November 29, 2011

Cape Canaveral Spaceport Would Lose Representation in Redistricting Plan (Source: Florida Today)
Although Florida's total representation in Congress will grow from 25 to 27, the Cape Canaveral Spaceport will have one less representative under a redistricting plan released by the Florida Senate. Currently, Brevard County is represented by two members: the southern two-thirds (including Cape Canaveral Air Force Station) by Rep. Bill Posey, and the northern part (including Kennedy Space Center) by Rep. Sandy Adams. Both Adams and Posey are Republicans.

Under the Senate proposal, a newly redrawn District 15 would include all of Brevard and Indian River counties as well as the eastern portion of Orange County. The Senate's proposal is just the first step in a long once-a-decade process of redrawing political lines to account for population shifts documented by the U.S. Census. The Senate version is subject to amendment as the legislative session begins in January and will have to be compromised with House proposals. Ultimately, the Legislature’s districts will be subjected to court review as well. (11/29)

Lawmakers Advocate for $7 Billion Satellite Program (Source: Bloomberg)
Members of the U.S. Senate intelligence committee are asking the Obama administration to spare a commercial satellite program developed by GeoEye and DigitalGlobe from budget cuts. The $7 billion program provides satellite imagery to defense and intelligence agencies. Seven Democrats and five Republicans wrote a letter supporting the program to National Intelligence Director James Clapper and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. (11/29)

Mars Science Lab Focus For Planners (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s Human Spaceflight Architecture Team members will be among those watching closely as the agency’s ambitious $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission unfolds, hopeful the long mission delivers a bounty of scientific and engineering findings that improve their understanding of the environmental challenges confronting the first human explorers of the Red Planet.

While the primary thrust of the mission is to characterize the habitability of the Gale crater landing site, NASA’s 55-member architecture team will focus on hazards posed by the structure and chemical composition of the pervasive dust as well as the surface radiation levels from solar and galactic sources. The planning group will also focus on the chemical composition of the soil and the atmosphere as potential sources of oxygen, hydrogen and methane for the production of air and water for life support as well as propellant.

NASA’s most recent lander, the 2008 Phoenix mission, discovered ice just below the martian surface at its near north pole landing site. The extent of the subsurface ice sheet is unclear, but a similar finding at Gale crater could up the ante for life support and propellant production as well. The architecture team took over a nearly three-decade Mars planning effort a year ago in response to President Obama’s directive that the agency pursue a flexible path of future human exploration leading to a Mars landing in the mid-2030s. (11/29)

UK Space Radar Project Initiated (Source: BBC)
The UK government is to kick-start an innovative project to fly radar satellites around the Earth, with an initial investment of £21m. Radar spacecraft can see the planet's surface in all weathers, day and night. It is hoped that a series of satellites could eventually be launched, enabling any place on Earth to be imaged inside 24 hours - a powerful capability.

The radar money is part of a £200m boost for science announced by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement. George Osborne's investment will be matched by industry. The project being backed by government has been developed by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), which specializes in building small, low-cost spacecraft, and its parent company, Astrium, which makes some of the biggest satellites in orbit today. (11/29)

Duo: Intelligent Life Existed on Mars (Source: Asbury Park Press)
A group of researchers, including a planetary researcher and an image analyst, claim that there are constructs on Mars that cannot be explained as the result of natural forces. Referring in particular to one parrot-shaped geoglyph that is the focus of their studies, James Miller said, “Yes, it could be partially natural, but it had to be worked. There would have to be six different geological events happening within a mile by a half-mile area for this thing to have happened naturally.”

Not so fast, said a professor with a specialty in planetary science. “Everything I see in those images can be explained by natural processes, primarily wind erosion of layered materials. Indeed, it is very easy for the eye to see what look like familiar forms in unfamiliar settings, and I'm sure that's what's happening here,” said Steven Squyres, an astronomy professor at Cornell University, who has been an investigator on many Martian science robotic probe programs. Click here to see the image. (11/29)

Aerojet Completes PDR on Next-Gen Upper Stage Engine Turbopump (Source:
Based on a request from the US Air Force, a new Upper Stage engine – to ultimately replace the RL-10 used by the Atlas V and Delta IV – has made another advance, as Aerojet – one of the competitors to win the contract to debut the engine in 2017 – noted they that have completed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of their proposal’s turbopump assembly. (11/29)

Space Officials From Several States Meet in Orlando Today (Source: Florida Today)
Representatives from states with space interests will convene in Orlando today and Wednesday for closed meetings to discuss opportunities to collaborate to influence national policy and grow the industry. Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and Space Florida are hosts of the first “space states” conference at the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport.

Carroll expects the conference to “move an agenda forward for our national leaders,” she said last month at an industry roundtable at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The governor’s press office on Monday did not immediately respond to a request for more information. Space Florida officials also couldn’t be reached to confirm the conference’s attendees or agenda. (11/29)

Report: Virginia Should Curtail Orbital Sciences to Grow Wallops (Source: Daily Press)
Buried in a 71-page report released by Gov. Bob McDonnell's office is a recommendation that could make or break Virginia's goal to build the nation's premier spaceport on Wallops Island. The report suggests that Orbital Sciences Corp. — the state's biggest partner in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport — should no longer have a voting position on the spaceport's board of directors.

By removing Orbital's representation, the board can "avoid perceived conflict on interest concerns by potential customers" and "provide a level playing field for all customers." The suggestion has merits — competing aerospace companies, such as SpaceX or Boeing, may be reluctant to invest in a facility where Orbital has such an influence. And, as the report suggests, Virginia officials should be directing their energy toward attracting new customers.

But state officials, chiefly the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority, do not want to alienate Orbital. The company, after all, chose Wallops instead of Florida's space coast to base its $1.9 billion NASA contract to ferry supplies to the International Space Station. In a phrase: the spaceport's expansion is due largely to Orbital securing that contract. (11/29)

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