July 13, 2011

Hutchison Calls for Immediate Action on NASA Rocket (Source: NASA Watch)
"No one questions the need to ensure the best understanding of program costs. We do that every year on an ongoing basis with every major NASA program, as we set spending levels in our annual budget. There is simply no need to defer announcing the vehicle design decision while awaiting yet another cost review.

"To do so only increases the real human cost that NASA employees and contractors are experiencing in the face of continued uncertainty about the future. Without a decision we will continue to lose skilled workers that we need to build the shuttle replacements. Besides the toll this will take on workers and their families, who have contributed so much to science, our national security, and the economy, it will be difficult and more costly to replace this invaluable human capital.

"We have the information to make a decision now, and I call on the Administration and OMB to immediately make public and approve NASA's technical design decision on the heavy lift vehicle." (7/12)

NASA Selects Florida Nonprofit to Manage Space Station National Lab Research (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space Inc. (CASIS) to develop and manage the U.S. portion of the International Space Station that will be operated as a national laboratory. The independent, nonprofit research management organization will help ensure the station’s unique capabilities are available to the broadest possible cross-section of the U.S. scientific, technological and industrial communities.

CASIS will be located at the Space Life Sciences Laboratory on Kennedy Space Center property in Florida. The organization will increase station use to maximize the public’s return on its investment by managing its diversified research and development portfolio based on needs for basic and applied research in a variety of fields. CASIS will identify opportunities for non-NASA uses linking scientific review and economic value, and will match potential R&D opportunities with funding sources. The organization also will increase awareness among schools and students about using the station as a learning platform.

Editor's Note: The CASIS partnership was largely brokered by Space Florida, including KSC's existing life science research contractors and others outside of the state. CASIS leverages the state's $30 million investment to develop the state-of-the-art Space Life Sciences Lab. (7/12)

Editorial: End of Space Age a Sorry Day for American Ingenuity (Source: Palm Beach Post)
What kept America great for most of the post-World War II period was the extensive public-private partnership. Unfortunately, many people today regard anything having to do with government as socialism. NASA represents about one-half percent of federal spending. At one time, it was 4 percent. It seems wishful thinking that cutting back on NASA will lead to greater advances of civilization. (7/13)

Discovery Rolling into Storage in VAB (Source: Florida Today)
The orbiter Discovery is being towed into Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building this morning, looking nothing ike it did when it was getting ready for a flight. The orbiter is being towed on its wheels, not a transporter, and has no main engines or orbital maneuvering engines or thrusters. Handles used to open and shut the payload bay doors remain in place. The nose and tail steering thrusters are being decommissioned in New Mexico.

NASA is moving Discovery into temporary storage in the High Bay 4 for about a month, opening up a processing hangar (Orbiter Processing Facility-2) for Atlantis upon its planned July 21 return from the final shuttle mission. Later, Discovery and Endeavour will swap places. Discovery's former hangar, OPF-3, is being prepared for non-shuttle use. Discovery is being prepared for museum display at the Smithsonian Institution, where is is scheduled to be ferried in April. (7/13)

Bolden Says SLS Decision Might Slip Beyond Summer (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told U.S. lawmakers July 12 that the agency might not unveil the technical and budgetary details of the next U.S.-owned heavy lifter, the Space Launch System (SLS), until the summer is out. Bolden also said that the rocket may not be able to fly its first unmanned test flight until 2017. Congress, in legislation signed last October, said that the rocket must launch no later than Dec. 31, 2016. Moreover, it would not be until “late this decade or the early [20]20s before we had a human-rated vehicle,” Bolden said. (7/13)

GPS IIF Launch Postponed 24 Hours (Source: Florida Today)
The launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket carrying the GPS IIF-2 payload for the Air Force is being postponed 24 hours to allow the GPS spacecraft team time to complete an assessment of a technical item. The launch is rescheduled for Friday from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, at the opening of a 19-minute window at 2:45 a.m. EDT. The forecast for Friday shows a 70 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch. (7/13)

Luna Ring: Energy Solution or Pipe Dream? (Source: ABC News)
The "Luna Ring" proposed Shimizu Corp. attempts to harness solar energy on a larger scale than previous concepts. It involves building a belt of solar panels around the moon's 6,800 mile equator, and using built-in cables to transmit the power generated by the solar cells to the near side of the moon. The electricity would be converted into microwaves and lasers beamed at Earth, and each country would have receivers that allow them to take in the energy and store it.

Several Japanese organizations are looking to harvest solar energy in outer space. Earlier this year, JAXA, Mitsubishi, and Kyoto University announced they would jointly conduct solar power generation research. The hope is to launch a trial satellite system that generates solar power in the next decade. Separately, Mitsubishi Electric has proposed the Solarbird project, which would use dozens of solar power generating satellites to produce the amount of energy equal to a nuclear power plant.

The moon is seen as prime location for solar energy because there is virtually no atmosphere, meaning no bad weather or clouds to keep the sun's rays from the panels. Even in the most ideal situations, Yoshida says solar panels on Earth can only generate one-twentieth of the energy produced in outer space. Click here. (7/13)

Rep. Rohrabacher Goes After NASA for Wasteful Spending (Source; National Journal)
At a National Journal conference on Wednesday, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., discussed his vision for spurring innovation while addressing the deficit. "Obviously innovation has to play a role because that's wealth creation," Rohrabacher said. But "we have to make sure that when we approve money being spent by the federal government in these areas that it's being spent efficiently, and no one can tell me that NASA has been efficient in the way it's been spending its billions of dollars." (7/13)

50% Say Space Shuttle Program Worth What It Cost Taxpayers (Source: Rasmussen)
With the last planned U.S. space shuttle currently circling the globe, Americans are slightly more supportive of the NASA program than they were a year-and-a-half ago. Still, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 50% of American Adults believe the 30-year-old Space Shuttle program has been worth the expense to taxpayers. Twenty-seven percent (27%) do not believe the program has been worth the cost, while another 23% are undecided. (7/13)

SpaceX Making $30-million Bet on Rocket at Vandenberg (Source: LA Times)
A sprawling hangar to house the assembly of the world's most powerful rocket and a launchpad capable of handling the earthshaking blast is being developed northwest of Santa Barbara at Vandenberg Air Force Base. SpaceX is investing $30 million at the base's Space Launch Complex 4-East for its upcoming 22-story Falcon Heavy rocket. They hope to use the pad for the first time at the end of next year in a demonstration flight of the 27-engine rocket for the U.S. government. After that, the company hopes to use the facility to launch satellites for military and commercial customers.

"SpaceX is going to be the biggest game in town at Vandenberg," Elon Musk, the company's chief executive, said in an interview with The Times. "We're going to put Vandenberg on the world stage." Musk said SpaceX hopes the $30 million to build the complex will also create jobs. By 2015, he forecasts the company will have 1,000 people working there and will be launching as often as eight times a year. Those are heady numbers considering SpaceX's current workforce stands at 1,400, it has just two successful test launches of its smaller nine-engine Falcon 9 rockets and has yet to launch the Falcon Heavy. (7/12)

India to Launch Communication Satellite (Source: DNA)
The 53-hour countdown for the July 15 launch of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C17) carrying India's communication satellite GSAT-12, from Sriharikota began Wednesday. The mission was cleared by the Launch Authorization Board in its meeting at Satish Dhawan Space Center. The countdown for the PSLV launch at 4.48 pm commenced at 11:48 am today. (7/13)

New Space Race: Outsourcing to Fill Shuttle Void (Source: Miami Herald)
When Atlantis launched Friday, it had one primary mission: resupply the International Space Station. And when it returns to Earth, another spaceship is ready to take on that mission — for a profit. A California firm has both a rocket and a $1.6 billion NASA contract that could have it supplying the ISS by the end of the year. Within the next six months, SpaceX plans to make its first test dock with the orbiting lab and deliver supplies, a major step in NASA’s strategy to remain in space without a spaceship of its own.

NASA promises the private-sector space flights will be a temporary break in the agency’s pursuit of cosmic destinations. A fledgling NASA program would build a new ship capable of returning to the Moon or landing on an asteroid. Both are seen as potential midway points for a manned mission to Mars. That kind of undertaking would likely bring the Space Coast its third big windfall, following the heydays of the Apollo and shuttle programs. (7/13)

NASA Completes Space Walk (Source: US News)
A few days after the Atlantis's Friday, July 8th launch--the final launch of an American space shuttle--Tuesday, July 12th marked on another "last" for the space shuttle program: the last space walk. The two astronauts who conducted the walk, Michael Fossum and Ronald Garan Jr., were not of the Atlantis's 4-person crew, but rather residents of the International Space Station. Nevertheless, the shuttle played an important role in the mission. Part of the objective of the space walk was to remove a broken ammonia coolant pump from the station. The Atlantis will carry the pump back to earth, so NASA scientists can study what caused the pump to malfunction in the first place. (7/13)

Will You Miss the Space Shuttle or Was it a Waste of Money? (Source: US News)
Back here on earth, where debates on debt ceilings and deficit spending rage, it also asks us to consider the US government's own priorities. Will we miss the space shuttle and perhaps look forward to new forms of space travel? Or, with the culmination of the shuttle program, should we shelve our space dreams altogether? Answer this poll and leave us a comment to let us know what you think. (7/13)

Editorial: Does The United States Still Care About Space Leadership? (Source: Forbes)
There have been modern periods when our nation’s space exploration program fostered unapologetic pride in American exceptionalism. Phenomenal achievements of dreamers and pragmatists, conquest and innovation, human courage and commitment, triumphs over tragedies, and above all, spiritual inspiration to become ever better than we are — these seemed well worth the economic and human costs.

Is this still the case? Did all this heroic stuff become passé — an outmoded patriotism to be archived along with John Wayne movies? Can’t we just subordinate our space and technology development to collaborations where international bureaucracies and committees charter the future and determine our place in it? Or is it perhaps time to kick the space exploration can down the road and over the cliff? If so, should we let NASA continue to focus more and more of its resources upon trying to protect the planet from natural climate change?

It’s difficult to ignore the symbolic and real benefits gained through space exploration developments. But it is less important how the rest of the world views us; instead it’s about how we see ourselves: as a culture willing to take risks in quests for uncertain, yet potentially unlimited rewards; as a nation that recognizes that to not do something presents one of the greatest risks of all; because that’s the sort of people we are. In short, because we are Americans. (7/13)

End of Shuttle Program Launches Major Challenges for NASA (Source: Washington Post)
There are many significant issues that should concern NASA leaders as the agency transitions to the bold, new mission of human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. One of the first is, given the current tough economic times and large U.S. deficit, how affordable this new mission will be and how well it will compete with the myriad other federal programs.

A mission of this magnitude and complexity will require a budget to match it; and, moreover, a continuity of support over decades. NASA will need to be able to count on that level of commitment from both the president and Congress if the new human spaceflight program is to be sustainable and achievable over the long haul. And yet, one of the major questions is whether the majority of Americans believe the benefits derived are worth the expense. The Human Spaceflight Plans Committee chartered by President Obama estimated in 2009 that the human spaceflight program costs each citizen about 7 cents per day.

The NASA workforce has a remarkable “can-do attitude,” and yet born from this is the temptation to overestimate what can be done within allocated resources. NASA’s leadership will need to tangibly, and repeatedly, demonstrate an unwavering commitment to align resources with the scope and complexity of the mission—because eliciting the consistent support of the president, Congress and American public will require it to deliver on its promises, including a high quality and safe product, on time and within budget. (7/13)

Six More Globalstar Satellites Reach Orbit (Source: Space News)
IS — A Russian Soyuz rocket on July 13 launched six Globalstar mobile communications satellites into low Earth orbit in the second of four such launches that by late this year are expected to complete deployment of Globalstar’s second-generation constellation of 24 satellites, the satellites’ launch-services provider and manufacturer said.

Satellite builder Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy said the satellites were healthy in orbit following the deployment of their solar arrays, and were communicating with ground controllers. Operating from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, a Soyuz rocket equipped with a Fregat upper stage dropped the six 650-kilogram Globalstar satellites at their intended orbit following two burns of the Fregat upper stage. (7/13)

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