September 14, 2011

Senate Subcommittee Marks Up NASA and NOAA Budgets (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Senate Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee has marked up its version of the FY-2012 appropriations bill that includes NASA and NOAA. They recommended $17.9 billion for NASA, $509 million less than the agency received in FY-2011, but $1.1 billion more than House Appropriators recommended ($16.8 billion). The committee's statement says it provides enough funds to launch the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in 2018. The American Astronomical Society said the JWST amount for FY-2012 is $530 million. NASA's request was $374 million. The House Appropriations Committee recommended terminating JWST, provided no funds for FY-2012.

For NOAA, the subcommittee recommended $5 billion, $434 million more than FY2011, including $920 million for the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). That is similar to what the House Appropriations Committee approved for JPSS ($901 million), and still less than the request of $1.07 billion. (9/14)

NASA Announces Design for New Deep Space Exploration System (Source: NASA)
NASA is ready to move forward with the development of the Space Launch System -- an advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle that will provide an entirely new national capability for human exploration beyond Earth's orbit. It will use a liquid hydrogen/oxygen propulsion system, including the RS-25D/E from the Space Shuttle Program for the core stage and the J-2X engine for the upper stage. SLS will also use solid rocket boosters for the initial development flights, while follow-on boosters will be competed based on performance requirements and affordability considerations.

The SLS will have an initial lift capacity of 70 metric tons. That's more than 154,000 pounds, or 77 tons, roughly the weight of 40 sport utility vehicles. The lift capacity will be evolvable to 130 metric tons. The first developmental flight, or mission, is targeted for the end of 2017. (9/14)

Big Rocket - But Where Will It Go? (Source: NASA Watch)
Of course, what is still lacking in this whole story is exactly what NASA will do with this big rocket. Missions to asteroids, Mars etc. are often tossed out by NASA representatives - but no timeline whatosever has yet to be presented - not even a "notional" one. Nor has an overall strategy or architecture been issued or any idea what the cost would be for the things that would actually fly on these rockets. (9/14)

PWR Plans Next-Gen Engine Test Rig (Source: Aviation Week)
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) is assembling parts for an RLXX demonstrator rig that it hopes will be a pathfinder for a next-generation U.S. upper-stage engine by around 2017. Progress on the rig comes as the U.S. Air Force studies requirements for a next-generation engine (NGE) and as competitors such as Aerojet call for a competition to succeed PWR’s venerable RL10. Two variants of the RL10 power the upper stages of the Air Force’s Atlas V and Delta IV Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV).

Aimed at a 35,000-lb.-thrust-class “sweet spot,” the rig is a systems-level demonstrator, Bouley says, rather than a flight-weight prototype. Testing is set to take place next year over the second and third quarters at the company’s West Palm Beach, Fla., facility. PWR is testing an RL10C development engine as part of a program to convert RL10Bs for use in Atlas V launchers.

PWR is meanwhile reworking the large number of excess RL10B-2 engines in the inventory into a new common RL10C variant that incorporates the best of the B-2 and A-4, and can be used on the Atlas V and potentially the Common Centaur. The first RL10C development engine is running at West Palm Beach, and completed its sixth test in early September. (9/14)

Senate Panel Votes to Freeze Basic Pentagon Spending, Not War Spending (Source: Washington Post)
The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee has voted to hold the Department of Defense's basic spending for fiscal 2012 to the 2011 level, which is $26 billion less than the original 2012 request from President Barack Obama. However, the panel increased the budget for funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, executives from top defense firms are planning to hold a news conference today to discuss "devastating job losses, national security threats and infrastructure implications that would result from budget cuts put in motion by this summer's debt-ceiling deal," the Aerospace Industries Association said. (9/14)

FAA Funding Extension is Approved by House (Source: LA Times)
The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved legislation that will extend funding for the Federal Aviation Administration through Jan. 31. The bill would prevent about 1 million federal and construction jobs, including those at airport projects, from losing funding on Oct. 1. The Senate is expected to pass the legislation by the end of this week. (9/14)

Heavy Lift Rocket Would Beat Saturn-5 (Source:
If fully funded and developed, the new NASA rocket will be the most powerful ever built, dwarfing the lift capability of the space shuttle and exceeding that of the mighty Saturn-5. The initial version would include three Shuttle main engines and lift 154,000 pounds of payload with a first stage thrust of 8.25 million pounds.

An upgraded version equipped with five shuttle main engines will have a liftoff thrust of some 9 million pounds to lift 286,000 pounds to low-Earth orbit. For comparison, the Saturn 5 rockets that powered the Apollo moon program stood 363 feet tall, generated 7.5 million pounds of first-stage thrust and were capable of boosting 263,000 pounds of payload to low-Earth orbit. The space shuttle, not counting its own weight, could carry a maximum payload of about 50,000 pounds. (9/14)

New NASA Crew Transportation System to Cost $18 Billion Through 2017 (Source: Space Policy Online)
Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) headlined a hastily arranged press event in the Senate this morning announcing the long awaited decision on the design of the Space Launch System (SLS). NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and other Members of Congress were also there. The Senate Appropriations Committee is marking up the bill that includes NASA beginning this afternoon, making the SLS announcement particularly timely.

At the Senate event, Senator Nelson stated that the cost of the SLS will be $10 billion through 2017. The main purpose of the SLS is to launch astronauts to destinations beyond low Earth orbit in a spacecraft called the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV). Nelson said the MPCV cost through 2017 would be $6 billion, and the cost of associated ground facilities is $2 billion in that time frame, a total of $18 billion. That is essentially $3 billion per year for the next five years. (9/14)

NASA to Help ATK Build New Rocket (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA and Alliant Techsystems will share data as ATK attempts to build a "Liberty" rocket that could launch astronauts as early as 2015. No money will exchange hands, but NASA will provide technical support to ATK.. The two-stage vehicle will combine a solid rocket booster built by ATK with a second-stage derived from the European Ariane 5 rocket. The company could ultimately provide 300 jobs to the Kennedy Space Center region, where it intends to launch. “This is going to be the home of Liberty,” said Kent Rominger. (9/14)

SpaceX Engine Anomaly Issue a "Simple Fix" (Source: Florida Today)
Some Falcon 9 rocket engines didn't perform exactly as expected during a test flight that successfully delivered a Dragon capsule to orbit last year, but SpaceX and NASA say the issue will be resolved before a follow-up mission planned in late November. "We've seen it, we've seen the corrective actions and it's a rather simple fix, what they're planning to do," said Alan Lindenmoyer, head of the NASA program preparing commercial vehicles to ferry cargo to the International Space Station. (9/14)

Editorial: NASA Needs a New Goal (Source: Iowa State Daily)
Ever since we reached the moon, it seems we have been traveling backward, undoing the achievements we made in the 1960s in human spaceflight. The International Space Station is great, but it is little more than a waypoint on the path to achieving some unknown goal. Why don't we have goals for NASA? Well, simply because Congress has never given the agency enough funding or dependable-enough funding for it to declare its intent to go to the moon, Mars or an asteroid.

Even when NASA created the James Webb Space Telescope, which is slated to replace Hubble, Congress did not listen to reason and respond to some small budget issues appropriately. In the best dysfunctional political form, it did not move $0.5 billion of the $6.5 billion budget forward by a few years as an oversight panel recommended — a mistake that is slated to cost an additional $2.2 billion and may end up killing the mission.

A lack of congressional foresight over the last few decades has kept NASA from having a space ship designed and built to replace the shuttle when it retired. If Congress or the president had found money to allow NASA to develop new space vehicles while they finished the final flights of the shuttle, our dependence on Russia could have been avoided. NASA needs a purpose, a long-term goal to strive for. Congress needs to stop telling NASA to go to the moon or Mars without giving it any extra money to pay for the engineers, technicians and scientists to make it happen. (9/14)

Shuttles Live On at Kennedy Space Center — Legoland Version (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The soon-to-open Legoland Florida has chosen Kennedy Space Center to be among its Miniland USA models, and the space shuttle program is alive and well in small block form. Click here to see some photos of the shuttle at the Winter Haven park, built on the site of the former Cypress Gardens. The park opens on Oct. 15. (9/14)

Liberty Would Also Carry Satellites (Source: Reuters)
NASA will work with developers of a proposed new commercial rocket, made in part from its now defunct Ares 1 crew launcher. In addition to flying astronauts for NASA and industry, the Liberty rocket also will be sold for satellite launches and station cargo resupply missions, said Kent Rominger, a former astronaut who now manages the Liberty Launch System program for ATK. (9/14)

Embry-Riddle Aerospace Engineering is Nation's Best for 12th Straight Year (Source: ERAU)
For the 12th year in a row, the “Best Colleges” guidebook published by U.S. News & World Report ranks Embry-Riddle’s undergraduate aerospace engineering program #1 in the nation and has named Embry-Riddle to the top tier of universities granting mainly bachelor’s and master’s degrees. (9/14)

Astronauts4Hire Granted 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Status (Source: A4H)
Florida-based Astronauts4Hire is proud to announce it is now officially a public charity with tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code. Contributions donated to Astronauts4Hire are fully tax-deductible retroactive to the founding of the organization on April 12, 2010. Astronauts4Hire is also now eligible to apply for government and foundation grants, which will further broaden its access to resources and strengthen its ability to serve the commercial spaceflight industry. (9/14)

Investigators Find Financial Irregularities and Misuse of Funds at Roscosmos (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Investigators examining a string of launch failures by Roscosmos have identified a “major list of financial irregularities and a misuse of budgetary funds” at the Russian space agency. Investigators believe that the financial issues have contributed to the loss of four rockets and six satellites over the past nine months. Law enforcement authorities have now become involved in the investigation.

This is intriguing. Although Roscosmos is a civilian agency, it is closely tied in with the nation’s defense sector, which is notoriously corrupt. Back in May, Reuters reported: "A fifth of Russia’s state defense spending is stolen every year by corrupt officials, dishonest generals and crooked contractors, Russia’s chief military prosecutor said." (9/14)

U.S. Lawmaker Asks NASA To Turn Over Propellant Depot Study (Source: Space News)
U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) called on NASA to deliver its assessment of a space exploration architecture that uses in-space propellant depots and a fleet of commercially built rockets as an alternative to a single government-owned heavy-lift vehicle. Rohrabacher wrote in the letter that a propellant depot-based architecture might allow NASA to fly astronauts beyond low Earth orbit aboard the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) sooner and more often than would be possible if the capsule had to wait on SLS for a ride into space. (9/14)

A Setback Could Force NASA to Bid for a Plan B (Source: New York Times)
The announcement by the Russian space agency that it will delay the launching of the next crew to the International Space Station is a concern for NASA, which is relying solely on the Russians for astronaut transportation. For NASA, there is no short-term solution, and space experts and policy makers hold clashing views on what the agency’s long-term approach should be.

As for the American contractors, they are nowhere near ready to launch people into space and probably will not be until 2015 at the earliest. And in Washington, the White House and Congress continue to argue. The Obama administration proposed $850 million for the next fiscal year to further finance commercial development of astronaut-carrying “space taxis” — what NASA calls its commercial crew program — while Congress has put a higher priority on a large NASA-designed rocket. A budget bill passed by the House provided only $312 million for commercial crew efforts. (9/14)

Amazon's Bezos Patenting 'Blue Origin' Spacecraft (Source: Design News)
The commerical space pioneer Jeff Bezos -- better known as the founder and CEO of -- hasn't let the failure of a unmanned rocket dampen his ardor for building a business that will be able to take passengers to the edge of outer space. And he's working to get the patents to prove it. In January, Bezos, along with Blue Origin colleagues Gary Lai and Sean Findlay, filed application number 20110017872 for a patent entitled "Sea Landing of Space Launch Vehicles and Associated Systems and Methods." Click here. (9/14)

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