September 17, 2011

JPL Lays Off 40 Employees (Source: Pasadena Star-News)
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory laid off 40 people in the last several days in response to budget constraints. Early this year, JPL announced plans to lay off 200 to 250 employees before the end of March in response to ongoing uncertainties about the fiscal year 2011 budget. "Those back in March - those were finished," a spokeswoman said, explaining that the 40 this week are in addition to that number. Most of the layoffs occurred in JPL's facilities and business divisions. She did not have details about the level of employees or how many of them were senior or management. (9/16)

Congress Needs to Keep America a Space Nation (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
The Space Launch System, NASA's proposed rocket for manned missions, doesn't have a name befitting a Greek god but it could be a way to the future for the space agency and the nation. Temporarily hobbled by the retirement of the Space Shuttle program, the overall U.S. mission of manned space flights had seemed adrift earlier this year. That was troubling for a nation that went to the moon and devised the shuttle program.

The drift ended Wednesday when federal officials announced plans to replace the shuttle program with SLS. The SLS rocket would launch the Orion crew capsule into space using what is likely to be history's most powerful rocket -- more powerful than the Saturn V rocket which lifted the last crew of astronauts to the moon in 1972. The Space Coast can now begin to focus on the future. The White House and NASA officials have devised a plausible plan to replace the shuttle and take the nation's vaunted manned space program well into the 21st century and deeper into space.

When the Space Shuttle Atlantis landed after the last-ever shuttle mission in July, the size of NASA in Florida shrank, from 17,000 private and federal workers to 8,500. A vital part of the economy of Florida will be lost unless Congress makes a commitment to future space exploration. Keeping their eyes on the future, our national leaders should map out manned missions to the stars. Yes, the economy is struggling, but we must maintain our ambition to explore and research space. (9/17)

Senate Appropriators Want DOD To Start Over on Weather Satellite Program (Source: Space Policy Online)
Saying they did not want "to repeat the costly mistakes of the NPOESS program," Senate appropriators told the Department of Defense (DOD) to terminate the Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS) and start over. DWSS is DOD's part of the restructured National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS).

It was created when the White House decided to end NPOESS -- a joint program among DOD, NOAA, and NASA -- and return to past practice of having separate weather satellites for the civil and military sectors. NOAA and NASA are now trying to win support for their civil system, the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), while DOD is trying to restructure its part of NPOESS into DWSS.

The Senate Appropriations Committee made their unhappiness with this arrangement clear in its report accompanying the FY-2012 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 2219). The committee zeroed the $445 million request and replaced it with $250 million for "continued common sensor development, as well as requirements definition and source selection activities for a full and open competition for a follow-on program." It also provided $150 million to cover termination liability costs for ending the Northrop Grumman contract. (9/17)

Globalstar Announces Updated Satellite Launch Schedule (Source: MarketWatch)
Globalstar, Inc. GSAT -6.87% , a leading provider of mobile satellite voice and data services to businesses, government and consumers, announced that its third launch of six second-generation satellites is now planned for early December. Launches will occur only after Russian Space Agency officials have completed inspections of certain Soyuz launch vehicles and the Globalstar launch is not expected to occur until after at least one other Soyuz flight. (9/17)

Lawmakers Question White House Role in Wireless Project (Source: AFP)
Republican lawmakers say the White House may have tried to push through Lightsquared's proposed wireless network despite objections from the military that the project could disrupt vital satellite navigation systems. Lawmakers this week raised fresh questions about Lightsquared, a firm backed by billionaire Philip Falcone, a prominent donor to Obama's Democratic party.

At a hearing Thursday of the House of Representatives strategic forces subcommittee, the Republican chairman, Michael Turner, said he would request that the House Oversight Committee investigate whether the company received special treatment from the White House or federal regulators. The hearing came after a report alleged the White House pressed the head of US Air Force space command, General William Shelton, to downplay his concerns and alter his testimony to lawmakers. (9/17)

As Cuts Loom, NRO Opens Up - Just a Bit (Source: Federal Times)
The United States' premiere satellite spy agency has been able to preserve science and technology funding used to develop unique capabilities that are saving lives on the battlefield despite across-the-board federal budget cuts. Still, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is expecting to take hits, like all government organizations, particularly when it comes to personnel.

"I will take money out of [operations]," NRO director Bruce Carlson said during a Thursday breakfast with reporters in Washington. Asked what parts of operations will be affected by budget cuts, Carlson said, "I won't have as many people on the floor who look at stuff. I probably won't have as many people who are doing collaboration or integration. And I won't have as many people in the lab" where post-processing is done. (9/17)

LightSquared Executives Fire Back at Critics (Source: Politico)
LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja and its billionaire backer, Phil Falcone, fired back at allegations that the wireless company used its political pull with the Obama administration to secure regulatory approval of its controversial business plans. “It’s not a function of being a Democrat or a Republican, it’s about trying to be an innovator. … It’s very disappointing and frustrating that we are getting stonewalled like this. Falcone and Ahuja denied receiving special treatment from the White House or the FCC in their ongoing quest to become the nation’s first wholesale wireless broadband provider. (9/17)

NASA: Satellite Pieces to Hit Earth Around Sep. 23 (Source: USA Today)
NASA has been watching the 6-ton satellite closely. On Friday officials moved up their prediction for its arrival to Sept. 23, give or take a day. NASA scientists have calculated the satellite will break into 26 pieces as it gets closer to Earth. The odds of it hitting someone anywhere on the planet are 1 in 3,200. The heaviest piece to hit the ground will be about 350 pounds, but no one has ever been hit by falling space junk in the past. (9/17)

No comments: