April 9, 2011

Texas Space Alliance Goes Online (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A new Texas Space Alliance has been formed with a vision for that state to become the launching point for opening the space frontier. Rick Tumlinson briefed an audience at last week's Space Access conference on Texas' concerns and priorities, saying he's upset that the state has been leading the charge in Washington against commercial space.

The new Alliance pushed an immunity and liability act based on similar laws in Florida, Virginia and New Mexico to protect spaceflight providers from being sued except if there is gross negligence. The bill, which passed the Texas House a few weeks ago and is now in the Senate, is expected to be approved and signed by governor within a few weeks. The state is looking at enterprise zones and other activities to encourage commercial space. Organizers believe if they can change what happens in Texas, then we can hit a tipping point that pushes the entire country toward commercial space. (4/8)

Chicago Planetarium Shoots for a Shuttle (Source:
A launch of the space shuttle could soon land it in Chicago. Windy City residents and Adler Planetarium officials alike are anxiously awaiting NASA’s announcement next week to find out if Chicago will be the new home to one of the retired space shuttle orbiters. NASA is considering the Adler Planetarium as one of 21 organizations to receive a retired space shuttle and will publicly announce its decision on April 12, the 30th anniversary of the first shuttle flight. (4/8)

Expert Says Endeavour a Good Fit for Retirement at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
Space shuttle Endeavour, slated to fly this month, could be the orbiter chosen for retirement on the Space Coast, if a military-related museum is the other winning site, according to an expert on the space program and its artifacts. Robert Pearlman, editor of collectSpace.com, said Atlantis has flown more Department of Defense classified missions, so it might be most appropriate to be displayed at a site like the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. (4/9)

Virgin Galactic Hiring SpaceShip Pilots (Source: Aviation Week)
Virgin Galactic is looking for a few good pilots—very good pilots—to fly paying customers to the edge of space and back in its SpaceShipTwo rocketplane. The Virgin Atlantic space-tourism spinoff plans to hire another aviator by June to help David MacKay, its lone test pilot, prepare for the start of spaceflight as early as next year. Virgin wants to cast a wide net because the jobs won’t be easy to fill.

The pilot selected—plus two more to be hired later—must be able to handle both the air-launched SpaceShipTwo and its multi-engine WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft. A deft touch with the passengers will be a big plus as well, since they’ll be in the same cabin as the flight crew. The SpaceShipTwo cabin is open front to back, with the two pilots in the front seats and the passengers three-by-three along the sides. SpaceShipTwo will be flown manually from the time it is dropped from WhiteKnightTwo, through its foray above the atmosphere, and back to a gliding landing at Spaceport America, so the pilots won’t have time to attend to passenger needs.

The company is also seeking a director of operations, as its ground facilities at Spaceport America in New Mexico near completion. George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic CEO, says the postings are “signs of us beginning to ramp up as we start to aim for commercial operations.” (4/9)

United Space Alliance Trims Workforce to 3,300 (Source: Florida Today)
David Erickson and 534 other United Space Alliance workers turned in their security badges and picked up termination paperwork at the NASA Shuttle Logistics Depot in Cape Canaveral. The fifth layoff since October 2009 leaves just more than 3,300 USA workers at Kennedy Space Center, where two shuttle flights remain. The last flight, scheduled for June 28, will end the 30-year-old program that has provided long careers to thousands of engineers and technicians.

The job loss is scary for Brevard businesses, too. With workers at KSC averaging $77,000 annual salaries, this wave of layoffs will cost the community and its economy more than $40 million in gross wages. "A lot of our customers who come in here have been laid off. We are expecting a little bit of a decrease, but at the same time, we'll get through it," said Joe Hennis, manager at Caffe Chocolat in Titusville. "A lot of them are getting ready to move away, going up to South Carolina where they can get a job."

But many of the laid-off workers have raised families in Brevard and don't want to leave. "I'm looking (for work) primarily locally. We want to stay in the area," said Kim Cannaday, an advanced system orbiter mechanic. At 53, married with grown kids, he is too young to retire. (4/9)

Man Finds Piece of Russian Rocket in Colorado (Source: Craig Daily Press)
While hiking near Moffat County Road 9 last month, Robert Dunn heard a noise he said sounded like scraping. “It was just an odd noise, it just wasn’t natural,” Dunn said. “It wasn’t an airplane and it wasn’t my cell phone. I listened, and that was it.” Several hours later, Dunn, a 57-year-old resident of Dixon, Wyo., who was searching for horns shed by deer and elk at the time, found what he believes caused the strange noise — a pressurant tank from a Russian rocket.

He found the round, titanium tank March 21, not far from a two-track road about five miles south of the Colorado/Wyoming border on Bureau of Land Management property. The tank weighs about 70 pounds and has a diameter of about 30 inches. There are two spots where valves would have been connected. (4/9)

Air Force Programs Face Scrutiny Amid Sweeping Spending Cuts (Source: AIA)
A $718 million request to modernize the F-22 Raptor is among numerous Air Force programs that could face scrutiny as Congress debates the fiscal 2012 budget request. The Government Accountability Office recently said the Air Force was the strongest driver of cost overruns in the Defense Department, making both high- and low-end programs fair game as lawmakers consider cuts. (4/4)

Can Capitalism Save Space Travel? (Source: Globe and Mail)
Almost a century ago, the U.S. Postal Service set up its first airmail operation. It had its own pilots, planes and regular routes, transporting letters and parcels from coast to coast. Once the public was accustomed to speedy national delivery, the U.S. government handed over airmail to the private sector. Commercial airlines, which were just getting off the ground, bid on contracts to carry the mail. The work guaranteed the fledgling firms an income long before the public was hooked on flying. These companies, which doubled as flying postmen, would eventually become giants of passenger aviation.

Now, U.S. President Barack Obama wants to transform human space flight in a similar fashion by letting private companies take American astronauts into orbit. And privatization of space could turn out to be the best way to open up the cosmos to a broader cross-section of humanity. The opportunity for change will come this summer when the last of the aging fleet of space shuttles is retired from service. (4/8)

Quake Could Disrupt Japan’s Astro-H Work (Source: Space News)
Work on the joint NASA-Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Astro-H mission could be slowed as a result of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated parts of northern Japan in March, according to NASA Astrophysics Division chief Jon Morse. Morse said the Soft X-Ray Spectrometer team members are “racing to try to beat their delivery dates on a number of items in the near-term." (4/8)

Iran’s Claims About Satellite Service Try International Regulatory Regime (Source: Space News)
The international body that regulates satellite orbital slots and broadcast frequencies is facing what some officials have called its worst-ever crisis as it grapples with a question it is not sure it can answer: Can regulators refuse to accept the word of a sovereign nation about its own assets even when they are convinced it is lying?

Over the last five months, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has been vexed by what numerous officials agree are extraordinary claims by the government of Iran regarding its Zohreh-2 telecommunications satellite system. Like other requests to reserve satellite slots and broadcast frequencies, the Zohreh-2 filing was given deadlines by which the system had to be put into service. Failure to meet these deadlines, or to maintain service continuity, raises the threat that the reservation will be canceled. (4/8)

NASA Moves Forward with Ames Hangar Refurb (Source: NASA)
NASA Ames Research Center is soliciting information about potential sources for the design/build of the rehabilitation of Hangar 1, a historic property located at Moffett Field, California. The hangar is currently undergoing environmental clean up to remove hazardous materials. The remediation of environmental contamination and the removal of hazardous material are being undertaken by the US Navy. (4/8)

Atlas Launch from Vandenberg Rescheduled to Apr. 14 (Source: Launch Alert)
The launch of an Atlas V carrying the NROL-34 spy satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California has been rescheduled for Apr. 14, in order to allow time for the launch team to replace an avionics component on the vehicle. The opening of the launch window is 9:24 p.m. PDT. (4/8)

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