February 14, 2011

Anousheh Ansari Opens Engineers Week at Embry-Riddle (Source: ERAU)
Space explorer and X Prize sponsor Anousheh Ansari will give the keynote speech Feb. 23 for Engineering Week at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. A successful engineer and entrepreneur, Ansari sponsored the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million cash award for the first non-governmental launch of a reusable manned spacecraft twice within two weeks. In 2006, Ansari went aboard the International Space Station with the Expedition 14 crew on the Russian Soyuz TMA-9.

National Engineers Week is an initiative by more than 100 professional societies, major corporations, and governmental agencies to promote a diverse, well-educated engineering workforce by increasing awareness of careers in engineering and technology. This annual celebration of engineering, science, and technology will be held Feb. 22-24 at the university’s Daytona Beach campus. (2/14)

Launch Planned from White Sands in New Mexico (Source: Launch Alert)
Preparations are being completed at Fort Wingate near Gallup, N.M., for a Juno target missile firing from the old depot to White Sands Missile Range. The launch is tentatively scheduled for February 16 between 6:30 and 7:30m a.m. There have been 13 target missions from Fort Wingate to White Sands Missile Range. The first mission was conducted in November 1997 and the most recent mission was in October 2009. The most recent Juno mission was launched from the missile range call-up area north of New Mexico Highway 380 in February 2010. (2/14)

Celestis Plans Memorial "Cremains" Launch from Spaceport America on Apr. 1 (Source: Celestis)
Celestis has signed a definitive contract with UP Aerospace, Inc. to launch the company's next commemorative suborbital spaceflight. This Earth Rise launch, named "The Goddard Flight," is currently scheduled for liftoff April 1, 2011 from Spaceport America, New Mexico. We are taking reservations for this launch through March 3. The deadline for returning the Flight Kit to our offices is March 17. Click here for information. (2/14)

NASA Budget Proposes 5-Year, $4.25 Billion Commercial Crew Program (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA would spend $4.25 billion on its Commercial Crew Development (CCDEV) program during the next five years under President Barack Obama’s proposed FY 2012 budget plan. The Administration has proposed spending $850 annually for FY2012-2016 on the program, which is designed to field commercial rockets and spacecraft to carry crew and cargo to and from Earth orbit. During that same period, NASA would spend 14.051 billion on its Orion capsule and a heavy-lift vehicle. The plan is spend 2.81 billion annually on those programs, which are designed to give NASA the capability to perform orbital and deep-space missions. (2/14)

"21st Century Spaceport" Spending Would Decline (Sources: Florida Today, SPACErePORT)
Obama last year proposed $500 million in 2012 to make a "21st Century Launch Complex", but scaled that back to $130 million in this latest budget proposal. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said first-year funding for KSC and Eastern Range upgrades under the "21st Century Spaceport" initiative had to be diverted to other needs because NASA was unable to spend the dollars within the fiscal timeframe available. Bolden said other programs like heavy-lift would include spaceport infrastructure improvements and the agency hopes to recover the diverted funds for this program in later years. (2/14)

NSS SEA Legislative Blitz Needs You! (Source: NSS)
The National Space Society and the Space Exploration Alliance invite you to participate in the annual Legislative Blitz in Washington, D.C. from February 27 to March 1. The 2011 Blitz comes at a crucial moment. In September 2010, Congress passed the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. It is now time for Congress to enact legislation that appropriates the required funding in compliance with the Authorization Act. You can register to participate for the Legislative Blitz by clicking here, or for more information contact Rick Zucker at rick.zucker@nss.org. (2/14)

Russia Says Foreign Power May Have Caused Spy Satellite Loss (Source: AFP)
The Russian space agency suggested Monday that a foreign power may have been behind the space accident that disabled one of the country's most modern military satellites earlier this month. Russia on February 1 launched a high-tech Geo-IK-2 craft to help the military draw a three-dimensional map of the Earth and locate the precise positions of various targets. News reports said the satellite was a vital part of Russia's effort to match the United States and NATO's ability to target its missiles from space.

But the craft briefly went missing after its launch only to re-emerge in a wrong orbit that left the craft unable to complete its assigned task. The Russian military and space agency set up a joint task force to probe the accident but it has presented no official results thus far. One unnamed space official said however that initial evidence suggested that the craft went off target after one of its booster rockets inexplicably reversed course.

"The probable cause may involve electromagnetic intrusion on the automatic controls," the unnamed space official said. The official did not identify the country he suspected of trying to derail the Russian military mission. But Moscow frequently accuses Washington of attempting to "militarize" space. The space official conceded that there may have been other reasons for the launch failure. These included the wrong operations being programmed into the guidance system and other software mistakes. (2/14)

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions Leads Attack on Obama's 2012 Budget (Source: Birmingham News)
President Barack Obama's proposed budget for 2012 was released on Monday, but for weeks Sen. Jeff Sessions has been preemptively critical. The Alabama Republican is now the top GOP member of the Senate Budget Committee, and he's asserting himself more aggressively than ever in the debate over the federal deficit and government spending. "It's just breathtaking to me he's shown so little leadership," Sessions has said repeatedly.

"It does need to be worked out in a way that people feel like everybody took the same lumps." NASA, for example, has been in the crosshairs recently, rattling the Huntsville community around Marshall Space Flight Center. "We're going to watch out for NASA. There is no need for NASA to be savaged or its mission abandoned, but can it be challenged to take a trim? Yes. Every agency is going to have to face trimming," he said. (2/14)

Buyout of Hughes Causes Shareholder Claim Investigations (Source: Business Wire)
Goldfarb Branham LLP is investigating whether the Board of Directors of Hughes Communications violated shareholder protection laws in connection with the buyout offer by EchoStar Corp. for $60.70 per share. Editor's Note: Upon the release of news regarding the Hughes buyout, two law firms issued news releases announcing their investigation of shareholder protection violations, inviting shareholders to contact them, presumably to enlist litigants. (2/14)

Obama Proposes Five-Year Freeze on NASA Budget (Source: AFP)
President Barack Obama on Monday proposed reining in expenses at NASA, sending his 2012 budget blueprint to Congress calling for a five-year freeze on new spending at the US space agency. The president would restrict NASA's budget to last year's levels, $18.7 billion annually through fiscal 2016. The figure represents a 1.6-percent decrease from the spending total the agency had sought for fiscal 2011, which ends in September.

"This budget reflects the overall fiscal reality of the US government. There is not a lot of money available," said John Logsdon, a former director of the Space Policy Institute in Washington. "It should not compromise what NASA wants to do but it certainly would slow it down," said Logsdon, an independent consultant to the Obama administration. "They intend to do everything, just it will be a slightly slower schedule." (2/14)

Budget Would Increase for Commercial Crew (Source: Aviation Week)
The Obama administration’s $18.7 billion NASA budget request for fiscal 2012 continues the new policies started in last year’s request, with a stronger push into commercial space travel to low Earth orbit (LEO) and modifications to accommodate the three-year NASA authorization enacted in December. The government’s effort to seed private development of commercial crew and cargo transportation to the ISS and other LEO destinations would be boosted to $850 million — up from the $612 million authorized but not appropriated in the current fiscal year. (2/14)

NASA Would Start Work on Heavy-Lift (Sources: Aviation Week, Florida Today)
President Obama's FY-12 NASA request doesn’t commit to a date for the first flight of the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) ordered in the authorization act. Instead, it calls for $2.81 billion in Fiscal 2012 to begin work on the vehicle and the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) that would ride atop it on deep-space missions and — as a backup to the hoped-for commercial crew vehicles — to the ISS. Congress had ordered a first flight of the heavy lifter in six years.

The heavy-lift rocket effort, championed by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), would get $1.8 billion for the Ares-based rocket and $1 billion for the Orion-based capsule. Congress passed an authorization law last year that devoted $2.6 billion to the rocket and $1.4 billion to the capsule. (2/14)

NASA FY12 Budget: First Look (Source: Space Politics)
NASA would get $18.7 billion in FY12, almost exactly the same as it got in FY10, according to a summary of the FY12 NASA budget proposal released this morning by the White House. That amount is about $750 million less than the administration projected last year for FY12. Compared to 2010 science would get about $500 million more and exploration would get nearly $200 million more, while a new “Space Research and Technology” account would be created with just over $1 billion in FY12.

Those increases would come at the expense of space operations, whose budget would decrease by nearly $1.8 billion compared to 2010, presumably to reflect the retirement of the shuttle. The document is scant on additional details, although it does mention the budget “Initiates development of a heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule to carry explorers beyond Earth’s orbit”. It also makes mention of commercial crew development, although again without additional details.

One other thing: if you look at page 199 of the summary charts, you’ll see the administration’s long-term budget projections for NASA. They show a budget declining to $18.0 billion in 2013 and 2014 before slowly rising. (One should take such projections, especially more than a few years in the future, with a grain or two or 20 of salt.) The projection for FY15 for NASA is $18.1 billion; last year the projection for FY15 was $21 billion. (2/14)

Virginia House Committee Advances Spaceport Revenue Measure 18-to-1 (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The Virginia House of Delegates Finance Committee advanced Senate Bill 1447 to dedicate any state income tax revenue from human spaceflights or spaceflight training derived by private firms in Virginia to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority's operation of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. The legislation is now expected to pass the 100-member House of Delegates later this week. Upon House passage, the Senate bill will be sent to Gov. Robert McDonnell for signature or amendment.

In 2008, Wampler obtained passenger of the Virginia "Zero-Gravity, Zero-Tax" exempting Virginia income taxes earned on cargo and passengers to space from Virginia's Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. The law was deemed pivotal in the location of the Orbital Sciences Corporation Taurus-2 launch vehicle to service the orbiting ISS in Virginia by the FAA. (2/14)

Commercial Crew and NASA's Tipping Point (Source: Space Review)
The release this week of a new budget proposal will again stoke debate about NASA policy, including its commercial crew development plans. Jeff Foust reports that agency officials and company officials alike are seeing commercial crew as both increasingly likely and critical to NASA's future. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1780/1 to view the article. (2/14)

The Beginnings of Planetary Exploration: the First Probes to Venus (Source: Space Review)
Fifty years ago this month the Soviet Union launched its first missions to Venus, although neither spacecraft reached its destination. Andrew LePage examines the rushed Soviet effort to send a spacecraft to Venus. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1779/1 to view the article. (2/14)

American Leadership (Source: Space Review)
In debates about space policy, the term "American leadership" is often used without discussion about what it actually means. Lou Friedman argues that such leadership involves not going it along in space but leading cooperative space ventures with other countries. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1778/1 to view the article. (2/14)

Clarification on Liberty Versus HLV Infrastructure Requirements (Source: SPACErePORT)
My Feb. 14 FLORIDA SPACErePORT newsletter included an item questioning whether AKT's proposed Liberty rocket could coexist with a NASA Shuttle-derived heavy-lift vehicle (SDHLV) at KSC. I suggested that the Mobile Launcher Platform (MLP) converted for Ares-1X might not be available to ATK for Liberty, because NASA might prefer to use it for SDHLV. An alert reader corrected my facts on the MLP, but confirmed my assumption that ATK may have difficulty gaining access to some of the KSC infrastructure they'll need for Liberty.

The MLP converted for Ares-1X is not the same one that would be used for Ares-1. A new lightweight and modernized Mobile Launcher (ML) was being developed for Ares-1, but NASA probably will want to use it for SDHLV. That would leave ATK with the task (and expense) of upgrading the Ares-1X MLP, which doesn't currently include a lot of the upper-stage support capabilities that were being developed for the Ares-1 ML. (2/14)

President's Budget Retains KSC Modernization Program (Source: SPACErePORT)
President Obama's FY-2012 budget request for NASA provides $18.7 billion, the same amount the agency received in 2010. "The Budget...proposes to streamline operations and boost efficiencies at facilities." One element of the budget that was considered at-risk was the $1.9 billion modernization program for the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. According to a NASA summary document accompanying the FY-2012 budget unveiling, "Workers will have opportunities to... revitalize and modernize Kennedy Space Center and the Florida launch range.

The document also proposes "that NASA receive new authority to enter into innovative partnerships with utility companies to provide clean energy to NASA Centers and the communities that surround them." Funding amounts for these programs are not yet clear. Click here to download the summary document. (2/14)

NASA Budget Plan Restricts Spending On Private Rockets (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The Obama Administration's proposed 2012 NASA budget, expected to total more than $18.5 billion, is scaling back White House funding projections for private rockets and spacecraft intended to take astronauts into orbit, according to government and industry officials. The White House's spending plan for manned space exploration seeks to avoid last year's confrontation with Congress.

Slated to be released Monday, it also envisions stepped-up international cooperation, despite widespread space and scientific budget cutbacks in Europe. This time, officials said, the agency's request is likely to track major elements of a bipartisan compromise Congress eventually approved last year... Commercial-space projects are years behind schedule, and critics still worry about placing undue reliance on them. (2/14)

Clarification on Space Florida's Proposed Budget (Source: SPACErePORT)
Governor Rick Scott seeks $3.8 million for Space Florida operations in FY-12, plus $6.2 million for business and workforce development programs. there is no requirement for "pass-through" of the workforce funding to another workforce-oriented agency, though there is also no prohibition against such an arrangement. Brevard Workforce, the local agency responsible for many programs aimed at retraining and assisting laid-off space industry workers, had separately requested $4 million for its efforts to deal with workforce impacts of the Space Shuttle's retirement, but the money was not included in the Governor's proposed budget. (2/14)

How to Spot a Spinning Black Hole (Source: Nature)
An international group of astronomers and physicists has found that rotating black holes leave an imprint on passing radiation that should be detectable using today's most sensitive radio telescopes. Observing this signature, they say, could tell us more about how galaxies evolve and provide a test of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity.

General relativity says that very massive objects such as black holes warp space-time, bending the path of light that passes them — an effect known as gravitational lensing. The theory also predicts that a rotating black hole will drag space-time around with it, creating a vortex that constrains all nearby objects, including photons, to follow that rotation. Click here to read the article. (2/14)

Ray Lugo Thinks NASA Glenn and Cleveland are Cool (Source: My Cleveland)
Ramon "Ray" Lugo III defies the stereotypes of nerdy engineers and uptight bureaucrats. He calls many things "cool," especially at NASA Glenn Research Center, where he became deputy director in 2007 and director in 2010. Lugo, 53, is the third of five sons of a NASA techie. He joined the Kennedy Space Center in 1975 as a co-op student and has stayed with NASA ever since.

At Glenn, he handles a $707 million budget. He leads 1,659 staffers and 1,941 contract workers in Brook Park, Fairview Park and Plum Brook Station, near Sandusky. They're researching solar power, alternative fuels, space radio, aircraft icing and much more. Click here to read a Q&A with Lugo. (2/14)

Scam Waiting to Happen at ISRO? (Source: Hindustan Times)
Sun Direct, one of the many Direct-to-Home (DTH) television service providers, had to wait three years before it could lease Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) transponders in 2008. Two years later, after a power failure on the ISRO satellite its transponders were piggybacking on, Sun Direct decided to partly shift its DTH project to another satellite MEASAT-3, owned by Malaysian firm ASTRO.

A shortage of transponders means ISRO either has to ask clients to wait, or loan transponders from foreign agencies. “If two of our satellites were to conk out, the country’s ATM network would be severely debilitated. That is the dependence on ISRO satellites today,” said a senior ISRO official.

“The massive demand-supply gap, coupled with the prospect of losing business to other firms offering satellite services, represents the key ingredient that can encourage the bending of rules — either for individual interest or for the perceived interest of the agency,” a senior space scientist said." (2/14)

University of Ulster Launches Rocket Project with Japan Space Agency (Source: U. of Ulster)
An international project to improve safety and enhance the performance of rocket launchers is underway between two University of Ulster academics and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Professor Vasily Novozhilov and Dr Paul Joseph, from Ulster’s Fire Safety Engineering Research and Technology (FireSERT) center, are using their world-acclaimed expertise in combustion and fires to adapt to space propulsion technology. (2/14)

Europe Set for Landmark Launch with Robot Freighter (Source: France 24)
A robot freighter is poised to blast into the skies on Tuesday in the heftiest liftoff in Europe's space program that will also bring its tally of launches to a historic 200. Designed to supply mankind's outpost in orbit, the Johannes Kepler will be hoisted by an Ariane 5 ES super-rocket from Kourou, French Guiana. A successful mission will boost the case for scientists who want the ATV to be the template of a manned spacecraft, placing ESA on an equal footing with the United States, Russia and China. With a mass of more than 20 tonnes, the payload is the biggest ever taken aloft by the European Space Agency (ESA). (2/14)

NASA Studying Request to Combine Dragon Test Flights (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
NASA is reviewing data from SpaceX's historic December demo mission of the Dragon capsule before approving the company's request to send its next test flight all the way to the International Space Station. Agency and company officials say the Dec. 8 orbital test of the Dragon spacecraft was successful. NASA has already paid a $5 million award for the milestone under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, or COTS, program, an agreement between the agency and firms developing resupply vehicles for the space station.

But NASA officials aren't quite ready to honor SpaceX's public request to combine its next two test flights into a single action-packed mission in July to prove the Dragon's ability to service the space station. NASA has also asked SpaceX to submit a proposal to the agency verifying the spacecraft's ability to accomplish objectives of the second and third demonstration flights originally laid out several years ago. (2/14)

EchoStar To Buy Hughes for $2 Billion (Source: Space News)
Satellite television pioneer Charlie Ergen’s EchoStar Corp. has won the bidding to purchase satellite broadband provider Hughes Communications for $2 billion, a 31 percent premium on where Hughes stock was trading before rumors of its sale began pushing the price up. EchoStar, which Ergen separated from his satellite television provider Dish Network in an effort to diversify into new businesses, will now own the world’s biggest manufacturer of satellite broadband hardware, as well as the company that has made consumer satellite broadband in the United States a core business. (2/14)

Why Infertility Will Stop Humans Colonizing Space (Source: The Independent)
The prospect of long-term space travel has led scientists to consider, increasingly seriously, the following conundrum: if traveling to a new home might take thousands of years, would humans be able to successfully procreate along the way? The early indications from NASA are not encouraging. Space, it seems, is simply not a good place to have sex.

According to a review by three scientists looking into the feasibility of colonizing Mars, astronauts would be well advised to avoid getting pregnant along the way because of the high levels of radiation that would bombard their bodies as they traveled through space. Without effective shielding on spaceships, high-energy proton particles would probably sterilize any female fetus conceived in deep space and could have a profound effect on male fertility. (2/14)

Shuttle Decision Will be a Test of Ohio’s Political Clout (Source: Springfield News-Sun)
Last December, Rep. Steve Austria (R-OH) went to NASA with a thousand letters signed by kids in his district urging that the space agency donate one of its shuttle orbiters to Wright-Patterson for display at the National Museum of the Air Force. To his astonishment, Austria was greeted at the front door by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. For the next hour, Bolden “allowed me to present our case,’’ for sending an orbiter to the Dayton area.

The reason Bolden devoted so much time to Austria is obvious: Austria holds a seat on an appropriations subcommittee that will decide how much money NASA gets to spend. But it also was just one more effort in an extensive and aggressive lobbying effort by the Ohio congressional delegation to draw a straight flush to land one of the three remaining shuttles when they are retired later this summer. The only ones left are Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour and there is no shortage of cities trying to win one of them.

They include the obvious choices: The Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in Washington, KSC in Florida, and JSC in Houston. On a list like that, the National Museum of the Air Force is a likely contender for fourth place. But Ohio’s lawmakers have been bragging about all the pull they now have, particularly with Republican John Boehner of West Chester Twp. as the speaker of the House. They like to point out that a number of Ohio lawmakers occupy key slots on major committees, the kind of panels that could get NASA’s attention. (2/14)

Spacecraft has Date with Comet (Source: Florida Today)
NASA's Stardust spacecraft has a Valentine's Day message for the comet Tempel 1: "Don't be shy." A rendezvous 200 million miles from Earth and more than four years in the making is set to unfold before midnight tonight, when NASA hopes to confirm the comet has not stood up the spacecraft and, moreover, has put its best face forward. That's the one that would expose the crater made by NASA's Deep Impact mission in 2005, offering views unavailable then. (2/14)

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