October 24, 2011

Commercial Crew Initiative Called Underfunded (Source: Aviation Week)
Funding for NASA’s commercial crew space transportation services initiative appears headed for funding problems that could undermine the agency’s efforts to regain the independent U.S. human launch capability that lapsed with the shuttle program’s retirement earlier this year, members of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) warned Oct. 21.

President Barack Obama’s 2012 budget request seeks $850 million in annual funding for the initiative through 2016, though the overall program cost has not been identified. In the meantime, Congress has yet to agree on an agency spending plan that anticipates flat funding of $18.72 billion annually through the same period, despite new pressures from the Space Launch System and the over-budget James Webb Space Telescope. (10/24)

“If America wants a solid space program, it has to be a priority,” says Joseph Dyer, the retired U.S. Navy vice admiral who chairs the eight-member panel. The ASAP met at the Johnson Space Center this week for briefings on the agency’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) 2 initiative and other safety concerns. (10/24)

NASA Redirected 2011 Funds to Webb Telescope To Avert Furloughs (Source: Space News)
NASA in August redirected $44 million in 2011 funds to the massively overbudget James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in a move that helped avert contractor furloughs at JSC, the program’s top manager said. JWST Program Director Rick Howard said $12 million of the reprogrammed funding was needed to finish modifications to a JSC cryogenic test chamber, where NASA is testing JWST's gold-plated mirrors.

The modifications had to be done this year to avert furloughs of contractors working at Johnson, Howard said. “They were about to furlough people, and we did not want to stop the momentum on that activity that was coming up,” Howard said. (10/24)

After Pinging SpaceX Software, Review Team Softens Stance (Source: Space News)
A generally positive outside review of the two firms under contract to deliver cargo to the international space station (ISS) contained strong concerns about software development procedures at SpaceX — concerns the company and the head of a NASA safety panel said have since been addressed. (10/24)

South Korea, Russia Fail To Agree on Cause of Rocket Launch Failure (Source: Space News)
The South Korean government disagrees with Russia on the cause of last year's midair explosion of the jointly built Naro-1 rocket, the country’s Yonhap news agency reported Oct. 20. A joint investigation committee meeting in Seoul could produce only recommendations that will help prevent possible causes cited by both sides, the report said. The Naro-1 satellite launcher blew up 137 seconds after liftoff from Korea's Naro Space Center June 10, 2010. (10/24)

A Gateway to Space Emerges in the Desert (Source: Space Review)
Last Month Virgin Galactic formally dedicated its "Gateway to Space", the new terminal building and hangar at Spaceport America in New Mexico. Jeff Foust reports on the event as well as the work still in progress for both Virgin's spacecraft and the spaceport itself. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1957/1 to view the article. (10/24)

Recalling the Mars Flagships (Source: Space Review)
November is shaping up to be a critical month for Mars exploration, with the planned launches of Russian and American missions to the Red Planet. Lou Friedman notes that ongoing debates within the administration could also spell doom for long-term Mars exploration plans. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1956/1 to view the article. (10/24)

Propellant Depots: the Fiscally Responsible and Feasible Alternative to SLS (Source: Space Review)
While NASA begins development of the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, some have proposed propellant depots as an alternative architecture. Andrew Gasser argues that depots, despite the criticisms of some, offer a feasible and less expensive approach to human space exploration. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1955/1 to view the article. (10/24)

The Moon Treaty: Failed International Law or Waiting in the Shadows? (Source: Space Review)
The Moon Treaty is widely regarded as a failed treaty since the biggest spacefaring nations, including the United States, have not signed on to it. Michael Listner warns, though, that elements of the treaty could make their way into international law even if the US doesn't sign or ratify the treaty. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1954/1 to view the article. (10/24)

Moon Speck: NASA Sting Terrifies Woman, 74 (Source: AP)
The elaborate mission to recover a moon rock led NASA agents to a Denny's restaurant in Riverside County. But at the end of the sting operation, agents were left holding a speck of lunar dust smaller than a grain of rice and a 74-year-old suspect who was terrified by armed officials. Five months after NASA investigators and local agents swooped into the restaurant and hailed their operation as a cautionary tale for anyone trying to sell national treasure, no charges have been filed, NASA isn't talking and the case appears stalled.

The target, Joann Davis, a grandmother who says she was trying to raise money for her sick son, asserts the lunar material was rightfully hers, having been given to her space-engineer husband by Neil Armstrong in the 1970s. The strange case centers on a speck of authenticated moon rock encased in an acrylic-looking dome that appears to be a paperweight. For years, NASA has gone after anyone selling lunar material gathered on the Apollo missions because it is considered government property, so cannot be sold for profit.

Davis claims Armstrong gave the items to her husband, though the affidavit says the first man on the moon has previously told investigators he never gave or sold lunar material to anyone. In follow-up phone conversations with a NASA agent, Davis acknowledged the rock was not sellable on the open market and fretted about an agent knocking on her door and taking the material, which she was willing to sell for "big money underground." Click here. (10/24)

Moondust Sale Raises Questions (Source: Hobby Space)
Items with moondust from the Apollo program have been sold for sometime. For example, the name-tag from Apollo 15 astronaut Jim Irwin's spacesuit that he wore on the lunar surface was sold in 1999 for $310,500 because it was embedded with moondust. Alan Bean embeds in his space paintings some dust obtained from the nametag on the suit that he wore on the Moon during Apollo 12. Why prosecutors are now making a big deal about selling such specks of lunar material is not clear. Seems like a big overreaction. (10/24)

Space-Based Information for Micro-Planning in India (Source: IBN)
An Indian state government has decided to use space-based information system for micro-level planning and monitoring. A new technique will help generate huge GIS data on land cover, settlements, soil, slope, water sources, road network, public utilities, communication network and healthcare. These data can be fruitfully used in grassroots level planning for local area development. (10/24)

Honeywell Raises Outlook After Q3 Jump in Profit (Source: Bloomberg)
Honeywell International posted a profit of $862 million for the third quarter, compared with a profit of $598 million for the same quarter last year. The Morris Township, N.J.-based manufacturer also raised its full-year outlook. "We're well-positioned for growth across all four of our business segments again next year," said Honeywell CEO David Cote. (10/24)

Technology Put to Test at Embry-Riddle NextGen Center (Source: Daytona Beach News Journal)
Inside the Florida NextGen Test Bed, new technology is being integrated with current air traffic systems in hopes of making flying safer and more efficient. The Test Bed, managed and operated by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University through a partnership with the FAA and private companies, was recently expanded and additional software systems are also being added in the coming weeks by aviation companies.

"We've formed good working relationships with industry (leaders)," said Wade Lester, Embry-Riddle's NextGen program manager, who oversees the Test Bed. "It's a very exciting time. We are helping the FAA solve some of their NextGen research and development issues." The NextGen Test Bed is where new technologies are being evaluated before being implemented as part of NextGen -- Next Generation Air Transportation System. (10/24)

Transportation Committee Plans Field Hearing at Embry-Riddle Campus (Source: John Mica)
A field hearing of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, chaired by Congressman John Mica, will be held on Nov. 7 on the campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The focus of the hearing is "NextGen: Leveraging Public, Private and Academic Resources." Click here. (10/24)

NASA Warns Budget Cuts Could Send Jobs To Russia (Source: WESH)
NASA is warning that Congress is on the road to making the U.S even more dependent on Russia to launch astronauts. The space administration says cuts to commercial funding could send a lot of jobs and money from the Space Coast to Russia. The space shuttles are retired and if U.S. astronauts are going anywhere from U.S. soil this decade, it'll be aboard commercial rockets, such as the SpaceX Falcon 9, and in privately built space ships, like the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser.

President Barack Obama wants to give private companies $850 million dollars to get started, in addition to the companies' own money, but the Senate may cut the figure to $500 million and the House to $312 million. NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver says the US would have to pay Russia $450 million per year to keep astronauts on Russian space ships. She suggests that money would be better spent on new jobs and American-built technology at the Kennedy Space Center, the new headquarters for commercial space. (10/24)

Huntsville Space Professionals Hold Town Hall Meeting (Source: WAFF)
Bringing more jobs to the Rocket City was the focus of a town hall meeting at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center last weekend. The non-profit group Huntsville Space Professionals organized the event to bring together the aerospace industry's leading companies with talented professionals for potential projects. "We want Huntsville to be like the Silicon Valley of space exploration," HSP Director Andrew Sutinen said.

Dozens of people attended the meeting, including Mayor Tommy Battle. "We're looking at some new frontiers in the space program and we're going to have to look at some new technologies and combine the old technologies," Mayor Battle said. HSP launched last summer after a round of layoffs in the Valley. Its goal is to help them stay in contact with space industry employers. (10/24)

Yuri’s Night Announces Partnership with National Space Society (Source: NSS)
Yuri’s Night, the World Space Party, today announced an agreement with the National Space Society (NSS) that provides for cooperation and joint activities between the two organizations. The NSS and Yuri’s Night will promote each other’s organization to their respective members. (10/22)

UCF Confident New Hire a Boon for Space Studies (Source: Florida Today)
The University of Central Florida is poised to boost the quality and profile of its space-related research with a former chief of NASA’s science programs now at the helm, at least temporarily. UCF named Alan Stern to lead its Florida Space Institute for the next 12 to 18 months until a permanent director is hired. “Just by virtue of coming on board, he’s raising the institute’s profile,” said UCF Vice President M.J. Soileau.

“He’s doing some organizational things that are critically needed,” said Soileau. Stern’s involvement also could help a state known for launching rockets build a bigger emphasis on science research in the post-shuttle era. Short-term priorities include revising the space institute’s outdated charter and consolidating disparate operations at UCF’s Orlando campus, including moving some staff from an office at KSC. Stern also will help recruit faculty and his replacement as director.

Stern took the position on a part-time basis after another candidate had to withdraw for family reasons. He’ll split time time between UCF and Boulder, Colo., where he’ll remain an associate vice president at the Southwest Research Institute. At UCF, he’ll manage a nearly $1.6 million budget and earn $100,000 annually. “Florida needs to diversify its space portfolio, and science is going to be an important part of that going forward,” Stern said. (10/24)

Signatures Needed for Last-Ditch Effort to Get Shuttle in Dayton (Source: Dayton Daily News)
The online petition aimed at sending a retired space shuttle to the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton has garnered 3,708 signatures as of Friday morning — 1,292 short of the signatures it needs by Oct. 30 to gain White House scrutiny. Earlier this year, NASA picked four other cities over Dayton to receive retired space shuttles — a decision that was deeply disappointing to Dayton.

In an effort to revisit that decision, Columbus businessman John Cavanaugh has used a newly created portion of the White House website to launch an online petition asking the administration to reconsider its position on the retired shuttles and send one to Dayton. He needs 5,000 signatures by Oct. 30 to get the White House to consider his case. If he gets that many signatures, then the White House will assign a staffer to evaluate the petition. (10/24)

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