be well-represented in the 2012 budget to be proposed by the Defense Department next week. The military has usually procured spacecraft and boosters on a one-at-a-time basis, but the proposed spending increases would allow for higher-volume purchases, which White House budget officials and Defense Secretary Robert Gates believe would offer savings in the long run. (2/11)

NASA's Orion Space Capsule Moved to Denver for Testing (Source: AIA)
The first prototype of NASA's manned Orion space capsule was packed up and shipped from a New Orleans assembly plant to the Denver-based testing grounds of Lockheed Martin this week to begin rigorous ground and water tests. The space capsule is scheduled to take its first unmanned test flight in 2013, Lockheed Martin officials said.

Editor's Note: This looks like the kind of thing Florida had hoped Lockheed Martin would do at KSC, after the state invested tens of millions of dollars to modify the Center's O&C Building for Orion final assembly. (2/10)

Boeing Eyes International Sales of Commercial Crew Spacecraft (Source: AIA)
Boeing is considering opportunities in the international market for its CST-100 commercial crew spacecraft if the company is chosen by NASA to continue development of its capsule, according to a Boeing official. The spacecraft, which Boeing says could begin flying astronauts to low Earth orbit by 2015, would launch on existing Atlas 5, Delta 4 or Falcon 9 rockets from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (2/11)

Schmitt Withdraws Nomination for New Mexico Cabinet Post (Source: NM Politics)
Harrison Schmitt has withdrawn his nomination to leads the state’s Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department rather than undergoing a background check required for Senate confirmation. Gov. Susana Martinez said Schmitt was willing to allow a private investigator access to his personal information, but he was not willing to waive that investigator’s liability for any improper actions or use of that information.” Martinez said Schmitt underwent “a complete background check by the Department of Public Safety” before she nominated him.

Editor's Note: Florida also has a rigorous application process for selecting appointees for public boards and committees. I've seen several people refuse the opportunity to be appointed because the information they must provide is too extensive and becomes part of the public record. (2/11)

SpaceX Shifts Employment at Texas Facility (Source: KWTX)
SpaceX announced Friday that some employees have been laid off at its rocket motor test facility in McGregor as part of a company restructuring plan and that workload will be shifted to contractors. The changes will not result in a decrease in the number of jobs, but instead will result in higher average wages and more work for local contractors, according to a SpaceX spokesperson. SpaceX will be filling more high-tech jobs to support test operations while contracting out construction work to local businesses as the company continues to build new facilities. (2/11)

SpaceX, Tesla Motors Showcase New Innovation for Space and Beyond (Source: Space.com)
Commercial spaceflight company Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and electric carmaker Tesla Motors teamed up yesterday (Feb. 10) to offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of some of their products that are pushing the boundaries of technological innovation. To celebrate the opening of Washington DC's first Tesla showroom, the two companies jointly hosted an exclusive open house. (2/11)

LA Suburb's Rebirth Rides On Electric Car Plant (Source: Huffington Post)
This blue-collar suburb on the edge of Los Angeles once helped send men to space. After the collapse of its aerospace industry, its ambitions are now more down-to-earth but still looking toward the future. Downey's City Council unanimously approved an agreement in November aimed at luring Tesla Motors' electric car manufacturing plant to the former site of a NASA plant that helped develop the Apollo program and the space shuttle fleet. (11/25)

Military Drones, Training Flights Arrive at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
Unmanned drones take off and land from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, and Italian cargo planes will soon arrive at Patrick Air Force Base for a new training mission, Brig. Gen. Ed Wilson, commander of the 45th Space Wing, said. Wilson said one unmanned and unarmed Guardian, which is 36 feet long and has a wingspan of 66 feet, is operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Two or three more will likely arrive in coming months to patrol for illegal immigration or drug traffic.

"They like the Cape because of the restricted air space," he said, explaining the UAV can fly in and out without having to contend with small aircraft they would encounter at other airports. "If you had asked me four or five years ago if we would be flying UAVs out of the Cape, I would have said no," Wilson said. Editor's Note: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has been directly supporting NOAA UAV missions at the spaceport. (2/12)

Twitter Users Get Rare Tour of NASA Ames (Source: KGO-TV)
It is not easy to pass through the gates of NASA Ames in Mountain View. Armed guards stop cars, ask for passes and double-check identifications. Friday, however, with an invitation and a Twitter account, a select few did get through and received the VIP treatment. Ever hear of a tweetup? No? Well, now you have. A few weeks ago, NASA posted an invitation to followers on its Twitter site (@NASA_Ames), and then chose 100 of them at random for Friday's tour. (2/11)

Former KSC Worker Charged with Stealing, Selling Shuttle Tiles (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A former Kennedy Space Center worker accused of selling space shuttle tiles online has been arrested in Brevard County, the Sheriff's Office confirmed. According to Agent Jennifer Straight, Brevard investigators were contacted by NASA in late January to report the theft. On Feb. 1, they raided the Port St. John-area home of former United Space Alliance employee David Abbey. He was arrested Thursday, charged with grand theft and dealing in stolen property. (2/11)

Ex-Shuttle Worker: Tile Thefts Common (Source: Florida Today)
The former KSC employee accused of stealing heat-shield tiles sold them for more than $10,000 on eBay. He said the thefts were common among his co-workers at Kennedy Space Center. The alleged theft is a third-degree felony punishable by five years in prison. Dealing in stolen property is a second-degree felony punishable by 15 years. Seven of the stolen tiles were shipped overseas to foreign buyers, in violation of the Arms Export Control Act. An official said, however, that no federal charges would be filed and that the buyers would not be charged.

"I'd just put it in my bag and walk out with it," Abbey told investigators, according to the affidavit. "Yeah, we knew it was wrong, but... we didn't think it was a big deal because, you know, everybody wants some souvenirs." During the tile production process, those deemed by inspectors to be damaged are removed, replaced and disposed of by workers at KSC. Since the investigation became public last week, NASA has been contacted by people who bought tiles from other private parties, wondering if those also were stolen. (2/12)

NASA Hopes to Find Money for Taurus 2 Test Flight (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Bound by restrictions set in a temporary budget resolution, NASA has not yet committed full funding of a risk reduction test flight of the Taurus 2 rocket, one of the launch vehicles the agency hopes will be ready to resupply the International Space Station by the end of this year. NASA and industry officials said Thursday the demonstration launch is a top priority, but the space agency is struggling to find money to pay for the flight.

The Orbital Sciences Corp. Taurus 2 rocket is being developed along with the Cygnus cargo freighter to deliver supplies to the space station. The company has a $1.9 billion contract for resupply services with NASA. NASA is subsidizing the design and development of the Taurus 2 and the Cygnus vehicles, along with a separate SpaceX resupply system that features the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft. (2/11)

t/Space Reveals CCDev-2 Plan for NASA (Source: MSNBC)
today, t/Space's Gary Hudson confirmed that he and his colleagues have submitted a proposal for CCDev 2 funding from NASA. T/Space's concept for a crew transfer vehicle is aimed at sending up to eight crew members to the International Space Station. The proposal calls for the development of a spaceship that could be sent into space on a variety of launch vehicles. Here are some details:

"Up to eight crew, Soyuz-like architecture (recoverable reusable crew element, expendable orbital/cargo module). Incorporates HMX's patented integral abort system (uses OMS/RCS propellant in separate abort engines). Can fly on Atlas 401 [a configuration for the Atlas 5 rocket], F9 [SpaceX's Falcon 9] or Taurus II (enhanced) but with a reduced cargo and crew capability on the latter vehicle. Goal is to be the lowest-price provider on a per-seat basis. Nominal land recovery with water backup (not revealing the technique until after CCDev 2 awards)." (2/12)

Citizen Satellites: Sending Experiments into Orbit Affordably (Source: Scientific American)
Ever since Sputnik kicked off the age of space satellites more than fifty years ago, big institutions have dominated the skies. Almost all the many thousands of satellites that have taken their place in Earth orbit were the result of huge projects funded by governments and corporations. For decades each generation of satellites has been more complicated and expensive than its predecessor, taken longer to design, and required an infrastructure of expensive launch facilities, global monitoring stations, mission specialists and research centers.

In recent years, however, improvements in electronics, solar power and other technologies have made it possible to shrink satellites dramatically. A new type of satellite, called CubeSat, drastically simplifies and standardizes the design of small spacecraft and brings costs down to less than $100,000 to develop, launch and operate a single satellite—a tiny fraction of the typical mission budget of NASA or the European Space Agency. (2/12)

1 comment:

Brian Smith said...

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