September 9, 2011

Bill Nye Storms Congress (Source: Planetary Society)
Bill Nye, Executive Director of the Planetary Society, delivered more than 20,000 signed petitions supporting space exploration to Congress and the White House. The signatures came from Planetary Society members and supporters around the world. "We hope that the voices of our 20,000-plus members and supporters, who took the time to ask the U.S. Congress and Administration to support planetary science and exploration, are heard."

"Our spacecraft are amazing. Built by the world's best engineers and scientists, they help us make discoveries that may very well change our world forever. Space exploration brings out the best in us. It is a worthy use of our intellect and treasure." (9/9)

Construction Begins on Orion Flight Vehicle (Source: SpaceRef)
Construction on the first space-bound Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Module has begunwith the first weld at the Michoud Assembly Facility on Sept. 9. 2011. This capsule will be used during Orion's first test flight in space. (9/9)

Commercial Spaceflight Federation President Resigns for Medical Reasons (Source: Space News)
Craig Steidle, the retired U.S Navy admiral and former senior NASA official who took the helm of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation in May, has resigned as president for medical reasons. Eric Anderson, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s chairman, said in a Sept. 9 statement that Steidle would “continue to serve as an advisor to ensure a smooth transition as his successor is selected.” (9/9)

Bolden: GRAIL and Jobs (Source: NASA)
If there's any doubt that the Space Coast will continue to be open for business, that thought will soon be drowned out by the roar of the next NASA launch from Florida. NASA’s GRAIL spacecraft, the second major mission to launch from Florida since the final space shuttle flight in July, will soon be on its way to the moon – and it will carry the hopes and dreams of a nation with it.

As President Obama looks for ways to put America back to work, NASA continues to be an engine of job growth and economic opportunity. The President has repeatedly stressed that the only way for America to win the future is to out innovate, out educate, and out build our global competitors. Those three goals have been central to NASA's mission from the beginning. (9/9)

SpaceX Acknowledges Falcon-9 Engine Anomaly (Source: Space News)
SpaceX acknowledged that its Falcon-9 rocket experienced an engine anomaly during its December launch of the company’s reusable Dragon space capsule. “I’d call it an oxidizer-rich shutdown,” said former NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox, SpaceX’s vice president of astronaut safety and mission assurance. “Those temperatures could have damaged the turbines in the turbopump.”

Despite the engine anomaly, Falcon-9 successfully delivered a Dragon capsule to orbit during the Dec. 8 mission. A SpaceX spokeswoman said the anomaly poses no threat to the company’s November COTS demonstration flight to the space station. “There was no explanation or root cause analysis or corrective action for this particular anomaly,” said Valador Inc.'s Charles Daniel. “This is a relatively troublesome statement not to recognize that a premature engine shutdown was a significant event.”

Valador Inc., was sued in June by SpaceX after another Valador vice president, Joseph Fragola, made what SpaceX said were defamatory statements about the safety and reliability of the Falcon 9. The suit was settled out of court in early August. Editor's Note: With nine Merlin engines powering its first stage, SpaceX touts the Falcon-9 as having a safe "engine-out" capability. The Dec. 8 mission may have proved this, but since the anomaly could affect other engines, it must be understood and corrected. (9/9)

Cubesats Tapped For Orbital Networks (Source: Aviation Week)
If scientists at DARPA get their way, in a few years there may be networked clusters of dozens or even hundreds of small, cheap, easily replaceable satellites working together in place of the large, expensive and difficult-to-replace birds now in orbit. DARPA wants to conduct an orbital demonstration in 2014-15.

DARPA has worked for several years and spent tens of millions of dollars on a program known as “System F6” (Future, Fast, Flexible, Fractionated, Free-Flying Spacecraft), whose goal is to create clusters of satellites linked by ad hoc wireless networks allowing them to autonomously share tasks such as processing, data storage, sensing, communications relay and navigation, while trading off missions if any satellite fails or falls out of orbit. (9/9)

Florida Senate Report Suggests Further Study Space Tourism and Remote Sensing (Source: SPACErePORT)
During the months when legislators are not in Tallahassee, committee staffers are often tasked with developing "Interim Reports" that are aligned with committee charters. This summer, the Committee on Military Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security prepared a report on "Expanding Florida's Role in the Space Industry."

The study included two recommendations aimed at learning more about the potential for space tourism, and to increase the efficiency of remote sensing data collection by state and local agencies. The space tourism study would look at "Florida's abilityies in supporting a space tourism market and [develop] a market strategy in preparation for future development in the space tourism industry. Click here. (9/9)

Back to the Future: Florida Senate Report Recommends Space R&D Focus (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Senate report gives much attention to the state's lack of space-related R&D programs. One of its few recommendations is to "Designate a single state entity or office to act as a coordinator, facilitator, and information-keeper of all space-related R&D projects among Florida academic institutions. This entity would assist universities in obtaining state and federal R&D awards and also ensure that the state’s goals of supporting space-related R&D and economic development are being addressed."

Editor's Note: This sounds a lot like the Florida Space Research Institute (FSRI), one of the agencies that was dissolved to make way for Space Florida. FSRI's sole focus was expanding the state's role in space-related R&D. The agency's mission was absorbed by Space Florida, along with the project-financing role of the Florida Aerospace Finance Corp., which was also dissolved. (9/9)

NASA's Human Research Program Awards Space Radiobiology Research Grants (Source: NASA)
NASA is funding nine proposals from eight states to investigate questions about the effects of space radiation on human explorers. The selected proposals from researchers in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Texas have a total value of approximately $12 million. At the University of Miami, up to $1.35 million will be used to study the effects of space radiation on stem cells and vascular and cardiac disease. (9/9)

Ball Selected to Develop Cryogenic Storage/Transfer Concepts for Demo Mission (Source: SpaceRef)
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. is one of four companies that will study the storage and transfer of cryogenic propellants in space under a contract to NASA. Each company was awarded up to $600K to accomplish this half-year effort. The contract calls for Ball Aerospace to work with NASA to develop a mission concept to test and validate key capabilities and technologies required for the storage and transfer of cryogenic propellants to and from advanced propulsion stages and propellant depots, important for the agency's future deep space human exploration missions. (9/9)

Advances in Space Medicine Threatened by Funding Cuts Says Scientist-Astronaut (Source: SpaceRef)
Biomedical research in space has yielded a wealth of insights into the effects of weightlessness on the human body, but recent funding cuts undermine the ability of the U.S. to continue to contribute to the field of space medicine, writes Millie Hughes-Fulford, PhD, a biologist at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and a former NASA astronaut. Click here. (9/9)

NASA, ATK Announce New Commercial Crew Agreement (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA and Alliant Techsystems (ATK) managers will announce an agreement that could accelerate the availability of U.S. commercial crew transportation capabilities at 3 p.m. EDT on Sep. 13. The announcement will occur at the Press Site auditorium at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (9/9)

NASA Names CASIS to Manage Space Station National Lab Research (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA has finalized a cooperative agreement with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to manage the portion of the International Space Station that operates as a U.S. national laboratory. CASIS will be located in the Space Life Sciences Laboratory at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The independent, nonprofit research management organization will help ensure the station's unique capabilities are available to the broadest possible cross-section of U.S. scientific, technological and industrial communities.

CASIS will develop and manage a varied research and development portfolio based on U.S. national needs for basic and applied research; establish a marketplace to facilitate matching research pathways with qualified funding sources; and stimulate interest in using the national lab for research and technology demonstrations and as a platform for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. The goal is to support, promote and accelerate innovations and new discoveries in science, engineering and technology that will improve life on Earth. (9/9)

Aerospace CEOs to Speak Out on Jobs, National Security, and the Debt Supercommittee (Source: AIA)
The Aerospace Industries Association and leading industry CEOs are holding a press conference Wednesday Sep. 14 on the 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. AIA and the CEOs of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Pratt & Whitney and other firms will address the long-term costs that another round of major cuts would have on the defense capabilities, industrial workforce, and America's legacy of innovation in space and civil aviation leadership. (9/9)

Congress May Pass FAA Funding Extension (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Lawmakers in the House and Senate appear poised to extend Federal Aviation Administration funding for several months. The stopgap measure, which would allow construction on airports to continue, could fund the agency for up to a year. Officials say that lawmakers are still working out the details of the legislation. (9/9)

Florida Presidential Debate Provides Opportunity for Space Questions (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida space industry advocates hope that a Sep. 22 "Presidency 5" debate planned in Orlando will provide an opportunity for candidates to discuss their support (or lack thereof) for our nation's space enterprise. Some space advocates are working now to add a space-related question or two to the list the event's agenda. (9/9)

NASA's Changing Mission Grounded Some, Created Opportunities for Others (Source: Washington Business Journal)
For Doug Wagoner, general manager of the homeland and civilian solutions business unit for SAIC., explaining to his kids what he does for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Archives and Records Administration is never easy. “But when they saw a space shuttle with astronauts communicating with each other — that they understood,” he said.

No question that for five decades two words epitomized NASA programs: massive and impressive. But as the agency faces deep budget cuts and shifting priorities in the executive branch, old missions rooted in the space race will soon make way for new, more practical ones — shrinking opportunities for some contractors, expanding them for others. “Government isn’t abandoning the space program — they’re re-evaluating,” Wagoner said. “But as an agency, NASA isn’t going anywhere.” And that means neither is its wallet. Click here to read the article. (9/9)

Loral Selected to Provide Two High-Power Satellites to Intelsat (Source: SpaceRef)
Loral has been awarded a contract to provide two high-power satellites to Intelsat for Direct-to-Home (DTH) television service in Latin America. The two satellites will be operated by Intelsat, which will provide them to DIRECTV Latin America, a leading DTH digital television services operator in Latin America. (9/9)

Editorial: JWST Threatens Planetary Science (Source: Planetary Science Institute)
The recently released NRC Planetary Decadal Survey ("Visions and Voyages"), with input from the planetary community, detailed specific priorities for the next decade of solar system exploration. This carefully laid out plan is under threat from cost overruns by the NASA James Webb Space Telescope. The NRC Planetary Decadal Survey did not cite JWST as a priority for planetary science.

JWST has, however, been a priority in the NRC Astrophysics Decadal Surveys. When JWST was ranked as the top major initiative for NASA astrophysics in the 2001 NRC Astronomy Decadal Survey, it was estimated to cost $1B and launch by 2011. NASA has now spent $3.5B on JWST and it is now projected to cost a minimum of $8.7B for a launch no earlier than late 2018.

As a result, JWST's cost increases have outstripped the resources of the NASA Science Mission Directorate's Astrophysics Division, and NASA leadership has now declared JWST an "agency priority." Resources of other NASA programs, including the Agency's Planetary Sciences Division within the Science Mission Directorate, are now threatened to cover current and future JWST cost overruns. (9/9)

Vizada Purchase Broadens Astrium Services’ Reach (Source: Space News)
Astrium Services’ billion-dollar purchase of mobile satellite services distributor Vizada will increase Astrium Services’ annual revenue by 60 percent, its employee headcount by about 30 percent and provide a global distribution network for its existing military satellite communications bandwidth, Astrium Services Chief Executive Eric Beranger said Sep. 9. (9/9)

Astronaut Shares Unique Footage of 9/11 (Source: Yahoo News)
Whenever he sees a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Frank Culberston is reminded of where he was on Sept. 11, 2001. An encounter earlier this year is a good example. On a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, to watch the re-enactment of British occupation, he met a young veteran who had lost both legs while serving as an explosive ordinance device technician in Afghanistan.

As he helped the soldier, who had two artificial legs, navigate the unpaved grounds, Culbertson mentioned he had witnessed the invasion of Afghanistan from above."From where, a C-130?" the soldier asked. A C-130 is a low-flying military aircraft used mainly to deliver troops and supplies to ground forces. "No, higher," Culbertson replied. "Oh, a U-2?" the soldier guessed. "Higher than that."

From Aug. 12 to Dec. 15, 2001, astronaut Frank Culbertson was aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Two hundred fifty miles above the Earth's surface, Culbertson was the only American not on the planet at the time of the terrorist attacks. On the morning of 9/11, Culbertson, who had been in space for 30 days, had called down to mission control for a routine medical check-in. "I asked the doctor how things were going. He responded: 'We're not having a very good day on Earth,'" Culbertson recalled. Click here. (9/9)

Proton Rocket Cleared To Resume Busy Launch Schedule (Source: Space News)
Russia’s Proton-M heavy-lift rocket and its Breeze-M upper stage, which placed a $300 million telecommunications satellite in a useless orbit Aug. 18, is preparing to launch three more times in the next six weeks. International Launch Services (ILS) of Reston, Va., which commercializes Proton launches, is completing its own review of the Aug. 18 failure and is expected to concur with the findings of a Russian state commission that concluded a programming error was responsible. (9/9)

NASA Cancels ISS National Laboratory News Conference (Source: NASA Watch)
NASA has canceled a news conference previously planned for Sep. 9, about the award of the organization that will manage the portion of the International Space Station operated as a U.S. national laboratory. The briefing was canceled because the launch of the agency's GRAIL mission has been postponed until Friday morning. NASA instead offered in-person media interview opportunities at KSC's Press Site. (9/9)

Heavy-Lift Supporters: 'Sticker-Shock' Reports are Attempts to Kill the Program (Source: Huntsville Times)
Cost estimates for NASA's new heavy-lift rocket keep soaring, but supporters say numbers now being leaked are slanted to kill the program before it starts. According to a WSJ report, a congressionally approved Space Launch System (SLS) could cost $62 billion, nearly twice NASA's original estimate of $35 billion. "This is obviously another attempt by the foes of SLS to leak data to make the program look bad," responded Steve Cook. Administration spin," agreed former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, a persistent critic of White House space policy. (9/9)

General Services Contract Awarded for Spaceport America (Source: Hobby Space)
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) has picked Enterprise Advisory Service, Inc. (EASI) for a contract to provide general services for Spaceport America. EASI has nine operating locations. As part of its operations to fulfill the contract, EASI will have nine New Mexico resident staff members at the spaceport, while 29 local subcontractors - 22 from Las Cruces, five from Albuquerque and two from El Paso – will be available to support surge activities.

EASI was awarded the two-year base contract for $630,125 as a firm-fixed price for key personnel and a not-to-exceed value of $1,198,297 that is managed through task authorizations by the NMSA. As its primary function, EASI will develop policy and procedures for Spaceport America's general services requirements, which will include: maintenance of buildings, utilities, roads and airfield; grounds keeping, waste management, janitorial services, fuel storage operations and maintenance; and the fueling of motor and air vehicles. (9/8)

Russian Space Agency Determines Soyuz Crash Cause (Source: AP)
The crash of a Russian supply ship bound for the International Space Station last month was caused by a manufacturing flaw, Roscosmos said. The flaw led to the failure of a gas generator of the Soyuz rocket's third-stage engine minutes after launch, the agency said in a statement. A government panel investigating the Aug. 24 crash concluded that the manufacturing flaw was "accidental."

The space agency added that all similar rocket engines will be checked. The panel also recommended tightening quality controls at the rocket-manufacturing plant, including the introduction of surveillance cameras. The space agency said further Soyuz launches will proceed depending on the engines' condition, but gave no specific schedule. (9/8)

Steve Isakowitz Joins Virgin Galactic (Source: NASA Watch)
Virgin Galactic is pleased to announce the appointment of former NASA, White House and Department of Energy official Steven Isakowitz as Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. In his role, Isakowitz will have leadership responsibilities across a range of areas as the company prepares to begin commercial operation of its space vehicles. Specifically, he will lead technical oversight of key programs, development and management of new programs, government and industry business development, government affairs, advanced technologies, and strategic analysis. (9/8)

Senators: Obama Administration Scrubbed Launch System's Actual Costs (Source: Sunshine State News)
The Obama administration is taking another hit for its management of the nation's space program, from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL. Nelson, in a joint release with U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX, claim the administration had concealed actual financial totals in order to keep the Space Launch System project from moving forward. (9/8)

ATK Conducts Third Successful Test of Next-Generation Solid Rocket Motor (Source: SpaceRef)
ATK conducted a third successful ground test of the next-generation solid rocket motor. The successful test, known as Development Motor (DM-3), is an important milestone in further validating the rocket's potential use in heavy lift and commercial launch vehicles. Initial test data indicate the motor performed as designed, producing approximately 3.6 million pounds of thrust, or 22 million horsepower, and burning for just over two minutes.

The main test objectives from today's static motor firing were measuring the five-segment rocket's performance and verifying the performance of new materials in the motor joints at hot temperatures. Intentional flaws were introduced in the joint to allow hot gas to penetrate into part of the robust joint to verify joint performance. DM-3 is the largest human-rated solid rocket motor built today, measuring 12 feet in diameter and 154 feet in length. The five-segment motor is based on the Space Shuttle's four-segment boosters, but it has been upgraded to incorporate modern technologies and materials that were not used on the shuttle booster. (9/8)

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