June 14, 2011

PWR Jobs Threatened by Heavy-Lift Rocket Change (Source: San Fernando Valley Business Journal)
Hundreds of aerospace jobs in the San Fernando Valley are in jeopardy if the two U.S. senators from California succeed in canceling contracts for NASA’s next manned space program. In an effort to reduce the federal budget, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have asked NASA to scrap the existing $1.4 billion contract with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and instead solicit competitive bids for the project.

The company, which employs 2,200 employees at its facilities in Canoga Park and Chatsworth, is in the process of building engines for the space program. It received the contract in 2006. President Jim Maser said losing the contract would force Pratt & Whitney to cut engineering, manufacturing, program management and financial support jobs. It also would increase the cost and delivery time of a replacement engine, he said.

The senators’ proposal comes on the heels of Pratt & Whitney’s recent layoff notice. Last month, the company announced plans to cut 150 local jobs following the end of the Space Shuttle program. In the past 18 months, it has cut about 400 jobs at its Canoga Park and Chatsworth facilities. (6/14)

Lockheed Martin Space Systems to Eliminate ~1,200 Positions (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed Martin Space Systems, which currently employs approximately 16,000 employees in 12 states, will implement a broad-based workforce reduction of roughly 1,200 employees by year-end. It is anticipated that middle management will be reduced by 25 percent, with significantly smaller percentage impacts in other levels and disciplines.

Operations across the country will be affected, with the largest impact expected at the company’s sites in Sunnyvale, Calif., the Delaware Valley region of Pennsylvania, and Denver, Colo., where several of the company’s major programs are transitioning out of development. (6/14)

Skylon Concept Could be Next Spaceplane (Source: Flight Global)
Could the next space shuttle be a British machine? Don't laugh - if an ambitious rocket engine developer in Oxford has done its calculations, we could be just 10 years away from a reusable, runway take-off and landing unpiloted spaceplane, that promises to put payloads of up to 12t into orbit - and as much as 6t to a high geostationary orbit - for a tenth the cost of a traditional rocket launch.

As envisaged by its developers at Reaction Engines, Skylon's fuselage and wing load bearing structure will be made from carbonfiber-reinforced plastic, and its external shell from a fiber-reinforced ceramic, carrying only aerodynamic pressure loads, which are transmitted to the fuselage structure through flexible suspension points. (6/14)

Weather Satellite Need Defended by Climate Experts (Source: AP)
Business, academic and environmental leaders are stressing the importance of weather satellites in an era of tight federal budgets. "The stakes are high and the challenge is great," at a time when extreme weather is happening more frequently, Michael Freilich, earth science director for NASA, said at a briefing at the Forum on Earth Observation.

Current earth observing satellites have outlasted their planned lifetime, he said, but they won't last forever and budget shortfalls for replacements threaten to create a gap in coverage. Even President Barack Obama weighed in. In an interview that aired Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show, Obama said that among the things that need to be preserved in a time of budget cuts are "government functions like food safety and weather satellites." (6/14)

New Software May Help Astronauts Stay Strong in Space (Source: Space.com)
A new software package that simulates the biomechanics of the human body could help researchers develop better exercise programs for astronauts traveling to Mars or the moon. Microgravity environments can take a toll on astronaut health over time. Within a few weeks in space, astronauts can experience weakening of the bone and degradation of their muscle tissue and neuromuscular system.

Researchers at the University of Washington are using simulations powered by sophisticated software to better understand how astronauts move in space. They are focusing especially on the hip, which is prone to bone mineral loss in zero gravity. The team hopes their findings will lead to more effective exercise programs for astronauts undergoing long duration missions, such as to Mars or the moon. (6/14)

House Panel Slashes Pentagon's Budget Request (Source: Defense News)
The House Appropriations Committee, which meets today, released its proposed defense appropriations bill, which cuts the Pentagon's 2012 budget request by $8.9 billion. "The subcommittee has reviewed in detail the budget request and found areas and programs where reductions are possible without adversely impacting the war fighter or modernization and readiness efforts," according to a report that accompanied the bill. (6/14)

Slow But Steady Progress for Export Control Modernization (Source: AIA)
The Obama administration continues to make progress on multiple fronts on one of AIA's key priorities: reform of the export control system. Several interagency technology teams are reviewing the U.S. Munitions List with the intent of issuing proposed revisions for industry comment on a rolling basis. (6/14)

Memo Marks Official End of Constellation (Source: Space News)
A senior NASA official has officially signed the death warrant for the Constellation deep space exploration program even as work proceeds on one of Constellation’s legacy development efforts and agency officials continue to ponder the fate of another. With Constellation’s demise now official, the Constellation project office, which “has already scaled back in size significantly,” will be charged “with transitioning contracts, etc. to the new [Space Launch System] and [Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle] programs,” Cooke wrote. (6/14)

Is Huntsville’s “Best Friend” for NASA a Freshman Democrat? (Source: Space Politcs)
On Friday Huntsville’s “Second to None” task force, a group of local officials who lobby on space and defense issues, met with a member of Congress. Not the area’s own representative, Mo Brooks (R-AL), but with Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) from Birmingham. And afterwards local officials declared her their newest ally in supporting NASA, and NASA Marshall in particular.

“Rep. Terri Sewell to be voice for TN Valley on NASA affairs” declared the headline of a WAFF-TV report on the meeting, while Huntsville mayor Tommy Battle called her “our new best friend”. Local officials hope that Sewell, who serves on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, will help win support from her fellow Democrats on space topics.

Sewell seems willing to do that. “I see the role for myself and the rest of the congressional delegation as helping to promote that innovation and that excellence,” she said. “I know that the Rocket City is a shining example of all that is right about the state of Alabama and about our innovation in science and technology throughout this country.” Sewell said that while the federal government needs to cut overall spending, it needs to make “strategic investments”, of which NASA is one example. (6/14)

Aerojet Unveils Novel Hypersonics Plan (Source: Aviation Week)
Aerojet is proposing development of a novel combined-cycle propulsion system for reusable hypersonic vehicles which packages current technology to achieve a seamless transition from a standing start to Mach 7 plus. The concept tackles key problems that developers face in trying to accelerate aircraft to high enough speed for a scramjet to begin operating.

Although rocket boosters have been used to accelerate experimental scramjet-powered vehicles like the X-51A to the take-over point, this approach is not suitable for reusable platforms that would operate from a runway. Major hurdles in the path to successful aircraft-like operation include producing sufficient thrust to punch through the high drag encountered at transonic speeds around Mach 1. Even if this can be overcome, designers also face a “thrust gap” between around Mach 2.5, where current turbine engine power falls off, and Mach 3.5-4, where the transition to a dual-mode ramjet/scram­jet takes place.

To date, all attempts to develop a viable high-speed turbine engine to bridge this gap have failed. Aerojet’s TriJet concept builds on the advantages of two traditional air-breathing propulsion systems extensively studied for this role—the turbine- and rocket-based combined cycles (T/RBCC). The TriJet combines a turbine engine and rocket-augmented ejector ramjet (ERJ) with a dual-mode ramjet (DMRJ) to achieve the final push to hypersonic flight. (6/13)

Keeping Space Between Young Ears (Source: Bradenton Herald)
The cast on his left arm made it difficult for 6-year-old Jeffery VanBerkel to glue together the landing gear, but he kept at it. “He’s doing good for one arm,” said the 39-year-old earth space science teacher as he moved around Room 563 at Bayshore High School Monday morning. Twenty-two students like Jeffery were eagerly building small balsa wood models of space shuttles.

It was an important exercise on the first day of Bokelmann’s Bayshore Space Camp Summer 2011. Dreams were being kept alive. His as well as theirs. The scheduled July 8 launch of space shuttle Atlantis will be the last of the 30-year-old NASA program. It is an untimely development for Bokelmann who is one of 30 teachers selected worldwide to attend the Honeywell Educators @ Advanced Space Academy in Huntsville.

Having previously attended Honeywell Educators @ Space Camp in 2009, the father of three had hoped it might lead him to NASA’s Teachers In Space program. “I have mixed emotions,” Bokelmann said. “I grew up seeing the space shuttle and, going through the program, I thought it’d be cool to be an astronaut but there’s nothing left. They don’t have a space program right now, so I don’t know if they’re still going to do that. It’s sad to see the end of an era.” (6/14)

LightSquared Flunks GPS Test (Source: PC Magazine)
LightSquared's multi-million dollar broadband network ambitions could be derailed, after a government agency said the network blocked GPS signals. The National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) reported that LightSquared's broadband wireless transmitters jam GPS receivers crucial to aircraft navigation systems. PNT is expected to submit a report to the Federal Communications Committee by June 15, which will contain a recommendation as to whether or not LightSquared should be deployed commercially. (6/14)

Cecil Airport Designated a Space Territory (Source: Jacksonville Business Journal)
Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development agency, has designated Cecil Airport a Space Territory. The designation grants the Florida Department of Transportation authority to fund spaceport-related transportation facilities at Cecil. The FAA previously awarded the Jacksonville Aviation Authority $104,805 for a Spaceport Master Plan, a project that will develop and expand commercial space transportation infrastructure. (6/14)

Boeing Completes Crew Capsule Review (Source: Boeing)
Boeing has completed the Delta System Definition Review (SDR) of the company's Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 space capsule design. The milestone follows NASA’s award of a Commercial Crew Development Phase 2 (CCDev2) contract to Boeing in April. The daylong review included representatives from NASA, the FAA, and independent consultants. They examined the changes made to the CST-100 design since the initial SDR, which was conducted in October under the original CCDev agreement.

"This review allowed the Boeing team to incorporate changes in the design since the last review and to update the overall baseline requirements," said Keith Reiley, deputy program manager of Commercial Crew Programs for Boeing. "We brought in outside experts, who reviewed the vehicle design from an overall integrated system perspective to ensure that we are designing and building a safe and affordable system."

Boeing engineers reviewed major spacecraft subsystems -- including structures, thermal, electrical, propulsion, life support, software and avionics -- as part of the Delta SDR, and reached agreement during the review on a single integrated, consolidated baseline design. The Boeing team also was able to show strong alignment between the current design and NASA's draft Commercial Crew Program Requirements. (6/14)

GOP Presidential Candidates: No More Federal Money for Human Spaceflight (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The Republican presidential field sent a clear message to NASA workers in Texas and Florida: They don’t see a federal role in funding human space flight. The unanimous verdict came during a New Hampshire presidential debate and following a scathing assessment of NASA management by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.

“NASA has become an absolute case study in why bureaucracy cannot innovate,” he said. “What we have is bureaucracy after bureaucracy, failure after failure.” Gingrich, a longtime supporter of space research, said the private sector and not government should lead the nation into the future of space innovation. "Unfortunately,” he said, “NASA is standing in the way of it.”

The other six candidates in attendance were asked whether they would continue federal funding for human space flight. Not a single candidate — Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Herman Cain — raised their hand. (6/14)

Gingrich Blasts NASA, Imagines Private Sector Space Program (Source: Daily Caller)
“If you take all the money we’ve spent at NASA since we’ve landed at the moon and you applied that money to incentives for the private sector, we would today probably have a permanent station on the moon, three or four permanent stations in space, a new generation of lift vehicles,” Newt Gingrich said. “Instead what we’ve had is bureaucracy after bureaucracy after bureaucracy and failure after failure,” he continued.

The question was on whether or not the candidates thought that space exploration was a worthy investment of federal money. “We’re at the beginning of a whole new cycle of extraordinary opportunities, and unfortunately NASA is standing in the way of it when NASA ought to be getting out of the way and encouraging the private sector,” Gingrich said. (6/14)

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