February 16, 2011

Gov. Scott Turns Down High-Speed Rail, Other Federal Investments (Source: SPACErePORT)
Newly elected Florida Gov. Rick Scott has rejected a $2.4 billion federal investment to develop a high-speed rail system in Central Florida, positioning the state as an ideological battleground for kind of Tea Party activism he courted when unveiling his proposed budget on Feb. 7. Earlier this month, his administration also rejected $2 million in federal grant money for health care and insurance programs.

The rail funding rejection has attracted the ire of Republicans and Democrats who were counting on the transportation project to bring jobs and investment to the region at a time when unemployment is expected to spike even higher with the Space Shuttle's fast-approaching retirement. Gov. Scott has also been criticized for underfunding Space Florida, the agency responsible for expanding the state's space industry. (2/16)

Rep. Weiner Amendment Would Cut NASA Budget by $298 Million (Source: NASA Watch)
An amendment Offered to H.R. 1 "Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011" by Rep. Weiner (D-NY) was passed on a vote of 226-204. H.R. 1 is a "continuing resolution" bill that covers the remainder of FY-2011. President Obama has said he would veto H.R. 1 if it includes the kinds of cuts proposed by the House of Representatives. (2/16)

Second Try's the Charm for Europe's Kepler ATV (Source: Space Policy Online)
The European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) cargo spacecraft was launched successfully by an Ariane V on Feb. 16. The launch was aborted on Feb. 15. The ATV is carrying about 7 tons of equipment and supplies for the International Space Station (ISS). The spacecraft weighs 20 tons overall and is the heaviest payload lofted by an Ariane launch vehicle. This is the 200th Ariane launch since the first launch of Ariane 1 in 1979. This second ATV mission is named Johannes Kepler. The spacecraft is not designed to survive reentry and will burn up in the atmosphere at the end of its resupply mission. (2/16)

Florida, KSC Space Leaders Look for Ways to Grow (Source: Florida Today)
Are space leaders in Brevard County just talking big -- or have they signed real deals to grow rocket launches and new local employers? How could a surprise in the new START treaty give Brevard a competitive boost? And how can the bureaucracies at NASA and the Air Force become business-friendly enough to let us compete?

Those were among my questions for two experts involved in developing the space industry for Brevard: Pat McCarthy, director of spaceport operations for state-financed Space Florida, and Jim Ball, NASA's deputy manager for the planning and development office at Kennedy Space Center. Click here to read the interview. (2/16)

Air Force Plans Space Savings with Block Buys (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday said it could generate savings of at least 10 percent if Congress approves a new procurement approach aimed at shoring up the fragile U.S. space industrial base. Undersecretary Erin Conaton said the Air Force is requesting a small increase in funding for the unclassified space budget to $8.7 billion in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, up from $8 billion requested for fiscal 2011.

The new approach is aimed at ending years of chronic cost overruns and schedule delays on major satellite programs, and could eventually be used for other satellite programs. It is part of the Pentagon's overall drive to become more efficient. If approved, the Air Force would use block buys of satellites, fixed-price contracts and predictable research and development funding to generate cost savings and ensure more stability for defense companies, Conaton said. (2/14)

Houston First Stop For Most NASA Funding (Source: Aviation Week)
An installation-by-installation look at the proposed 2012 NASA budget reveals that Johnson Space Center in Houston is perched high atop the financial pyramid, where it can expect to manage nearly $5 billion, or just more than 25%, of the agency’s spending. Most of the Texas funding, nearly $3.3 billion, will go for space operations to sustain the International Space Station, the human activity that seems to have the greatest domestic bipartisan as well as global backing; the tail end of shuttle operations; and some commercial support.

The Johnson equation also includes $1.1 billion in exploration funds, much of it focused on the continued development of NASA’s Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, now baselined as a deep-space version of the Orion capsule. Johnson is distantly trailed by Goddard Space Flight Center, Marshall Space Flight Center and Kennedy Space Center in the funding lineup. Stennis Space Center claims last place with $226 million. (2/14)

Mongolia Hopes to Launch Satellite by 2015 with Japan's Help (Source: Xinhua)
Mongolia hopes to launch a space satellite by 2015 with help from Japan. A Japanese space exploration team visited Mongolia and organized a two-day workshop at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The workshop was attended by representatives of both countries' governments and a number of Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Hitachi and Sumitomi.

Mongolia now uses the "Ipstar-5" broadband satellite for the delivery of TV and radio programs in rural areas. It uses the "Intelsat" satellite for telecommunications and mobile phone services, and receives digital data on weather and natural disasters from low-earth orbit satellites. (2/16)

Former Spy Chapman May Participate in Creation of Uniform for Russian Space Centers (Source: AFP)
Former spy Anna Chapman wants to participate in the designing of a uniform for ground specialists of Russian space centers, Gagarin Astronaut Training Center's chief astronaut Sergei Krikalev said. Chapman was part of a Russian spy ring that was broken up this summer. She was later freed as part of a spy swap deal with Russia. She subsequently received one of Russia's highest medals for espionage.

"Chapman told me that she intends to participate in designing clothing for the Khrunichev [Space] Center, in what capacity, designer or financially, she did not specify," Krikalev said. "As for me, I said we're going to do something similar for the [Gagarin] Astronauts Training Center, and Anna Chapman immediately expressed her desire to participate," he continued adding that further details have not yet been discussed. (2/16)

NASA Unaware of Air Force Funding for Shuttle Transfer (Source: Space Politcs)
Within an operations and maintenance section of the Air Force's proposed FY-12 budget, $14 million is included to transport a space shuttle to the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio: "As a historic reminder of the USAF contributions in space the USAF has requested an interagency transfer of the Space Shuttle Atlantis to the National Museum of the United States Air Force to be displayed for viewing. One-time funding is provided to pay (NASA) for preparation and delivery of Space Shuttle Atlantis to the National Museum of the Air Force."

That line item in the Air Force budget “suggests that the White House and the Air Force favor the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force as a final destination for Atlantis,” the Dayton Daily News reports. The article adds that NASA administrator Charles Bolden was not aware of the request, though, and that no decision on the disposition of the shuttle orbiters would be made until at least April. (2/16)

Blakey: Cutting NextGen Could Cost Govt. More Than it Would Save (Source: AIA)
The funding of the Next Generation Air Transportation System is an essential government investment, not just another example of government spending, writes Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO Marion C. Blakey in this editorial. Blakey calls on the House and Senate to pass the FAA authorization bill and NextGen, noting that cutting the program would ultimately cost the government and the economy much more than it would save. (2/16)

White House Vows to Veto Bill Extending Continuing Resolution (Source: AIA)
The White House has issued a statement vowing to veto a bill that House Republicans have proposed to extend a continuing resolution to cover the remainder of fiscal 2011. The proposal comes amid Congress's inability to pass a spending bill covering the fiscal year that began last October. Defense Department officials have warned that the lack of 2011 legislation is hurting military planning and purchasing, and the White House said the bill proposed in the House would "undermine core government functions and investments key to economic growth and job creation." (2/16)

Senate Turns Back Effort to Slash FAA Budget (Source: AIA)
Senate Democrats on Tuesday defeated a measure that would have cut the FAA's budget by about $3 billion, rolling it back to 2008 levels. The amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill, offered by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was defeated on a straight party-line vote. A similar measure in the House has yet to go to a vote. (2/16)

Next Budget is Good News for Stennis Space Center (Source: Sun Herald)
Funding for Stennis Space Center remains at last year’s levels under the president’s proposed NASA budget for fiscal year 2012. “In today’s economic times, we’re happy to have a flatline budget,” said Paul Foerman, NASA public affairs officer at Stennis. (2/16)

Editorial: NASA Budget Reductions Reflect Harsh Reality of Slashing Spending (Source: Florida Today)
It sounds great on the campaign trail and even better in a TV sound byte: Government spending is out of control and should be slashed to reduce the federal budget deficit. That was the mantra during last fall’s elections, but it came without specifics on what programs should be cut and how deep the reductions should go. Now the whip is coming down and the impact on NASA is a microcosm of the harsh choices that lawmakers and citizens face in trying to reduce the nation’s red ink.

The austere 2012 spending blueprint that President Obama released Monday freezes NASA’s budget for the foreseeable future and abandons the additional $6 billion in spending over the next five years the White House proposed last year. The administration says it has no choice as it tries to make discretionary program cuts to help reduce the deficit $1 trillion over the next decade. But Republicans say the cuts should be much deeper.

For instance, a House vote is expected later this week on the still unresolved 2011 federal budget. There, Republicans are threatening to cut $579 million from NASA, which would give the agency about $300 million less than it would get under the freeze Obama has proposed. That’s why members of both parties in Congress — led by bipartisan lawmakers from Florida — should coolly step back and work together to craft a sensible spending plan for NASA that will have to set difficult priorities. (2/16)

Is Giffords' Husband Endangering Lives on Space Flight Quest? (Source: SunSentinel.com)
The subject of our latest debate: the question of whether Gabrielle Gifford's astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, should leave his wife's bedside as the congresswoman continues her remarkable recovery from a gunshot wound to the head; he's scheduled to return to space in April as commander of the space shuttle Endeavor. I'll let my counterpart get the ball rolling here. Gary, what's your beef with this highly skilled astronaut's decision to go up in space for what will surely be his last mission on the soon-to-be-retired space shuttle? Click here to read the back-and-forth. (2/16)

Proposed Rise for NOAA Budget as Satellite Costs Mount (Source: Science)
Although 2012 budget documents for NOAA are still being vetted by the Department of Commerce and the White House, the big picture has emerged: NOAA's expensive array of environmental satellite systems are hoping to receive the lion's share of the president's generous increase for the agency. But getting that requested hike through Congress won't be easy.

The NOAA request is $5.5 billion, a 16% increase over its current FY 2010 spending level. (Congress has yet to pass a 2011 budget.) A big change is a structural reorganization of the department with the creation of the National Climate Service as a full line office. Meant to serve like the National Weather Service or the National Ocean Service, the new office hopes to provide climate information that industry, government, and the public will find useful.

The office will take over data and information management archive activities from the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, which has been renamed the National Environmental Satellite Service. The 2012 budget contains an additional $688 million for JPSS; a key launch, of a preparatory mission called NPP, is set to occur in October after years of delays. The budget of its satellite branch would grow by an additional $40 million above the 2010 level because of work on other proposed satellites. (2/16)

Discovery Launch Could be Delayed (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A scrubbed space launch in South America could delay the upcoming Feb. 24 takeoff of Discovery. A European spacecraft was supposed to launch Tuesday from French Guiana was canceled with possible fuel problems. The European Space Agency aims to try again Wednesday and a successful launch could push Discovery back a day to Feb. 25 to avoid traffic at the Space Station. Discovery also faces delays if the ESA craft launches on Thursday or Friday, but if it goes Saturday or later then Discovery would get priority and still would launch on Feb. 24. (2/16)

Astrium Turns To Singapore For Spaceplane (Source: Aviation Week)
Astrium will join with Singapore in building a suborbital demonstrator to underpin its fledgling spaceplane program, with a first flight expected perhaps as early as next year. Singapore-based companies will be building a small-scale demonstrator of the spaceplane, and the first series of test flights will occur here, Astrium executives disclosed at the Global Space & Technology Convention in Singapore. (2/16)

Obama Seeks $14M for Dayton Space Shuttle (Source: Dayton Business Journal)
The effort to bring a space shuttle to Dayton is getting a boost from a pretty influential person: President Barack Obama. The 2012 federal budget Obama sent to Congress this week includes $14 million in funds to bring the Space Shuttle Atlantis to the National Museum of the Air Force, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton.

Snagging one of the shuttles would be a big score for any museum, by some accounts boosting attendance by 1 million people per year and having a $40 million annual impact on the state and creating up to 700 jobs. A statement from the office of U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) Tuesday night said the request follows a year of advocacy by the Ohio delegation and two letters led by Congressman Turner to NASA acting Administrator Charles Scolese in April 2010 and current Administrator Charles Bolden. (2/16)

JPL Scientists Excited by Findings of Close Encounter with Comet (Source: Pasadena Star News)
Six years after launching an 800-pound metal slug into the comet Tempel 1, scientists gushed Tuesday over what they called a perfect scientific mission examining how the comet had changed in the years since. In addition to inching closer to an understanding of how comets evolve, scientists who pulled an all-nighter in mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory were excited to see the crater they left in 2005 staring back at them. (2/16)

Japan Considering Humanoid Robot for ISS (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Japan’s humanoid robots smile, laugh, and sing. But what if they could read your facial expression, converse in words, and tweet on the microblogging service Twitter? All this from space? That’s exactly what Japan’s national aerospace agency is aiming to develop by 2013. JAXA has begun reviewing a possible joint venture with Tokyo University and advertising and communications company Dentsu Inc. to develop a humanoid robot that will join astronauts as a permanent resident on the International Space Station.

The robot wouldn’t be the first aboard the ISS: NASA is launching a humanoid robot of its own later this month. But the NASA machine has been engineered to assist astronauts with various operational tasks on the ISS, while the Japanese robot’s main task would essentially be in the service sector—to keep astronauts company. “The robot would provide stress-relieving facial expressions and words.” Perhaps more importantly for those back on Planet Earth, the robot would read and analyze the astronauts’ faces to detect any signs of stress, take pictures of the astronauts, and relay notices received from Earth while the astronauts are asleep. (2/16)

Spaceport Chair has Long had Eyes on the Heavens (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The newly selected chairman of Spaceport America's governing body is a 22-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force with a background in space technology. Appointee Richard Holdridge, 56, retired in December 1997 from the Air Force with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He said he decided to retire to spend more time with an ill child, who has since died.

Before returning to New Mexico, Holdridge spent most of his time in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., where he was "heavily involved in state-of-the art technology associated with space and rocketry." That work, he said, entailed managing the development, launch and operations of military reconnaissance satellites. For the first five years of his military career, he said, he was involved in aircraft research and development, including flight testing. (2/16)

World’s Largest Rocket Contest for Students Launches into Qualifying Rounds (Source: AIA)
More than 600 teams from 48 states and the District of Columbia are preparing their hand-designed model rockets to qualify for the ninth annual Team America Rocketry Challenge May 14. This year’s roster includes teams from many schools that are venerable veterans as well as 161 teams that are joining the competition for the first time. The contest aims to inspire middle and high school students to further study and choose careers in science, math and engineering.

The contest is sponsored by the AIA and the National Association of Rocketry, in collaboration with the Defense Department, NASA, the American Association of Physics Teachers, Estes, a rocket motor manufacturer, and more than 30 industry partners. Over 45 of the registered teams for 2011 are from California. Twenty two are from Florida. Click here to see the list of registered teams. (2/16)

Model Rocket Class Helps Launch Student Interest in Technology (Source: AIA)
Schools around the nation, like one on Millville, Calif., are working to find innovative ways to enhance their science and math departments to boost student interest in science-related jobs. At the Millville school, the effort has focused on a model rocketry elective class that the teacher says mixes science, math, engineering, technology and fun. (2/16)

Small Business Conference to Be Held at Vandenberg (Source: Santa Barbara Independent)
The 5th Annual Vandenberg AFB Small Business Conference will take place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. March 16-17 at the Pacific Coast Club. Contractors are invited to attend the conference, which will highlight the latest updates on Air Force contacting opportunities, marketing to the government and teaming strategies with large businesses. The second day of the event will include a GPC Vendor Fair, open to all contractors and base employees from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., during which event-goers will have the opportunity to shop and talk with vendors.

From 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. there will be a “speed dating” session of five-minute mini market meetings with government and prime contractor representatives. Admission is $40 for the two-day event. Pre-registration is required at https://www.regonline.com/2011_vafb_sbconference. (2/16)

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