July 6, 2011

House Appropriators Swing Budget Axe at NASA (Source: Space Politics)
The House Appropriations Committee released its draft Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill, and the news is not good for NASA. The committee is proposing $16.81 billion for NASA in FY12, nearly $2 billion less than the $18.724 billion in the president’s FY12 request. Within Exploration, the House bill includes $1.063 billion for the MPCV and $1.985 billion for the SLS, both slightly higher than the administration’s request.

In addition, although the text of the legislation doesn’t specifically mention it, the press release accompanying it states that the bill terminates funding for the James Webb Space Telescope because it is “billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management.” The CJS subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up the bill tomorrow, with the full committee to take it up the following week. Click
here for a comparison chart showing the President's request and the House draft numbers. (7/6)

President Obama Reiterates Support for "Next Horizon" in Space (Source: SPACErePORT)
Via Twitter on Wednesday, the White House issued a tweet saying President Obama "Continues to support space exploration, but rather than just continue [the] same thing, let's invest in tech advances for [a] 'next horizon'." Asked about the end of the space shuttle program, President Obama called for a push to "next technological breakthrough" in human space travel, according to Mark Knoller. (7/6)

Canaveral-Based Guardsmen Watch for Off-Limits Boaters (Source: Florida Today)
It could be quite the traffic jam. Anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 boats are expected to jockey for the best viewing spots on the Atlantic Ocean and Banana River to watch the launch of Atlantis on Friday. But boaters beware: Violate the off-limits security zone and face a fine as hefty as $40,000. Willfully violate the zone, and the penalty could be as much as $250,000, up to 10 years in prison, or both. Led by the Coast Guard, a crew of 120 on a few dozen boats will be responsible for keeping clear a massive area of water around the launch site, including inland waterways. (7/6)

Editorial: New Space Wing Boss Should Push for Commercial Space (Source: Florida Today)
There’s a changing of the guard under way at the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base. Brig. Gen. Ed Wilson is moving on, named to a new post at Air Force Space Command at Fort Meade, Md. Brig. Gen. (Select) Anthony J. Cotton is moving in, leaving his current job at Air Force Global Strike Command at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

The switch is coming at a critical moment for the nation’s space program as it transitions from the retiring shuttle fleet to using private rockets to ferry cargo and crews to the International Space Station. Those vehicles will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, beginning what could be a vibrant commercial space industry that is expected to include a variety of companies flying from the military-controlled site.

That makes it imperative Cotton and his superiors support the commercial push, making the installation more business friendly to attract entrepreneurs and new firms. That means less bureaucratic red tape and more nimbleness in helping companies get their rockets and payloads off the ground. (7/6)

George LeMieux Jabs Obama and Bill Nelson on NASA Jobs (Source: Sunshine State News)
Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, now in a crowded Republican primary field to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012, is looking to make political hay out of the last space shuttle flight which is scheduled for Friday. “This Friday is schedule to be Titusville’s last shuttle flight,” noted LeMieux on Tuesday. “As a U.S. Senator, I will fight for NASA and the 23,000 space jobs. Unfortunately, Senator Nelson and President Obama are content to let these jobs disappear.

“With government constantly prying into areas where it shouldn’t and all of the actual waste that exists, it is outrageous that President Obama and Senator Nelson are killing a program essential to our national security – one of the few responsibilities our federal government has,” added LeMieux. (7/6)

Serious Hardware Incident with the Subaru Telescope Interrupts Operations (Source: Subaru Telescope)
While shutting down the observation system at the end of the night shift during the early morning of July 2, the telescope operator detected an error signal from the top unit of the telescope, which includes the Subaru Prime Focus Camera (Suprime-Cam) and auxiliary optics. The operator contacted the Telescope Engineering Division (TED) and continued to check the status of various parts of the top unit. The TED summoned three staff members who immediately left Hilo for the summit to assess the situation.

They saw extensive leakage of coolant (ethylene glycol) from the top unit. Although they promptly shut off the supply of coolant, a significant amount of leakage had already occurred all over the telescope--from the top unit itself and Suprime-Cam down to the tertiary mirror, the primary mirror and some of its actuators, the Faint Object Camera and Spectrograph (FOCAS, a Cassegrain instrument) and its auxiliary optics, and the telescope floor. They attempted to clean up and remove as much coolant as possible. However, such areas as optics, control circuits, and the inside of Suprime-Cam and FOCAS were inaccessible during the initial clean-up. (7/6)

Chinese Space Station Shipped to Launch Site (Source: Parabolic Arc)
China’s Tiangong 1 space station has passed its factory evaluation and was shipped to the Jiuquan spaceport for launch within the next three months. China plans to launch the small space station on a Long March IIF rocket. The unmanned Shenzhou VIII vehicle will dock with the facility weeks later to test the rendezvous and docking system. Two human missions will follow. Nine meters (30 feet) and weighing 9,500 kilograms (19,000 lbs.), Tiangong 1 is roughly half the size of Salyut 1, the first space station sent into orbit by Russia in 1971. (7/6)

Now the Space Race Takes Off Again (Source: New Scientist)
The Shuttle's end is quite a comedown, and you could be forgiven for thinking the sun is setting on US space flight. Yet for the private ventures breathing new life into space exploration, it could be the start of a golden era. "We are an exploring people," says Robert Dickman, a retired US general who directed the air force's space program and is now director of the AIAA. "We will be the leading spacefaring nation - unless we get so hidebound into doing things we've done before that we don't want to do anything new."

NASA administrator Charles Bolden insisted last week that the US would continue its dominance of space. "We are not ending human space flight," he said. "We are recommitting ourselves to it." Others disagree. "It's not clear to me what the future for America in human space flight is," says Paul Spudis of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas. "We have a working space transportation system that's being dismantled and there's nothing for certain following it."

That's where private companies come in, say Dickman and others, who see commercial space capabilities blossoming in the post-shuttle era, which they believe will push science and technology in new directions. It is NASA, its $18.7 billion budget the object of political wrangling between Congress and Barack Obama's administration, which faces the bigger challenge. (7/6)

Shuttle Nose Art Scrubbed (Source: Collect Space)
NASA's plan to pay tribute to its 30-year shuttle program by adding commemorative 'nose art' to its final space shuttle's external tank recently had to be overturned... literally. While attempting to install it, technicians discovered that the painted access door had had its emblem applied upside down. Attempts to attach the hatch so its logo was displayed upright were unsuccessful. A plain black door was installed instead. (7/6)

India Opens Up Remote Sensing Data Sector (Source: Deccan Herald)
Remote sensing data and imagery with a very high resolution will now be made available under a new policy unveiled by Government to benefit more users in a move that will help infrastructure development in urban areas. The 2011 Remote Sensing Data Policy (RSDP), which lifts some restrictions in force for the past 10 years, came against the backdrop of a CAG report had found that almost 80% of images of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) were idling.

The earlier policy that allowed all data of resolutions up to 5.8 meters to be distributed on non-discriminatory and 'as requested' basis by ISRO has been brought down to up to one meter, K Radhakrishnan, Secretary in the Department of Space, said today. The old 2001 policy mandated that ISRO could release only data up to 5.8 meter resolution. (7/6)

Film About Space Program Makes Brevard County Debut (Source: Florida Today)
A new documentary about the end of the space shuttle program is gaining national attention as a top winner of a major film festival in Houston. The film, "The 2nd Assassination of JFK," will have its local debut tonight at a free screening in Titusville. It was developed by Jason Linkous and features a number of local faces.

"The 2nd Assassination of JFK" focuses on the historic significance of U.S. human space flight and the importance that the United States remain on the forefront of space discovery. It is built around interviews with space workers, community leaders and other Brevard County residents, lamenting the end of the shuttle program. Linkous, the co-executive producer, said he and others who made the film want to send a message that "it's OK to want to be No. 1 -- to want to be the leader" in space exploration. (7/6)

Poll: Majority Believes U.S. Space Exploration Is Essential (Source: National Journal)
A majority of Americans believes it is essential that the U.S. "continue to be a world leader in space exploration," according to a new poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center. Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe that leading the way in space exploration is essential for the U.S., while 38 percent do not.

A majority -- 55 percent -- also thinks the space shuttle program, which is scheduled to come to an end this month, has been a good investment for the country. Just 36 percent believe the program hasn't been a good investment. In June 1986, less than six months removed from the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger, 70 percent told pollsters for NBC News and the Wall Street Journal that the program was a good investment; only a quarter thought it wasn't a good investment. (7/6)

Falcone’s LightSquared Raises $265 Million (Source: New York Times)
LightSquared, the telecommunications venture backed by Philip Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Partners, said on Tuesday that it had raised $265 million in new money to help build out its network, the latest step toward the start-up’s ambition to be a wholesale provider of 4G wireless service. The company recently signed a roughly $15 billion deal with Sprint to share the cost of a network expansion, a move that would allow LightSquared to piggyback on the company’s infrastructure while defraying the cost both would incur to revamp or create a new network alone. (7/6)

FCC Ignoring Requests on LightSquared Review, Senator Says (Source: Bloomberg News)
The Federal Communications Commission may have deliberately ignored requests from Congress for information about the agency’s initial approval of Philip Falcone’s LightSquared wireless venture, a U.S. senator said. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski didn’t respond to written questions, and agency officials told congressional staff they “chose to intentionally ignore” requests for documents, Senator Charles Grassley said Tuesday in a letter to Genachowski distributed by the senator’s office. (7/6)

Houston Suburb Slammed by Job Cuts: Will Oil Save It? (Source: KHOU)
Unemployment is still stubbornly high nationwide and in Texas. But, in one Houston suburb, there is special reason for concern as a major employer prepares to layoff over 2,000 workers this summer. Clear Lake is a place that seems to have it all: spectacular waterfront homes, many with boats docked right on the property, and a place where the biggest local employer sends people into space.

Two thousand already, and at least that many more are set for dismissal this summer. It has the potential for being a real “brain drain” for the Houston area should the highly skilled workers leave to find work elsewhere. But as the first wave of laid off workers has tried to find new employment, a ray of hope has come from what has helped make Texas the leader in new jobs: oil for upwards of $100 a barrel.

"We're looking for experienced engineers," Todd O'Neal with Bastion Technologies, a Clear Lake engineering firm. It does work not just for aerospace companies, but for oil companies too. Turns out the skills needed to work on the shuttle apply to the increasingly complex systems used to explore and drill for oil and gas. (7/6)

No comments: