April 13, 2011

Hutchison: Too Much NASA Money for Commercial Crew (Source: NASA Watch)
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said NASA's 2012 budget includes too much money for commercial crew initiatives. NASA is seeking $850 million to seed development of privately developed spacecraft and rockets capable of transporting astronauts to the international space station. "While I know the commercial companies will eventually become successful I do not feel that the information now available justifies such a large investment of federal dollars for commercial vehicles," Hutchison said. (4/13)

Boeing Nears Rocket Selection for Initial CST-100 Flights (Source: Space News)
Boeing expects next month to choose one of five rockets potentially in the running to launch unmanned flight tests and early crewed missions of the seven-person CST-100 space taxi it is developing with financial backing from NASA. “Currently we’re doing a procurement to select a rocket that we’ll use for the test flights and probably the first set of operational flights,” John Elbon said.

Boeing has designed the 13-metric-ton CST-100 to be capable of launching to the space station and other low Earth orbit destinations atop a variety of rockets, including ULA’s Delta 4 and Atlas 5, SpaceX's Falcon 9, the Ariane 5 and the proposed Liberty rocket that would be built by ATK and Astrium.

Boeing is developing the CST-100 in collaboration with North Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace. Last year NASA awarded the team $18 million to mature the capsule design under the agency's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. Although NASA was expected to announce a second round of CCDev awards valued at around $270 million in mid-April, that did not happen and government and industry sources say the award is on hold. (4/13)

Arianespace Selected to Launch ASTRA 2E Satellite (Source: Arianespace)
Satellite operator SES has selected Arianespace for the launch of ASTRA 2E. The launch is slated for the second semester of 2013. Weighing more than 6,000 kg. at launch, ASTRA 2E will be placed into geostationary transfer orbit by an Ariane 5 launcher from the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. (4/13)

Why There's No Space Shuttle Replacement (Source: Space.com)
NASA's space shuttles are retiring this year, but America has no spaceship to replace them, leaving many to wonder: Why not? Over the course of the shuttle program's 30-year career, NASA and its various partners explored a number of different vehicle options to succeed the space shuttles, but none were brought to fruition, said Roger Launius. One by one, each program ended after development plans bumped up against funding and politics – an experience familiar throughout NASA's history.

There were reasons besides political and technical challenges that the various test programs did not get much further than the design stage, Wayne Hale said. Ironically, one of them may have been the shuttles' reputation as workhorses, with their strong records of achievement. "[The Shuttle] was effective enough to never cross the threshold to the point where we said we needed to replace them."

According to Hale, NASA should have been developing a second-generation space shuttle in the 1980s, long before the disastrous loss of the shuttle Columbia and President George W. Bush's unveiling in 2004 of a new vision that laid the foundation for the shuttles' retirement. However, "the policymakers just never saw the need, because the shuttle was doing everything just good enough that we could continue to get by," Hale said. (4/13)

Spending Skid Sparks Concern about Lower-Tier Suppliers (Source: Space News)
Major space hardware manufacturers and the Air Force on April 12 admitted they are uncertain of whether the U.S. space industrial base is threatened with a loss of key know-how at the second- and third-tier level. Some spoke of oversupply, others of actual or impending shortages of key components. All agreed that the industry is being forced into what may be an unprecedented self-examination as the largest-ever cycle of military space spending increases comes to an end. (4/13)

SpaceX Under Pressure to Fill Shuttle Void (Source: Space.com)
SpaceX is trying to speed up testing of its new Dragon spaceship to enable it to visit the International Space Station on the next demonstration flight. With NASA's space shuttle programset to retire later this year, the pressure is on for commercial providers to compensate for the loss of the shuttles' enormous cargo-carrying capability.

"We have a very serious responsibility here because the space shuttle is coming to a close," Elon Musk said. "What we've been told by NASA is that if we don't reach the space station by the end of this year, there's a risk that they will have to de-man the space station next year. We've got to be sure that we get to the space station. That is very much our primary focus." (4/13)

Lacrosse Spy Satellite Likely De-Orbited (Source: Space.com)
A 20-year-old U.S. spy satellite has been flagged by amateur satellite observers as missing in action – a sign that the classified spacecraft may have been purposely destroyed in Earth's atmosphere, skywatchers say. The U.S. military's huge reconnaissance satellite Lacrosse 2 disappeared from the sights of a worldwide network of skywatchers in March, and its apparent demise may provide insight about how best to ditch a secret spacecraft.

"I cannot rule out that it maneuvered to a much different orbit, but none of the five Lacrosses have ever made large orbit maneuvers, so most likely it was de-orbited on March 26," said Ted Molczan of Toronto, a leading satellite spotter and a member of a dedicated network of skywatchers around the globe. Lacrosse 2 launched into orbit on March 8, 1991, atop a powerful Titan 4A rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. (4/13)

Russian Buys Historic Space Capsule for $2.9 Million (Source: Reuters)
A Russian businessman bought a piece of history when he paid nearly $2.9 million at auction for the Vostok 3KA-2 capsule the Soviet Union launched on a test flight before sending the first human into space. Evgeny Yurchenko bid $2,882,500 at Sotheby's on Tuesday for the capsule, scorched from re-entry, on the 50th anniversary of Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin historic 1961 flight. The owner, who wished to remain anonymous, had bought it from Russia. (4/13)

Perminov: Russian Space Budget Unambitious (Source: Reuters)
Russia's top space official said on Wednesday that the space agency's current budget was not enough to finance breakthrough projects and that China might soon overtake Russian space technology. "The markets are always won by those who have money," Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian space agency Roskosmos, told lawmakers in the upper house of parliament. "But the finance ministry's policy doesn't allow us to complete projects aimed at winning the foreign market." (4/13)

Rear Adm. Craig Steidle to Lead Commercial Spaceflight Federation (Source: The Hill)
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation announced Wednesday that Rear Adm. Craig Steidle (U.S. Navy, Ret.) will take over as president of the trade group May 15. An aerospace engineer by training, Steidle previously served as NASA's first associate administrator for exploration systems. He will succeed Bretton Alexander, who has led the commercial space group since 2006. (4/13)

Florida Middle School to Compete in National Rocketry Finals (Source: AIA)
Students from Jacksonville's Kirby Smith Middle School are among teams across the nation heading to Washington DC for the national finals in the world's largest rocket contest. The Team America Rocketry Challenge challenges students to design and build a rocket that will fly 750 feet into the air and remain there for 40 to 45 seconds. "TARC is a great way for students to get real aerospace engineering experience, and it's also a lot of fun," said AIA's Marion Blakey. "We are delighted the Kirby Smith Middle School's Challenger Learning Center has joined this important effort. (4/13)

Space Shuttle Site-Selection Process Called Into Question (Source: Columbus Morning Call)
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) thinks politics played a role in where NASA awarded the retired space shuttles. He is calling for a federal probe into the site-selection process for awarding four retired shuttles, saying NASA ignored the “interests of taxpayers” by not sending one to Dayton, the Dayton Business Journal reports. He noted that two of the four sites that won a shuttle charge for admission. “Having paid to build the shuttles, (taxpayers) will now be charged to see them at some sites,” he wrote. (4/13)

China's Space Program Gearing Up (Source: China.org)
When Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space, Yang Liwei hadn't even been born. Liwei was China's first man into orbit in 2003. China then followed with a number of space projects. The country’s space progress has aroused the world's attention. Yang Liwei, China's first astronaut said "The courageous spirit of Gagarin has inspired people working in the space industry to further explore the universe. He is responsible for more people learning about outer space."

Chinese scientists started assembling the moon probe at the end of 2009. The lunar project is another monumental event for China’s space program. The equipment and payloads have various scientific objectives. China has also established an advanced tracking and control system. (4/13)

Weather May Hinder Vandenberg Atlas Launch (Source: Santa Maria Times)
Work to replace a faulty component on an Atlas 5 rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base went well over the weekend, but weather for Thursday’s scheduled launch doesn’t appear overly accommodating. Liftoff of the 19-story-tall Atlas 5 rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 on South Base is targeted for 9:24 p.m. The launch window remains classified but reportedly remains open until 10 p.m.

A windy day could interfere with plans. Officials said that there’s a 70-percent chance that winds will exceed requirements established by the manufacturer to keep the rocket safe. “High pressure will dominate the region, creating fair weather conditions and a tight pressure gradient with increased winds throughout the period,” the forecast said. (4/13)

SpaceX Mulls IPO (Source: Fox Business)
SpaceX could pursue an initial public offering next year, Elon Musk said. "I think there's a decent chance of an IPO toward the end of next year," Musk said in Colorado. "It's something that we are considering." He said SpaceX did not need to do an IPO in order to complete Falcon Heavy. (4/13)

Editorial: Florida's New Job Creation Plan is Fatally Flawed (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The House and Senate plans call for combining Enterprise Florida and several other economic development agencies into one "partnership" controlled by a new mega-agency. The merger targets include Visit Florida, which markets the state to tourists, and Space Florida, whose mission is to promote aerospace development.

If those two agencies wind up getting marginalized in the new department and becoming less effective, it will be especially bad news for Central Florida. This region's economy depends heavily on tourism, and it will need much more space-related investments and jobs to make up for the impending end of NASA's space shuttle program. (4/12)

Oklahoma Officials Lament Shuttle Loss (Source: KJRH)
Congressman John Sullivan says it's "unfortunate" Tulsa didn't get a space shuttle from NASA's fleet, but he says he believes Tulsa is a great place for future space artifacts. Sullivan praised the efforts of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum in trying to get one of the orbiters. U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe also issued a statement regarding the decision saying it "appears grounded in politics." (4/12)

No comments: