May 14, 2011

Federal Affairs Workshop & Networking Event in Washington on Jun. 22 (Source: FFCA)
The Florida Federal Contractors Association (FFCA) has scheduled its second Washington D.C. Federal Affairs Workshop and Networking Reception. This is a not to miss full-day event. Keeping with last year's format, this event can be done in one day, with programming beginning at 10 a.m. and the Congressional Reception concluding by 6:30 p.m. The 2011 event location is at The Hotel George on Capitol Hill. Visit for information. (5/14)

Texas Students Win Team America Rocketry Challenge (Source: AIA)
A team from Rockwall-Heath High School in Heath, Tex., took first place at the ninth annual Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) finals Saturday afternoon, besting 99 teams from across the country to earn the title of national champion. Rockwall-Heath joined more than 600 participating teams on a journey that included rocketry design, simulated flights and test launches.

“This contest is why I’m going into aerospace,” said team president John Easum, who is attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in the fall. “It's hands-on, and you experience a lot of failures, but then you troubleshoot and end up with success. It's a really good feeling.” Lambert High School from Suwanee, Ga., and Harmony Magnet Academy from Strathmore, Calif., tied for second place with a score of 23.0. (5/14)

Space Entrepreneur Running for Congress (Source: Space Politics)
Tuesday is a special election primary for California’s 36th congressional district, which had been represented by Jane Harman until her retirement earlier this year. The top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s primary will move on to a general election in July. Among those hoping to make the cut is Republican Stephen Eisele, head of sales for Excalibur Almaz, the company developing a commercial orbital spaceflight program using legacy Russian hardware.

Eisele, who joined Excalibur Almaz in 2007, is responsible for the company’s global sales activities; the bio on his web site notes that he specifically works “with the entertainment industry to help foster creative partnerships for future projects.” Given that background, it’s not surprising that he mentions space issues on his campaign web site.”I am a strong supporter of our US defense and aerospace industry and believe in fostering continued commercialization and incentivizing innovation through competition,” he writes.

“Having worked in the Space industry for many years, I am a strong advocate of Space exploration and its benefits to humanity.” He specifically cites the need for export control reform and the use of prizes, but doesn’t go into other details about civil or national security space policy. Eisele, though, faces a major challenge in the election: the district, which includes many of the South Bay communities in the Los Angeles area from Venice Beach to San Pedro, is heavily Democratic. (5/14)

Celestis Plans Second Try for Cremains Launch in New Mexico (Source: Celestis)
Launch of our next Earth Rise Service mission, The Goddard Flight, is projected to occur on May 20 from Spaceport America, New Mexico! The Goddard Flight is projected to launch as early as 7:00 am Mountain Daylight Time (9:00 am EDT, 1:00 pm GMT), Friday, May 20. The day prior to launch family members of those on board will tour the launch pad and mission control. (5/13)

U.S. Commercial Crew Costs Could Exceed Soyuz (Source: Aviation Week)
Private space companies probably can expect at least 44 paying passengers for trips to orbit in the next 10 years, NASA has told Congress, but the price per seat could be higher than the U.S. government already is paying for rides on Russia’s Soyuz capsule. Phil McAlister, acting director for commercial spaceflight at NASA headquarters and one of the report’s authors, says it’s too early to put a price tag on commercial human spaceflight.

The agency’s congressionally mandated assessment of the market for the commercial cargo and crew transport to low Earth orbit (LEO) — the centerpiece of U.S. space policy for the post-shuttle era — carries no cost estimates, and is based largely on extrapolated historical data and projections by two firms that aren’t directly involved in building the commercial systems NASA needs to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station. (5/14)

Launch of Russian Observatory to Study Universe Could be Postponed (Source: Interfax)
The placement of Russia's Spektr-R astrophysical observatory into orbit, initially set for July, could be postponed because its Zenit rocket is needed to launch the U.S. Intelsat 18 telecommunications satellite. "Roscosmos is currently debating how to use the Zenit launch vehicle available to it - either for the launch of the Spektr-R observatory or for the launch of the Intelsat 18 satellite," a space rocket source said.

Recently a shortage of Zenit launch vehicles has created "a real competition" for them, the source said. Zenit rockets serve to launch satellites as part of Russia's federal space exploration program, from a platform in the Pacific Ocean as part of the Sea Launch program, as well as from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which Russia leases from Kazakhstan, as part of the Land Launch program. (5/14)

1,942 Job Cuts Hit Florida's Space Coast (Source: St. Pete Times)
Friday the 13th hit hard for 1,942 workers in the Titusville area. That's how many employees were affected by the latest round of layoffs announced by United Space Alliance LLC, an organization that partners with NASA to run the space shuttle operation. It was the second-largest mass layoff notice filed with the state since the beginning of the recession, exceeded only by a supermarket chain sell-off in 2008..

According to the layoff notice filed Friday, the job cuts would occur between now and July 22. Affected positions are in administrative and support plus waste management and remediation services, the filing said. Eventually, most of the 9,000 workers connected to the Space Coast will need to find new jobs. (5/14)

Embry-Riddle Payload Among First Selected by NASA for Upcoming Reduced-Gravity Flights (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 16 payloads for flights on the commercial Zero-G parabolic aircraft and two commercial suborbital reusable launch vehicles as part of the agency's Flight Opportunities Program. The flights provide opportunities for space technologies to be demonstrated and validated in relevant environments. In addition, these flights foster the development of the nation's commercial reusable suborbital transportation industry.

The payloads and teams from ten states and the District of Columbia. Of the payloads, 12 will ride on parabolic aircraft flights; two on suborbital commercial reusable launch vehicle test flights; and two on both platforms. The commercial Zero-G aircraft payloads will fly during a weeklong campaign from Houston's Ellington Field in mid-July. The suborbital reusable launch vehicle payloads will fly on the Masten's Xaero vehicle and Armadillo's Super Mod during 2011.

Embry-Riddle's "Investigation to Determine Rotational Stability of On-Orbit Propellant Storage and Transfer Systems Undergoing Operational Fuel Transfer Scenarios" is one of only two payloads selected to fly on both platform. Embry-Riddle's project is supported by NASA's Kennedy Space Center and United Launch Alliance. (5/13)

Endeavour: Weather Still 70 Percent Chance for Monday Launch (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The countdown clock is under way for Monday’s planned 8:56 a.m. launch of space shuttle Endeavour on STS-134 to the International Space Station. The clock began counting down at 7 a.m. for the shuttle’s final flight, but weather is a concern for both Monday’s launch and the planned retraction of the Rotating Service Structure at noon Sunday. (5/13)

How Computers Got Us Into Space (Source: MSNBC)
When you look back at the past 50 years of human spaceflight, don't forget the computer scientists who helped make it all possible. That's the message Arthur Cohen wants to pass along on the golden anniversary of NASA astronaut Alan Shepard's 1961 Freedom 7 spaceflight. The successful flights made by Shepard and other members of the Mercury 7 depended on the work done by Cohen and thousands of other workers behind the scenes.

Back in the early 1960s he was manager for the IBM Space Computer Center in Washington, where he directed the development of all computing support for Project Mercury. Two IBM 7090 computer systems at NASA's nearby Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, plus a backup IBM 709 computer in the Bahamas, provided all the raw number-crunching power to plot the trajectories of those early spacecraft. Western Electric and Bell Labs provided the supporting communication network. (5/13)

Lawmakers Question White House About Overhaul of Export-Licensing System (Source: Space News)
A White House proposal to overhaul the U.S. export-licensing system could face an uphill battle against Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress who say a compelling case has yet to be made for a wholesale restructuring of the process, which strictly regulates the sale of military and dual-use technologies overseas, including U.S. commercial communications satellites and components.

In August 2009 the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama embarked on a far-reaching effort to reform the way federal government agencies review and process U.S. export license applications, a charge spearheaded largely by outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Rep. Ileanna Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) said the administration’s plan to dramatically overhaul the export-licensing system would require new legislative authority to implement, and that a compelling case has yet to be made for such sweeping reform. (5/13)

Sessions, Schulte Spar Over Proposed Space Accord (Source: Space News)
The United States would not be prohibited from deploying any type of space system by adopting a code of conduct for space activities that has been proposed by the European Union (EU), the U.S. Defense Department’s top space policy official told lawmakers May 11.

The Pentagon is still reviewing the code of conduct but believes it is well aligned with the new U.S. National Space Policy and would help ensure new spacefaring nations act responsibly in space, Gregory L. Schulte, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, said during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.

Schulte was responding to the subcommittee’s ranking member, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who raised concerns that the draft Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities proposed by the EU in October would prevent the United States from deploying certain systems or conducting certain activities in space related to national security. (5/14)

House Panel Slashes Funding for ASSIST (Source: Space News)
The Defense Department’s plan to lease a commercial communications satellite for 15 years hit a roadblock when the House Armed Services Committee passed a bill that would eliminate most of the funding requested to initiate the Assured Satcom Services in Single Theater (ASSIST) program. The committee’s version of the 2012 defense authorization bill would cut $416 million of the $500.9 million requested for ASSIST. Instead, those funds would be moved to the Air Force’s Wideband Global Satcom budget line. (5/13)

USA Plans To Lay Off Nearly 2,900 by End of August (Source: Space News)
Houston-based United Space Alliance (USA) intends to lay off nearly 2,900 employees this summer after NASA flies its final space shuttle mission. The company spent the week notifying approximately 2,876 employees that they will be laid off between late July and the end of August, a timeframe that assumes NASA conducts its final shuttle mission in early July as currently expected. (5/13)

Why Space Shuttle Fleet is Retiring, What's Next (Source: AP)
As the space shuttle program winds down, questions are flying about what's happening and why. The launch countdown began Friday for the second-to-last flight. Some answers about the end of the space shuttle: Q: Why are the shuttles retiring?

A: The shuttles are aging and expensive, their key task is nearly completed and NASA wants to use the money spent on them to do something new. They've been flying since 1981, hauling up pieces of the International Space Station. The panel that investigated the 2003 Columbia accident concluded: "It is in the nation's interest to replace the Shuttle as soon as possible." Click here to read the article. (5/13)

Theory of Recycled Universe Called Into Question (Source: WIRED)
In November, cosmologists claimed to see echoes of violent collisions that happened before the Big Bang in the form of circular patterns in the early universe’s relic radiation. But two new analyses of the same data, which are the first papers on the subject to be published in peer-reviewed journals, assert that those circles are nothing special.

“We found there was nothing strange in the [cosmic microwave background] data at all,” said astrophysicist Ingunn Wehus of the University of Oslo, coauthor of a paper published online in the Astrophysical Journal Letters May 9. The difference in their analyses, she says, is “We do it correctly, and they do not.” (5/14)

Challenge to Conduct Lunar X PRIZE Missions with LEGO Robots (Source: X PRIZE Foundation)
The X PRIZE Foundation and the LEGO Group today announced MoonBots 2.0: A Google Lunar X PRIZE LEGO MINDSTORMS Challenge. This second annual contest will challenge teams of youth to design, program, and construct robots that perform simulated lunar missions similar to those required to win the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, a private race to the Moon designed to enable commercial exploration of space while engaging the global public.

To further this purpose, the X PRIZE Foundation and the LEGO Group have partnered with WIRED magazine and FIRST robotics to offer a competition that will excite students and their families about the Moon, robotics, and team building. Teams will be asked to submit fun, scientific video clips that talk about space exploration. In addition to the video, each team will be asked to write a proposal explaining why their robot should be funded to go to the moon, similar to the proposals authored by actual Google Lunar X PRIZE teams. (5/14)

Canadian Astronauts Launch an Out-of-this-World Exhibition (Source: CSA)
If you want to operate Canadarm2 without flying to the International Space Station, plan a space meal in simulated microgravity and see unique artifacts from Canadian astronauts' space missions, visit the Canadian Space Agency's interactive “Living in Space” exhibition at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. (5/14)

UK Astronomy Will Be Hit Hard by Budget Cuts (Source: RAS)
Professor Roger Davies, President of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), today backed a report published by MPs on the Science and Technology Select Committee that set out the risks to UK astronomy posed by ongoing and future budget cuts. The Society expressed great concern at the unprecedented scale of the cuts in both capital and resource budgets.

The RAS is particularly concerned by the decision to drastically reduce the size of the astronomy research community through a 50% cut in postdoctoral researchers and the likely pullout from all optical observatories in the northern hemisphere. Together, these pose a great threat to the UK's global leadership in astronomy, which currently sees it ranked second only to the United States. (5/14)

Industry Applauds Export Control Assessment (Source: SAI)
The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) applauds the release by the Departments of Defense, State, and Commerce of an interim report that assesses the national security impact of reforming United States export control policy for satellites. The report found that the national security risk of transferring commercial communications satellites to the Commerce Control List is manageable.

The Report further recommended that “U.S. national security interests would be best served by vesting the President with the authority to develop flexible and timely responses” to technological changes. Satellites are the only industrial sector for which Congress has mandated export
control policy through legislation. (5/14)

Legislators Press for Safeguards Against Azerbaijan’s Use of Satellite (Source: Asbarez)
Legislators, citing Azerbaijan’s threats and acts of aggression against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, continue to press for greater scrutiny of a recent decision by the Export-Import Bank to finance a controversial satellite purchase by the oil-rich government of Ilham Aliyev, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing,” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) urged Under-Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher to look “carefully at this license to see if this particular satellite gives Azerbaijan the ability to do surveillance or jamming” and went on to ask, for the record, “will you reject this license if the satellite in question gives the Azeri government the capacity to jam Armenian communications or survey Armenia or Nagorno Karabakh.” Under-Secretary Tauscher is expected to respond in writing to this question. (5/14)

How We Can Fly to Mars in This Decade—And on the Cheap (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The technology now exists and at half the cost of a Space Shuttle flight. All that's lacking is the political will to take more risks. SpaceX, a private firm that develops rockets and spacecraft, recently announced it will field a heavy lift rocket within two years that can deliver more than twice the payload of any booster now flying. This poses a thrilling question: Can we reach Mars in this decade?

It may seem incredible—since conventional presentations of human Mars exploration missions are filled with depictions of gigantic, futuristic, nuclear-powered interplanetary spaceships whose operations are supported by a virtual parallel universe of orbital infrastructure. There's nothing like that on the horizon. But I believe we could reach Mars with the tools we have or soon will have. (5/14)

UC Berkeley SETI Survey Focuses on Kepler’s Top Earth-Like Planets (Source: Berkeley)
Now that NASA’s Kepler space telescope has identified 1,235 possible planets around stars in our galaxy, astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, are aiming a radio telescope at the most Earth-like of these worlds to see if they can detect signals from an advanced civilization. The search began on May 8, when the Green Bank Telescope – the largest steerable radio telescope in the world – dedicated an hour to eight stars with possible planets.

Once UC Berkeley astronomers acquire 24 hours of data on a total of 86 Earth-like planets, they’ll initiate a coarse analysis and then, in about two months, ask an estimated 1 million SETI@home users to conduct a more detailed analysis on their home computers. “It’s not absolutely certain that all of these stars have habitable planetary systems, but they’re very good places to look for ET,” said UC Berkeley graduate student Andrew Siemion. (5/14)

MDA Eyes New Frontier in Satellite Repair (Source: Vancouver)
Canadarm's 30-year reign as Canada’s greatest contribution to space exploration is drawing to a close. A new and even more remarkable era could soon follow. Canadarm builder MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), based in Richmond, British Columbia, is in the early stages of a project that would expand Canada’s reputation as an international leader in space technology.

MDA’s iconic robot arm has been a vital tool for NASA’s space shuttle missions since 1981, servicing and repairing satellites and playing a critical role in the 1998 assembly of the international space station. MDA recently announced a $280 million US deal with world-leading satellite service provider Intelsat to build, launch and operate a remote controlled vessel that will be, in effect, a mobile service station in space. (5/14)

JPL Virtual Open House: Next Best Thing to Being Here (Source: JPL)
Couldn't make it to this year's annual Open House at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory? Our virtual event was held live on on May 14. The "NASAJPL" channel at: hosted the online event. The segments will also be archived for later viewing. (5/14)

Cuts to Shuttle's Workforce Echo in Operations (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center's shrinking shuttle workforce is looming larger in the program's final days. Repairs like those Endeavour needed after its April 29 launch scrub pose a greater challenge with fewer workers available and managers careful not to overtax them. And launch of the final shuttle mission is slipping into July in part because remaining crews can't perform as many major operations simultaneously or without interruption. (5/14)

Simberg: The Senate's Rocket to Nowhere (Source: The Examiner)
It's been rumored for a while now, but NASA's plans to respond to congressional (mal)direction are starting to come into focus, and it's not a pretty picture. The new vehicle will use left-over engines from the Shuttle orbiters that are now being retired. There's only one problem. Unlike the Shuttle, which reuses the engines each time, the new vehicle will be completely expendable. There are only enough engines for it for four flights, and there are no plans to reopen the production lines at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne to produce more, even if their cost wouldn't be prohibitive.

In other words, NASA plans to spend $10 billion to develop a vehicle that has no defined payload, and will only fly four times. Each flight of this vehicle will cost the taxpayers $2.5 billion dollars, while doing absolutely nothing to advance our progress in conquering space. Why is NASA doing this? Because Congress insists that they "follow the law," and Congress wrote a law last year that NASA must spend a specified amount of money on a heavy-lift vehicle, using existing contracts and contractors.

They will tell you that they wanted to ensure that the nation maintained forward direction and leadership in space, but if you look at the people who wrote the law (Sens. Bill Nelson (D) of Florida, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) of Texas, Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah, Richard Shelby (R) of Alabama) you will be struck by the amazing coincidence that they all have major Shuttle contractors in their states. In fact, they are surprisingly up front about it. Click here. (5/14)

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