February 13, 2011

ITAR Panel Discussion in Largo for Florida Aerospace/Defense Firms (Source: FFCA)
The Florida Federal Contractors Association (FFCA) will sponsor an ITAR Panel Discussion on Feb. 24 in Largo. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) is a set of U.S. government regulations that control the export and import of defense-related articles and services. This FFCA program will provide Members a traditional business development networking opportunity and prime contractor panel discussion on ITAR and how it affects contractors. RSVPs are needed by Feb. 23. Click here or contact Danielle Weitlauf at Info@FloridaFederalContractors.org for information and registration. (2/13)

Party Lines: Should NASA be Reprioritized for Human Spaceflight? (Source: Davis County Clipper)
On Feb. 8, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) joined Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL) and Sandy Adams (R-FL) in calling for House Leaders to reprioritize NASA to keep human space flight the primary focus as budget cuts are considered for the nation’s space agency. In their letter to House appropriators, they state that while “moving forward under a constrained budget, it will be critical for the Appropriations Committee to produce legislation that is precise in its budget cuts” stating that for years Presidents and Congress have charged NASA with completing tasks that fall outside the scope of NASA’s primary mission.

I understand why Rep. Bishop is taking this stance. In early 2010 it was announced that the Constellation Program that was meant to take humans back to the moon by 2020 could not possibly succeed within that time frame or with the budgeted amount. This meant Utahns who work at ATK in Northern Utah would lose their jobs with the cancellation of the Ares Missile Program. The employees and employers are constituents of Rep. Bishop and I commend him for doing his best to keep his constituents working, but to say that dollars put toward climate change research is the problem is disingenuous. (2/13)

Editorial: NASA Needs Giant Leap Over Politics (Source: Birmingham News)
Washington has failed to provide NASA with a clearly defined mission to replace Constellation. The arguments about what's next have ripped the space exploration advocacy community apart. Traditional aerospace contractors will surely lose if NASA is compelled to pay someone like South African Internet millionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX for launch services. Musk is a significant campaign contributor to U.S. political candidates -- giving 10 times more to Democrats than Republicans -- and that has raised some eyebrows in political and space industry circles.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is ordering NASA to focus more on basic research, future mission planning, diplomatic and educational outreaches and other activities scarcely imagined by taxpayers back when Sputnik was streaking overhead. NASA engineers used to worry about things like the sound barrier and the Van Allen radiation barrier. Those barriers seem relatively simple and minor in comparison to the political barrier presently confronting the agency. (2/13)

Kohlenberger To Depart OSTP (Source: Space News)
James Kohlenberger, chief of staff for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and a proponent of commercial space initiatives, will leave his post at the end of February after two years serving under U.S. President Barack Obama. “I’m proud to have helped plant the seeds of innovation so deeply into the President’s agenda,” Kohlenberger wrote in an e-mail, which was sent to undisclosed recipients. “I figure its (sic) best to leave at the top of your game, having accomplished so much, and at a time when the President is so firmly focused on technology and innovation as the primary engines for growing the economy and winning the future.” (2/13)

Risk Assessment Shows NASA's Odds Were High for Greater Losses (Source: Florida Today)
NASA seriously underestimated the dangers astronauts faced when the shuttle fleet began flying in the early 1980s, a new internal safety study shows. At the time, managers thought there was only a 1-in-100,000 chance of losing a shuttle and its crew. Engineers thought the probability was closer to 1 in 100. But in reality, the odds of a disaster were much higher.

On each of the shuttle's first nine missions, there was a 1 in 9 chance of a catastrophic accident, according to the new risk analysis. On the next 16 flights that led up to and included the January 1986 Challenger disaster, the odds were 1 in 10. NASA lost 14 astronauts in two shuttle tragedies, and saw near misses on a dozen other flights. "We were lucky. There were a number of close calls," NASA summarized in the new risk assessment. (2/13)

Space - The Final Package Tour (Source: Irish Times)
Go Niche: While some of us are still pondering whether or not to go to France again, 400 more adventurous souls have already signed up to go into space. Although their launch date has yet to be announced, Richard Branson’s originally daft-sounding Virgin Galactic space tourism program has been hitting all its milestones. It recently inaugurated the spaceway (a runway for spacecraft) at its spaceport, near the appropriately sci-fi-sounding town of Truth or Consequences in New Mexico.

Once testing is complete and approval received from the appropriate authorities, Branson will be sending his passengers, each of whom is paying $200,000 (€147,000) for the privilege, into orbit six at a time. Basically, they get powered up to 50,000 feet by a larger craft traveling at a speed of 3,000 mph and then, though it’s probably not the technical term, sort of slung into space.

Editor's Note: Virgin Galactic's plans still call for all six of their cabin seats to be occupied by paying customers, with no room for a dedicated "flight attendant" that would be present to react to problems posed by ill, unruly, or confused customers. Virgin plans for the co-pilot to enter the cabin to ensure that customers are securely seated and ready for their re-entry. It will be interesting to see whether this approach is acceptable to the FAA after the current moratorium on new spaceflight regulations expires. (2/13)

House Continuing Resolution Would Bar NASA from China Ties (Source: Politico)
House Republicans want to ban NASA from developing a relationship with China. The nations’ suddenly star-crossed space programs are the subject of a funding-limitation provision in a spending measure released by GOP leaders Friday night. The language is the latest salvo in a battle between the White House and congressional conservatives over the future of the U.S. space program.

“None of the funds made available by this division may be used for [NASA or OSTP] to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company unless such activities are specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of enactment of this division,” the bill’s drafters wrote.

Editor's Note: What's with all the China hawkery? Space exploration offers a great opportunity for peaceful cooperation with a nation that has money to spare for such endeavors. For various strategic reasons, we should nurture a positive relationship with China instead of an adversarial one. (2/13)

Spacecraft to be Controlled by Artificial Intelligence (Source: Telegraph)
It is a concept that had fatal consequences for the astronauts in the science fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey after their spaceship's artificially intelligent computer reasoned it had to kill them in order to continue the mission. Yet despite this warning from Arthur C. Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick, The European Space Agency now hopes to use real-life artificial intelligence to control future spacecraft.

British engineers, supported by ESA, are developing control systems that can be used in satellites, robotic exploration vehicles and spacecraft capable of controlling themselves. The space vehicles will be able to learn, identify problems, adapt during missions, carry out repairs and take their own decisions about how best to carry out a task. Details of the research have emerged as ESA prepares to launch the second of its Automated Transport Vehicles to deliver supplies to the ISS later this month. (2/13)

Hit by Spectrum Scam, ISRO Being Restructured (Source: Hundustan Times)
The chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will no longer head its commercial arm, Antrix, the space policy body decided on Saturday in the backdrop of a controversy that has shaken it. But an official confirmed the proposal for separation of the leadership roles of ISRO and Antrix was also to ensure Antrix receives full attention, “particularly in the light of recent events”. (2/13)

Sanctions Off; NASA Lab Asks ISRO to Partner for Moon Mission (Source: Economic Times)
With the US lifting sanctions on ISRO, a top NASA laboratory has approached the Indian space agency with a proposal to collaborate for a moon mission aimed at getting back a kilogram of rocks from the lunar surface. The iconic Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which has sent missions to Mars and Venus, wants ISRO to put a satellite around the moon which will be a link between its lunar lander probe and the earth. (2/13)

FAA Tech Center Remains a Priority, Positions Cut at NASA Centers (Source: SPACErePORT)
The presidential multi-agency Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development, established after President Obama visited KSC in April 2010, put forward a $40 million plan for diversifying Central Florida's economy in response to the Space Shuttle's retirement. $35 million was to be transferred from NASA to the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for Regional Innovation Cluster grants. The other $5 million was to be transferred from NASA to the FAA for a new "Tech Center" at KSC to support commercial space transportation regulatory R&D.

None of the $40 million has been appropriated, due to Congress' failure to pass an FY-2011 budget. And all of it could be lost in the budget cuts now proposed for the remainder of FY-2011 and beyond. Thankfully, USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood (a member of the multi-agency Task Force) last week specifically mentioned the Tech Center as being part of the Obama Administration's commitment to supporting commercial space transportation. Also, the administrators of FAA and NASA are apparently in agreement that this FAA Tech Center is critical to NASA's plans to rely on commercial providers for transport to and from the ISS.

Meanwhile, budget cuts elsewhere in the FAA (not the AST commercial space office), are causing the closure of FAA field offices at multiple NASA Centers, including Ames, LaRC, Glenn, and KSC. At KSC, the office was dedicated to R&D aimed at integrating space transportation requirements into the NextGen air traffic management system. This space traffic management activity could be resumed under the proposed Tech Center, which would initially be housed at the OSB-2 facility in KSC's LC-39 industrial area. (2/13)

Florida Groups Adopt Federal Space Policy Agenda for 2011 (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Aerospace Career & Development Council (ACDC), which includes a group of Florida agencies, industry officials, and academic institutions, has approved their 2011 Florida Federal Space Policy Agenda. The one-page document is intended to inform the Florida Congressional Delegation and the Governor's Office about space-related issues of common interest to the state's space industry stakeholders. Click here to view the document. (2/13)

Space Bills Advance in Virginia Legislature (Source: Spaceports Blog)
Senate Bill 1447 passed in the Senate 40-0 and passed its first House hearing 10-1. It likely will be heard again in the House on Feb. 14. SB-1447 earmarks through 2015 commercial human spaceflight (and related training) tax revenues for use by the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. The bill is backed by Space Adventures Corp. and Gov. McDonnell.

Senate Bill 1337 passed in the Senate 40-0 and will soon be heard by a House committee. SB-1337 creates an exemption from the mandatory public disclosure requirements for records relating to rate structures or charges for using the facilities of the Commercial Space Flight Authority and trade secret information provided to the Authority by industry.

Senate Bill 965 passed in Senate 39-0 and will be heard by a House Subcommittee on Feb. 16. SB-965 eliminates the July 2011 sunset of a retail sales and use tax exemption for spaceport activities. Eliminates the sunset date of the sales and use tax exemption for personal property involved in spaceport activities. (2/11)

Virginia Spaceport Authority Budget Could Reach $2 Million (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The Virginia House Budget currently includes $1,379,095 for operations of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. This is compared with the Senate's inclusion of $2 million for the authority. Budget Conferees are now negotiating the final amount, an exercise expected to be complete by Feb. 22. The budget conference report should be available on Feb. 24, allowing a final budget vote on Feb. 26. The Legislature will adjourn on Feb. 26. (2/11)

House Appropriators Propose Deeper NASA Cuts, Removal of Constellation Requirement (Source: Space News)
NASA would see a $300 million funding decrease in 2011 compared to 2010 under a bill introduced Feb. 11 by the House Appropriations Committee that would fund the federal government for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The measure, to be considered on the House floor the week of Feb. 14, would trim $100 billion from the 2011 budget request submitted by President Obama last February. NASA would lose $578 million relative to that request, which translates to a $303 million decrease from the previous year.

The Obama administration requested $19 billion for NASA in 2011. The agency's current budget is on par with the $18.74 billion Congress appropriated in 2010 under a stopgap continuing resolution (CR), that expires March 4. The bill would enable NASA to fulfill direction in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, which directs the space agency to build a heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule for space exploration. NASA is currently barred under the CR from terminating Constellation contracts. (2/11)

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