June 16, 2011

House Panel Approves $649 Billion Defense Spending Bill (Source: Bloomberg)
The House Appropriations Committee trimmed $9 billion from the defense defense budget proposed by President Barack Obama. However, the panel added funding for the General Dynamics M1A2 tank upgrade, commando radios and electronics. The $649 billion legislation also funds a request from the Pentagon for 32 F-35 fighters from Lockheed Martin. (6/15)

Defense Department to Make Energy Use a Higher Priority (Source: AIA)
The Pentagon plans to reduce its demand for energy and expand its supply of energy, said Sharon Burke, an assistant secretary of defense. "It's become clear in the current operations that there are risks and costs we're taking on that we don't need to be taking on," she said. The Pentagon's new strategy "will begin to make energy considerations more systemic so that our major systems going forward will take this into account when we're looking at the trade space on these major acquisitions." (6/15)

Boeing to Reduce Staff at Kansas Defense Facility (Source: AP)
Boeing said it will cut 225 jobs at its Defense, Space & Security's Maintenance, Modifications and Upgrades facility in Wichita, Kan. The company said the move came about because of the end of some programs and other factors. "This reduction of positions is necessary to help our business reduce cost and improve productivity," said Mark Bass, general manager of the facility. "Our goal is to remain affordable and competitive, and ensure future growth in the airplane-modification business in Wichita." (6/15)

White House Promotes More High-Tech Training for Students (Source: AIA)
To develop a generation of workers ready to take on high-tech manufacturing jobs, President Barack Obama has proposed a program to encourage more students to go into math, science, technology and engineering fields. Under the program, companies would work more closely with universities and colleges to develop workers with necessary skills, aiming to train 10,000 engineering students a year. (6/15)

Senators Might Drop Funding for Lockheed's Anti-Missile Program (Source: AIA)
Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee are trying to eliminate funding for the Medium Extended Air Defense System being developed by Lockheed Martin. The proposal to eliminate Meads is part of the committee's negotiations over the 2012 defense authorization bill. The Pentagon had asked for $406.6 million to fund Meads for 2012. (6/16)

Roskosmos Announces Tender for Launching 2 GLONASS Satellites (Source: Itar-Tass)
The Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) announced an open tender to conclude a state contract in order to put into orbit two GLONASS navigation satellites (blocks number 45s, 46s). The initial (the highest) contract cost is 483.6 million roubles. A winner in the tender should prepare for launches and blast off the launch vehicles with the GLONASS navigation satellites from the Plesetsk spaceport in July and December 2011. (6/15)

Iran Successfully Launches Satellite Into Space (Source: AFP)
Iran successfully launched its Rassad-1 satellite into space on Wednesday, the country's Arabic-language television channel Al-Alam said. "It was launched by the Safir rocket and put into orbit 260 kilometers (163 miles) above the Earth," the television said. "It is capable of photographing the Earth." The report said Rassad-1 (Observation-1) can revolve 15 times around the Earth every 24 hours, and that it has a two-month life cycle. (6/15)

Ex-NASA Employees Struggle to Find New Opportunities (Source: KHOU)
As the shuttle program draws to a close, some of the best and brightest minds in Houston are looking for work. At the Aerospace Recruiting Expo in League City on Wednesday you could see it on their faces. It’s the kind of stress that accompanies a life unraveled. “It’s the end of the world for some people,” said Rynda Johnson, an aerospace technician who recently got a pink slip.

At the age of 55, mechanical engineer Glenn Jenkinson has been out of work since November of 2009. “It’s kind of a surprise,” said Jenkinson. “It’s frustrating, because most companies are not interested in hiring someone my age, to be honest.” To call their predicament a misfortune would be an understatement. They are among the brightest minds in the country, some of them responsible for keeping the most complicated machine ever built flying, but now unable to keep their jobs. (6/15)

Second X-51 Hypersonic Flight Ends Prematurely (Source: Flight Global)
The second flight of the hypersonic Boeing X-51 waverider ended prematurely due to an inlet unstart. The aircraft made a controlled crash into the Pacific Ocean off the California coast on 13 June, with the crash representing a setback to the revolutionary program.

After what the US Air Force described as a 'flawless' flight to the launch point aboard a Boeing B-52 mothership, the X-51 was successfully boosted to Mach 5.0 by a rocket booster. The Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne scramjet engine successfully ignited using its initial fuel, ethylene. During the immediate transition to JP-7, the conventional fuel that makes the X-51 unique, an inlet unstart occurred. A subsequent attempt to restart and reorient to optimal conditions was unsuccessful. (6/15)

50th Space Wing Completes GPS Constellation Expansion (Source: USAF)
The 50th Space Wing successfully completed a two-phase GPS constellation expansion known as "Expandable 24" June 15. The expansion increased global GPS coverage and is now providing civil, military and commercial GPS users with a more robust signal and a higher probability of signal acquisition in terrain-challenged environments officials said.

The GPS constellation consists of 24 operational slots positioned within six equally-spaced orbital planes surrounding the earth. This plane/slot scheme and enhanced satellite placement ensure GPS users receive the most accurate navigation data at any time, at any place around the world. (6/15)

Recalculating the Distance to Interstellar Space (Source: NASA JPL)
Scientists analyzing recent data from NASA's Voyager and Cassini spacecraft have calculated that Voyager 1 could cross over into the frontier of interstellar space at any time and much earlier than previously thought. The findings are detailed in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

Data from Voyager's low-energy charged particle instrument, first reported in December 2010, have indicated that the outward speed of the charged particles streaming from the sun has slowed to zero. The stagnation of this solar wind has continued through at least February 2011, marking a thick, previously unpredicted "transition zone" at the edge of our solar system. (6/15)

Boeing Wins Iridium NEXT Support Contract (Source: Satellite Spotlight)
Boeing has received a contract from Thales Alenia Space to provide system integration and testing support for the Iridum NEXT constellation. Thales Alenia is the primary contractor for building the Iridum NEXT network and satellites for Iridium Communications.

The long-term support contract extending through 2017 means Boeing will work with Thales Alenia to provide support for the systems integration and testing of the Iridium NEXT satellites. Boeing's (News - Alert) Missions Operations group out of its Chandler, Arizona and Leesburg, VA locations will support this effort.

Boeing has maintained the software and managed Iridium satellite operations for more than 10 years. In July 2010, Iridium awarded Boeing the satellite network operations support work for the current Iridium constellation as well as Iridium NEXT. The Boeing-Thales relationship will extend through 2017 under a long term contract. (6/15)

LightSquared Gets Extension for GPS Test Results (Source: AP)
Federal regulators have granted a Virginia company called LightSquared a two-week extension to report on recent tests that aimed to determine whether its proposed high-speed wireless broadband network would cripple GPS systems around the country. A technical working group created to study the extent of potential interference from LightSquared's proposed network was to report its findings on Wednesday to the Federal Communications Commission. (6/16)

Japan Astronaut Tweets About Space Sickness (Source: AFP)
Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa has tweeted from the International Space Station that he suffers from travel sickness in space. "Space motion sickness got me. Especially when I move my head suddenly, I really feel sick. My head feels heavy. Help!" Furukawa, who is also a medical doctor, said Tuesday via Twitter. (6/16)

JAXA Floating Aimlessly for Too Long (Source: Yomiuri Shimbun)
Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa's 5-1/2-month stay on the International Space Station provides an opportunity for this nation to rethink its strategy on conducting scientific research in space, according to some specialists. Tests conducted on the ISS have not always produced useful results, due in large part to the numerous regulations on experiments in space.

What will Japan do after the operation of the ISS ends in 2020? The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency needs to build a new strategy now. One reason for the lack of fruitful results is the long processing period for experiments. For example, half of the 18 experiments conducted at Kibo in 2008 and 2009 had been approved more than 10 years prior.

Assessing the safety of experiments takes time. As much as 16 years can pass between an experiment being proposed and actually being conducted. More than 50 percent of space experiments selected in 1994 were subsequently abandoned. In some cases, experiments were conducted by rival researchers on Earth before the space program got around to them. In other cases, the researchers involved retired while their project languished in line. (6/16)

DiBello: Florida's Future in Space (Source: Florida Today)
Today, on the issue of the country’s next-generation space program, Washington is adrift. Congress, the Obama administration and NASA each have articulated a different approach to the nation’s future in space. It is incumbent upon our elected representatives to ensure Florida remains at the forefront of national debate when it comes to commercial space, and our state’s political leadership must lead with commitment and one voice.

Sustained commitment and funding of NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO) will ensure a vibrant private-sector marketplace. KSC has been named as the site of NASA’s Commercial Crew Office, but co-locating the Commercial Cargo Program will maximize the center’s capabilities as well as efficiency to taxpayers.

In addition to the C3PO, it is vital KSC have an institutionalized role in future NASA technology development programs. This means making sure Florida isn’t only a premier launch center, but an essential location for research and development, vehicle and payload design and final assembly. Click here to read the op-ed. (6/16)

Countering Contamination for Mars Spacesuits (Source: Astrobiology)
To search for life on Mars, future astronauts would naturally want to step outside their living habitat for a walk. But the spacesuits keeping them alive might also carry Earth microbes or ingredients of life that could contaminate the red planet and complicate the search for extraterrestrial life.

That danger has driven scientists to simulate the contamination risks. Tiny fluorescent tracers stood in for microbes during mock Mars missions with spacesuit simulators in the San Rafael desert of Utah. Simply shining a laser pointer on the spacesuits allowed the researchers to detect levels of contamination based on the fluorescent response.

Such tests may help ensure that contamination risks do not "endanger the entire science of searching for life on Mars," according to Gernot Groemer, president of the Austrian Space Forum and lead researcher on the contamination experiments. (6/16)

NASA Can't Afford to Miss Fall Launch for New Rover (Source: Florida Today)
“It’s impossible to think about Mars before the rovers — they’ve so revolutionized our understanding of the planet,” project manager John Callas told the Los Angeles Times. “The Red Planet is no longer this distant alien world. It’s now a familiar place, and Spirit has given us that.”

Opportunity is still hanging on, but its days are numbered too with NASA planning to pass the baton to a next-generation rover later this year. It’s called Curiosity, and is scheduled for liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas 5 rocket between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18.

Such launch opportunities are available only every 26 months because of planetary alignments, and NASA cannot afford a repeat of two years ago when it missed the window because of design problems with Curiosity, which has proven more complex to build than expected. (6/16)

Pensions for Shuttle Workers Take Big Bite of NASA Budget (Source: Florida Today)
Pensions for thousands of shuttle workers threaten to consume a significant chunk of NASA's budget, but Florida lawmakers said the costs are a commitment that must be honored. To close a gap in pension funding, President Barack Obama proposed a one-time cost of $548 million out of NASA's $18.7 billion budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

"We all know times are tough right now," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, who flew on a shuttle mission in 1986. "But promises were made before times got tough. Look, these highly skilled folks stayed to the very end of the shuttle program. They're the ones who helped give us the Hubble telescope and the International Space Station. NASA needs to honor its commitment to them."

NASA has routinely included pension funding as part of its contracting for the shuttle program. Dozens of contracts were consolidated into a single pact in 1996 with United Space Alliance, which Boeing and Lockheed Martin created to streamline the program. (6/16)

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