September 22, 2011

Florida Letters Express Concerns Over Federal Investments at Virginia Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
To clarify the positions of Space Florida and the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast, I have posted their letters here and here, respectively. The letters convey valid points about planned federal spending to expand the Wallops Island spaceport, in a time of extreme fiscal austerity at NASA and government-wide.

Florida advocates say they aren't opposed to the growth of Wallops Island for cargo or suborbital operations, or even for commercial astronaut flights, but they raise concerns about the use of scarce federal funding to duplicate NASA capabilities that are already in-place at KSC, something the agency is legally obligated to avoid. (9/22)

Particles Found to Break Speed of Light (Source: Reuters)
An international team of scientists said on Thursday they had recorded sub-atomic particles traveling faster than light -- a finding that could overturn one of Einstein's long-accepted fundamental laws of the universe. Measurements taken over three years showed neutrinos pumped from CERN near Geneva to Gran Sasso in Italy had arrived 60 nanoseconds quicker than light would have done. (9/22)

Neil Armstrong Says US Space Program 'Embarrassing' (Source: AFP)
Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, told lawmakers Thursday that the end of the space shuttle era has left the American human spaceflight program in an "embarrassing" state. "We will have no American access to, and return from, low Earth orbit and the International Space Station for an unpredictable length of time in the future," Armstrong told the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

"For a country that has invested so much for so long to achieve a leadership position in space exploration and exploitation, this condition is viewed by many as lamentably embarrassing and unacceptable." Armstrong was part of a four-member panel of space experts who told lawmakers that NASA needs a stronger vision for the future and should focus on returning humans to the Moon and to the International Space Station. (9/22)

Apollo Astronauts to Congress: Bring Back the Space Shuttle (Source:
The U.S. desperately needs a way to get its astronauts to space and back — and one solution could be taking NASA's space shuttle fleet out of retirement, famed moonwalkers Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan told Congress. Without an independent way to launch astronauts into low-Earth orbit, the U.S. risks ceding its global leadership in space to other nations such as Russia and China, the former Apollo astronauts said. So developing that access should be a top priority for NASA and the country, with other space exploration goals and capabilities following naturally afterward.

The recently retired shuttles provide one ready-made answer, according to Cernan, who commanded NASA's Apollo 17 mission in 1972 and is the last man to leave footprints on the moon. "Get the shuttle out of the garage," Cernan told members of the House of Representatives' Committee on Science, Space and Technology. "It's in its prime of its life. How could we just put it away?" But it might not be too late to press the shuttles back into action, said Neil Armstrong, who was the first person ever to walk on the moon during NASA's historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission in July 1969. (9/22)

AIAA Sponsors Student Paper Competition: Space History, Society, and Policy (Source: AIAA)
The Space History, Society, and Policy track will host a Best Student Paper Competition. Submitted and accepted papers by student authors will be presented with a session of the Space History, Society, and Policy track at the AIAA SPACE 2012 conference. Papers will be judged based on merit with the winning paper(s) receiving a certificate and a monetary award. For further information, please contact the competition administrator, Brad Steinfeldt, at (9/22)

Adams Looks for Answers on NASA Human Spaceflight (Source: SpaceRef)
During a Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing today, Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) sought answers on the past, present, and future of NASA human spaceflight. Here are the questions she asked Mike Griffin: "When you were Administrator at NASA did you or your deputies ever ignore one of the authorization bills? Did you ever get subpoenaed by a House or Senate committee for outright ignoring their requests for information? Were you or your deputies ever accused by a Senator in your own party of sabotaging a NASA project just because you didn't agree with Congress?

Did you ever decide to ignore the role or will of Congress when they asked for your plans to implement the next step in President Bush's vision for NASA? Can you think of any reason to slow roll a project that has been authorized and demanded by Congress in Federal law? Can you think of any reason why it would be acceptable for a NASA Administrator or his or her deputy to ignore Congress? Click here. (9/22)

Florida Space Leaders Picking a Fight With Virginia? (Source: Spaceports Blog)
Florida space leaders are sending letters to Washington in opposition to a proposed expansion at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launch pads in Virginia. It is an unfortunate move by Florida business people not going unnoticed by space advocates in Virginia.

Members of Virginia's Congressional delegation are being alerted, including the Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Space and the House Republican Majority Leader. Virginians will react with OpEds on the Florida tactic in nearly every daily newspaper across the Commonwealth. Virginians will make certain that every state legislator and every member of the Virginia Congressional delegation is aware of the negative effort by Space Florida to ground the Virginia spaceport.

"The Florida space community should realize that the Chinese and the Russians will soon have two human-rated orbital spaceports. Just like we would should have had more than one option for human space access beyond the shuttle, commercial space launch should provide the American nation more than one low earth orbit space vehicle and the capacity to launch human-rated spacecraft from more than one location," said Jack Kennedy, a Virginia space advocate. "I find the anti-Virginia comments misguided, unfortunate and disappointingly, monopolistic!" (9/22)

Space Industry Growing In Virginia (Source: WAMU)
The Mid-Atlantic region isn’t widely known for its space industry, but that may soon change. With the end of NASA’s shuttle program, a new age for space flight has opened up opportunities for area companies. “Most people think of this area as being dominated by the government, and here we are building spacecraft just outside the beltway," says Keith Davies, a vehicle manager for Orbital Sciences.

NASA, the military, and the intelligence services are all using the private space sector. That’s brought several hundred jobs to Virginia already. But for this region’s space industry to take off, it will also have to attract the very nascent commercial crew business -- space tourism. Virginia has pulled out all the stops to attract entrepreneurial entrants into space tourism -- the FAA called it a leader in this respect. Space companies don’t have to pay state income taxes, and a law passed in 2008 protects space flight companies from being sued if something goes wrong. (9/22)

Florida is Base for US National Lab (Source: Space Daily)
The Space Life Sciences Laboratory at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is the new home to the organization that will manage the portion of the International Space Station that is operated as a U.S. national laboratory. A NASA cooperative agreement recently was awarded to The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). The independent, nonprofit, research management organization will base its efforts at Kennedy and help ensure the space station's unique capabilities are made available to the broadest possible cross-section of U.S. scientific, technological and industrial communities. Click here. (9/22)

40 Workers Laid Off at JPL as Congress Puts Squeeze on Funding (Source: La CaƱada Valley Sun)
Federal funding cuts continue to impact the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where 40 workers were laid off last week, the latest notch in a prolonged period of cutbacks for the agency. It was the second round of layoffs this year for NASA’s JPL, which cut its workforce by 250 people in February and March, agency spokeswoman Veronica McGregor said.

The latest round of layoffs affected the business and facilities divisions, McGregor said. No science or research jobs were affected, she added. JPL has roughly 5,000 employees, including “several hundred” in business and facilities, according to McGregor. (9/22)

Six Satellites Added Space Communications Cluster Before 2013 (Source: Interfax)
Six satellites will be added to the cluster of Russia's Space Communications operator before 2013, acting head of the Federal Communications Agency Sergei Malyanov said. "Six satellites are being manufactured for launching before 2013, these are: Express AM8, Express MD2, Express AM5, Express AM6, Express AT1 and Express AT2. Contracts are being drafted for the production of two more satellites - Express AM7 and Express AM4R," he said. (9/22)

Arbitration Panel Sides with Lockheed in SES Dispute (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin Space Systems has won an arbitration dispute with satellite fleet operator SES over a Lockheed-built commercial telecommunications satellite with a slight antenna anomaly. The dispute arose when SES discovered that one of its Lockheed-built A2100 satellites in orbit could not receive uplinks at the edge of one of the satellite’s beams.

SES had said the defect prevented the satellite from meeting contracted performance specifications, and that it would withhold a portion of orbital-incentive payments to Lockheed as a result. According to SES, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Lockheed countered that SES never intended to use the beam’s uplink capability in this way, and so the performance incentive should be paid in full. SES declined to disclose the size of the orbital incentive payment, but one industry official said it was around $10 million. (9/22)

Sea Launch Looking Up Again with New Launch (Source: LA Times)
Hundreds of technicians are busy preparing to launch a 20-story rocket from an ocean platform near the equator by Sea Launch, the rocket venture that's fresh out of bankruptcy protection and has major operations in Long Beach. Preparations for Friday's launch are a long-awaited reversal of fortunes for the company, which hasn't launched a rocket from sea in more than two years.

This is due in large part to a drawn-out bankruptcy process that resulted in a headquarters move and a new majority stakeholder in the company — once a major part of Boeing Co.'s rocket launch ambitions. Late last year, an affiliate of Russian aerospace giant Rocket & Space Corp. Energia announced it would invest $155 million for a 95% stake in the company, which helped boost it out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company then moved Sea Launch headquarters from Long Beach to Bern, Switzerland. (9/22)

Popovkin: Russian Space Agency Needs Reforms (Source: RIA Novosti)
The head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Thursday that recent failed launches were a reflection of the agency's management problems. "We have found the causes [of the failures] and we are trying to identify the people who are responsible...But the troubles go much deeper to the level of management and control within the organization," Popovkin said. "Roscosmos needs changes. I wouldn't say drastic changes, but it should be reformed nonetheless," he said. (9/22)

Deadline for Space Wedding Rings Contest Extended (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Good news for all you would-be newlyweds out there. Due to high interest and many inquiries about extending the the competition, the Space Wedding Rings competition has been extended three weeks to Monday, Oct. 10. The grand prize is a set of 18K gold space wedding rings, valued at $17,000. To win, sway the judges using writing, pictures or video. It’s up to you. Be creative. Be unique. Entries should be submitted through an official website, (9/22)

NASA Rules Out North America for Satellite Crash (Source: AFP)
A six-ton NASA satellite that is on course to crash back to Earth on Friday is not expected to hit North America, the US space agency said in its latest update. "Re-entry is expected sometime during the afternoon of Sept. 23, Eastern Daylight Time. The satellite will not be passing over North America during that time period," NASA said. The current predicted reentry point is off the coast of Chile. (9/22)

NASA’s Science, Cross-Agency Budgets Take a Hit To Pay for Webb (Source: Space News)
NASA intends to spare human spaceflight, aeronautics research and Earth observation programs during its scramble to find extra cash in for the overbudget James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in 2012, but the project’s massive cost overruns will likely require agency-wide sacrifice in the subsequent four years, JWST’s program director said. The telescope, which NASA now says will cost $8.7 billion to build, launch and operate for five years, needs $156 million on top of the $375 million already included in U.S. President Obama’s 2012 budget request.

Half of the additional money JWST needs in 2012 will come from within NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, and every NASA science division except Earth Science will chip in. Howard said the other half will come from NASA’s Cross-Agency Support account, a $3 billion-plus budget largely used to cover overhead expenses at the agency’s nine government-run field centers. (9/22)

USAF Sensor Hitches Ride on Ariane-5 (Source: BBC)
Europe's Ariane 5 rocket has put two large commercial telecommunications satellites in orbit. The vehicle lifted off from French Guiana at 2138 GMT, ejecting the second of its "passengers" 35 minutes later. Of key significance in an otherwise routine mission was the carriage to orbit on one of the satellites of a US Air Force missile tracking sensor.

The hosting of military and other government payloads on commercial platforms is set to become commonplace. This piggybacking approach is seen as a fast and cost-effective way to get new capabilities into orbit without the need to develop a whole spacecraft. The Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload (Chirp) represents the USAF's first such venture. (9/22)

US Space Firm Launches UK Division (Source: UK Business Weekly)
One of the United States’ leading producers of components for the global space and satellite industry has opened a new UK division in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. Maxwell Technologies UK Ltd has also reached a manufacturing agreement with Yarmouth-based C-MAC MicroTechnology to provide the European, Canadian and Asian space markets with fully qualified radiation-tolerant microelectronic memory devices. (9/22)

Harris Wins Air Force Space Contract (Source: DOD)
Harris Corp., Government Communications Systems, Palm Bay, Fla., is being awarded an $8,567,994.34 cost-plus-award-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost contract for overseas contingency operations tasks for continued sustainment repair of systems within the space control mission area under space control depot support. Work will be performed at Palm Bay, Fla. The Space and Missile Systems Center, Space Superior Systems Directorate, El Segundo, Calif., is the contracting activity. (9/21)

The Goldilocks Enigma: Is The Universe Fit For Life? (Source: NPR)
The hunt for planets is going full swing. European astronomers have found what may be the best bet yet for a Goldilocks planet. It has a mass about 3.6 times the mass of the Earth and circles its star in what is known as the habitable zone, a belt around a star where water may be in its liquid state. The planet, HD 85512 b, is about 36 light-years away from here, orbiting its star once every 58 days and hence much closer to it than we are to our Sun.

As astronomers zero in on possible habitable planets, it's worth pondering on the often-stated belief that "the universe is just right for life." How certain are we of this and why? And when we say life, what do we mean by it? The essential reason why so many scientists are confident that life exists elsewhere is the regularity of the laws of physics and chemistry across the cosmos. The same laws of nature that apply in our solar system apply to galaxies billions of light-years away.

But, when we talk life elsewhere we must differentiate between simple and complex life. Earth remains a remarkable place in a universe that, in spite of having the same laws of chemistry and physics, is far from welcoming to life: just look around our cosmic neighborhood, the planets and moons of the solar system: wonderful, but probably barren worlds, at least now. (9/22)

Tulsa Woman Recalls Being Hit by Piece of Space Junk (Source: KRMG)
Should you be worried about being hit by part of the satellite? No. Is it impossible for you to be hit? The answer is also no. Just ask Tulsan Lottie Williams. She was hit by a piece of space junk in 1997 while walking in a park. Williams described it as a “Big ball of fire, shooting across the sky.” She says at first she thought it was a shooting star.

Williams tells us she did see a spark come off of it. It was a little while later that she says “A piece hit me on my left shoulder.” That piece didn’t get picked up right away. Williams says she was a little scared because she didn’t know what had hit her but a little while later “I got some gloves and picked it up and put it in my car.”

At that point it was still a mystery object but Williams says she did notice that it was burned. It took a few calls but she did eventually find out that it was part of a Delta II rocket that had reentered the atmosphere. So where is the piece? Williams says she still has it at home. “It’s a nice conversation piece.” (9/22)

General Dynamics to Acquire Metro Machine (Source: AIA)
General Dynamics expects to close on its acquisition of Metro Machine in November. Once the deal is completed, Metro Machine will become part of General Dynamics's NASSCO operations. "This move will enhance General Dynamics' ability to deliver cost-effective maintenance and repair services to the U.S. Navy, helping the Navy to maximize the life of in-service ships and better serve the ship-repair needs of the entire U.S. fleet," said Fred Harris, president of General Dynamics NASSCO. (Source: Defense News)

Senate Bill Would Fully Fund FAA's NextGen System (Source: Aviation Daily)
The Senate Appropriations subcommittee has approved legislation that would fully fund the Federal Aviation Administration's Next Generation air-traffic-control modernization system. The bill would provide $3.5 billion in funding for the Airport Improvement Program. (9/22)

Arkansas' Lost Moon Rock Found in Clinton's Gubernatorial Files (Source: Reuters)
For years, Arkansas historians have searched for a valuable lunar rock from the Apollo 17 mission, one of the moon rocks NASA presented to each state in the 1970s. While other states also continue to dig for the rocks that came to be known as the Goodwill Moon Rocks, the mystery in Arkansas was solved Wednesday -- sort of -- when an archivist discovered it in former President Bill Clinton's gubernatorial papers.

Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System, told Reuters the archivist opened a box previously archived as "Arkansas flag plaque." The tiny flag was also sent to space, Roberts said. The rock was inside. "The moon rock, which is in a plastic container, had fallen off the plaque," Roberts said. "The archivist immediately knew what he had discovered." (9/22)

Vega Debut Pushed to January (Source: Space News)
The maiden flight of Europe’s Vega small-satellite launch vehicle will not occur before January but the European version of Russia’s Soyuz rocket will fly twice in 2011, using both of its European-version configurations, European government and industry officials said. The Italian-led Vega rocket had been scheduled to fly in November or December. Vega is now on track for a January launch. (9/22)

Editorial: NASA Spending Should Go Into Low Orbit (Source: Arizona Republic)
Some conservatives, who are flinty when it comes to most government spending, get misty-eyed when it comes to space exploration and NASA's budget. NASA's search for a new mission ended with the development of a super-duper new rocket, at a cost of $35 billion. Until federal debt as a percentage of GDP gets back under about 80 percent, NASA should be put on a low-maintenance budget. (9/22)

Why Spend on Space When Earth is in Turmoil? (Source: The Mark)
While it's hard to measure returns on investment for public spending on space science, such programs are key to inspiring new generations of Canadian scientists and technologists. If measuring the economic impact of space exploration is difficult, what about measuring the social impact? Nobody can deny that space inspires people. Mars rovers have made a generation of school children imagine what it must be like on the red planet. (9/22)

Editorial: Wrong Time to Cut NASA (Source: San Fernando Valley Sun)
The country has some difficult choices to make; of this there can be little doubt, regardless of your political perspective or sensibilities. Politicians of every flavor are struggling with each other, their constituents, and their own consciences to identify sources of budget savings as poor economic conditions and outlooks continue to linger over our nation and the world.

Given the nature of the challenges, NASA might appear, at first, to be a reasonable target for budgets cuts. Sure, I'm uncomfortable with the loss in jobs that might accompany the demise of our manned space program, and the possibility that high-technology, high-wage jobs might be outsourced to nations who remain actively engaged in manned space exploration.

I'm also uncomfortable with the reduced sense of national pride resulting from the end, albeit temporary, of our nation's manned space program. When we turn a cold shoulder to science, we essentially hand our economic competitiveness on a silver platter to the other nations with whom we compete in today's increasingly competitive global markets. We place our economy in further harm's way, and it may take years for that realization to become clear. (9/22)

NASA Day is a Dream Aborted (Source: Arbiter Online)
Boise State’s NASA Day Sept. 20 allowed students and faculty to wonder alongside experts from the Johnson Space Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory what is next for space travel. Unfortunately, not a whole lot. “We are looking ahead to great partnerships in many areas, including engineering, biology and the many uses of history. The National Research Council is reporting that America will need more astronauts, not fewer, in the future. We’ll also need more Boise State graduates to serve our country.”

Too bad they might not have a lot to do. It’s been 39 years since humans last landed on the moon. There is only one space station currently in orbit (down from a high of three) and, according to NASA, by 2020 there will be none with the planned re-entry of the International Space Station (ISS). No one disputes that the space age is here to stay. But as long as we remain stuck in the bickering over how to proceed, we must wonder if it is for humans. (9/22)

Sea Launch Prepares for Eutelsat Launch (Source: Sea Launch)
The Sea Launch vessels have departed their Long Beach home port for the Equator, in preparation for the launch of the ATLANTIC BIRD™ 7 satellite owned by Eutelsat Communications on Sep. 23. Liftoff is planned for 13:18 pm Pacific Daylight Time, at the opening of a 74-minute launch window. (9/22)

No comments: