August 10, 2011

Stemming Brain Drain Takes Back Seat to Assisting Unemployed (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida's Aerospace Career & Development Council (ACDC) received an update on Brevard Workforce's federally funded efforts to assist laid-off Shuttle workers. With funding from a 2010 National Emergency Grant (NEG), the local agency is currently assisting over 1,100 people and has helped place about 550 workers in new jobs, about 100 of those using grants for on-the-job training.

The NEG grant has sponsored about 450 people's enrollment in new training/education programs, and has supported various programs to encourage entrepreneurship. Based on a vote last year by ACDC, the NEG funds have not been used to assist Space Shuttle workers to relocate for out-of-state employment. This decision was in response to concerns about an impending "brain drain" that would limit the state's (and the nation's) ability to establish a post-Shuttle human space exploration program.

These days, Space Coast employment levels remain in the neighborhood of 10% and local job growth has not kept pace with the number of layoffs, especially with proposed Congressional cuts to KSC-based NASA programs. Therefore, the ACDC approved a request to use NEG funding to assist with out-of-state job placement for up to 500 people. Many Space Coast workers are already leaving for aerospace jobs in Alabama, South Carolina, and other states. (8/10)

State Funds Support More SpaceX Launches From Florida (Source: Florida Today)
More than $7 million in recently approved state funding aims to help SpaceX expand Cape Canaveral facilities to increase its local launch rate and potentially bring hundreds of jobs to the area. The board of Space Florida, the agency in charge of growing the state's aerospace business, has approved $7.3 million for the infrastructure upgrades.

Up to $2.3 million will help transition a former Delta II hangar for processing Falcon 9 rockets. Another $5 million will aid construction of a new payload integration and encapsulation facility near the Falcon 9 pad at Launch Complex 41. SpaceX, which is said to be investing significantly more in the projects, has aggressive plans to launch monthly from the Cape by 2015. (8/10)

Space Rhetoric From Candidate LeMieux (Source: George LeMieux)
Former Florida U.S. Senator George LeMieux is considered by some to be the front-runner for the Republican nomination to run against Sen. Bill Nelson. Here's a snippet from his campaign's Weekly Report: "The Nelson/Obama economy continues to devastate Floridians. One in every 375 homes is going into foreclosure and the unemployment rate hovers around 10.5%. Floridians are facing the worst economy in 70 years, with nearly a million of our friends and neighbors out of work."

"While families struggle to make ends meet and businesses struggle to make payroll, Senator Nelson and President Obama's policies continue to make things worse. Time and time again, Senator Nelson has supported President Obama's liberal agenda. Too many taxes, too many mandates, and too many regulations are keeping Florida job creators from hiring new workers. Nelson and Obama also failed to support the continuation of a meaningful space program, resulting in the loss of an estimated 23,000 jobs." (8/10)

Tampa/St. Pete & Orlando in Top 10 for Aerospace/Defense Mfg. (Source: Business Facilities)
Business Facilities magazine has released its 2011 rankings for Aerospace/Defense Manufacturing and two Florida locations are within the top 10 (along with Huntsville, AL, which is ranked #3). In Florida, the Tampa/St. Petersburg area and Orlando round out the top-10. (8/10)

NASA Selects Virgin Galactic for Suborbital Flights (Source: Virgin Galactic)
Virgin Galactic has been selected by NASA to provide flight opportunities for engineers, technologists and researchers to fly payloads into space. This arrangement marks the first time that NASA has contracted with a commercial partner to provide flights into space on a suborbital spacecraft, and represents another important endorsement of the value of regular commercial space access for a wide range of science and educational applications.

To best serve NASA and the research community, Virgin Galactic assembled an expert team of partners to provide payload integration and flight services. This team includes: Southwest Research Institute of Texas; NanoRacks, LLC of Texas; SatWest, LLC of New Mexico and Spaceflight Services of Washington. Researchers flying experiments onboard SpaceShipTwo will be able to work with these companies directly when desired to allow for the quickest paths to flight. (8/10)

Launch Date Set for NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X Satellites (Source: SSTL)
SSTL has today announced that it will launch the NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X satellites on behalf of the Nigerian National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) by a Dnepr launch vehicle from Yasny, Russia on Aug. 17. Both NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X will be launched into the Disaster Monitoring Constellation, where they will assist with disaster relief and global environmental monitoring campaigns alongside satellites from other consortium members ASAL (Algeria), BLMIT (China), Deimos Space (Spain) and SSTL (UK). (8/10)

China Poised to Launch First Satellite for Pakistan (Source: Deccan Herald)
For the first time, China will be launching a communication satellite for close ally Pakistan, a move that will mark "a new beginning" in bilateral space collaboration. The satellite named PAKSAT-1R will be launched at an "appropriate time" in the coming days, according an unnamed official. The satellite, which was made in China, would provide a variety of benefits, including high-power communication and weather monitoring facilities, besides strategic defense applications. (8/10)

1,000 Shuttle Workers Set for Layoffs (Source: Houston Business Journal)
About 1,000 space shuttle workers at several contractors will lose their jobs this month, including 515 at United Space Alliance’s Houston operations who will leave on Aug. 12, with another 285 USA workers to be laid off in Houston, Huntsville, Ala., and Huntington Beach, Calif., by the end of the month. (8/10)

Funding Hinges on Clearer NASA Vision, Posey Warns (Source: Florida Today)
NASA faces an uphill battle for funding in Congress unless it clarifies vague exploration plans, U.S. Rep. Bill Posey said Tuesday. "Absent a clear mission, human spaceflight, I'm afraid, will be very vulnerable," he said. "Out of sight, out of mind." Posey, R-Rockledge, addressed an audience of about 300 at the National Space Club Florida Committee's monthly luncheon.

Last month, the House Appropriations Committee approved a 2012 budget proposal that would cut NASA funding by $1.6 billion, to $16.8 billion. The budget leaves flat the funding for commercial space taxis NASA hopes will fly astronauts from the cape by the middle of the decade. Posey said he would work to restore "decimated" funding for closeout of the shuttle program that threatened jobs "we cannot afford to lose" at KSC.

Posey said a repeat of Congress' failure to pass a budget on time this year was likely. A temporary "continuing resolution" may be needed to keep the government running when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Editor's Note: I agree with other observers that a budget CR would likely come with big caveats for NASA. Where would the 2011 shuttle funding go in a CR that stretches into FY-2012? (8/10)

To Infini-Tea And Beyond: 'Tea Party In Space' Aims To Stop NASA's 'Socialism' (Source: TPM)
An offshoot of the South Florida Tea Party called "Tea Party In Space" is looking to break apart the government's socialist takeover of the final frontier. Andrew L. Gasser launched Tea Party In Space in June as a way to "bring fiscal responsibility" into the space program, he told TPM Tuesday. He called the group, which was formed in conjunction with the South Florida Tea Party, the first "issue-specific" tea party in the country.

Gasser explained that the group aims to bring the free markets into the space program, because right now, he says, there is only the government -- which amounts to socialism. "It is socialism when you have the government coming down and saying, 'this is what we want to build, and this is how we want you to build it,'" he said.

But Gasser stopped short of saying the government should be out of the space entirely. "There has to be limited government," he said. "There has to be a partnership...Some people inside NASA get it and some people don't," he later added. The TPIS, which describes itself as non-partisan, boasts the motto "Get Your Tea In Zero G" on its site, and encourages supporters to attend their Congressional representatives' town halls. (8/10)

Strong Quarter has Orbcomm Feeling Bullish (Source: Space News)
Satellite messaging service provider Orbcomm reported Aug. 9 big increases in sales, gross profit and net subscriber additions for the three months ending June 30 despite the temporary loss of revenue from its ship-identification business and said it should have at least two new satellites with this feature in orbit by the end of this year.

Orbcomm said that at June 30 it had 660,000 billable subscriber communicators in service, up 3 percent from March 31 and a 12.3 percent increase from a year ago. The company added 18,000 satellite-only subscribers during the three months ending June 30, offset by 1,000 subscribers that were removed from the service following the acquisition of StarTrak Systems LLC. (8/10)

DARPA's HTV-2 Launch Delayed (Source: Space Policy Online)
Launch of DARPA's FALCON Hypersonic Test Vehicle-2 (HTV-2) has been delayed because of weather. This is the second of two FALCON HTV-2 flights. The first was in April 2010. HTV-2 is designed to provide data on hypersonic flight that could lead to development of hypersonic vehicles in the future. The first test flight collected only 139 seconds of data in the Mach 22 to Mach 17 range, as DARPA lost contact with the aircraft after nine minutes of flight. Another attempt will be made tomorrow between 7:00 am and 1:00 pm PDT. (8/10)

Aircraft Set to Reach 20 Times the Speed of Sound in Test Flight (Source: LA Times)
An experimental, arrowhead-shaped aircraft that could reach blistering speeds of 13,000 mph above the Pacific Ocean was set to blast off Wednesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The flight is slated to test new technology that would provide the Pentagon a lightning-fast vehicle, capable of delivering a military strike anywhere in the world in less than an hour.

The unmanned aircraft, dubbed Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, will reach the upper reaches of the Earth's atmosphere aboard an eight-story Minotaur IV rocket, made by Orbital Sciences Corp. The aircraft will then separate, screech back toward Earth, level out and glide above the Pacific at 20 times the speed of sound, or Mach 20. To give you an idea of how fast that is: an aircraft at that speed would zip from Los Angeles to New York in less than 12 minutes. (8/10)

NASA IG Sizes Up Aging Infrastructure (Source; Aviation Week)
NASA Inspector General Paul Martin reports significant lapses in the agency’s Real Property Management System (RPMS), an internal database that tracks the agency’s significant and far-flung assets — an estimated 5,000 buildings and structures, including laboratories, launch pads and test stands.

In total, these properties carry an impressive current replacement value of $26.4 billion. The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 includes a provision which appears to represent the closest example of a policy consensus on NASA’s post-shuttle future, includes a directive that the agency examine its property rolls and downsize to match the needs of future missions. (8/10)

Employees Rank NASA as Most Innovative Agency (Source: Govt. Executive)
More than half of federal workers value creativity and innovation in their jobs, according to a new report from a nonprofit organization. The Partnership for Public Service and the Hay Group, a global management consulting firm, looked at the factors driving innovation in agencies and found 63.3 percent of employees gave the government a positive score on innovation.

NASA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission topped the list of most innovative agencies, according to the report. The General Services Administration, State Department and Army rounded out the top five agencies. Employees ranked the Securities and Exchange Commission last for innovation on the list of 28 agencies included in the snapshot. (8/10)

China Appears Set To Launch Space Lab in August (Source: Space News)
All Things Nuclear, the blog of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, reports that although Beijing has yet to make it official, there are “good signs” that China plans to launch its Tiangong 1 experimental space laboratory before the end of the month. The 8-ton Tiangong 1 is designed to be a test bed for the technologies China will need to move forward with its space station program. It will be launched from the Jiuquan spaceport in Gansu Province aboard a modified Long March 2F. (8/10)

Hughes Business is a Bright Spot for EchoStar (Source: Space News)
Satellite broadband provider Hughes Communications, which in June was purchased for $2.2 billion by satellite-television set-top box builder EchoStar, increased its U.S. consumer-broadband subscriber base by 2 percent in the three months ending June 30. EchoStar did not break out how many of these new subscribers, which brought Hughes’ U.S. total to 626,000, were added as a result of the U.S. government’s broadband stimulus program, under which Hughes was awarded $59 million. (8/10)

Aerospace Corridor Idea to Bring New Jobs to Mississippi and Louisiana (Source: WDAM)
Hundreds of new jobs could be coming to Mississippi and Louisiana. There is a move underway to create a partnership between the two states. Louisiana Senator David Vitter has proposed creating a Stennis-Michoud Aerospace Economic Corridor. The goal is to market and promote the neighboring NASA facilities together. The hope is to lure large aviation and aerospace companies and the jobsAL they bring to our region.

"For a corridor like this to work we need to erase the Pearl River and look at this as a region, not as two separate states," said Bobby Savoie with the Stennis-Michoud Corridor Alliance. "The best way to do it is to get the two governors and their economic development agencies to cooperate by entering into a formal agreement that they will, in fact, promote and market these two facilities together and actually put resources behind it. That means people and money to actually do the marketing and promotions," Michael Olivier said.

Editor's Note: Last year I wrote this op-ed about using a similar "Aerospace Alliance" to advocate for the development of a NASA heavy-lift rocket. The Aerospace Alliance is an ongoing collaboration between Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida that was initially set up for the Air Force tanker competition. Although I pitched the idea to multiple involved individuals, it seems they never linked up for this common-interest space issue. Indeed, the State of Florida seems to have never really joined the Alliance as a full partner; the Northwest Florida "Great Northwest" partnership is instead representing the state's interests. The Alliance will be meeting in Northwest Florida on Sep. 15-16. (8/10)

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