July 7, 2011

Dream Chaser Coming to KSC (Source: MSNBC)
NASA's Kennedy Space Center signed a deal to let Sierra Nevada Corp. use its facilities to develop and launch a mini-shuttle for servicing the Space Station, beginning as early as 2015. The design similarities suggest that the reusable Dream Chaser, which would land on a runway like a glider, might well be serviced like the shuttle. Mark Sirangelo said "we're still working out the details" of which KSC facilities will be used.

NASA said the space center would help Sierra Nevada "define and execute" activities for launch and for post-landing processing. The Dream Chaser could be launched atop an Atlas 5 from California as well as from Florida, and it could land on any runway. If it happened to land in California, or anyplace else, that's no big deal. "It returns home in a cargo plane," Sirangelo said. The mini-shuttle is compact enough to fit within a C-5 transport plane, he noted. (7/7)

Science Backers Blame Heavy-Lift Rocket for Telescope Cut (Source: Space Politics)
The draft Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill released Wednesday by the House Appropriations Committee attracted considerable attention in the space community because of its plan to terminate funding for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, part of nearly $2 billion in overall cuts from the administration’s request.

In a “Take Action Alert” emailed by The Planetary Society last night, executive director Bill Nye put the blame for JWST’s proposed demise on another NASA program, the Space Launch System (SLS), which would get slightly more money than the administration requested for 2012. “The congressionally designed machine called the Space Launch System could go down in history as the rocket that destroyed NASA’s space program,” he writes in the email.

He notes that besides JWST, NASA’s commercial crew program could also be “hit hard” by the cuts. “What is causing such carnage? It’s not just the weakened U.S. economy. It’s the giant Space Launch System, a rocket legislated by Congress and signed into law by the President. It’s got no destination and no mission to fulfill.” (7/7)

Albrecht: America’s Space Program is Crashing (Source: Washington Times)
Without a serious course correction, the final Shuttle mission augurs the end of America’s pre-eminence in space altogether. Our space program has been in a slow and steady decline since the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 1989, our lead in all aspects of space and space technology was so large that even decades of neglect, waste and inaction have left us without peer in almost all categories even today. This won’t last long. We are eating our technology seed corn.

How did this happen? It wasn’t because of inattention. The conventional wisdom in the federal bureaucracy is that you can reduce spending or you can restructure, reprioritize and reorganize. You can cut programs or start new programs. But you can’t do both. Now, our backs are to the wall. To re-establish our leadership in space, we must defy conventional wisdom and cut spending, start new initiatives and radically restructure a mature agency - all at the same time. It won’t be pleasant, and it won’t be easy, but neither was putting a man on the moon. (7/7)

Obama's Mission to Mars... Or Something Short of It (Source: FOX News)
President Obama is urging the agency to change its tired, old ways and reach for something bigger...like Mars, or perhaps an asteroid. The president's mission to Mars idea isn't new-- he unveiled it last year-- but the timing of the Twitter question couldn't be more relevant.

"Now that the space shuttle is gone, where does America stand in space exploration?" the president was asked. The president said he's been urging NASA to re-think its way of doing things. Still, the president indicated it's important not to underestimate America's stature in the final frontier, telling the town hall, "We are still a leader in space exploration." (7/7)

NASA Inks Deal with Sierra Nevada for Dream Chaser Operations (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is entering into an agreement with Sierra Nevada Space Systems to offer technical capabilities from the center’s uniquely skilled workforce. Kennedy will help Sierra Nevada with the ground operations support of its lifting body reusable spacecraft called “Dream Chaser,” which would carry as many as seven astronauts to the space station.

Through the new agreement, Kennedy’s workforce will use its experience of processing the shuttle fleet for 30 years to help Sierra Nevada define and execute Dream Chaser’s launch preparations and post-landing activities. (7/7)

Critics Say NASA Ignoring its 'Backup Plan' Rule (Source: AP)
A somewhat generational battle over NASA's future is escalating even as NASA is about to close the book on the space shuttle era. The critics say NASA is ignoring its own long-standing advice: Have a backup plan.

John Glenn, who returned to space at the age of 77 by flying on the shuttle Discovery in 1998, said: "I told the president, 'We're violating one of NASA's critical design criteria.'" That means there must be a backup system for getting into space and bringing astronauts home from the International Space Station. (7/7)

NASA Needs New 'Breakthrough,' says Obama (Source: AFP)
NASA needs new tech breakthroughs to revitalize its exploration mission, President Obama said as Atlantis was preparing for its final mission. Obama said he was "proud" of the past but eager for a new leap forward. "We are still a leader in space exploration, but, frankly, I have been pushing NASA to revamp its vision," Obama said. He said that the U.S. should move beyond the space travel models it used in the 1960s for the Apollo program.

"Rather than keep on doing the same thing, let's invest in basic research around new technologies that can get us places faster, allow human space flight to last longer," he said. "Let's start stretching the boundaries so we're not doing the same things over and over again. But rather, let's start thinking about, what's the next horizon?"

"...Let's allow the private sector to get in so that they can, for example, send these low earth orbit vehicles into space, and we may be able to achieve a point in time where those of you who are just dying to go into space, you know, you can buy a ticket," said Obama. "And a private carrier can potentially take you up there while the government focuses on the big breakthroughs that require much larger investments and involve much greater risk." (7/7)

New Mission is Privatization (Source: Palm Beach Post)
It is hard to escape the feeling that with the conclusion of the final shuttle mission this month, America is about to become lost in space. There is no grand vision for manned exploration. Or, perhaps worse, there is no practical plan supporting the grand vision laid out by President Obama of a manned mission to Mars.

We agree with University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith, who told The Post: "There's more than just the economic impact. There's some type of psychic impact." NASA's presence always has been a beacon for what Florida's economy could become, the kind of inspiration that in recent years made more credible the idea that Florida could become a biotech center.

Now NASA will be coordinating with private companies to create a vehicle to carry U.S. astronauts and supplies to the space station. We just wish state or federal officials had worked to give Florida a more prominent role in that next phase of privatized human spaceflight. None of the four companies vying to fly U.S. astronauts is headquartered in Florida. But as that project comes to fruition, supposedly by 2016, Florida officials should work hard to bring a share of that business to the Space Coast. (7/7)

Tumlinson: When it Comes to the Future of the Space Industry, Texas Looks Backward (Source: Statesman)
The space shuttle program, long a source of pride and pork for Texas, is ending and with it the delusion that Texas was a leader in space. But it's not. Though we may have it in our heads and on our license plates, Texas is not a space state. A space state isn't just a place with a NASA center. It isn't about a congressional delegation bringing home the bacon of dead-end projects. It isn't about a license plate, or a space museum, or even how many astronauts live here.

A space state is a place where people "do" space, whose representatives and government are engaged in catalyzing, recruiting, integrating and supporting all sorts of new and growing activities — especially the commercial space industry. A space state creates jobs by being the best place for companies and institutions to be, not by being where a government facility happens to be.

Today there are four space states — and Texas isn't one of them. Florida, Virginia, New Mexico and California are not only home to NASA or Defense Department facilities, but entrepreneurial space companies and space ports. They have high-level support for research and education, favorable tax and other laws, state-chartered organizations and serious amounts of state and local money to draw New Space companies. (7/7)

Panel Proposes Killing Webb Space Telescope (Source: New York Times)
The House Appropriations Committee proposed Wednesday to kill the James Webb Space Telescope, the crown jewel of NASA’s astronomy plans for the next two decades. The telescope, named after a former administrator of NASA, is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, and it was designed to study the first stars and galaxies that emerged in the first hundred million years or so after the Big Bang.

It was supposed to be launched in 2014, but NASA said last year that the project would require at least an additional $1.6 billion and several more years to finish, because of mismanagement. (7/7)

Space City USA Bracing for Economic Crash ... Again (Source: MSNBC)
The area around Central Florida's eastern shores calls itself "The Space Coast," but with the shuttle program ending, a more apt moniker might be "Space Ghost." Parking lots at Kennedy Space Center already have room to spare. Some managers are answering their own phones. The shuttle workforce, once 18,000 strong, is down to 5,500 contractors and 1,200 government employees.

After Atlantis returns to Earth, another 3,200 contractors will need to find new jobs or, if they have the means, retire. By late August, only a skeleton crew of about 1,000 will remain on the program payroll to prepare the three orbiters — Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis — for display in museums. (7/7)

China Launches Experimental Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China on Wednesday launched an experimental orbiter in the country's Shijian satellite series from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The satellite, SJ-11-03, was sent to space by a Long March II-C carrier rocket. It has been the 139th flight of the Long March rocket series. (7/7)

Editorial: Working with China Opens Door to Espionage (Source: Washington Times)
We want to open channels that allow the possibility that in the long run, a potential adversary can become a partner and ally. Joint space projects characterized by transparency, reciprocity and mutual benefit can be an excellent way to begin. Is it possible to manage the inherent risks while pursuing our larger goals?

If we had an effective counterintelligence capability to identify and disrupt Chinese collection activities, this would be an easier call. Timely tripwires that signal when the other side is stepping across the line would enable us to manage the risk of close interaction and gain the advantage of rare insights into China’s space program. Unfortunately, U.S. efforts to build such a strategic capability have fallen by the wayside, while Chinese espionage continues to grow.

We believe the United States is paying an opportunity cost by walking away from possible joint space projects with China, but without a more robust counterintelligence capability, we stand to lose more than we would gain. The statutory prohibition against bilateral space projects wisely puts the brakes on a downhill rush to engage with the Chinese. In the absence of a larger strategy guiding policy and programs on China, it is unclear whether cooperative space projects would advance or hinder U.S. interests. (7/7)

Orion: Is This The Future Of Space Travel? (Source: Sky News)
After Apollo, the shuttle became the spacecraft for a new generation. But as it approaches its final launch, what next for manned space flight? The Orion, or Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle looks much like the Apollo, that familiar cone-shaped capsule which rides on top of a rocket.

However, it is much more advanced technically, and, most importantly for NASA, is cheaper, safer and more flexible than the shuttle. But America is still unsure where it wants to go next with its space program in these financially uncertain times.

Editor's Note: Orion/MPCV is a vehicle, not an exploration program. It can be compared to the Apollo capsule, but not to the Apollo program.

Defense Cuts are Source of Disagreement for GOP Members (Source: Politico)
GOP members are having a hard time agreeing on defense spending cuts as the government seeks to reduce its $14.3 trillion national debt. While some members say the cuts will negatively affect national security, others say they are necessary to eliminate national debt without increasing taxes. A GOP congressional aide said Rep. Buck McKeon, R-CA, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, "is deeply concerned about any defense cuts made during wartime." (7/7)

Post-Shuttle Prognosis - Space Supremacy and Plenty of Launches (Source: Florida Today)
Atlantis is not the last big launch on the local manifest. It might not even be the most exciting of 2011. For discovery and national pride, pay attention to a series of missions involving an innovative Mars rover, a flight to Jupiter and two orbiting observatories due to blast off from here in August, September and November.

I keep hearing that our lead in space depends on Big Government rockets and a Big Government policy to send astronauts to the moon and Mars. No way. If successful, the Nov. 11 launch of the $2.3 billion Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity rover on a privately built Atlas rocket should change everyone's outlook. (7/7)

Brazilians Visit Ukraine As Nation Widens International Cooperation (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) President Marco Antonio Raupp is leading a technical committee on a tour of Ukrainian companies, factories and agencies this week as part of the joint program to launch Cyclone-4 rockets from the equatorial Alcantara spaceport.

“The objective is to monitor on-site development work and production of satellite launch vehicle Cyclone-4 and check the progress of the project that resulted from the Cooperation Treaty signed in 2003,” AEB said in a press release. “The schedule needs assessment and detailed monitoring to support important decisions to be taken by Brazilian authorities.”

Brazil has begun overseas marketing of its launch services, which are set to begin by 2013, and endeavored to strengthen its space ties with other nations. Those efforts included outreach to Canada and Belgium in space cooperation and higher education at the end of June. (7/7)

Tropical Wave Glooms Forecast for Friday Launch (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
There now is a 70 percent chance that the weather may be too bad Friday morning to launch space shuttle Atlantis on its final mission. The weather forecast is getting worse for Friday’s launch of the space shuttle Atlantis, with NASA now saying there is a 70 percent chance that the launch may be delayed. (7/7)

China's Continuing Drive For Space Power (Source: Hudson New York)
Sometime between now and the end of this year, China plans to launch the first module of its new space station, confirming that China is determined to become a full-fledged, independent, comprehensive, world class power in outer space.

China's methodical strategy of pursing mutually-supporting civil, commercial and military space activities is beginning to pay off. Space launch rockets can lift both civilian and military satellites; sensor technology can be adapted for both science and spying; communications systems are equally able to transmit orders to go to war or orders for children's toys.

In his new book, "On China," Henry Kissinger explains that "The Chinese almost obsessive self-reliance was not always fully understood on the American side." This explains, in part, why US efforts to engage China in a mutually cooperative space exploration relationship, has been so frustrating and has lead nowhere. (7/7)

India Mulls Options on Human Spaceflight Program (Source: The Hindu)
India is weighing the pros and cons of going in for collaboration for its ambitious human space flight program but a final decision would be driven by the extent of technological gains accrued to New Delhi from it. Different models are possible in undertaking the proposed mission, first mooted nearly a decade ago.

There is a lot of discussion globally on collaboration in human space flight programs (not India—specific, but general in nature). “So, then, we should decide what we have to do in this area. There are different models available,” he said.

One possibility is to have a human being (Indian) flown in Soyuz (Russian rocket) or some other system. Another model is to make a crew module indigenously and use a man-rate vehicle (rocket) of a foreign space agency, and the third option for India is to develop the rocket and associated technologies on its own and undertake the mission. (7/7)

End of Shuttle to Limit Utah Student Research (Source: Salt Lake Tribune)
Boeing. Hill Air Force Base. Oxford and Harvard universities. American Aerospace Advisers. QSI Corp. The commonality? They’ve all hired or been started by former Utah State University students who created experiments that flew aboard the space shuttle or International Space Station.

But after the final launch of Atlantis, the opportunity to send student experiments into space will be severely limited. NASA still could launch rockets carrying experiments that don’t need a person to conduct them, but space on those can be extremely limited. Private companies are willing to take payloads into space on private rockets, but the costs for reaching the stars are indeed astronomical. (7/7)

Embry-Riddle Grads Who Flew on Shuttle Contemplate Program's End (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
When Nicole Stott, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University graduate and astronaut, walked off the space shuttle Discovery on its last mission in March, her emotions were torn. On one hand she was "sad, looking at how beautiful this vehicle is and how wonderfully it performed."

But on the other hand -- similar to the planned last mission of Atlantis on Friday and final launch of the space shuttle program -- she thought it might be time to retire when the vehicles are performing at the top of their game to make way for future spacecraft.

Stott, like two of the other Embry-Riddle graduates/astronauts interviewed, B. Alvin Drew Jr. and Terry Virts, have mixed feelings about the end of the program, although they also have high hopes for the future in exploring Mars and other planets. Click here. (7/7)

Michelle Personette: Visiting Space and the Future (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
As our nation contemplates the future of space exploration, a new evolution of deep space travel is emerging. The children of the 1960s had the Apollo program to draw motivation from. In the 1980s, it was the space shuttle fleet. Today, that source of new hope is Orion.

Exploration has a way of motivating and empowering children that is unrivaled. It sparks imagination, excitement and enthusiasm for subjects that are critical for our future. As Frank Borman, retired NASA astronaut and engineer, said, "Exploration really is the essence of the human spirit, and to pause, to falter, to turn our back on the quest for knowledge, is to perish."

Florida has played an unparalleled role in the history of America's space program, and Orion is our next chapter. I hope that you will join me in supporting Orion and the space exploration program. (7/7)

Shuttle's End Hits Houston in Ego More than Wallet (Source: Galveston Daily News)
The end of the space shuttle program is hitting its Florida launch home in the pocketbook with some areas practically becoming economic ghost towns. But Houston, home of Mission Control, is getting hit somewhere else: in the ego. Aerospace ranks only fourth among booming industries, far, far behind king oil, Mayor Annise Parker said.

It's a pride thing for a city whose baseball team is the Astros and whose basketball team is the Rockets. The first blow came in 2004, when then-President George W. Bush announced the end of the space shuttle program. His plan was to replace it with a return-to-the-moon program run out of Houston.

Then in 2010, President Barack Obama canceled that over-budget Houston-centric shuttle replacement program. He proposed going to an asteroid in a plan that at the moment is less detailed, especially when it comes to Houston's role. (7/7)

Whatever Happened to Romance of Space (Source: CNN)
Rick Chappell remembers being stirred by President John F. Kennedy's call to put a man on the moon. It was the early 1960s. "America was very different then," says Chappell, a former NASA scientist who's now a consultant and professor at Vanderbilt University. "We'd finished World War II and the Korean War; the economy was booming; there was a spirit of the possible that was much stronger then than now."

Regular exploration -- even colonization -- of "the final frontier" seemed just around the corner. Astronauts were heroes. And the world depicted in the 1968 movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- Pan Am-branded space shuttles, moon bases and a Jupiter mission -- seemed possible to achieve in the next decades.

But here we are, 10 years after 2001. Pan Am has long since gone out of business. The space station isn't a regular tourist stop. Forget Jupiter or those moon bases -- humans haven't even set foot on the lunar surface since 1972. The space shuttle rarely ignited public fascination the way the '60s and '70s moonshots did. (7/7)

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