March 16, 2011

Arianespace's Success Is Built On Transparency (Source: Space Daily)
Arianespace addressed an important "hot button" issue for the global launch services sector - and underscored its continued leadership as the industry faces increased competition from new and returning market entrants. Chairman and CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall reinforced the company's full transparency in all its business dealings - particularly in regards to the issue of government subsidies. Le Gall said most companies receive subsidies in one form or another. However, some are provided in a transparent manner - which Le Gall said is "the Arianespace way" - while others are not.

"Our customers have explained to us that they appreciate our transparency very much, which sometimes is not exactly the case with some of our competitors," added Le Gall. Le Gall also took the opportunity to reinforce Arianespace's sustained efforts to provide the highest level of services to customers and maintain its position as an industry leader. Moving forward, the company is poised to build on its 30-year track record of success - benefitting from a robust payload order book, and supported by the extension of its launcher family with Soyuz and Vega.

To date, Arianespace has delivered 290 payloads to orbit for 78 customers around the world - which includes 42 consecutive successes by the heavy-lift Ariane 5. In 2011, the company is targeting a total of 12 launches - composed of six Ariane 5 flights, the first two Soyuz launches and Vega's inaugural liftoff, all from the Spaceport; along with three Soyuz launches from Baikonur Cosmodrome. (3/16)

House-Size Asteroid Zooms Close by Earth (Source:
An asteroid the size of a house zoomed by Earth on March 16, flying within the orbit of the moon just one day after astronomers spotting the space rock in the sky, NASA says. The small asteroid 2011 EB74 was about 47 feet (14 meters) across and posed no threat of hitting Earth, since it was too small to survive the trip through the planet's atmosphere.

Instead, the asteroid passed our planet at a comfortable distance of about 203,000 miles (326,696 kilometers) when it made its closest approach at 5:49 p.m. EDT (2149 GMT), NASA officials said. A car-size asteroid buzzed Earth on Feb. 14. A tiny space rock set a new record for the closest approach to Earth without entering the atmosphere when it zipped within 3,400 miles (5,471 km) of the planet on Feb. 4. (3/16)

The Strange Tale of the Lebanese Space Race (Source: New Scientist)
Let me take you back to 1960. It is three years after the launch of Sputnik 1 and Manoug Manougian is a young mathematics and physics lecturer at Haigazian College in Beirut, Lebanon, with a fascination for rocketry. At a time when the global focus was on space exploration, 25-year-old Manougian decided to harness this excitement to teach science and mathematics. Gathering together a group of like-minded students, he formed a small rocketry society and began to experiment with solid rocket fuels at a farm belonging to the family of one of the students.

By April 1961, they were ready to launch their first rocket, an event that garnered a good deal of attention. The Lebanese military became involved, and the enterprise expanded to become the Lebanese Rocket Society. Foreign powers also became interested: the US and Soviet Union both sent cultural attaches to visit, and suspicions arose that Manougian's work was being monitored by foreign agents.

The launches were remarkably successful. One even made it into the thermosphere - now home to the International Space Station- reaching an altitude of 145 kilometers. Yet the project disbanded in 1966 and has since slipped into obscurity. Perhaps scuppered by the international conflicts that affected the region at the time, or drowned out by the successes and failures of the Soviet and US endeavours, the Lebanese Rocket Society and its work was consigned to a few little-read history books. (3/16)

Editorial: Making Investment in Florida's Space Industry is an Economic Must (Source: Florida Today)
This is a pivotal moment for Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature to strongly support the state’s space industry, which is facing thousands of job losses and potentially deep NASA budget cuts in Congress. There’s no better time to make the commitment than today, when industry leaders gather in Tallahassee to make their case in the annual Florida Space Day.

More than 400 aerospace companies employ 31,000 workers in the state, with NASA contracts in 47 of 67 counties. That fact allowed Senate President Mike Haridopolos to lead the way last year in gaining $31 million for Space Florida, the state’s space-development agency, which is using the funds to attract commercial space companies. Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, also played an important role, starting the Space Caucus and growing it to include 62 members, creating the broad network of bipartisan support necessary to press the cause year after year.

We’d like to say we’re optimistic about prospects this year, but have deep concerns. And they start with Gov. Scott. Rather than use his bully pulpit to throw his political weight behind space funding, he wants to slash Space Florida’s budget. Gov. Scott and the Legislature can let the industry know that Florida is open for business by approving the funding and policies to make Florida a magnet for a new era in spaceflight. (3/16)

Space Bills Line Up for Passage in Tallahassee (Source: Florida Today)
Three Space Coast GOP lawmakers — Sen. Thad Altman and Reps. Ritch Workman and Steve Crisafulli — are advancing several bills that deserve passage by the Florida Legislature. The outlook is good with support from Space Coast Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon, whose Central Florida district will also feel the fallout from the shuttle’s shutdown.

The measures would use tax credits to attract space companies, have them invest in research and development, and hire and train space employees. The research and development tax credit is modeled after a similar federal provision and is on the books in 30 states, showing how far Florida is behind the curve. Another would require that companies applying for a corporate income tax credit create at least 35 jobs and invest $15 million in infrastructure within five years, putting down a marker they would have to meet. (3/16)

Loral Reports 2010 Year End Financial Results (Source: Loral)
Loral financial results for the year and fourth quarter ended December 31 included full-year revenues of $1.962 billion, compared to $1.700 billion for 2009. Fourth quarter revenues were $533 million, compared to $447 million in the fourth quarter of 2009. Loral's liquidity is strong with year end cash of $166 million, no debt, and a new credit agreement that increases the revolver capacity to $150 million. Loral booked six satellite orders in 2010. (3/16)

Cost of Ride on Soyuz Rises Again for US (Source: Florida Today)
The price the United States is paying Russia to launch American astronauts to the International Space Station just went up again, rising for the fourth time in five years. NASA signed a $753 million deal with the Russian Federal Space Agency to provide training, round-trips to the station, and rescue services for 12 crewmembers between 2014 and 2016.

That works out to about $63 million per seat on Russian Soyuz space taxis, or about $7 million more than the $56 million NASA paid per seat in a similar deal in 2010. The higher price represents a 12.5 percent boost since 2010 and a 31 percent increase since 2007. (3/16)

Russian Soyuz Capsule Lands in Kazakhstan (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia's Soyuz TMA-M capsule landed in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, ferrying three astronauts from the International Space Station (ISS) safely back to Earth, space officials said. The capsule, carrying Russian cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka and U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly - part of an ISS team known as Expedition 26 - touched down in heavy snow in central Kazakhstan. The new-generation Soyuz craft undocked from the ISS on schedule earlier on Wednesday. (3/16)

NASA’s Inglorious Ending for the Shuttle Program (Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
NASA chieftains led by William Gerstenmaier performed yet another bureaucratic dance at the witness table, assuring Senators that they were working on plans for a new heavy lift rocket and crew vehicle, but leaving no discernible footprints on when any of that might actually start flying. Gerstenmaier also warned Congress against making any budget cuts to NASA the rest of this year, saying it could derail the final shuttle flight, set for June.

Instead of a celebratory end for the shuttle, the budget battle that's playing out on it right now in the Congress seems more like a messy funeral than anything else. What's next after that? Basically, the human space flight arm of NASA would be put on hold. There's talk of 'maybe' doing some test flights on a new rocket and crew vehicle in 2016, but no assurances from NASA officials, who keep talking about how they need more money. But more money is not exactly high on the agenda for anyone right now. It's not exactly a hero's kind of sendoff for the end of the shuttle program. (3/16)

Senator: Defense Spending Bill Won't be Passed Separately (Source: AIA)
The defense spending bill is critical to the passage of the overall spending package to fund the government through Sept. 30, and it will therefore not be passed separately from the larger package, according to Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. The House and Senate have each proposed spending packages for the rest of 2011, including a defense appropriations bill, but they have failed to reach compromises on the proposals. (3/16)

Congress Gridlock Could Mean USAF Reprogram (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. Air Force will have to reduce its current procurement and R&D accounts for FY-11 by as much as $4 billion if Congress continues to fund at fiscal 2010 levels through continuing resolutions. USAF estimates the money will need to be reprogrammed from “investment,” or procurement and R&D, toward “must-pay” bills in FY-11, said a USAF official. These bills include an increase in military personnel pay that was not funded by Congress, and others including about $1.9 billion in adjustments to the price of fuel as well as adjustments for inflation.

Also included are “urgent operational needs,” such as new sensors for ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Morin says. Reprogramming $4 billion in a single year is about four-to-five times the amount for a typical end-of-year adjustment, he says. “We are going to really have to rob Peter to pay Paul..We are talking about some very tough capability choices.” (3/16)

More Pink Slips for Florida Aerospace Workers (Source: WOFL)
More pinks slips are being handed out in the aerospace industry this week as we're getting closer to the final launches of the space shuttle. "We knew it was coming so I anticipated it. I'm not upset or hurt," said James Williams, an aerospace technician who got his pink slip yesterday. What's next, he's not sure. Brevard Workforce estimates there have been roughly 4,243 layoffs in the aerospace industry in Brevard County since the announcement that the shuttle program would be retiring.

Over 6,200 workers are using their services to try to secure new jobs and 1,458 have trained for career changes while 185 are taking courses now. "Our workforce has been identified not only by us, but nationally as a national treasure. The brain trust that's here the brain power that's here is unparalleled," said Dina Reider-Hicks of the local Economic Development Commission. They're using this available "brain power" to market the Space Coast to companies looking to expand.

They're specifically targeting 5 industries: aerospace/aviation, advanced communications, electronics, homeland security and national defense as well as emerging technologies. While some laid off space workers may move away to find new jobs, she remains hopeful. "We will be able to weather this storm. We're not trying to sugar coat it in any way. We know there is going to be a sting, but there is hope." Huntsville, Alabama, Colorado Springs, Colorado and Witchita, Kansas are proving to be Brevard's biggest competitors nationally when it comes to luring high-tech and aerospace companies. (3/16)

Solar Probe: Mission to Sun Scheduled for 2018 (Source: Smart Planet)
For more than half a century, astronomers have been trying to figure out how to get a solar probe to the sun. At last, we have the answer. Justin Kasper at the Solar and Stellar X-Ray Group at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is behind Solar Probe Plus, a NASA mission that will begin in 2018. Kasper’s creation, SWEAP (Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons) is one of the four instrument packages that will be on the spacecraft; it will help us learn why the sun is so hot and how the solar wind is accelerated to supersonic speeds.

Kasper is working with several institutions, including the University of California Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, the University of Alabama Huntsville, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Los Alamos National Laboratory, University of New Hampshire and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I recently talked with Kasper about the solar probe, why we want to get that close to the sun, and why the spacecraft won’t burst into flames. Click here to read the article. (3/16)

TripAlertz Deal with XCOR Offers Limited-Time Discount for Space Tourism (Source: SPACErePORT)
TripAlertz is offering XCOR Lynx flights for $95,000, but will drop the price to $85,000 if 10 or more flights are booked by TripAlertz members. The spaceplanes will be piloted by Col. Rick Searfoss (retired), who is one of only seven astronauts with more than 50 flights in rocket-powered vehicles. One flight will be given away as a prize to a lucky TripAlertz member. Pioneering space tourists will be presented with a personalized high definition DVD recorded by onboard cameras along with other stellar mementos, beyond specialized pre-flight training at a luxury resort in Arizona. (3/16)

Russia’s Eximbank To Back Some ILS Launch Contract Bids (Source: Space News)
International Launch Services (ILS) is now able to offer prospective customers financing backed by Russia’s export-import bank, whose absence in the past has cost ILS business. Eximbank will provide loan-guarantee support for ILS customers seeking such backing. Virginia-based ILS is owned by Khrunichev of Moscow and is prime contractor for the heavy-lift Proton rockets that ILS sells to commercial customers. Export-credit agency financing has become an increasingly prevalent feature of capital spending programs not only of startup satellite ventures, but also of some of the more established and wealthy operators. (3/16)

U.S. Lawmakers Question NASA’s Commitment to Heavy-Lift (Source: Space News)
Members of the U.S. Senate questioned NASA’s commitment to building new hardware capable of sending astronauts beyond low Earth orbit by mid-decade as directed in a hotly contested but ultimately bipartisan law the panel drafted last year. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) criticized the 2012 budget plan President Obama sent lawmakers Feb. 14, saying it ignores the direction in the 2010 Authorization Act that pared back the administration’s commercial space transportation and technology efforts in favor of rapidly developing a heavy-lift launch capability.

Hutchison took particular issue with NASA’s failure to complete a report outlining plans for the capsule and heavy-lift rocket called for in the law and blasted the president’s spending plan for funding the launch system and crew capsule at $1.3 billion below authorized levels. Sen. Bill Nelson, (D-FL) who led the drafting of the authorization act, agreed. He had no luck getting NASA officials to pin down the date by which the agency could begin testing Orion atop the core elements of the congressionally mandated rocket.

“I want to know how soon you can get testing the initial heavy-lift capability with the proposed funding levels,” he told Doug Cooke. Cooke demurred, citing ongoing studies, but said the agency “is trying to get test flights as early as 2016,” the year the law says the initial capability must be operational. Cooke also said the president’s latest budget request, which increases spending for commercial crew transportation and space technology research, reflects the administration’s agenda. (3/16)

Officials Mark Space Day in Tallahassee (Source: Florida Today)
NASA, Kennedy Space Center, the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing and contractors worked the halls of the Capitol Wednesday in an annual ritual known as Space Day. It couldn’t come at a darker time as Space Coast lawmakers scramble for every available penny to offset the approximately 9,000 aerospace layoffs connected to the retirement of the shuttle fleet.

Brevard County delegation members will have to fight for tax incentives and economic development programs as Republican leaders deal with a projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall and the directive to keep $1 billion leftover in reserves. Just to help remind lawmakers of better times for the agency, NASA has trotted out Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke as a space ambassador. From April 16-27 in 1972, the fighter and test pilot spent more than 20 hours on the lunar surface in what was then the longest and most challenging lunar mission to date. (3/16)

Senators Worry About NASA's 'Focus' But Offer No Ideas (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday turned into a case of déjà vu all over again. As NASA prepares to shut down the space shuttle program this summer, the senators offered no alternatives to avoid the loss of 7,000 Kennedy Space Center jobs and the virtual mothballing of the 50-year-old launch center. Though Congress and the White House agreed last fall that NASA would build a new heavy-lift rocket by late 2016, the agency says it lacks the money to meet that deadline.

NASA officials are expected in coming months to release a construction schedule for the rocket, but few in the space community are confident it will fly in the next six years. Said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): "Clearly, we're closing down the shuttle program and we walked away from Constellation -- but no one can tell us when we can have a replacement ready." Compounding the concerns are recent moves by Congress to slash NASA's budget.

A new stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded through April 8 includes $6 billion in cuts, including $63 million from NASA that will touch on every part of the agency. Woodrow Whitlow, Jr., the agency's associate administrator for mission support, estimated that the earlier $298 million cut would mean the loss of roughly 4,500 NASA contractor jobs, with close to 800 coming from KSC. "A cut of that magnitude would be equivalent to shuttering two of our smaller centers," Whitlow told the committee. (3/16)

Satellite Builders Give Cold Shoulder to Intelsat’s Refueling Plans (Source: Space News)
The world’s principal commercial satellite manufacturers on March 15 unanimously dismissed a proposed satellite in-orbit service project backed by Intelsat and Canada’s MDA, saying the idea, while intriguing, is unlikely to make business sense for years. Officials from these companies said that while there appears to be no technical obstacle to robotically refueling satellites or performing minor repairs, closing the business case appears next to impossible without heavy government backing.

Many of these officials had not yet been fully briefed on plans by Intelsat — the biggest commercial customer for these manufacturers — to begin use of MDA’s Space Infrastructure Services (SIS) robotic servicing unit as soon as 2015. Adding 20 percent or more to the life of a telecommunications satellite was unlikely to win applause from satellite makers in any event, and it found little support among them. (3/16)

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