March 18, 2011

As Aircraft Factories Shutter, Space Remains Bedrock Industry in Southern California (Source: National Defense)
The C-17 factory in Long Beach remains the last remaining conventional airplane plant in Southern California, and the Globemaster’s days are probably numbered. Boeing announced plans to lay off 900 workers there in January. Aerospace employed some 160,000 workers in the region in 1990, but that is down to about 47,000 in 2010, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The space industry, meanwhile, seems to be more firmly entrenched in the area, executives said. The demand for space services, and the complex manufacturing facilities required to build satellites, aren’t going anywhere soon, they said. Other states such as Arizona may have friendlier tax codes, or lower cost of living for employees, but one can’t easily pack up a satellite manufacturing facility and move it to friendlier states, said a Boeing official.

“What really built Southern California was the aerospace industry,” he said. The state would benefit from an understanding of why so many companies have left, he added. He did not want to elaborate, but taxes and regulations have been the oft-mentioned reasons for the exodus. Click here to read the article. (3/17)

KSC Videos Released in Honor of Shuttle Program (Source: NASA)
NASA Kennedy Space Center has released a couple of videos on YouTube. This one shows employees at the Launch Complex 39 Industrial Area (specifically the VAB parking lot) assembling in the shape of an orbiter. This one shows recovery operations for the Shuttle's two solid rocket motors off the coast of Florida. (3/18)

Texas Spaceflight Liability Bill Would Benefit Blue Origin (Source: Alpine Avalanche)
"By making sure that courts enforce waivers of liability, private space flight companies can stay focused on the development of the space tourism industry, which holds a lot of promise for the West Texas economy," said State Senator Carlos Uresti, a Democrat who represents District 19 - which includes Brewster, Jeff Davis and Presidio counties.

While the measure would apply to any commercial space flight company in Texas, Uresti hopes it will further the progress of Blue Origin, which is developing a vertical takeoff and landing vehicle at its space port in Van Horn. Created by founder Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin is already one of the largest taxpayers in Culberson County. The company hopes to begin sub-orbital space journeys by 2012.

Long known for McDonald Observatory in nearby Jeff Davis County, West Texas could enhance its space science reputation with such an industry, the senator said. "Texas is a land of big ideas and big dreams," Uresti said. "If the commercial space flight industry can get established here, the sky won't be the limit anymore." (3/17)

Embry-Riddle's $178 Million Florida Expansion will Support State's Aerospace Industry Development (Source: ERAU)
The Daytona Beach campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University held a groundbreaking for a new Administration and Welcome Center. Construction of the $12 million, 35,000-square-foot building is expected to be finished in spring 2012. The building will be located at the main entrance to the campus off Clyde Morris Boulevard, on the former site of the Spruance Hall administration building, which was damaged in a 2006 tornado and subsequently razed.

The new building will serve as a welcoming information center for students and their families, guests, and members of the local community. A 350-seat hall will accommodate community events as well as those of the University. The Henderson Center will also house University administration offices

The campus is midway through a $178 million construction boom that began in 2005. Nearing completion is a $22.1 million Aviation Complex, which includes a flight operations center, a fleet maintenance hangar, and classrooms and labs for the Aircraft Maintenance Science Department. Other construction includes a $29.5 million College of Arts & Sciences building (2013 estimated completion), a $31.3 million Student Union (2015), a $3.5 million Athletics Services building (2015), and a $32.5 million Academic Center (2016). (3/18)

GOP Lawmakers Appeal for Manned Exploration Funds (Source: Space News)
Two Republican lawmakers appealed to House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) to spare NASA’s manned space exploration programs from the budget axe next year while suggesting the agency’s roughly $1.6 billion request for climate-monitoring initiatives is ripe for cuts. “Human space exploration is critical to our country’s national security and economy, and we respectfully ask that our Republican budget reflect this national priority,” wrote Reps. Sandy Adams (R-FL) and Pete Olson (R-TX).

Adams and Olson, who represent states with a stake in NASA’s manned spaceflight program, said the current fiscal situation is forcing hard choices as members of the GOP-led House seek to curb discretionary spending. "We believe that NASA’s budget can be reduced,” they wrote, urging Ryan to take aim at climate-monitoring programs poised for a funding boost over the next five years under Pres. Obama's $18.72 billion NASA budget blueprint. “We believe there is an opportunity to cut funding within the Earth Science account where an overabundance of climate change research is being conducted.” (3/18)

Treasures of the Soviet Union's Space Industry (Source: BBC)
Nearly 50 years ago, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space when he orbited the Earth for 108 minutes before landing. As historical artifacts go, it is not much to look at - a charred cannonball, 2m (6ft 6in) across, its centre hollowed out to - just about - allow a man to fit inside.

In 1961 this Vostok capsule carried Yuri Gagarin around the Earth. Considering the importance of the spacecraft - and today's nostalgia in Russia for the achievements of the Soviet Union - few people ever get to see it. The capsule is displayed in a private museum run by the state-owned space company Energia and it can take months to arrange a visit. (3/18)

NASA's Messenger Satellite Successfully Enters Mercury Orbit (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA's Messenger became the first satellite to orbit Mercury Thursday night. After a journey of more than six years and 96 million miles, Messenger successfully fired its thrusters to insert itself into orbit around the closest planet to the Sun. Applause and handshakes broke out in the control room at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory when data from the satellite convinced scientists Messenger was in orbit.

If Messenger hadn't made it, it could have skipped past the planet on a path that wouldn't allow a new try for another six years. It took more than six years for Messenger to get in position, because NASA sent it flying by Mercury three times to use the planet's gravity as a partial brake before orbit insertion.

Messenger is carrying six experiments designed to learn more about the surface of the planet. Most tantalizing is the chance of learning if ice is hidden in the shadows of craters at Mercury's poles. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville manages the Messenger program. The Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland controls the satellite, and the Carnegie Institute in Washington is controlling the experiments. (3/18)

Sen. Schumer Launches Shuttle Mission for Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum (Source: NY Daily News)
Sen. Chuck Schumer is cashing in his clout in hopes of winning a retiring space shuttle for the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum. Schumer invited NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to visit the proposed glass-enclosed site for a soon-to-be-retired shuttle at Pier 86 next to the Interpid. Schumer also offered a special treat to lure Bolden - a personal tour of the site conducted by none other than Chuck Schumer - but the NASA boss appeared to be immune to the charm offensive.

"Administrator Bolden has been to the Intrepid Museum in New York on numerous occasions and knows it to be a tremendous facility," said NASA spokesman Mike Cabbage. In his pitch to Bolden, Schumer said "It's time for the Intrepid to do one last recovery mission by permanently hosting a retired shuttle." The Intrepid, which recovered astronauts on space missions in the 1960s, would provide a striking backdrop for the shuttle and enhance "the potential to attract the greatest number of tourists to visit," Schumer said. (3/18)

Pricey Planetary Probes Could Fall Under Budget Ax (Source:
Grand robotic missions to Mars, Jupiter and beyond are the embodiment of planetary scientists' most audacious dreams, but it's up to researchers to make their case in Washington, where a bogged-down budget process threatens to kill any future NASA flagship solar system exploration probe. President Obama's FY-12 budget request shows a gradual but marked decline in planetary science funding over the next five years, but the spending plan is only "notional" and does not represent policy, according to the OMB.

Despite promises to re-evaluate the budget again next year, the waning spending on planetary exploration captured scientists' attention. "This budget is a projection by OMB of what the future planetary exploration budget might look like," Steve Squyres said. "Tf that budget were actually implemented, it would be mean the end of flagship class science at NASA in the planetary program." The startling news is buried beneath more prominent debates on the future course of NASA's human spaceflight programs. (3/18)

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