October 27, 2011

Florida Introduces Loan Program for University Spinouts (Source: SSTI)
Florida's Institute for Commercialization of Public Research has launched a new loan program for early stage and life science companies developing technologies out of the state's universities and research institutions. The Seed Capital Accelerator Program will match private investment in university spinouts through loans of $50,000 to $300,000. The program is intended to help attract the attention of angel and venture firms to promising university research. (10/27)

Mystery of Bright Spot on Uranus (Source: Skymania)
Amateur astronomers with large telescopes and CCD cameras are being urged to turn them on the distant planet Uranus following reports of the appearance of a brilliant new feature. Professional images taken using the 8.1-meter Gemini Telescope North on Hawaii have recorded a region said to be ten times brighter than the planetary background.

Leading planetary scientist Dr Heidi B Hammel, a key figure with the James Webb Space Telescope whose special interest is in the ice planets Uranus and Neptune, used her Facebook page yesterday to appeal for more observations. She said that if the feature was confirmed independently by enough amateur astronomers, it would be seen as a “target of opportunity” that would allow NASA’s Hubble space telescope to be switched from its scheduled observing programme to watch it. (10/27)

NASA’s Planetary Science Program Still “Best in the World” (Source: Space Policy Online)
In response to an op-ed by Bob Zubrin in today's Washington Times, NASA's planetary science division director said that NASA's planetary science program is still "the best in the world." Zubrin's op-ed asserts that "the Obama Administration intends to terminate NASA's planetary exploration program." While acknowledging that the planetary science division faces a sharply reduced budget compared to its expectations a year ago, Green said: "I'm here to say the future doesn't look as healthy as it has been, but it is still the best program in the world."

Green pointed out that Zubrin's view of planetary science is Mars-centric. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have been reassessing plans to move forward with a joint robotic Mars exploration plan because of reduced NASA budget expectations. Green stressed that the United States is experiencing an "austere" budget climate and the political process is moving slowly compared to what is needed to support international agreements. (10/27)

Huntsville and Houston Mayors Ask Obama for Quick Action to Save Space Jobs (Source: Huntsville Times)
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Annise Parker, mayor of Houston, Texas, sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging quick action to complete the Space Launch System. The mayors said moving forward quickly is vital to stem aerospace job losses.

"Your support for SLS and the Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle is critical to the stabilization of the aerospace industry and the economic recovery for our respective communities," the mayors wrote. "We ask you to urge Administrator Bolden to move forward as expeditiously as possible on all relevant contracts. Speed is imperative to protect the workforce and to ensure our nation's global leadership in space and in technological advancement." (10/27)

Maritime Broadband Provider Grows Despite Shipping Slowdown (Source: Space News)
Maritime satellite broadband company KVH Industries said sales of its mini-VSAT gear will continue to grow by 50 percent or more in the next year despite a slowdown in some parts of the commercial maritime shipping business. KVH is one of the more successful companies using Ku-band satellite bandwidth to compete directly with L-band mobile satellite services providers including Inmarsat and Iridium. (10/27)

Huge Asteroid to Creep Near Earth on Nov. 8 (Source: Space.com)
Mark Nov. 8 on your calendar. A huge asteroid that could potentially threaten Earth in the far future will pass close by as astronomers around the world watch and measure. This space rock is asteroid 2005 YU55, a veritable mini-world roughly 1,300 feet wide — nearly four football fields across — that will zoom by Earth inside the orbit of the moon. At its closest approach, the asteroid will pass within 201,700 miles of Earth at 6:28 p.m. EDT on Nov. 8. The average distance between Earth and the moon is 240,000 miles (10/27)

Aerospace Strikes Back (Source: R&D Magazine)
The last decade has been challenging for the aerospace industry, but a host of breakthroughs have given both big business and private consumers reason to hope. The early days of aviation were largely a private affair. When Orville and Wilbur Wright took flight from a beach in North Carolina, no government regulators were watching. When Charles Lindbergh took off from Long Island in 1927, he did not need to ask for clearance. Nor could he.

In 1958, the creation of the FAA forever ended barnstorming. But aviation remains a largely private, commercial affair. The aerospace industry, however, has always been different, and not just because it extends the operational window beyond air and into space. Space travel has been, from the beginning, out of the reach of anyone but a nation-state. And only a rich nation could make a serious effort at it. Click here. (10/27)

Northrop Denied On-Orbit Fees on Space Program (Source: Space News)
Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems division took an $18 million hit to projected third-quarter profit related to an unspecified space program. The aerospace division, which builds satellite hardware for civil, military and classified government customers, saw its operating income reduced relative to projections because anticipated on-orbit performance fees did not materialize during the quarter. (10/27)

Chinese Military Suspected in Hacker Attacks on U.S. Satellites (Source: Bloomberg)
Computer hackers, possibly from the Chinese military, interfered with two U.S. government satellites four times in 2007 and 2008 through a ground station in Norway, according to a congressional commission. The intrusions on the satellites, used for earth climate and terrain observation, underscore the potential danger posed by hackers, according to excerpts from the final draft of the annual report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

A Landsat-7 earth observation satellite system experienced 12 or more minutes of interference in October 2007 and July 2008, according to the report. Hackers interfered with a Terra AM-1 earth observation satellite twice, for two minutes in June 2008 and nine minutes in October that year, the draft says, citing a closed-door U.S. Air Force briefing. The draft report doesn’t elaborate on the nature of the hackers’ interference with the satellites. (10/27)

NASA's Commercial Crew Program Faces Cuts if Funding Falls Short (Source: Florida Today)
NASA may have to rethink the scope of its planned commercial crew program if Congress fails to properly pay for it, the agency’s top official for manned space missions warned House lawmakers. “Providing inadequate funding ... presents an unacceptable risk to program execution and would force us to relook at our overall approach,” William Gerstenmaier said. “We need the appropriate funding for this challenging program.”

The Obama administration is asking Congress to come up with $850 million this year — as lawmakers focus on cutting spending everywhere possible — to fund NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program. A Senate committee has approved $500 million, and the House has passed a spending bill that includes $312 million. Both chambers will have to agree on a final number that’s not expected to come close to the president’s request. Meanwhile, NASA is paying Russia $450 million per year for rides to the space station.

Some of the executives who spoke Wednesday said they hope to launch a manned mission to the space station no later than 2015. NASA has warned that if it can’t adequately fund the program, the next manned mission could be pushed back to 2017. Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) Hall said after the three-hour hearing he’s still not convinced. “I long for the day when we can go to private people (for the mission),” he said. “I’m just not sure we’re there yet.” (10/27)

Congressional Skepticism Focuses on Markets, Not Capabilities (Source: Space Politics)
Several members of congress, including committee chairman Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) and ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), expressed their doubts that CCDev would unfold as NASA and industry claim. However, unlike some witnesses at past hearings that expressed doubt that commercial entities had the capabilities to develop such vehicles (such as former astronaut Gene Cernan, who said in testimony last month that commercial providers “don’t yet know what they don’t know” about building crewed spacecraft), members focused on the market. Their concern was whether other markets, like space tourism, research, and flying astronauts from other nations, constituted sufficient markets.

Some witnesses, like John Elbon of Boeing and Steve Lindsey of Sierra Nevada Corp., said their business cases closed even if they only secured NASA business. Still, some members wondered if investing $6 billion over five years (NASA’s estimated cost of CCDev; some committee members asked for more details about the analysis NASA used to come up with that estimate) was a better deal than simply purchasing additional Soyuz flights, even if the services eventually offered by US companies were at a lower per-seat price than Russia, citing the amortization of that investment as well as concerns about costs to the government for indemnifying commercial providers. (10/27)

Last Chances to Fund FAA Tech Center at KSC (Source: SPACErePORT)
The $5 million requested by President Obama for the FAA to start-up a KSC-based Tech Center for commercial space transportation apparently is not included in the House version of the appropriation bill for the FAA, and it is unclear whether the Senate's version includes this item. This apparent omission has occurred despite support for the project from some key Florida members of the House and Senate, but the game is not over.

The Senate is expected to finalize a package of appropriation bills on Nov. 1, and the House is expected to respond quickly thereafter. As Senate and House members try to reconcile their two bills, this represents the last opportunity to include the project in the final FAA budget for FY-2012. (10/27)

Editorial: NASA Cuts Will Cost Us More in the Long Run (Source: Palm Beach Post)
The retirement of the space shuttle brought an important era in American space exploration to a close, but it in no way means the end of American leadership in space. Whether it will be America that writes the next chapter, or rival nations, however, only time will tell. Congress and the administration face critical decisions that will set the course for a generation of science and exploration.

America's outward focused eyes in the form of the Hubble Space Telescope and the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy have led the world in scientific discovery for years. The ideas, creativity, and technological genius that produced these efforts are alive and well in the highly skilled aerospace workforce that has been building the Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope.

Closer to home, NASA's aggressive Earth observation program has changed life for everyone on the planet. Looking deeper into space, the next generation of human spaceflight, including possible trips to the moon, an asteroid, and ultimately to Mars, awaits critical funding decisions regarding heavy lift propulsion. These decisions — long overdue — must be made to keep us on track for the next round of great discoveries and exploration. (10/27)

Langley Drop Will Test Orion Capsule Water Landing (Source: Virginian Pilot)
Scientists at NASA's Langley Research Center are putting a mock-up of the Orion spacecraft to the test. The testing today involves a water impact exercise to certify the Orion for water landings. The testing will occur in what Langley scientists call a hydro impact basin. From a height of approximately 55 feet, the Orion mockup will be dropped into the basin. (10/27)

Pluto's "Twin" Has Frozen Atmosphere (Source: National Geographic)
Despite being three times farther from the sun than Pluto, the dwarf planet Eris could almost be the demoted planet's twin—-just with a truly icy atmosphere. According to new observations, Eris is not only close to Pluto in size, it's also so highly reflective that it's one of the brightest objects in the solar system. We can't see Eris with the naked eye due to its great distance. Right now, the tiny world is almost at its farthest point from the sun, roughly 9 billion miles. By contrast, Pluto's farthest distance from the sun is just over 4.5 billion miles. Combined with other data, the dwarf planet's brightness suggests that Eris once had a Pluto-like atmosphere that's frozen solid, existing as a thin layer of frost on the surface, astronomers say. (10/27)

Policy Expert Says New Rocket is Critical to American Prestige, Not Just NASA (Source: Huntsville Times)
"The successful moving forward with SLS is a matter of credibility for the United States," said Dr. Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College. "We can't just keep saying we're going in a different direction," Johnson-Freese said. "We have to go."
Johnson-Freese was one of a line of experts at the conference to stress the importance of the new rocket. Even though it is breaking almost no new technological ground, the experts agree it is critical and not just to NASA.

"This is not a rocket to nowhere," said Jeff Bingham, a senior space adviser to the U.S. Senate. "It's a rocket to a lot of places. It's a rocket to almost anywhere." Johnson-Freese said there won't be a lot of intelligent space policy discussion in the coming year. It's a presidential election year, she said, and "even fewer decisions than normal will be made for reasons other than political posturing." (10/27)

Boeing Reports Q3 Profit of $1.1 Billion (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Boeing posted net income of $1.1 billion for the third quarter, compared with $837 million in the same quarter of last year. The company also raised its full-year earnings forecast to up to $4.40 earnings per share. Chairman and CEO Jim McNerney said the company's outlook is "strongly positive." However, the company scaled back its delivery plan of 787s to 15 to 20 this year. (10/27)

Vega Arrives at French Guiana for its January 26 Inaugural Launch (Source: Space Daily)
The first lightweight Vega was delivered to the Spaceport with this latest member of Arianespace's expanded launcher family arriving only days after the service entry of its other new vehicle - the medium-lift Soyuz. Vega came to French Guiana aboard the MN Colibri roll-on/roll-off ship, which docked yesterday at Kourou's Pariacabo Port after a two-week Atlantic crossing from Europe, and was unloaded this morning for the launcher's transfer by road to the Spaceport. (10/27)

Green Flight Challenge Team Creates Aviation History, Learns Life Lessons, Spotlights Embry-Riddle (Source: ERAU)
For a team of student engineers from Embry-Riddle, competing in NASA’s Green Flight Challenge last month in California, was the ultimate lesson, a rite of passage into the aviation world, and a chance to be media stars for a few days. Nearly two years ago, when NASA issued a challenge to fly an aircraft 200 passenger miles per gallon at 100 miles per hour for 200 miles, Embry-Riddle and 12 other teams entered the contest. By the time of the competition, only five teams qualified: Embry-Riddle and four corporations, three of them European aircraft manufacturers.

Along the way, Embry-Riddle’s multidisciplinary team of 200 students from the Daytona Beach campus, led by Lori Costello, a graduate student in aerospace engineering, and advised by Pat Anderson, professor of aerospace engineering, converted a Stemme glider into a hybrid gas/battery/electric-powered aircraft. On Sept. 7, when test pilot Mikhael Ponso, an Embry-Riddle alumnus, took off in the Eco Eagle and the engine switched from gas to electric power at cruising altitude, it became history’s first successful flight of a hybrid gas/electric plane. (10/27)

An Alien Code Close to Home: Seeking ET Beyond the Radio Silence (SourcE: Astrobiology)
Any intelligent extraterrestrial life that exists probably won't announce itself by blowing up the White House, or win over the hearts of children as a lovable alien with a glowing finger. Many scientists simply hope to find evidence of them by scanning the skies for a radio signal from a distant star's alien civilization. But such efforts may also risk overlooking clues of past alien activity right here on Earth.

If aliens did leave their mark on Earth by some wild chance, we could search for the possible "footprints" of alien technology or even analyze the DNA of terrestrial organisms for signs of intelligent messages or tinkering. Such a CSI-style forensics search could complement, rather than replace, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) astronomers who continue to look skyward, said Paul Davies. Click here. (10/27)

No Wings Yet for Virgin Galactic (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Virgin Galactic representatives have declined numerous times to specify a timetable for the start of flights at Spaceport America, saying that depends on when the company finishes its vehicle development and can guarantee them as safe for flights. But during a ceremonial dedication of the spaceport runway in October 2010, Branson said then he expected operations to start by at least the spring of 2012. New Mexico Spaceport Authority Executive Director Christine Anderson said Virgin Galactic has the correct approach toward the timetable for starting suborbital flights. "It's when it's safe - that's the right answer," she said.

In the meantime, the spaceport authority must focus upon attracting businesses other than Virgin Galactic to the facility, said Rick Holdridge, spaceport authority chairman. "Our goal is to get other people in there," he said. Editor's Note: I reckon Virgin Galactic might be able to fly research missions well before they start carrying people aloft, to bring in revenues for Virgin and for Spaceport America while they continue to test and validate the vehicle's safety. (10/27)

Canada to Invest $477 Million in U.S. Military Satellite System (Source: Canada.com)
Canada's federal government is planning to spend as much as $477 million to participate in a U.S.-led military satellite program that has been subject to delays and cost overruns over the past decade. The Wideband Global Satellite system has been advertised by the U.S. Defense Department as a communications system for "U.S. warfighters, allies and coalition partners during all levels of conflict, short of nuclear war." The idea is to have as many as nine military satellites hovering over different parts of the world, ready to provide high-frequency bandwidth for U.S. and allied forces wherever they may be operating.

Daniel Blouin, a spokesman for Canada's Department of National Defence, said the Canadian Forces has identified improved communication capabilities as a necessity. If Canada does join the Wideband Global Satellite System, or WGS, it will be the latest ally to get onboard the project. Australia agreed in 2007 to contribute more than $800 million U.S. to pay for the sixth satellite in return for a portion of the system's overall bandwidth. New Zealand, Luxembourg, Denmark and the Netherlands also have expressed interest. (10/27)

Budget Fight Rages Over James Webb Space Telescope (Source: Washington Post)
Bigger than a tennis court, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope spreads out in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, its gray wings pulled taut, its mirror tilted skyward. This full-size model outside the Maryland Science Center took 12 workers four days to assemble. The real Webb telescope, by contrast, will have clocked more than 30 years from conception to orbit, if it launches as scheduled in 2018. This is astronomy’s big, generational gamble, designed to peer back to the dawn of time, and search for signs of life on distant exoplanets — all feats the Hubble Space Telescope can’t manage.

But on its way to the heavens, the Webb has run wildly over budget, drawn threats of cancellation from Congress, elbowed aside other NASA science missions and driven a wedge through the space science community. Its fate for now rests on negotiations between NASA’s chief purse holders in Congress, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) and Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA). Mikulski, the telescope’s staunchest champion, chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee in charge of NASA’s budget; Wolf holds the parallel position in the House.

Fed up with Webb’s escalating costs, Wolf zeroed out in July Webb’s funding in NASA’s 2012 budget, and that’s how the House passed the spending bill. Wolf has now softened. “I want to be able to fund the Webb,” he said of the telescope named for NASA’s second administrator. But first, Wolf wants to know how NASA will pay for the telescope’s cost overruns. On Sept. 28, he asked the Office of Management and Budget for a list of NASA cuts to pay for the project, now priced at $8.7 billion. The office has yet to answer. (10/27)

NASA Plan for Private Space Taxis Hasn't Won Over Lawmakers (Source: Space.com)
NASA's projected costs and benefits of helping to develop commercial spaceships drew skepticism from members of a House panel. While leaders of various commercial space companies spoke up for their industry's prospects, lawmakers questioned whether there will be enough of a market in space transportation and tourism to justify taxpayer investment in new, private vehicles. Such ships will need more customers besides NASA astronauts to be profitable, the lawmakers said.

"NASA seemingly takes the position of 'Build it and they will come,'" said committee chairman Ralph M. Hall (R-TX). "From my perspective, the business case is not very compelling." If there are no customers beyond NASA to purchase seats on these new spaceships, it "could put the government in the position of supporting, or bailing out, commercial companies" in order to preserve a national space transportation capability, Hall said.

In response, Elon Musk of SpaceX said he "will personally guarantee" that taxpayers won't have to bail out his company. Executives representing Boeing, Sierra Nevada, ATK and ULA, said their businesses would be successful even if NASA were the only customer. But they listed other likely sources of income, such as cargo transportation and satellite servicing, as well as selling rides to private citizens and to astronauts from countries without their own space programs. (10/27)

More Congressional Reaction to Commercial Crew Plans (Source: Space.com)
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) raised this concern about the commercial crew program: Why should taxpayers fund development of private vehicles that will then belong to private companies and not to the U.S. government? "It seems to me that we're running on a course of eventually the taxpayers subsidizing a monopoly," Edwards said. She said the country could end up footing an even bigger bill by renting services from companies that relied on significant taxpayer money to develop their products.

Not all the panelists were so hard on the private space firms: "I have been surprised by a number of things in my 24 years here in Congress, but one of the things I've been surprised the most about is the hostility that seems to be expressed" toward commercial space companies, said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). "I consider this to be a historic moment for our country. This anti-commercial space attitude that I see, I think it could have very grave consequences." (10/27)

Mikulski Unveils JWST Permanent Exhibit at Maryland Science Center (Source: Sen. Mikulski)
U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS), unveiled a permanent exhibit on the James Webb Space Telescope at the Maryland Science Center located at Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The exhibit includes a scale model of the telescope, graphic panels explaining the science behind the Webb mission along with a high definition multimedia presentation from the Space Telescope Science Institute – the science and operations center for the telescope. (10/27)

Mikulski: JWST in Approved Budget by Thanksgiving (Source: Baltimore Sun)
Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said Wednesday she expects the Senate will pass a budget bill on Tuesday that will include $530 million to continue work toward launch of the Webb Space Telescope in 2018 "and secure America's place in astronomy for the next 50 years." She hopes to have the funding bill "on the president's desk to be signed into law by Thanksgiving." (10/27)

New York Museum for Shuttle Needs Support (Source: New York Post)
Last April, amid fierce competition, NASA chose the Intrepid Museum as the home for the space shuttle Enterprise. Now the price of poker has gone up: Museum officials want to build a grand annex to house the bird, along with a beefed-up space and science program. What a tremendous cultural and educational boon for the city. We’d finally have our own premier space-and-science center. But the hurdles are huge. If New Yorkers want to see the plan become reality, they’ll need to get behind it quickly and aggressively, and make sure the opportunity doesn’t slip by.

On the drawing board: a spectacular 75,000-square-foot glass structure on what is now a parking lot across 12th Avenue, near the museum’s home aboard USS Intrepid -- the storied World War II-era aircraft carrier docked at Pier 86 near West 46th Street. The shuttle would be the main attraction, but the building would also offer other exhibits, interactive displays, classrooms and labs for educational programs, a rooftop cafe and other amenities.

True, the museum already has an admirable section devoted to space (its full name is the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum Complex). But the current program is nothing next to what’s on tap when the new facility opens in 2014, featuring a real space shuttle (actually, Enterprise was a prototype). With the other retired shuttles based elsewhere in the country, the Intrepid will instantly become the preeminent space museum in the entire Northeast. (10/27)

Engineer and Team Propel Launches at Vandenberg (Source: Lompoc Record)
His family’s feelings about his stint as a New York City taxi driver propelled Chuck Damiano into an aerospace career. Since that job switch decades ago, Damiano has traveled a long way to land on the Delta 2 launch crew in California, where he leads the team of engineers responsible for fueling rockets for flight from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex-2.

The 55-year-old Orcutt resident, who has worked at Vandenberg for more than 15 years, was driving a cab in New York City when his family pushed him to pursue a different job. An uncle who worked on the Apollo moon program in Florida facilitated the career move and, in 1979, Damiano joined Grumman Corp. in an entry-level job as a riveter for the Navy’s F-14 jet. (10/27)

Liability Law Change Sought for Spaceport (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Spaceport America's future hinges upon a proposed change in the law being pitched for next year's Legislature, spaceport officials said. The measure would limit legal liability for companies supplying parts for spaceflight equipment and vehicles, said New Mexico Spaceport Authority chief Christine Anderson. The bill would prevent passengers of Virgin Galactic suborbital spaceflights from suing the supplier companies if something malfunctions. The legislation wouldn't prohibit them from suing in the event of gross negligence or an intentionally caused problem.

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority board on Wednesday voted unanimously to back the proposed legislation. Anderson said two companies - including rocket maker Sierra Nevada Corp. - visited Las Cruces last week for a spaceflight symposium and were eying New Mexico as a place to locate. But there was a caveat. "They said: 'Unless you pass that (legislation) in January, we're not going to go there,'" she said. The "hold harmless" legislation wouldn't hamper the ability of people on the ground to sue if a space vehicle crashed into a house, Anderson said. "This is not a sweeping thing taking rights away from citizens," she said. (10/27)

Spaceport America Expands Commercial Space (Source: Aviation Week)
Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America operations base will be equally busy carrying to sub-orbit research payloads and space tourists, say developers at the newly dedicated facility here. Although initiated as the gateway for sub-orbital passenger flights for Virgin Galactic’s spaceline, the growing interest in non-human payloads looks set to be a pivotal part of the operation’s bottom line.

As if to underscore the drive for a balanced portfolio, Stephen Attenborough, Virgin Galactic commercial director, began his comments at the Oct. 17 dedication ceremony by listing the lengthening roster of reservations from research organizations, institutes and educational groups. Heading the line-up is NASA and the Flight Opportunities program which firmed up one of three suborbital research missions aboard Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo (SS2) vehicle. The contract is valued at up to $4.5 million if all flights are confirmed over the next two years, says Virgin. (10/27)

Launch Rate Set to Skyrocket at French Guiana Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
The introduction of the Soyuz and Vega rockets at Europe's spaceport in the Amazon jungle presents a demanding juggling act for managers trying to balance needs for three very different launch vehicles sharing a stretch of the French Guiana coastline. The 270-square-mile Guiana Space Center, jointly funded by the French government and the European Space Agency, has been home to the Ariane rocket family since 1979.

But instead of hosting launches six or seven times a year, the spaceport's launch rate could soon double to a dozen flights annually. Two launchers, the veteran Russian Soyuz and the new Italian-led solid-fueled Vega, are now debuting at the spaceport. The first Soyuz rocket launched from French Guiana successfully delivered two Galileo navigation satellites into orbit last week. The Vega is scheduled to fly for the first time Jan. 26. (10/26)

Schafer Corporation Teams with UP Aerospace to Launch NASA Payloads (Source: HobbySpace)
The Schafer Corporation, a scientific and engineering company, has teamed with UP Aerospace of Denver, CO to provide comprehensive launch and payload integration services for up to eight NASA launches during 2012 and 2013. UP and Schafer have teamed on previous launches out of Spaceport America and this is a continuation of that excellent working relationship. (10/26)

Zubrin: Obama Readies to Blast NASA (Source: Washington Times)
Word has leaked out that in its new budget, the Obama administration intends to terminate NASA’s planetary exploration program. The Mars Science Lab Curiosity, being readied on the pad, will be launched, as will the nearly completed small MAVEN orbiter scheduled for 2013, but that will be it. No further missions to anywhere are planned. After 2013, America’s amazing career of planetary exploration will simply end.

Furthermore, the plan from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) also leaves the space astronomy program adrift and headed for destruction. The now-orbiting Kepler Telescope will be turned off in midmission, stopping it before it can complete its goal of finding other Earths. Even worse, the magnificent Webb Telescope, the agency’s flagship, which promises fundamental breakthroughs in our understanding of the laws of the universe, is not sufficiently funded to allow successful completion. This guarantees further costly delays, with the ensuing budgetary overruns leading inevitably to eventual cancellation.

The administration’s decision to derail planetary exploration and space astronomy is shocking and portends the destruction of the entire American space program. As an agency, NASA is a mixed bag. It includes a large bureaucracy and wasteful, pork-driven spending. But it also includes departments that are technically superb and really deliver the goods. First and foremost among NASA’s most productive divisions are the planetary exploration and space astronomy programs. Kill those, and what is left will be indefensible. (10/26)

SpaceX Has Invested $500 Million (Source: Wall Street Journal)
SpaceX said on Wednesday it has invested about $500 million in commercial-space ventures, shedding light on the closely held company's efforts to develop private rockets and capsules even as congressional skepticism about such projects grows. The figure is substantially larger than founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk previously spelled out to lawmakers and goes beyond earlier statements that he has invested $100 million of his personal wealth in the Southern California-based maker of launchers and spacecraft. (10/27)

Hearing Puts Spotlight on Embry-Riddle, Daytona (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
An upcoming congressional hearing at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will provide a national showcase for the school's key role in the development of cutting-edge air traffic control technology. Major aerospace companies such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing already are well acquainted with Embry-Riddle and its research capabilities. But the Nov. 7 "field" hearing of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, scheduled by Chairman John Mica, should raise ERAU's profile in Washington, D.C.

The hearing also should help put Daytona Beach on the map as a potential site for aerospace industries. Mica, R-Winter Park, sees economic opportunity in the Florida NextGen Test Bed, an air traffic control research and testing project in which Embry-Riddle plays a central role. "It could be one of the biggest economic and employment opportunities for the future," Mica said. To measure the potential economic impact of converting the nation's air traffic control system to GPS-type technology, consider this: The Next Generation Air Transportation System project is expected to cost a minimum of $40 billion.

Volusia County could be a major beneficiary of the long-overdue overhaul of the air traffic control system. Thousands of ERAU graduates are employed in the aviation industry, but there are few suitable career opportunities in Volusia County for the school's graduates. Mica and local officials, including ERAU's leaders, hope the NextGen Test Bed project will change that. (10/27)

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