April 29, 2011

Space Florida Pleased With Outcome in Tallahassee (Source: SPACErePORT)
After negotiations among House and Senate lawmakers in Tallahassee, Space Florida's FY-12 budget has been finalized at $10.4 million (non-recurring). The agency will also have access to $16 million for spaceport infrastructure projects.

The House and Senate agreed to provide $10 million in non-recurring tax credits for space-related business expansion/relocation under the Space Business Incentives Act, and $7.1 million in recurring tax credits for R&D expenditures. The Spaceflight Informed Consent bill appears to be a done deal, but a Jobs and Tuition Tax Credit was not included in a House/Senate conference package and will not become law. Governor Scott is expected to approve the bills. (4/29)

NASA Wary of Bid Protests in Developing Heavy-lift Approach (Source: Space News)
As NASA hashes out an acquisition strategy for building a congressionally mandated heavy-lift launch vehicle that leverages space shuttle and Ares rocket technologies, agency officials are hoping to minimize the potential for a formal protest from industry. In addition to settling on a final design, the agency is sorting through different contracting mechanisms for procuring the heavy-lift vehicle.

Congress expects NASA to make the most of billions of dollars already invested in rocket hardware, including the space shuttle’s RS-25 main engine and solid-rocket boosters, and the Ares-1 J-2X upper-stage engine. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is prime contractor for the RS-25 and J-2X, while ATK builds the solid-rocket boosters, which were to be modified for Ares-1.

However, if NASA chooses to leverage this hardware under existing contracts for the heavy-lift rocket, as directed in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, it could face a challenge from companies that are not currently in the mix. Propulsion provider Aerojet of Sacramento, Calif., for example, has made clear its desire for a competition to build elements of the Space Launch System. (4/29)

Boeing, ULA Wrangle with Air Force Over Delta 4 Launch Contract Prices (Source: Space News)
Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) have filed a second complaint to a U.S. government contract-appeals body to get the U.S. Air Force to reprice three Delta 4 rocket launch contracts that expose the hazards of Air Force contracting practices, industry officials said.

The contracts also lay bare what industry officials agreed is a hard-to-explain loophole that Boeing allowed the Air Force and which may turn out to be costly for the company. Boeing said ULA in March filed a complaint with the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals to compel the Air Force to adjust the prices of three Delta 4 launch contracts signed in the late 1990s.

Boeing said if it cannot win a price adjustment on the three launches, it could book a pretax loss of $285 million — $95 million per launch. With the low-end versions of the Delta 4 generally costing no more than around $200 million, it would appear that Boeing signed firm, fixed-price contracts with the Air Force that were 40 percent or more below cost. The Air Force has already refused to accept a price adjustment, in effect saying that a contract is a contract. (4/29)

Manx Company to Offer Holidays in Space (Source: BBC)
The Isle of Man may not be the first place you think of when pondering space exploration, but an island based company is planning to become the world leader in space tourism. Director of Economic Development Tim Craine told the BBC: "Excalibur Almaz is a full orbital space tourism company. "They have acquired four Russian space capsules and two Russian space stations, which they intend to refurbish in Jurby." The company plans to offer holidays in space and claims it could run possible trips around the moon and back, by 2015. (4/29)

Fill 'Er Up at an Orbital Gas Station (Source: CNET)
A spaceship isn't much use if it doesn't have the juice to go somewhere. And if you're an astronaut bouncing around destinations like the moon, random asteroids, Lagrange points, and Mars, you'll probably need an interstellar gas station.

NASA has launched an "In-Space Cryogenic Propellant Storage and Transfer Demonstration Mission Concept (PDF)" study, which is essentially a call for scientific institutions around the globe to help create a space gas station. Those wishing to build a fueling stop in the sky have until May 23 to submit their proposals.

However, there are many challenges to creating a gas station in the stars. The primary objectives of the study are to address key elements including a fail-safe way to transfer the propellants from a storage container to a ship. The difficulty is high since hydrogen tends to leak (it's the smallest element), and can eventually deteriorate the container it's stored in. (4/29)

NSU Researcher: Experiments Like Those on Shuttles Critical to U.S. (Source: TC Palm)
In the last half-century of U.S.-manned spaceflights, NASA has reached milestones by landing men on the moon and helping to establish the International Space Station. One of the lesser-known achievements of the space program, however, is the opportunity for students to participate in experiments flown into space.

One of them, involving the growth of pure tin crystals, will be onboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor as it makes its final voyage into space, scheduled for Friday. Under the auspices of Nova Southeastern University's Emil Buehler Research Center, two undergraduate honors chemistry students in the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences, Heidi Mederos and Richard Sung, will study the effects of zero gravity on the formation of crystals in space. (4/29)

Gabrielle Giffords May Be Key to Future of Florida's Space Coast (Source: Arizona Republic)
As Florida's Space Coast braces for the onslaught of Shuttle launch guests, its residents will be hoping for a successful launch and a successful recovery for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. They don't know her as people in Arizona do. But they need her because this area is, in many ways, a company town.

As the federal government tightened its funding for NASA over the past two years, Giffords remained one of the strongest advocates for more programming. In January 2009, she was appointed chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. Giffords had a pulpit, and she used it.

"The Obama administration and Congress have a singular opportunity to ensure that America remains a pre-eminent spacefaring nation over the coming decades," she said. "The rest of the world is watching, and my hope is that we step up to the challenge." Those beliefs make one Arizona congresswoman important to the future of this stretch of coastline in Florida. For people here, she can't recover fast enough. (4/28)

Portland State Aerospace Society Wants to Launch a Micro Satellite (Source: Oregonian)
In terms of sophistication, the rockets built by the Portland State Aerospace Society fit right between amateur rocketry and NASA. In other words, these guys aren't just some oddballs blowing things up in the desert. And this group of community members and students has a pretty lofty goal: shooting a miniature satellite into orbit.

The society builds low-cost, open-source rockets that feature sophisticated electrical, navigational and communication systems. Even though shooting a nanosatellite into orbit verges on crackpot, it holds a special place in the imaginations of society members and guides each project as they make small steps toward outer space.

As the Portland State Aerospace Society moves into more and more complex territory, its funding needs grow. Members keep costs low by building pieces of equipment rather than purchasing them new. Each launch costs about $3,000, and the group is still in debt to past members for the last launch. The next launch is scheduled for the end of summer, and members are trying to raise $30,000 for the launch, other expenses and to build an improved rocket. (4/29)

Raytheon Reports Quarterly Income of $384 Million (Source: AIA)
Raytheon reduced its full-year forecast after reporting lower first-quarter profit. Sales at the defense contractor were little changed at $6.1 billion. The quarterly results include an $80 million charge related to a contract dispute with Britain's Border Agency. Dave Wajsgras, chief financial officer at Raytheon, said that sales were hindered by delays related to U.S. defense appropriations legislation. (4/29)

Breaking Out of Low Earth Orbit Presents Challenges, Experts Say (Source: AIA)
Witnesses who testified before a National Research Council panel said that efforts to explore deep space face technical as well as financial challenges. The hurdles will likely force NASA to partner with the Department of Defense, international entities, the aerospace industry and academia. However, such alliances could raise concerns about security and other issues, according to the experts. (4/29)

NASA Counts on Private Companies to Fill Spaceflight Void (Source: AIA)
NASA has granted four companies -- Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corp., SpaceX and Blue Origin -- a total of $269.3 million to return the U.S. to space. The program could help protect spaceflight from government budget decisions, according to NASA managers. "Both NASA and our industry partners are going to have to change the way we do business in order for this program to succeed, but the benefits of this new approach are clear and compelling," said Phil McAlister, acting director of commercial spaceflight at NASA. (4/29)

Scientists Itching for Suborbital Space Research (Source: Space.com)
When private companies like Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace start regularly flying passengers to the edge of space, thrill seekers and space fanatics won't be the only ones standing in line. The commercial spaceflight industry's potential to provide frequent and relatively inexpensive trips to the upper reaches of the atmosphere could revolutionize the science and research community. (4/29)

China to Attempt First Space Rendezvous (Source: AFP)
China will attempt its first space docking between two unmanned vehicles this year, the first step in efforts to build a Chinese space station, a senior official said. The maneuver will involve the Tiangong 1 module and the Shenzhou 8 rocket. The eight-ton orbiter is on a two-year mission that will see it rendezvous in 2012 with the Shenzhou 9 and 10 rockets, both of which will have astronauts on board. (4/29)

Air Force Officer Upbeat on Florida Launches (Source: Florida Today)
After the shuttle takes its final flight, the Space Coast will still hear the familiar rocket rumble -- and reap some economic benefits -- thanks to unmanned space launches. That's the outlook from Col. James Ross, vice commander of the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base.

Ross was a guest speaker at the annual Florida's Space Coast Tourism Day Luncheon, which drew about 300 hospitality workers and tourism officials to the Radisson Resort at the Port. Ross said unmanned launches have brought as much as $1.1 billion in annual revenue into the county. (4/29)

LeMieux Blasts Nelson and Obama for 'Decimating' Space Coast (Source: Sunshine State News)
U.S. Senate candidate George LeMieux launched an attack on Sen. Bill Nelson. "America’s leadership in manned space exploration is nearing its end and Floridians need to be mindful that the demise of the space program came on the watch of President Barack Obama and Senator Bill Nelson," LeMieux said in a statement.

"Directionless, underfunded and without mission, America stands at risk to ceding its leadership in space to the Russians and Chinese. "Here at home, 23,000 of Florida’s best and brightest will lose their jobs, decimating the Space Coast region and a substantial portion of our state’s intellectual capital," said LeMieux, who is vying for the Republican nomination. (4/29)

Space Companies Bullish on Future (Source: BBC)
The four companies that recently won NASA funds to develop astronaut "taxis" say they are convinced there will be a market to sustain their businesses. They plan eventually to sell seats in these ships to NASA and other agencies wanting to put humans in orbit. But the firms believe further NASA seed funds are critical to that outcome.

Three of the companies confidently predict they will have people in orbit in 2014 or 2015. Only Blue Origin is reluctant at this stage to discuss timelines. It is giving payments to the four companies to help them mature their vehicle concepts. The firms will only get the funds if they meet set milestones, and they also have to invest their own money towards the projects. (4/29)

Building Tourism Momentum at New Mexico Spaceport (Source: New Mexico Business Weekly)
The road to Spaceport America offers a unique view of New Mexico’s past and future. Cattle ranches dot the vast landscape, framed by the San Andres Mountains. Nearby is the Camino Real Trail, where earlier explorers and settlers trekked from what is now Mexico to the capital in Santa Fe.

And rising out of the high desert floor is the iconic curved building that will one day house a new generation of vehicles headed for the stars. Only a handful of people have been able to see these contrasting views, but starting in May, there will be regular tours to the spaceport. (4/29)

Payload Rockets Take Flight at Spaceport America (Source: New Mexico Business Weekly)
Tourists might have to wait another couple of years, but rockets are already flying at the New Mexico Spaceport. In May, UP Aerospace will launch its third suborbital rocket with experiments from nearly 1,000 students. In December, UP will fly more payloads for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). Armadillo Aerospace plans multiple low-altitude launches in May with a new test vehicle it’s using to gather data for the construction and launch of passenger rockets to space. (4/29)

Putin Fires Russia Space Chief After Mishaps (Source: AFP)
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday fired the Russian space agency chief after a series of high-profile setbacks cast a shadow on the 50th anniversary year of Yuri Gagarin's first space flight. Anatoly Perminov will be replaced as head of Roskosmos by First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin.

Putin's order said Perminov had reached the maximum age for state employees but there have been clear indications for some time of growing frustration in the government with Roskosmos' performance. (4/29)

Barack Obama’s Shuttle Diplomacy (Source: Politico)
President Obama told Floridians more than a year ago that no one was more committed to human space flight than he, an aficionado who appreciates Tang orange drink, Sputnik references and the program’s place in the American imagination. But Florida still feels a bit lost in his orbit.

Obama returned Friday to the state, in part to ease the political damage of job losses in the space industry and reaffirm his commitment to space exploration, which looms large in a high-unemployment battleground state that looks to the skies for its future, self-image and economic well-being. His trip follows the loss of a promised $40 million grant to help laid-off shuttle workers find jobs, a casualty of the recent federal budget deal between the White House and Congress.

Two weeks ago, NASA’s prime shuttle contractor announced an additional 2,000 layoffs as the agency winds down the 30-year-old program. And over the past week, a parade of high-profile Florida Republicans has signaled that they will use the agency’s challenges as a wedge issue in the 2012 elections, vowing to protect NASA funding even as they call for greater fiscal restraint. (4/29)

Florida Moves in Anticipation of Future Base Closures (Source: FLDC)
The Florida House met the Senate's position to fund the Florida Council on Military Base and Mission Support with $5 million for the purpose of BRAC-proofing the state's military installations. The Council was created a few years ago with the mission to protect the state's installations in the future against adverse realignments and/or base closures; however, it was not provided direct funding. (4/29)

Agreement Paves Way for Gov. Scott to Focus on Space Coast (Source: Gannett)
Gov. Rick Scott would have greater control over economic development along the Space Coast - where the direct loss of 8,000 jobs will follow the retirement of the space shuttle later this year --- under a tentative budget agreement reached in Tallahassee.

Space Florida would remain a separate entity with the power to issue tax-free bonds, but it would answer to the board of directors of Enterprise Florida, the statewide economic development agency. Enterprise Florida would be headed by a secretary of commerce appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

Space Florida would receive $10 million a year from the state, but under the new arrangement, it would have greater access to a $72 million "seed fund" controlled by Enterprise Florida and Scott. Space Florida president Frank DiBello expressed concerns earlier this week about Space Florida getting mired in another layer of state bureaucracy. But a Space Florida spokesman said this morning he was encouraged. (4/29)

Endeavour Launch Scrubbed At Least 72 Hours (Source: Florida Today)
The launch of Endeavour on the next-to-last mission in America’s space shuttle program was delayed at least 72 hours due to a problem in one of the craft's auxiliary power units. Auxiliary power unit No. 1, one of the three units which supply hydraulic power to steer the shuttle's main engines in flight and control flight surfaces and other critical functions during re-entry, developed a problem managers believed could not be resolved in time for the scheduled 3:47 p.m. liftoff. Two heaters, required to keep the unit's turbine engine thermally conditioned, failed. (4/29)

New Consolidated Florida Agency Takes Shape (Source: Florida Current)
State lawmakers are expected to sign off on a new agency that will guide Florida’s economic development efforts. While the name has been kicked back and forth, it appears that legislators will wind up calling it the Department of Economic Opportunity as opposed to the Department of Commerce.

The new agency will fold together elements of the Agency for Workforce Innovation, the Department of Community Affairs and the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development into one agency. Gov. Rick Scott pushed for the centralization of the state’s economic development efforts earlier this year, saying he wanted someone “two doors down” who would help to attract new businesses to the state.

The legislation would also consolidate several public-private partnerships, although Space Florida would retain a level of independence and Visit Florida would be under contract to Enterprise Florida. Lawmakers must also figure out if they will go along with creating a consolidated fund to help pay for economic development efforts in the future. The House proposal would create the fund in 2012 by taking money from the state’s road-building fund and from a surcharge placed on rental cars. (4/29)

A4H Member Supports Experiments on Final Shuttle Endeavour Flight (Source: A4H)
Flying aboard Endeavour will be student experiments bound for the International Space Station through the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). The 16 experiments selected for flight include studies of cell biology, life cycles, seed germination, food preservation, and crystal growth. During the 14-day mission, A4H co-founder Veronica Ann Zabala-Aliberto will monitor the experiments from the Kennedy Space Center, where she also helped prepare them for integration into the payload before the launch. (4/29)

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