February 9. 2010

Ohio Senator Fights to Preserve Aeronautics Mission at Glenn (Source: Sen. Sherrod Brown)
An amendment supported by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) preserving civil aeronautics research and development at NASA passed the Senate this morning as part of the FAA reauthorization bill. Section 605 of the FAA reauthorization bill would have established an Advisory Committee on the Future of Aeronautics to, among other purposes, consider transferring the responsibility for civil aeronautics research and development—-a key mission of NASA Glenn—-from NASA to other existing departments or agencies, to an academic consortium, or to a non-profit.

Brown’s amendment, which passed 96-1, stripped this language from the FAA bill and ensured that civil aeronautics research and development would remain a central mission at NASA. “This harmful provision would have jeopardized our dominance in aerospace and shift the very programs that have strengthened our nation’s global leadership away from the expertise and experience at NASA. That’s why, along with Senator Bill Nelson, I pushed to have this harmful language stripped from the FAA bill to ensure that civil aeronautics research and development stays right where it belongs—at NASA.” (2/9)

Human Spaceflight Versus Earth Sciences? (Source: Space Politics)
A letter signed by several members of Congress is the latest evidence that a new battle line is forming over NASA funding: human spaceflight versus Earth sciences. In a letter to House appropriators, six Republican members urged the prioritization of NASA funding on what they consider to be the agency’s primary mission, human spaceflight. To do that, they argue that funding for NASA’s climate change research be redirected to human spaceflight accounts.

“With your help, we can reorient NASA’s mission back toward human spaceflight by reducing funding for climate change research and reallocating those funds to NASA’s human spaceflight accounts, all while moving overall discretionary spending towards FY2008 levels,” the letter’s authors—Reps. Bill Posey (R-FL), Pete Olson (R-TX), Rob Bishop (R-UT), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Sandy Adams (R-FL), and Mo Brooks (R-AL)—argue.

There are a number of issues with the letter. They claim that NASA spent “over a billion dollars” on “studying global warming/climate change” in FY2010. The agency got about $1.4 billion for all Earth sciences research in FY2010. There’s no breakout for how much of that went specifically to climate change research, though. The letter also claims that the “lion share” of NASA’s stimulus funding went to climate change studies. In fact, only about a third of the agency’s stimulus funding, $325 million, went to Earth sciences program, to accelerate development of Earth science spacecraft. Human spaceflight got even more: $400 million, including the $50 million for CCDev program. And their claim that NASA’s core mission is human spaceflight is not supported by law. (2/9)

Senate Votes to Spare NASA From Budget Cuts (Source: The Hill)
The Senate on Tuesday approved an amendment to the FAA authorization bill that will likely spare NASA from future budget cuts. The amendment from Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) eliminates language in the FAA bill that would have created an advisory committee to examine whether NASA should continue its research and development activities related to civilian aircraft. The commission was thought to be a step toward a recommendation that this R&D should stop. (2/8)

Medvedev Calls for Russian Space Exploration Program (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia should develop its own space exploration program. "I believe this is a very important topic, even in terms of our scientific ambitions," Medvedev said. "If we do not do this, we will fall behind." (2/8)

Antrix-Devas S-band Deal Headed for Annulment (Source: The Hindu)
The controversy-ridden S-band deal between the Indian Space Research Oragnization's commercial arm, Antrix Corp., and Devas Multimedia is heading for annulment. With the Opposition demanding a probe into allegations that high-value S-band spectrum worth an estimated Rs 2 lakh crore had been made freely available by ISRO to the Bangalore-based private company, the Manmohan Singh government on Tuesday went into damage control mode. Two top space officials were fielded to deny there was any “dilly-dallying'' in terminating the agreement while the Prime Minister's Office issued a statement of double denial. (2/8)

U.S. Wary of China Space Weapons (Source: UPI)
Senior Pentagon officials are sounding concern over China's development of weapons designed to shoot down satellites or jam communication signals. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense for Space Policy Gregory Schulte said China's project was becoming a "matter of concern" for the United States. (2/8)

Governor's Budget Would Slash Funding For Space Florida (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida's budget would shrink by two-thirds under Florida Gov. Rick Scott's proposed $65.8 billion state budget for 2011, which includes $4.6 billion in total cuts. Funding for the state's aerospace economic development agency would drop from $31 million to $10 million, according to numbers provided by the agency.

Funds for day-to-day operations, workforce development and business development would remain flat, at $3.8 million, $3.2 million and $3 million, respectively. But $10 million in financing incentives intended to help lure new jobs as the shuttle nears retirement would disappear. However, the agency could recoup that money through competitive awards from a consolidated pool of incentive funds proposed by the governor.

Editor's Note: The majority of the $31 million provided to Space Florida last year was a one-time investment for economic development incentives. Gov. Scott characterizes his $10.04 million for Space Florida as an increase to the agency's day-to-day operating budget, although it includes workforce funding that normally would go directly to agencies like Brevard Workforce. (2/8)

Posey, Adams & Bishop Call For Focus on Human Spaceflight (Source: America Space)
As House leaders examine ways to cut spending and address the ever growing budget deficits that have plagued Washington for years, U.S. Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL), Sandy Adams (R-FL) and Rob Bishop (R-UT) were joined by several other of their colleagues in calling for a reprioritization of NASA so human space flight remains the primary focus of the nation’s space agency as budget cuts are considered.

In their recent letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) and Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA), Posey, Adams and Bishop 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. For years, Presidents and Congress have charged NASA with completing tasks that fall outside the scope of NASA’s primary mission. (2/8)

Rumor: SpaceX Can Combine COTS Demo Flights (Source: Hobby Space)
I just heard a rumor that SpaceX has recently gotten permission from NASA to combine the second and third COTS demonstration flights, as SpaceX had requested. So this would mean that the next Dragon will go to the ISS and dock with it. Hope we get public confirmation soon. (2/8)

Details Emerging of First Plans for Shuttle Replacement (Source: Sen. Bill Nelson)
In the wake of a new blueprint for NASA authored in part by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, some half-dozen groups now are lining up with plans for a new rocket and capsule to keep America from having to rely on the Russians for access to the International Space Station. News outlets are reporting that American and European aerospace ventures are teaming up to build a low-cost replacement for the shuttle that could save hundreds of high-tech jobs in Florida and shave years off the gap between shuttle retirement and return to space.

And earlier this week, reports emerged of another new proposal to keep at least part of the space shuttle fleet flying for years to come. United Space Alliance has submitted a proposal to study launching Endeavour and Atlantis as privately operated commercial spaceships. The proposal widely is viewed as a long-shot.

These two proposals likely will compete against ones from Space-X, Boeing and Orbital Sciences and others for seed money from NASA for a crew transportation system. “Once we get the new budget plan going forward, then you’re going to see all these creative proposals bubble up,” Nelson said. “And the likelihood is that some of these ideas will get us flying by 2015.” (2/8)

Wyle Demonstrates New Cost Estimating Tool for NASA (Source: Wyle)
A new cost estimating tool that can be used for a wide range of acquisition systems was demonstrated by Wyle experts at the eighth annual NASA Project Management Challenge at the Long Beach Convention Center in California. The new tool, called VIEW, was created by a Wyle unit that has provided independent cost analysis and affordability assessments to the Intelligence Community, Department of Defense and NASA for decades. Wyle has specialized in providing accurate "should cost" analysis for a wide range of high tech systems including satellites and other systems. (2/8)

San Diego Students Have Live Q&A with Space Station Astronaut (Source: AIA)
Elementary school students near San Diego had the rare experience of having a live communication with an astronaut aboard the International Space Station. Astronaut Catherine Coleman fielded questions from about 17 children as the space station orbited from above Alaska to Central America. (2/9)

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