February 4, 2011

ITT Wins $8 Million Range Contract Modification (Source: DOD)
ITT Industries, Cape Canaveral, Fla., was awarded a $7,973,016 contract modification which will provide additional spares for initial supply support of the eastern and western ranges for various sustainment activities and engineering projects vital to modernize and maintain the range of launch support of national space assets. At this time, $7,565,658 has been obligated. (2/4)

Space Florida Chief Goes to Tallahassee (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida President Frank DiBello will travel to Tallahassee on Feb. 8 for another round of briefings to legislative committees in advance of the state's annual Legislative Session that begins in early March. DiBello will brief the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, Space & Domestic Security, and the Senate Committee on Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities. Click here to see a copy of the various space-related initiatives that will be considered during the Legislative Session. (2/4)

Orbital Sciences Posts Updates on Taurus-2 Rocket and Virginia Launch Pad Development (Sources: Orbital, Hobby Space)
Orbital Sciences has posted an update on testing of structural components for its Taurus-2 rocket. Also included are photos of construction of the Pad 0-A launch facility at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, where Orbital Sciences will launch its Taurus-2/Cygnus system on cargo delivery runs to the ISS. Click here. (2/4)

European Commissioner: Space is a Must to Tackle Climate Change (Source: ESA)
At a Hearing held this week at the European Parliament, Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for DG Climate Action, stated that observations from space are absolutely essential on the road to monitoring, combating and adapting to climate change. As Commissioner for the new DG Climate Action, it is Connie Hedegaard's ambition that, in five years' time, Europe is the most climate-friendly region in the world. With this in mind, she was quick to stress the role that space can play in tackling climate change. (2/4)

Astrotech Reports Second Quarter 2011 Financial Results (Source: Astrotech)
Astrotech Space Operations supported one mission which launched in the second quarter 2011, COSMO -- SkyMed 4. The Company retired its outstanding $5.1 million par value senior convertible notes, plus accrued interest, at maturity. Additionally, a new financing arrangement is in place, which includes a $7 million term loan and $3 million revolving credit facility. The Company posted a second quarter fiscal year 2011 net loss of $1.6 million on revenue of $4.6 million compared with a second quarter fiscal year 2010 net income of $1.7 million on revenue of $8.1 million. (2/4)

Texas Senator Takes Minority Leadership of Science Appropriations Subcommittee (Source: SPACErePORT)
Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison will replace Alabama Senator Richard Shelby as the ranking minority member on the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice & Science, which is responsible for NASA funding. Shelby remains a member of the subcommittee. The leadership shift would give Hutchison (who plans to retire from the Senate in 2012) an opportunity to strengthen Texas' influence on NASA policy and programs, much like Shelby did for Alabama when he was the minority leader.

Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski will remain the chairperson of the subcommittee. Neither of Florida's senators are appropriators, though Senator Bill Nelson serves as chairman of the Commerce Committee's Science & Space Subcommittee, which authorizes NASA's programs and spending. (2/4)

House Could Slash NASA Budget (Source: Independent Record)
House Republicans say some agencies such as the FBI, the Indian Health Service and NASA are unlikely to be cut all the way back to pre-Obama levels. But that means other agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency, would have to absorb even bigger cuts. Returning to 2008 levels would produce dramatic reductions for many agencies: a 41 percent cut for EPA clean water grants; an 8 percent cut to NASA, a 16 percent cut for the FBI and a 13 percent cut in the operating budget of the national parks.

The hard-charging GOP freshman class _ especially newcomers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York and New Hampshire _ may have some second thoughts when confronted with big cuts to the program that provides home heating subsidies to the poor. Republicans in Texas, Florida and Alabama _ where NASA facilities mean thousands of jobs _ are sure to fight against cuts to the space agency. NASA could have to abandon the International Space Station, the White House warns. (2/4)

Editorial: Our 'Sputnik Moment' is China's Space Program (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
As President Obama and much of his administration genuflected before President Hu Jintao from the People's Republic of China at the recent state dinner at the White House, all in attendance worked overtime to ensure there was no mention of China's ultimate threat to our national security. That being the PRC's military space program. Unlike the U.S., the Chinese envision accomplishments and victories in time spans of decades and even centuries.

Knowing that it would take almost a decade to rebuild our Obama-dismantled human-spaceflight capability, it is not hard to imagine some in the Chinese military thinking, "There will soon be no need for a costly war if we can simply take out each and every satellite the United States relies upon for its national security. At that point, all that will be needed is for us to make a phone call and for an ultimatum to be delivered." That's the "Sputnik" moment Obama should have addressed in both his State of the Union remarks, and to Hu at the White House.

Editor's Note: "Obama-dismantled human-spaceflight capability"? President Bush canceled the Space Shuttle program with an end-date at least five years before a replacement vehicle would be ready. That sounds like a pretty solid dismantling to me. Obama canceled the over-budget and behind-schedule Ares-1, but he has pushed to accelerate commercial human spaceflight...something conservatives should aggressively support but have not. (2/4)

Russian Official: Negligible Upgrade Needed For Commercial Lunar Trip (Source: MoonandBack.com)
Space tourists can really get the opportunity to fly around the Moon and return to the Earth in the Soyuz spacecraft, a Roscosmos official said. “It is technically feasible”, Alexey Krasnov said, commenting on the statement by Space Adventures which revealed the sale of the first ticket for the lunar fly-around.

According to Krasnov, this objective will demand negligible Soyuz upgrading. In addition, several Soyuz-orbital ferry docking operations are to be carried out in orbit in order to ensure the mission of 3 humans to the Moon is successful. The space tugs are required to deliver the spacecraft to the LLO, make a fly-around and return to the Earth. (2/4)

Satire: Why We Can't Live on the 54 New Possibly-Habitable Planets (Source: Gawker)
Astronomers have identified 54 new exoplanets in the "habitable zone" of their solar systems—meaning they could potentially sustain life as we know it. But we won't be able to live on any of them! Click here to see why. (2/4)

Officials Think Ex-USA Worker Stole, Sold Shuttle Tiles on eBay (Source: Florida Today)
A former United Space Alliance employee whose Port St. John home was raided by federal and local authorities this week is a suspect in the alleged theft and resale on eBay of space shuttle tiles, the Brevard County Sheriff's Office said. The former employee has not been charged, but the investigation is active. Authorities allege that he may have taken tiles destined for disposal off Kennedy Space Center property, and later resold them on eBay, in transactions totaling as much as $880. Marich did not provide specifics on the total number of tiles that may have involved. (2/4)

Stennis Plants ‘Moon Tree’ (Source: Slidell Sentry)
Despite the freezing temperatures and bone-chilling wind, scores of high school and elementary students showed up at the soon-to-be completed Infinity Science Center at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi Thursday morning to help plant a very special tree that, and to meet a real astronaut, who flew to the moon. To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 14 mission to the moon, the Infinity Center was given a “moon tree”, which is actually an American sycamore. What makes the tree special is that it comes from one of 500 tree seeds that flew on Apollo 14 to the moon and back. (2/4)

‘Splashdown Grand Turk’ Exhibit Opens (Source: FPTCI)
A unique exhibit commemorating NASA’s Mercury space program and the historic 1962 splashdown of the Friendship 7 capsule off the coast of Grand Turk is now open at the Grand Turk Cruise Center. Grand opening festivities were held Jan. 28, with representatives of the Turks and Caicos Islands’ government, Carnival Corporation and the Grand Turk Cruise Center in attendance. Special guest speakers included Janet E. Petro, deputy director of the John F. Kennedy Space Center, and former NASA astronaut Winston Scott. (2/4)

Bigelow Aerospace Begins Big Nevada Expansion (Source: KLAS)
More than a few doubts were raised back when the signs went up at Warp Drive and Skywalker Way, and again when Bob Bigelow spoke of hotels in space for the ultimate vacation. But after two successful launches of Bigelow's homegrown Genesis Spacecraft, the aerospace industry isn't laughing anymore. Now, Bigelow is briskly moving into new territory.

A 185,000 square foot addition to the Bigelow Aerospace plant in North Las Vegas represents the birth of a global industry right in our backyard. It is way beyond research and development. It's a production facility for spacecraft, a factory for building habitats for use on the moon, or Mars, or beyond. Bigelow expects the plant to be open for business by this time next year. It means his lean workforce of 115 would expand by an additional 1,200 new positions -- engineers, technicians, and support staff. It is exactly the kind of economic diversification Nevada leaders say they yearn for. (2/4)

Nevada Governor's Plan Restructures Economic Development, Boosts Funding by 55% (Source: SSTI)
Focusing on job growth and promoting the state for new business development, Gov. Brian Sandoval announced his plans to reorganize the Commission on Economic Development into a public-private partnership and increase funding for the state's economic development efforts by an additional $2.2 million in general fund appropriations each year. The governor also included in his 2011-13 biennial budget $10 million in FY12 for a proposed Nevada Catalyst Fund designed as a closing fund to bring new businesses to the state. (2/4)

Space Exploration Alliance Plans 2011 Legislative Blitz in Washington (Source: SEA)
In 2004, a group of thirteen space advocacy groups joined together under the Space Exploration Alliance to have their voices heard. The first SEA "Blitz" brought together 76 space advocates from around the country. They converged on Washington D.C. and talked with over 200 congressional offices in support of NASA and space exploration.

The 2011 Blitz comes at a crucial moment. Come join space advocates from around the country on Feb. 27 - Mar.1 to let Congress know that there is strong constituent support for an ambitious space program. You will find this experience to be exciting and rewarding! We will provide an information/training session on Sunday afternoon plus all of the materials that you will need for meetings on Monday and Tuesday. Click here for details. (2/4)

New Secrets of Huge Soviet Moon Rocket Revealed (Source: Space.com)
Research that digs back over the decades is providing an illuminating look at the former Soviet Union’s failed bid to send cosmonauts to the moon. Between February 1969 and November 1972, Soviet space engineers repeatedly saw any dream of landing a cosmonaut on the moon literally go up in flames. A succession of four failures of the Soviet-built N-1 mega-booster led to the project’s cancellation by decree of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

A fifth launch of the super-booster was slated in the fourth quarter of 1974, one that gleaned lessons learned from the earlier unsuccessful flights. Up in smoke and millions of rubles spent, the terminated N-1-L3 space project was to be topped by a lunar system to support a two-cosmonaut crew on a maximum flight time of 13 days to the moon and back to Earth, with one crew member setting foot upon the lunar surface. (2/4)

U.S. Should Support but Not Yet Sign EU Code of Conduct Say Former Bush Officials (Source: Space Policy Online)
Three former Bush Administration officials, one of whom stayed on in the Obama Administration to help craft the current National Space Policy (NSP), agreed today that the United States should indicate support for the European Union (EU) Draft Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities, but not officially sign on to it yet.

All three stopped short of endorsing a formal U.S. adoption of the EU code, noting that the European Union is consulting with many countries and others might insist on changes. They recommend that the United States wait until the end of the process or risk losing its own leverage over the final wording. (2/4)

ATK Reassures Investors on Heavy-Lift Rocket Prospects (Source: Space News)
Solid-rocket-motor manufacturer ATK on Feb. 3 sought to persuade investors that its position in NASA’s future heavy-lift rocket program is getting stronger despite ongoing debate over the vehicle’s cost and schedule. ATK, whose $500 million in annual NASA revenue during the shuttle era is now being reduced to around $300 million a year, said the lower figure seems stable for the foreseeable future given the state of the debate in Washington over what NASA’s heavy-lift rocket will look like.

“If the program is executed the way it has been planned, and the way Congress has laid out the authorization for execution of NASA’s plan, it should be a fairly smooth transition” from ATK’s current work on the Ares rocket, which has been canceled by NASA, to work on the future heavy-lift rocket, ATK Chief Executive Mark W. DeYoung said in a Feb. 3 conference call with investors. “The view we have -- that ATK will play a critical role … in these future vehicles –- continues to solidify as time goes on. ATK’s position for next-generation NASA vehicles continues to improve.” (2/4)

CCDev Awardees One Year Later: Where are They Now? (Source: New Space Jounal)
It was a year ago this week that NASA announced a set of Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) awards, using $50 million they agency got as part of a larger grant of stimulus funding. The CCDev awards went to five companies: Blue Origin, Boeing, Paragon, Sierra Nevada, and United Launch Alliance. What have they done with that money? Click here to read the article. (2/4)

Kelly Resumes Training as STS-134 Commander (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA released a press statement this morning announcing that Mark Kelly is resuming training as commander of the mission. Kelly is married to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) who is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head suffered on January 8 during a constituent event in Tucson. Kelly has been spending almost full time with her since the shooting and there was a question as to whether she would be sufficiently recovered in time for him to return to his astronaut duties. (2/4)

United Space Alliance to Lay Off 548 at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
United Space Alliance today completed notifying 548 Kennedy Space Center employees that they will be laid off on April 8. Some 697 USA employees companywide will be laid off that day, a figure that includes 145 in Houston and four in Huntsville, Ala.

The Houston-based company, which in early January cut 143 positions at KSC, had previously announced that it expected a layoff of around 700 people in April. Notifications, either in person or by mail, began earlier in the week and were to be complete today. There are no further scheduled layoffs until after the last shuttle flight, USA spokesperson Kari Fluegel said. "However, that could change," she added. (2/4)

Republicans Wary of European Code for Space Activities (Source: Washington Times)
Republican opposition in the Senate could scuttle the Obama administration‘s plans to sign on to the European Union‘s Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities, an agreement that critics say could limit U.S. development and deployment of anti-satellite weapons. Key Senate Republicans are urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to consult with the relevant Senate panels before signing the agreement. (2/4)

Chances of Exoplanet Life 'Impossible'? Or '100 Percent'? (Source: Discovery)
Just in case you haven't heard, our galaxy appears to be teeming with small worlds, many of which are Earth-sized candidate exoplanets and dozens appear to be orbiting their parent stars in their "habitable zones." Although this is very exciting, the key thing to remember is that we are talking about exoplanet candidates, which means Kepler has detected 1,235 exoplanet signals, but more work needs to be done (i.e. more observing time) to refine their orbits, masses and, critically, to find out whether they actually exist.

Could life as we know it also be thriving out there? Before I answer that question, let's turn back the clock to Sept. 29, 2010, when, in the wake of the discovery of the exoplanet Gliese 581 g, Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at University of California Santa Cruz, told Discovery News: "Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say that the chances for life on [Gliese 581 g] are 100 percent. I have almost no doubt about it."

Going to the opposite end of the spectrum, Howard Smith, an astrophysicist at Harvard University, made the headlines earlier this year when he announced, rather pessimistically, that aliens will unlikely exist on the extrasolar planets we are currently detecting. "We have found that most other planets and solar systems are wildly different from our own. They are very hostile to life as we know it," Smith said. (2/4)

First Stars May Still Shine (Source: Science News)
Talk about glimmers from the past. Some of the universe’s first stars may still be shining in the Milky Way 13.4 billion years after they formed, new simulations suggest. The study contradicts the prevailing view that the first stars were all behemoths that burned brightly and died out in a few million years. (2/4)

Senate Dubious on House Budget Cuts (Source: Space Policy Online)
WSenator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he expects a need for another short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) instead of a CR to cover the remaining seven months of FY2011. The Senator made his comments after the chairmen of the House Budget and Appropriations committees revealed the level of cuts they are proposing for the rest of the current fiscal year.

The House is expected to vote on a 7-month CR next week. With the Senate in recess the following week, however, it would not have time to consider and vote on it in time to avoid a government shutdown on March 4 when the current CR expires, Inouye explained. Other Democratic and Republican Senators were skeptical about the House cuts being able to pass the Senate. (2/3)

Will Space Shuttles Have an Afterlife? (Source: MSNBC)
Is there really a chance that at least a couple of space shuttles will stay on as commercial spaceships rather than going to museums this year? That's what United Space Alliance is suggesting in its proposal for resupplying the International Space Station in the, ahem, "post-shuttle era."

The reactions to our story about the proposal run the gamut from "it's a dream come true" to "it's a pipe dream." It's not a totally loony idea — in fact, retired senator-astronaut John Glenn threw his support behind the idea months ago, and made his pitch for keeping the shuttles flying to President Barack Obama during a White House meeting. "Why terminate a perfectly good system that has been made more safe and reliable through its many years of development?" Glenn asked.

But when you consider all the concerns that have been raised about the risks and costs associated with the space shuttle, along with the fact that the shuttle infrastructure is already being literally dismantled, does the plan really make sense? USA is proposing doing two flights a year, using Endeavour and Atlantis, for $1.5 billion starting in 2013. That may be more feasible, and it may be an attractive proposition for job-conscious members of Congress. But the plan still may turn out to be too costly, risky or wrong-headed. Click here. (2/3)

1 comment:

Grants Pass Hull and Cargo Insurance said...

I'm glad Mark Kelly is back. His wife and his family have gone through a lot and it's good to see that they're back on their feet.