August 22, 2011

NASA Heavy-Lift Assumptions Questioned (Source: Aviation Week)
An independent analysis by Booz Allen Hamilton of NASA’s plans to develop the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) raises questions about the cost assumptions the agency is using in its own estimates of what it will cost to build the big new rocket. “Due to unjustified, sometimes substantial future cost savings, the team views each program estimate as optimistic,” Booz Allen evaluators tell NASA managers in a preliminary presentation of their findings.

Booz Allen briefed NASA managers and Senate staffers on their findings. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) says the consulting firm’s findings “will confirm what Congress and the NASA technical experts have known for nine months, that the administration could have approved the vehicle design concept months ago, prevented the loss of thousands of jobs, and ensured U.S. leadership in space and science.”

In a written statement, Hutchison says the delay since Bolden’s decision “has cost 3,000 jobs” from the space shuttle program and terminated Constellation program of shuttle-follow-on vehicles, “many of which could have been transferred to the SLS program.” Some senators — notably Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) — have publicly charged NASA with trying to kill the SLS by delaying it. (8/22)

NASA Estimates $8.7 Billion To Fly Webb Telescope (Source: Aviation Week)
Managers at NASA replanning the James Webb Space Telescope program after an independent cost analysis found it over budget and behind schedule have concluded it will cost about $8.7 billion to finish the telescope in time for a launch in 2018 and operate it at the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrange point for five years.

An agency spokesman said Monday the revised figure — an increase of $3.6 billion over NASA’s most recent life-cycle-cost estimate for the big infrared space observatory — includes all development, launch operations and science costs. Details of how the agency will pay the cost will be covered in the fiscal 2013 NASA budget request now in preparation, the spokesman says. (8/22)

Humanoid Robot Powers Up on Space Station (Source:
Move over Commander Data, there's a real robot in space, now. The International Space Station got a new crewmember today, one made not of flesh and blood, but of gears and clockwork instead. Called Robonaut 2, the automaton astronaut was activated by human spaceflyers on Aug. 22 after months in storage since being delivered to the space station earlier this year. An initial series of tests checked the robot's power systems and camera eyes. (8/22)

Space Adventures and Armadillo Plan Spacesuit Procurement (Source: Hobby Space)
Space Adventures, Ltd., and Armadillo Aerospace, LLC, released a Request for Information (RFI) solicitation to gather information on industry capabilities to design and fabricate a space suit for suborbital spaceflight. Last year, Space Adventures entered into an exclusive marketing agreement with Armadillo Aerospace to develop a commercial passenger suborbital space program. Space Adventures and Armadillo Aerospace plan to release a Request for Proposal (RFP) solicitation for a space suit product within the next few months. (8/22)

National Aerospace Week Launched (Source: AIA)
Ongoing and emerging security threats, aging civil and space infrastructure, fiscal challenges and keeping and creating jobs all present our nation with enormous challenges. This year's National Aerospace Week, an event established by Congress, will focus on informing the debate over choices our government will make in the coming months.

The aerospace and defense industry is the lifeblood of America's industrial base, employing approximately 800,000 workers directly, and supporting more than 2 million middle-class jobs in related fields. More than 30,000 suppliers in the industry provide high-skill, high-paying jobs in all 50 states. (8/22)

Virginia's Eastern Shore Preps for Space Launching Future (Source: Satellite Spotlight)
Wallops’ near-team objective is preparing the facility for a pair of Orbital Taurus II launches for NASA. The biggest modification on pad 0A is a fueling system to support the first stage of the Taurus II. NASA and MARS officials are also laying the groundwork for proving a much-needed upgrade to Wallop facilities and to support manned suborbital operations. NASA wants to support larger and more frequent rocket launches, as well as additional piloted and unpiloted aircraft based at Wallops.

Over 75 percent of the buildings at Wallops' main base are 40 years or older, with 63 percent deemed “unsuitable” for use. Improvements would include expansion of restricted airspace, a bridge replacement, and dredging of the waterways around the facility. A more ambitious alternative plan would add on support – to be defined – for manned suborbital spaceflight operations, and a land swap with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to get more territory to work with.

With its launch range facilities and large runways, Wallops could conceivably support operations for a number of manned suborbital systems, including XCOR’s Lynx and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip II. Suborbital operations could include space tourism hops and/or research experiments. For mid-Atlantic researchers based at area universities or Goddard Space Flight Center, Wallops would be within convenient driving distance. (8/22)

New Opportunities for Smallsat Launches (Source: Space Review)
Small satellites show increasing potential to do more in space at lower costs than big satellites, but an ongoing challenge has been finding cost-effective ways to launch them. Jeff Foust reports on new opportunities involving existing large rockets and proposed small rockets to serve the smallsat market. Visit to view the article. (8/22)

An Enduring Value Proposition for NASA Human Spaceflight (Source: Space Review)
In the latest installment of her assessment of the value of NASA's human spaceflight program, Mary Lynne Dittmar exa
Linkmines the national security implications of human spaceflight, particularly from the perspective of soft power. Visit to view the article. (8/22)

Ranger: Voyage to the Moon and Beyond (Source: Space Review)
Fifty years ago this month the first spacecraft in the Ranger program launched into Earth orbit. Drew LePage examines the early history of this program and how it set the foundation for more than just missions to the Moon. Visit to view the article. (8/22)

NASA Taking Over Additional Building at Stennis (Source: WXVT)
A ceremony this Wednesday marks the transfer of a 1.6-million-square-foot-facility to NASA at the Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi's Hancock County. By acquiring the former Mississippi Army Ammunition Plant, NASA says it will increase its total facility space at Stennis by about 33%.

NASA says in a news release that a dozen public and private sector employers already are located in parts of the space, including Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne, the Government Printing Office and the Department of Energy. More are expected. Among those taking part in Wednesday's transfer ceremony are Republican U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi and NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver.

United Space Alliance: More Jobs at Risk (Source: Florida Today)
Layoffs of local space shuttle workers are winding down after the big hit that followed Atlantis' landing a month ago to end the final shuttle mission. But United Space Alliance. NASA's prime shuttle contractor, warns more cuts could be coming because of uncertainty over NASA funding for work to close out the shuttle program.

Houston-based USA by Friday will send notices to between 150 and 200 employees working under the shuttle Transition and Retirement program. Their jobs would end Oct. 28. "If the funding status is cleared up prior to that time, hopefully we'll be able to keep a lot of those people on," said Kari Fluegel, a company spokeswoman. "It's a very fluid situation." (8/22)

Spaceport's First Phase Nearly Done (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The first phase construction of Spaceport America, New Mexico's $209-million commercial space flight launch complex, is 90 percent complete. Virgin Galactic, the spaceport's anchor tenant, plans to dedicate the terminal-hangar facility sometime in October. (8/20)

Black Holes and Pulsars Could Reveal Extra Dimensions (Source: New Scientist)
Making a black hole let go of anything is a tall order. But their grip may slowly weaken if the universe has extra dimensions, something that pulsars could help us to test. String theory, which attempts to unify all the known forces, calls for extra spatial dimensions beyond the three we experience. Testing the theory has proved difficult, however.

Black holes are predicted to fritter away their mass over time by emitting particles, a phenomenon called Hawking radiation. Without extra dimensions, this process is predicted to be agonizingly slow for run-of-the-mill black holes weighing a few times as much as the sun, making it impossible to measure.

Extra dimensions would give the particles more ways to escape, speeding up the process. This rapid weight loss would loosen a black hole's gravitational grip on any orbiting objects, causing them to spiral outwards by a few metres per year, the team calculates. A pulsar orbiting a black hole could reveal this distancing. That's because the lighthouse-like pulses of radiation they emit would vary slightly depending on the size of the star's orbit. (8/22)

Nation Launches First Satellite Built by Africans (Source: MenaFN)
Nigeria successfully launched NigeriaSat, the first satellite designed and built by Africans, aboard a Russian/Ukrainian Dnepr rocket. Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. brought 26 young scientists from NASRDA to work on the satellite for 18 months. (8/22)

A Rocket's Resurrection? (Source:
The familiar blue and white Delta 2 rocket now on the cusp of retirement could be given new life to launch a handful of NASA climate research satellites later this decade. NASA is considering proposals from United Launch Alliance and Orbital Sciences Corp. to add the Delta 2 and Taurus 2 rockets to the space agency's stable of launch vehicles for medium-class science satellites, according to industry and government sources.

There are now two NASA launches left on the Delta 2's manifest -- one from Florida and one from California. ULA says it has components for five Delta 2 rockets left in its inventory. The rocket's production line has already been shut down. The five leftover Delta 2 vehicles are the rocket's Heavy configuration, which are powered by bigger 46-inch solid rocket boosters. The Delta 2's launch pad at Vandenberg is not set up to support launches with the more powerful boosters.

ULA could restart procurement of the Delta 2's smaller 40-inch diameter solid rocket boosters for West Coast missions, assuming NASA shows interest. Most of the NASA satellites requiring a rocket like the Delta 2 would launch into polar orbit from the West Coast.The rocket's solid-fueled boosters are built by ATK in Utah. (8/22)

Oldest Fossils Show What Life on Other Planets Might Look Like (Source: Smart Planet)
Scientists have found the oldest fossils yet, providing evidence that life existed 3.4 billion years ago in an oxygen-free environment. The fossils are of bacterial cells that appear to have subsisted on sulfur. The researchers’ work has implications for looking for life on other planets, giving an indication of what bacteria and cells in other oxygen-free environments might look like.

At the time of these fossils’ origin, volcanoes dominated the Earth, land was constrained mostly to small islands poking up through the hot seas and circulating currents were much stronger than today. The planet was the temperature of a hot bath, and the sauna-like atmosphere was heightened by an overcast sky that retained the Earth’s heat although the sun was weaker than it is today. (8/22)

AUVSI Plans Space Summit at UCF on Aug. 31 (Source: AUVSI)
The AUVSI Florida Peninsula Chapter is sponsoring a Summit on the Future of Space in Orlando on Aug. 31 at UCF. The Summit will promote a timely discussion about the future of space and will increase the public awareness of ongoing research and mission planning. This AUVSI event is co-sponsored by UCF's Institute for Simulation and Training (IST) and Craig Technologies and will bring together a diverse group from academia, industry, and government.

We are delighted to have as our guest and keynote speaker, Dr. Paul Abell, Lead Scientist for Planetary Small Bodies at Johnson Space Center. He will help educate our community about how we can achieve one of the stated objectives of U.S. Space Policy for human spaceflight which is Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) exploration by 2025. This one-day event will provide opportunities to interact closely with Dr. Abell and other leaders in space. Click here for information. (8/19)

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