July 9, 2011

Innovation Bypassed U.S. Manned Spaceflight (Source: MHT)
Why didn’t NASA keep up a pace of innovation even remotely close to that of general consumer technology? If it had, we wouldn’t be looking at the possible end (or at least a long hiatus) of manned space flight from the U.S. – we would be celebrating the next platform that would take us into space to replace the shuttle. Where is my space plane, my heavy lifting body rocket, my linear accelerator rail launch system or any of the ideas that have been teased over the decades as a way to reduce the cost of getting into orbit?

Innovation happens when an existing need is met with a new way of doing things. While most of that can be done in the corporate and consumer worlds, some things are just too big, and too important, to be left to market-driven innovation. Manned space flight and the new technologies it should be employing right now, was one of those things. Sadly, as often happens, politics got in the way. (7/9)

On NASA’s VIP List: Geeks, Kennedys and Jimmy Buffett (Source: Houston Chronicle)
More than half a million people flocked to Florida’s space coast Thursday for the launch of space shuttle Atlantis, including more than 1,500 news reporters. But only five dozen people got tickets on NASA’s official VIP list. The list included politicians, NASA alums like Mike Griffin, and scads of celebrities, from Jimmy Buffett and Gloria Estefan to Hercules and Joe Gibbs. The Woz was also there as were, fittingly, a passel of Kennedys. Not on the list were scads of former astronauts, many of whom could be found prowling around the media center before launch, who had their own viewing locations. (7/9)

The Space Debris Threat And How To Handle It (Source: Tech Crunch)
A piece of debris as small as one centimeter traveling at incredibly high speeds can completely destroy an operational satellite if the orbits of the two intersect. Leveraging existing technologies, more than 20,000 objects have been catalogued by Space Command, but it is estimated that more than half a million pieces exist. Though untracked, these pieces of “space junk” can be lethal to our space systems—from military space systems to commercial systems to civil space systems—no one is invulnerable to the threat.

In the near future, enhanced “space situational awareness” capabilities will be paramount to detecting and reporting on the proliferation of space debris and ever-increasing numbers of space objects in Earth’s lower orbits. As various organizations consider the next disruptive technology to combat the space debris crisis, the Air Force is simultaneously working to improve its space surveillance capability. First it wants to replace its current Space Surveillance System, or VHF Fence, which has been in service since 1961. The new "Space Fence" will provide enhanced space surveillance capabilities to detect, track and measure these smaller pieces of debris as well as commercial and military satellites.

Once we have better data about what kind of debris is out there, we can develop all sorts of products and businesses to take advantage of the data and build better systems to avoid it. That’s where entrepreneurs and computer programmers come in. Improved situational awareness will create a host of opportunities for those daring enough to solve one of the most challenging problems keeping us from fully realizing the commercial potential of space: debris. (7/9)

House Bill Would Boost Funding for Weather Sat Program (Source: Space News)
A House appropriations panel that oversees NOAA approved a spending bill that would provide $812 million in 2012 for a cash-starved polar weather satellite program. Despite the $429.5 million funding increase recommended for the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee would provide only $4.5 billion for NOAA next year, $1 billion short of the administration’s request. In total, the panel slashed $7.4 billion from the White House’s $57.7 billion request for all commerce-, justice- and science-related spending. (7/9)

Space Programs Take Hit in Pentagon Spending Bill (Source: Space News)
The House Appropriations Committee passed a defense spending bill July 8 that would provide some $1 billion less for space programs than the Pentagon requested for 2012. In total, the bill would provide the Defense Department with a $530 billion baseline budget, some $17 billion more than was appropriated for this year but $9 billion short of the administration’s request.

The bill would trim $219.9 million from the $444.9 million request for the Defense Weather Satellite System; $174 million from the $1.74 billion request to procure Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles; $67.2 million from the $974.5 million request for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications system; $57 million from the $86.5 million request for Operationally Responsive Space; and $50 million from the $896.6 million request for the GPS 3 program. (7/9)

House Proposal To Kill Webb Telescope Sets Stage for Senate Showdown (Source: Space News)
Congressional backers of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) are preparing to defend the flagship NASA science mission against House budget hawks who intend to pull the plug on the project. The proposal to kill JWST is included in a 2012 spending bill that cleared a House Appropriations subcommittee. In a statement released ahead of the markup, appropriators said they were denying funding for JWST because the program “is billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management.”

Supporters of the project, notably Wolf’s counterpart on the Senate subcommittee in charge of NASA appropriations, immediately sallied forth to defend the troubled science mission. “Killing the James Webb Space Telescope is shortsighted and misguided,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee, said. (7/9)

Public Funding on the Table for Germany’s Next Radar Satellite (Source: Space News)
The German government is willing to reconsider its position on whether the private sector is able to take over full financial responsibility for future civil German radar satellites in light of the slower-than-expected radar imagery revenue. Johann-Dietrich Woerner, executive chairman of the German Aerospace Center, DLR, said that while Germany is still pushing industry to assume an increasing share of the risk of building Earth observation satellites, it may be too soon to insist that industry go it alone. (7/9)

Edit My Launch Vehicle Chart (Source: SPACErePORT)
I have posted a chart comparing the size and LEO lift capacity of current and proposed international launch vehicles. Because it may include inaccuracies, readers are encouraged to offer corrections. Click here to see the latest version of the chart. (7/9)

SpaceX May Be Behind New Texas Spaceport Effort (Source: Marketplace)
Do you put [Falcon 9] on a boat or train or a truck [to get it to the Cape]? Musk: The reason that I set the diameter at 12 feet or the bits that poke out in places that go to thirteen feet was that that's the largest road transportable diameter without encountering serious issues where you've got to mover power lines and can't get under bridges and that kind of thing.

And how does it go from here to Florida? Musk: It goes from [California] to Texas to get test fired and then it goes to Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg, which is back to California, or we're considering establishing a third site as well which it might be in Texas or somewhere else. Click here to read the interview. (7/8)

Texas Man Charged with Fraud in NASA Parts Case (Source: FOX News)
Roger Lewis Pulley, 63, is charged with fraud involving space parts and making a false statement. Pulley is the owner and operations manager of Aerotech Precision Manufacturing Inc. At some point, he acquired more than 40 contracts with NASA and its prime contractor. Those contracts were worth an estimated $286,000. His job was to certify the certificates of inspection on various space parts. Those certificates state the parts are up to quality standards.

But the attorney’s office claims Pulley did not do his job. He gave the all clear on those parts when they should have been inspected further. t was later revealed those parts failed to meet tolerance limits and did not conform to order. Pulley surrendered to the US Marshals Service and is out on $25,000 bond. (7/9)

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