June 30, 2010

Big Air Force Contract for EELV (Source: DOD)
United Launch Services, Littleton, Colo., is being awarded a $1,130,820,000 cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for launch capability, engineering support, program management, launch and range site activities, mission integration, and mission specific design and qualification effort for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program from July 1, 2011 through Sep. 30, 2012. Work will be performed at Littleton, Colo., and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Funds in the amount of $300,450,918 have been obligated, which includes $187,500 in funds that will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. SMC/LRK, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., is the contracting activity. (6/30)

Florida Company Leads Research on Electric Jet (Source: Florida Today)
The electric jetliner. It's not a 1960s rock band, the subject of a science fiction tale or the punchline of a joke. It is, or at least could be, a future transportation option made possible in part by a Palm Bay technology company. Aided by a $900,000 grant from NASA, Advanced Magnet Lab's scientists will develop a computer model to tell the agency how to build electric motors and generators small yet powerful enough to drive the jet's turbofans.

NASA's goal is to reduce fuel consumption and pollution emissions. "They're looking for the next technology," AML senior research scientist Philippe Masson said. "The whole concept relies on the validity of that (electric) motor. It's going to be very difficult to reach those goals with conventional technologies."

During the first year of the three-year project, AML will focus on computer analysis. Working models will be built in the second and third years. With the NASA grant and other projects, including a Department of Energy award that could bring in up to $700,000 for work on large wind turbine coils, the Brevard company with eight workers expects to add 50 to 100 employees during the next two years. (6/30)

States Step Up Roles in Space (Source: Stateline)
Lately, NASA’s launches at Wallops have been modest—mostly weather balloons and research rockets. But the state governments of Virginia and Maryland are bringing more ambitious projects back to the remote island. Since 2006, four Minotaur 1 rockets have taken off from the states’ jointly operated Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS).

Five of the eight FAA licenses to launch rockets into space belong to state governments. The state-run sites, in addition to Wallops Island, are in Florida, Oklahoma, Alaska and New Mexico. Other jurisdictions in Florida and California hold licenses, too. But the license is no guarantee of commercial success, especially with so many of the facilities angling for the same customers. Space Florida, for example, suffered a severe setback after NASA decided to use rockets launched from Wallops to resupply the space station.

And the competition is especially fierce among facilities trying to lure suborbital flights for space tourists. In Oklahoma, pre-existing facilities are the selling point. Bill Khourie, executive director of the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority, argues that the state’s converted Strategic Air Command base offers benefits that cannot be found anywhere else, including control over its own, non-military airspace and a runway that is nearly a mile longer and 100 feet wider than the one in New Mexico. (6/30)

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics to Eliminate About 1,500 Positions (Source: Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed Martin will reduce employment across its Aeronautics business area as part of a plan to improve the affordability of its products and increase operational efficiency. Lockheed Martin currently has about 28,000 employees at its principal Aeronautics sites in Texas, Georgia and California and at six smaller locations in as many states.

Reductions may occur across the enterprise, with the greatest impacts occurring at the larger sites. An organizational assessment will determine how to trim the organization with a target reduction of approximately 1,500 employees. (6/30)

ESA Forced To Defer Full-scale Work on 2016 Mars Orbiter (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency (ESA) on June 30 withdrew its proposal to begin full-scale work on a 2016 Mars orbiter mission with NASA following receipt of a letter from NASA’s administrator saying the U.S. agency could not commit to a companion 2018 Mars rover mission, a senior ESA official said June 30.

The decision by ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain to remove the ExoMars contract decision from the agenda of ESA’s Industrial Policy Committee, which met June 29-30, illustrates the continued instability of the joint ESA-NASA Mars exploration program that in principle was decided two years ago. (6/30)

Ariane 5 Set to Launch on Another Tandem Mission (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Two television broadcasting satellites to serve Europe and Japan moved to a South America launch pad Thursday, ready to blast off aboard an Ariane 5 rocket Friday evening. The 165-foot-tall Ariane rocket rolled 1.7 miles from the final assembly building to the ELA-3 launch pad Thursday, then workers began connecting the vehicle to the facility's electrical and fueling system. Liftoff is scheduled for 5:43 p.m. EDT Friday on the expendable rocket's fourth flight of the year. Satellites for European and Japanese operators are stacked inside the launcher's nose cone for the journey to space. (6/30)

Last Shuttle Crew has its Hands Full (Source: Reuters)
The four astronauts assigned to the last mission of NASA's 30-year-long space shuttle program aren't just burdened with the weight of history: They're expected to transfer four tons of supplies from the shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station in just a few days' time, the kind of job that's usually done with a six- or seven-person crew. They have to be ready to take shelter on the station for months, in the event that something goes wrong with their ride. And as if that weren't enough, they're being inundated with requests for tickets to watch the last-ever liftoff of America's winged spaceship. (6/30)

Inner Space is Useful. Outer Space is History (Source: Economist)
How big is the Earth? Any encyclopedia will give you an answer: its equatorial diameter is 12,756km, or, for those who prefer to think that way, 7,926 miles. Ah, but then there is the atmosphere. Should that count? Perhaps the planet’s true diameter is actually nearer 13,000km, including all its air. But even that may no longer be an adequate measure. For the Earth now reaches farther still.

The vacuum surrounding it buzzes with artificial satellites, forming a sort of technosphere beyond the atmosphere. Many form a ring like Saturn’s at a distance of 36,000km, in geostationary orbit. The vision being sold in the 1950s and 1960s was that other planets were there for the taking. That the taking would begin in the lifetimes of people then alive was widely assumed to be true.

No longer. It is quite conceivable that 36,000km will prove the limit of human ambition. It is equally conceivable that the fantasy-made-reality of human space flight will return to fantasy. It is likely that the Space Age is over. Today’s space cadets will, no doubt, oppose that claim vigorously. They will, in particular, point to the private ventures of people like Elon Musk in America and Sir Richard Branson in Britain, who hope to make human space flight commercially viable. Click here. (6/30)

NASA Administrator Selling Houston Area Home (Source: BlockShopper)
Charles F. Bolden, Jr. and his wife, Alexis, have listed for sale a four-bedroom, 4.5-bath home at 14111 Lake Scene Trail in Clear Lake for $699,000. The Boldens acquired the property in April 2003. The 4,940-square-foot house was built in 1994 in the Bay Oaks subdivision. (6/30)

Government Sues Apollo 14 Astronaut Over Lunar Camera (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. government has sued a former NASA astronaut to recover a camera used to explore the moon's surface during the 1971 Apollo 14 mission after seeing it slated for sale in a New York auction. The lawsuit, filed in Miami federal court on Wednesday, accuses Edgar Mitchell of illegally possessing the camera and attempting to sell it for profit.

In March, NASA learned that the British auction house Bonhams was planning to sell the camera at an upcoming Space History Sale, according to the suit. The item was labeled "Movie Camera from the Lunar Surface" and billed as one of two cameras from the Apollo 14's lunar module Antares. The lot description said the item came "directly from the collection" of pilot Edgar Mitchell and had a pre-sale estimate of $60,000 to $80,000, the suit said.

Mitchell was a lunar module pilot on Apollo 14, which launched its nine-day mission in 1971 under the command of Alan Shepard. The sixth person to walk on the moon, Mitchell is now retired and runs a website selling his autographed picture. (6/30)

AIA Calls for Continued Aerospace Investment (Source: AIA)
Former FAA Administrator and current President and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, Marion C. Blakey, called for accelerated implementation of FAA's Next Generation Air Transportation System and increased U.S. investment in research and development to avoid losing our leadership in aerospace and defense.

Blakey also said that it was important for the aerospace industry to underscore the critical role of aerospace and defense in supporting our nation and economy, especially during ongoing budget debates. AIA is launching a campaign called "Second to None" to ensure that Congress and other officials understand that the industry is a perishable national asset. Editor's Note: "Second to None" is also the name of a Huntsville campaign to maximize NASA spending and programs at Marshall Space Flight Center. (6/30)

Moon Express Conducts Flight Test of Lunar Lander with NASA (Source: On Orbit)
Moon Express, Inc. today announced a successful flight test of a prototype lunar lander system being developed in partnership with NASA. Controlled flight tests of the Lander Test Vehicle (LTV) allow Moon Express to assess lunar vehicle design, including guidance, navigation and control software and new landing leg concepts designed by Moon Express engineers.

The company signed a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement with NASA last year to invest over $500K into the commercialization of technology developed by the agency. The flight test marks an important milestone in the collaborative agreement, demonstrating that innovative public-private partnerships can be utilized to establish new capabilities of mutual benefit to commercial space companies and NASA. (6/30)

NASA Funding Mired In Budget Politics (Source: Aviation Week)
With a lingering stalemate on the deficit and debt ceiling and leftover problems from the previous fiscal year, developing a budget to fund NASA for the coming fiscal year is messier than usual. “It’s a quagmire,” says Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), chair of the Senate Appropriations Commerce Justice Science subcommittee. “It’s a fiscal quagmire.”

The committee is still sorting through the fiscal 2011 budget, as NASA only just recently submitted its spending plan for fiscal 2011 to Congress. Meanwhile, Congress and the White House have yet to reach a deal on how to address the deficit and the debt ceiling. Without that deal, the Senate has not provided a budget resolution, withholding guidance to the appropriations committees for how much money individual agencies will receive in fiscal 2012. (6/30)

Minotaur Launches Military Satellite from Virginia (Source: SpaceToday.net)
A Minotaur rocket launched a small military satellite late Wednesday evening from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia. It released the ORS-1 satellite into low Earth orbit about 12 minutes later. The satellite, the first operational spacecraft for the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office, will provide tactical imagery directly to troops in the field.

The launch took place near the end of the three-hour launch window because of problems with ground support equipment and the rocket's flight termination system. A previous launch attempt Tuesday was scrubbed by stormy weather. (6/30)

Take an Orbit Around the Kennedy Space Center (Source: Palm Beach Post)
After it lands, the world's only re-usable space vehicle will fade into NASA history, taking a large chunk of the U.S. space program with it. It's a blow that has sent the Space Coast's space-based economy into a stall, then a steep dive as NASA sheds thousands of workers.

But the end of the shuttle program that built the International Space Station and saved the Hubble Space Telescope shouldn't mean the end of the area's tourism. A new $100 million Space Shuttle exhibit is projected to open in the summer of 2013 at the Kennedy Space Center, featuring Atlantis suspended from the ceiling of the largest building the visitor's complex has ever constructed.

A visit to KSC is a fascinating journey through the height of American power and innovation, studded with demonstrations and even a simulated shuttle launch. This summer's Star Trek exhibit, part of the KSC's Sci Fi Summer, isn't nearly as compelling as the opportunity to crash the lunar lander into the moon, as I did in a simulation. Or the realization that even in space, I have a lead foot, as I tried to dock the shuttle's orbiter with the space station. (6/30)

SpaceX Brings Affordable Spaceflight Within Reach (Source: Daily Caller)
Add one more high-flying achievement to the resume of Silicon Valley entrepreneur Elon Musk: Heinlein Prize Trust winner. The award, named for science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, recognizes advancements in the commercial spaceflight industry. Musk received his prize Wednesday.

The honor has only been bestowed once before, in 2006 to Peter Diamandis, another significant figure in the push for private spaceflight. The trust that administers the prize has been searching for another worthy innovator – and they found one in Musk, who is the CEO of Space Exploration Technologies, the California company developing rockets for missions to low-Earth orbit. (6/30)

Continued Battles Over NASA's New Rocket Hurting Space Goals (Source: Florida Today)
This is no way to run a space program. Over the past week, members of the U.S. Senate and senior NASA officials have been engaged in a game of legal chicken. The issue? The agency’s reluctance to turn over documents about the status of its heavy-lift rocket program. Senators Rockefeller and Hutchison threatened to subpoena the reports if they didn’t get them Monday.

The agency acquiesced but not before suspicion deepened in the Senate on just how hard NASA is pursuing heavy-lift, which was the key to a congressional compromise last year on a new NASA policy that includes using private rockets to ferry crews to the International Space Station.

Ultimately, heavy-lift could create an estimated 2,000 jobs at the spaceport where the rocket would be assembled, tested and launched. Click here to read the editorial. (6/30)

Universe’s Most Distant Quasar Found (Source: Cosmos)
A newly discovered quasar is the most distant that has ever been seen, and has left researchers puzzled as to how the black hole at its centre could have grown so large, so fast. This quasar, seen as it was around 12.9 billion years ago, could provide a vital probe for understanding the state of the early universe. (6/30)

Shuttle Debuted Amid Unknown Dangers (Source: Discovery)
In 1981, two astronauts launched aboard the shuttle's maiden flight, but there was a 1-in-9 chance of them not surviving. When astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen strapped themselves inside Space Shuttle Columbia for the Shuttle Program's debut mission in 1981 (STS-1), it was the first time people had been aboard for a spaceship's trial run.

"[NASA] did discuss whether we should go modify it so we could fly unmanned. That was a serious discussion," Crippen said. "But both John Young and I lobbied hard that they ought to put us onboard because we thought the chance for success was much better having people on there." (6/30)

Mars Missions Encounter Hitch (Source: BBC)
US and European efforts to send joint missions to Mars have encountered yet another hitch. A letter from Washington formally committing to combined ventures at the planet this decade was expected in Paris this week, but has not arrived. It makes it harder for Europe to authorise its industry to start the next phase of building on an orbiter to hunt for Methane in Mars' atmosphere. Industry has warned that time is running short to complete construction. (6/30)

Aldrin: Space Exploration Needs Kennedy-Style Public Goal (Source: Ann Arbor Business Review )
Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin called for a coordinated, international initiative to expand space exploration. Aldrin also expressed disappointment that President Obama ignored the 50th anniversary of the moment in 1961 when President Kennedy challenged the U.S. to put an explorer on the moon by the end of the decade.

“I’m going to be talking to the people running against” Obama in 2012, Aldrin said. In 1961, “many thought the challenge” of reaching the moon “would be impossible,” he said. “We didn’t have the knowhow, but we did have the leader with the vision, determination and confidence that we could get there."

He added: "By publicly stating our goal and putting a specific time period for achievement, a very specific accomplishment, President Kennedy gave us no backdoor. The challenge raised our spirits, reignited our can-do attitude, and brought us together as a nation.” (6/30)

Aerospace Group Spends $226K Lobbying in 1Q (Source: CNBC)
The Aerospace Industries Association of America Inc., a trade group for aviation and defense companies, spent $225,988 in the first quarter to lobby the federal government on space and defense spending. The association represents 147 companies, including U.S. defense contractors like Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., Raytheon Co., and Rockwell Collins.

The group lobbied on aeronautics research and development planning, national aerospace policy, funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and U.S.-China space exploration. It also lobbied on space shuttle issues. The last shuttle flight is scheduled to land on July 20. (6/30)

Food Vendors Wanted for Launch of Atlantis (Source: CFNews13)
There's a way for you to make money during the final space shuttle launch of Atlantis. Vendors can sell food in parks, like Space View Park which gets packed with hundreds of people. Parks and Recreation leaders are looking for food vendors to set up in riverfront parks in North Brevard County. Vendors are required to have the proper licensing. There's a $50 fee, plus tax

They are taking applications until this Friday July 1. There are other requirements and vendors must have insurance. Vendors may obtain applications at the North Area Parks Operations Office, 475 North Williams Avenue, Titusville, or by email at jill.hill@brevardparks.com. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. (6/30)

Countries Worst Affected by Asteroid Strike (Source Daily Mail)
If you live in Britain, the U.S. or China, start preparing now. Scientists have drawn up a list of the countries which will be worst affected in the event of an asteroid strike. They have identified for the first time those which will suffer catastrophic loss of life or be so crippled it will be almost impossible for them to recover.

The top ten countries also include: Indonesia; India; Japan; Philippines; Italy; Brazil; and Nigeria. Even smaller countries like Sweden are in grave danger because of the damage to their infrastructure. The list has been compiled by researchers from the University of Southampton using software called called NEOimpactor. (6/30)

Congressman Mo Brooks: NASA in Financial Fight for its Life (Source: Huntsville Times)
U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-AL, said NASA's survival is at stake in the current Washington spending environment. "I don't know what's going to happen," Brooks said. "I know with this president, things are precarious and they may be getting worse...Hopefully, NASA can survive. But that's going to be up to the public to decide what they want .... That's going to be a battle."

Brooks said any of the Republican candidates so far seeking the White House would be better for NASA than President Obama. He challenged reports in The Times and elsewhere that Republican candidates are unwilling to support federal funding for NASA, based on their debate this month.

Based on positions taken elsewhere, Brooks said so far, "you've got Mitt Romney and you've got Pawlenty" as likely NASA supporters. But voters don't really know the candidates' NASA views yet, Brooks said, because the deficit issue is overshadowing all others. Editor's Note: NASA's budget has actually increased under President Obama. (6/30)

NASA: Debris Was 'Closest' Ever to Space Station (Source: CNN)
Tuesday's space debris incident at the International Space Station was the "closest anything has come to the space station," NASA said Wednesday. Final calculations showed the unknown object passed the space station 1,100 feet away and its source remains a mystery. It prompted the station's six astronauts to take shelter inside two Soyuz capsules. (6/30)

Private Space Industry Works to Replace the Shuttle (Source: MIT Technology Review)
NASA has released the first edition of its new bi-monthy newsletter that focuses on "happenings" in the agency's commercial spaceflight development program. The first newsletter is devoted to the progress made in the commercial crew development program, which recently awarded four companies money to develop spacecraft that can carry astronauts to space.

The progress made by these companies--SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Sierra Nevada Corporation--is small. But with the space shuttle's final mission scheduled for July 8, the pressure is on for these companies to work quickly and efficiently to meet their goals. Click here to read the article. (6/3)

Defunding of NOAA Weather Satellites Means Goodbye To the 7-Day Forecast (Source: AGU)
TV viewers in America are used to seeing the 7- day forecast on the nightly weather report and the accuracy is actually as good for 7 days as it was for three back in 1980. If the polar orbiting satellite program is defunded (as now proposed by Congress) then forecast accuracy will likely go backwards.

That means a five-day forecast instead of seven and even those five will not be as good as they were. This isn’t just idle talk, the model data proves it. I wrote a post on this several months ago, and below is that post again with some updates. Apparently, one congressman told NOAA to turn on the Weather Channel to get the data (where do you think they get it from!). I cannot fathom how someone so scientifically illiterate gets to be elected to Congress. (6/29)

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