October 18, 2011

Intel Cuts Rumored to Be $25 Billion Plus: Industry Fearful, Watchful (Source: AOL)
You can smell the fear and worry here at the annual Geoint conference. The budget cuts that Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper outlined yesterday may be as deep as $40 billion over the next 10 years, sources here say. The consensus number is closer to $25 billion, but more than three sources cited $40 billion.

How much of that comes from next year's budget is, at this point, anyone's guess. For purposes of scale, the intelligence community spent $80.1 billion in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 last year. Clapper told the Geoint annual conference yesterday that the intelligence community faces "double digit cuts" over the next decade.

The magnitude of the intelligence cuts-- however deep they really are -- has executives grasping for information and reassurance where they can find it. One of the biggest targets in the intelligence world may be two companies -- Digital Globe and GeoEye. They provide commercial satellite geospatial imagery to the U.S. government and commercial clients. They depend heavily on contracts with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. (10/18)

Did NASA Hide In-space Fuel Depots To Get a Heavy Lift Rocket? (Source: Satellite Spotlight)
Last week, a 69 page NASA Powerpoint presentation on the costs of in-orbit fuel depots was leaked to SpaceRef.Com. The July document, a preliminary report of a more detailed in-house NASA study that at least one Congressman has requested and been promised, says it would be dramatically faster and cheaper to use existing rockets in combination with in-orbit fueling to get to the Moon, an asteroid, and other deep space destinations than to build the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

The Tea Party in Space (TPIS) is calling it an “integrity issue” for NASA. “Propellant Depot Requirement Study Status Report, HAT Technical Interchange Meeting” is a pretty dry piece of literature, buried in tech-speak acronyms. It looks at four approaches to moving around human exploration in space, ranging from a baseline large (100 metric ton) rocket without refueling to using existing medium commercial launch vehicles to put up the pieces of a larger vehicle in-orbit, followed by fueling the vehicle from a propellant depot and going beyond low earth orbit to the Moon or an asteroid. Click here.

Editor's Note: Seems like NASA's hands were tied on this. President Obama had wanted to delay a heavy-lift rocket decision until 2016, in favor of other space priorities. But powerful members of the Senate (and some in the House) pushed hard for the SLS, and NASA was blamed repeatedly (and threatened harshly) for putting up roadblocks to SLS. Release of the fuel depot study would surely have been viewed as another roadblock by the Senate. (10/18)

Understanding House Science Committee Republican Deficit Recommendations (Source: NASA Watch)
Of course the Republican staffers on this authorizing committee could have picked any mission with a similar cost range to cut but they chose OCO-2 because its mission is directly related to global change issues. Alas, the National Academy of Sciences sees the replacement of OCO-1 as being important. I guess that just makes it a bigger target for climate change deniers. Why get data, eh? Take a look at the other cuts that are recommended. It is clear that there is an anti-Earth science bias running throughout. (10/18)

Last Manned Mission to ISS in 2011 Planned for December 21 (Source: Itar-Tass)
The last manned mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2011 is scheduled for December 21. Initially, the launch was due on December 26 but some ISS partners said they were unwilling to celebrate Christmas at the Baikonur spaceport, he said. “So, we hope for the soonest launch. Everything will depend on the readiness of the Soyuz engines,” he said.

The task is not easy because Baikonur has a tight schedule of space launches in December 2011. “The Federal Space Agency will have to fit the Soyuz launch with the 30th/31st expeditions to the ISS into the tight schedule. Manned missions always have a priority,” Krasnov said. Soyuz TMA-03M will take aboard Oleg Kononenko of Russia, Donald Pettit of NASA and Andrei Kuipers of the European Space Agency (ESA). (10/18)

NASA Veteran Alan Stern to Lead Florida Space Institute (Source: Space Daily)
Alan Stern has been involved as a researcher in 24 suborbital, orbital and planetary space missions, and he has led the development of eight scientific instruments for NASA space missions. In 2010, he became a suborbital payload specialist trainee. TIME Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in 2007.

A former NASA leader whose career has touched nearly every aspect of manned and unmanned space flight has been named director of the Florida Space Institute. Stern will help the institute, a part of the University of Central Florida, develop projects that align UCF and Florida with the new emphasis in the space industry - unmanned flights, commercial flight, science missions and technology development.

"UCF's Florida Space Institute is in an excellent position to leverage Florida, UCF and the State University System into new research and education roles with NASA, with other space agencies and with the budding commercial space industry," Stern said. "I'm excited to lead FSI into this new era." The institute, located at KSC, is a collaboration among 10 universities that combine their educational programs, facilities, engineering support and grants to create a strong synergistic structure for space research and education. (10/18)

China Underlines Importance of Safeguarding Peaceful Use of Outer Space (Source: Space Daily)
"Safeguarding the peaceful use of outer space and preventing the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space are common interest and obligations of all countries." China on Monday underlined the importance of safeguarding the peaceful use of outer space and preventing the weaponization of and an arms race in outer space, saying that "the outer space is the common wealth of mankind as the global public space."

The statement came as Wang Qun, the Chinese ambassador for disarmament affairs, was taking the floor at the thematic debate on outer space at the First Committee of the UN General Assembly. The First Committee is in charge of disarmament and international security. "The outer space is the common wealth of mankind as the global public space," Wang said. "The permanent peace of outer space is correlated to all nations' security, development and prosperity." (10/18)

UK Space Agency Announces Seed Funding for Mars Exploration (Source: Space Daily)
The UK Space Agency is making 1.6M pounds available in support of projects to further explore our neighboring planet Mars and keep the UK at the forefront of ESA's Aurora Program - a European long-term plan for the robotic and human exploration of the solar system. The new funding will support projects to better understand the past and present environment and geophysics of Mars, characterize the biological environment of the planet and search for traces of past and present life. (10/18)

Intelligence Sharing Has Room for Improvement (Source: Space News)
Sharing of satellite and other intelligence information among coalition partners fighting in Afghanistan has improved in the past two years but still falls short of what is needed to permit them to work and fight as effectively as possible, U.S., British, Canadian and Australian military officials said Oct. 18.

The problem is not just on the U.S. side. Other coalition partners have stove-piped information flows, effectively prohibiting information from being shared among solders fighting shoulder to shoulder. Despite years in Afghanistan and Iraq, coalition partners’ classification practices are still an obstacle that hobbles the effort — so much so that field commanders are sometimes forced to sidestep their military procedures in the interest of getting things done. (10/18)

Florida Cabinet Members Seeking Greater Congressional Support for KSC (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Facing the prospects of predatory competition from other states, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam pressed Tuesday for Florida and its Congressional delegation to unite to protect funding and future operations at Kennedy Space Center. He raised two concerns: that KSC might need more autonomy to control it’s own future and compete, and that Congress might waver on its long-range commitment of $5 billion to remake Kennedy as an international spaceport that supports and hosts NASA, commercial and military launches.

NASA has received $400 million but the rest is up to future budget fights. “That creates an opportunity for vultures from other states to try and come take what we’ve got,” Putnam said. “We can’t let that happen.” Lt. Gov. Carroll insisted that NASA’s commitment to Kennedy appears strong. But she acknowledged that even within Florida’s congressional delegation, only “one or two” have shown strong fight for the Florida spaceport.

“But for the greater number of our members of Congress, I don’t believe they get it,” Carroll said. “This provides our state 86,000 workers, over $4 billion in revenue. That’s huge. And that is my effort to make sure they understand.” The other cabinet members, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater appeared to be on board to support. “If there is anything we can do, if there are any phone calls we can be making, all four of us are committed to do that,” he said. (10/18)

Herman Cain Wants to “Relaunch Our Space Program” (Source: Space Politics)
In recent weeks Herman Cain has shot upwards from relative obscurity to the top tier of Republican presidential candidates, earning him increased attention in the media. Asked about what he thought the biggest foreign threat to America is, he talked about Iran and North Korea and argued they were reasons for building up ballistic missile defense systems, which led to these comments:

"Phase two would be to have “Star Wars” type missile defense capabilities that are located in outer space, which is one of the reasons that I want to relaunch our space program and get away from this dependen[ce] upon Russia in order to be able to get into outer space."

Cain did not go into any additional detail about what other reasons he may have for “relaunching” the space program and how he would go about doing it. It’s also not clear from his response if he’s made the distinction about having to rely on Russia for human access to space, which is true and will be the case for the next several year, versus simply launching satellites (for missile defense and other applications), for which there are a number of American vehicles capable of doing so. (10/18)

Roskosmos Begins Reconnaissance Survey of Vostochny Launching Site (Source: Itar-Tass) —— The Federal Space Agency Roskosmos has launched a reconnaissance survey for the Vostochny spaceport. The construction site was also selected to build a township for the personnel of the spaceport near the town of Uglegorsk. The special reconnaissance committee will work until Oct. 21. The experts should find a construction site for a residential area and should agree on all technical conditions. The construction site for a Vostochny launching site will be determined by this time.

The first apartment blocks of a residential area for the Vostochny personnel are designed for 12,000 residents. The construction program for 2011 envisages the allocations for the development of the design documentation and a feasibility study for a future construction project. The authorities will decide on the connection of the new residential area to the current infrastructure of Uglegorsk, where more than 5,000 people live. (10/18)

Virginia Governor McDonnell Visits NASA Wallops Flight Facility (Source: SpaceRef)
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell paid a visit to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Oct. 17 for a first-hand look at the development of Orbital's Taurus-2 rocket that will start carrying supplies to the Space Station in 2012. During the visit the Governor also received a construction update on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's launch pad 0A from which the Taurus-2 will launch. (10/18)

Intel Budget Cuts To Hit Information Technology (Source: Space News)
Fully one-half of the billion-dollar-plus budget cuts expected from the sprawling U.S. intelligence apparatus in the next 10 years should come from information technology functions, especially those outside the United States, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said Oct. 17.

Clapper said other savings would come from reducing the number of contractors now supported by the U.S. intelligence budget. Clapper said that while he is a firm believer in the value of commercial satellite imagery for U.S. intelligence agencies, the budget for these services is facing examination as well. (10/18)

Agency Will Correct Design of Defensive Weapon for Outer Space (Source: AOL)
A high-tech defensive weapon failed a flight test in outer space last year. The Missile Defense Agency's Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle veered off-course after pressure from "outer space-related dynamic environments," the agency said. It plans to implement "corrective design steps" before conducting another test by spring. (10/18)

NRO Budget Cuts Could Compromise Tech Demo Program (Source: Space News)
The U.S. agency that operates the nation’s secret national security satellites is concerned that the coming budget cuts will force it to cut science and technology demonstration missions because of the difficulty of scaling back large satellite programs already under way.

Bruce A. Carlson, director of the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), said 60 percent of the technology the NRO is launching today – six satellites in 2011, and four more planned in 2012 – came from the agency’s small-satellite program. It is here that instruments are tested in orbit before being placed on NRO’s larger spacecraft for operational use. (10/18)

NASA Advisory Committees Hopeful, Cautious About Commercial Resupply Services (Source: Space Policy Online)
Two NASA advisory committees that spent one day reviewing progress on the development of Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) for the Space Station expressed some reservations, but generally appeared cautiously optimistic about the effort. Joe Dyer and Tom Stafford, chairs of NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel and the ISS Advisory Committee, respectively, testified to a House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee last week. (10/18)

Remember Those Faster-Than-Light Neutrinos? Great, Now Forget 'Em (Source: Endagadget)
A week ago the world went wild over CERN's tentative claim that it could make neutrinos travel faster than light. Suddenly, intergalactic tourism and day trips to the real Jurassic Park were back on the menu, despite everything Einstein said. Now, however, a team of scientists in the Netherlands reckons it's come up with a more plausible explanation of what happened: the GPS satellites used to measure the departure and arrival times were themselves subject to Einsteinian effects, because they were in motion relative to the experiment. (10/18)

NASA Completes Series of Parachute Tests, But More to Come Next Year (Source: Yuma Sun)
Although NASA has recently completed the first in a series of flight-like tests for the Capsule Parachute Assembly System (CPAS) on its Orion spacecraft, the space agency will be conducting a series of eight more tests on it in the coming year, said Gen Grosse, corporate account manager for the Yuma International Airport.

“It takes about two months of preparation for each test,” Grosse said. The parachute system will be used to recover the Orion crew capsule, part of NASA's next generation of manned spacecraft, which will replace the space shuttle program. Orion will be able to transport up to six crew members to the International Space Station or carry four crew members to the moon. (10/18)

Beer in Space Tour Could be Possible by 2013 (Source: CNN)
There's only one element in the universe that could possibly make the majestic view of the Earth from outer space even more god-like. That, of course, would be beer. That's the idea, anyway, behind a Beer in Space tour currently being planned by Australian pub tour operator Thirsty Swagman. Successful early "space beer" tests have the company hoping to get its tour buzzing off the launch pad by 2012 or 2013.

“We want to be the first tour company to offer beer in space,” says Thirsty Swagman owner Kenneth Hart. In space, the company will provide a brew specially crafted by the Australia-based 4 Pines Brewing Company to be consumed in a low-gravity environment. Click here. (10/18)

Governor, Cabinet Visit to KSC to Listen to Job Ideas (Source: Florida Today)
Gov. Rick Scott and his cabinet visited a Brevard County mourning the end of NASA’s shuttle program and struggling with an unemployment rate hovering near 12 percent. The state’s executive management team met at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to conduct some official business, then listen to suggestions from aerospace executives and tour some Cape Canaveral launch facilities.

“In doing so, they highlight the importance of the national asset that the Cape represents,” said Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida, the state-funded agency charged with growing Florida’s aerospace industry. “As a state, it’s imperative that we do everything we can to protect that national asset as a foundation for the state’s space program activity.”

State incentives will likely play an important role encouraging companies to locate work on the Space Coast — possibly in former shuttle facilities — that could include building the next U.S. vehicles that fly astronauts to the International Space Station. DiBello expects local space jobs to be rebounding significantly by 2014. And leaders from across the county said they hope the governor’s visit underscores the same priority: jobs. (10/18)

Russia Blames Space Launch Failures on Employee Negligence (Source: Xinhua)
The loss of the Express-AM4 satellite and the Progress freighter was caused by negligence by the employees of Roscosmos, the Prosecutor General's Office said. "Both incidents happened due to negligence of the employees of the state enterprises under Roscosmos during the inspections and because of the lack of Roscosmos' control over decision-making," the prosecutor's spokeswoman said. The Prosecutor's Office asked Roscosmos to take disciplinary measures against those responsible for these failures and to reimburse the damages. (10/18)

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