February 3, 2012

Editorial: Back to the Moon, For a Fraction of the Price (Sources: Wall Street Journal, Florida Today)
As a former NASA executive, I am saddened by the media response to Newt Gingrich's proposal that we return to the moon. The mockery and ridicule does America a great disservice. Space exploration and development is an important national issue. It's not only possible and necessary to safeguard our future-—it can be a lot cheaper than anybody dreams.

A lower-cost human spaceflight strategy for America is feasible. In 2011, I led a NASA team that developed a strategy to return to the moon for about $40 billion in 10 years, using existing rockets. But Gingrich was challenging us to do even better with proven commercial industrial development strategies.

We need a new national strategy for spaceflight that works in America. A strategy that will have us fly to space out of Florida six or seven times a day. This strategy is spaceplanes. Commercial spaceplanes are the missing piece. With them, we can go back to the moon, on to Mars, and do all the other things. Within a reasonable budget. Click here. (2/3)

Republicans Offer Bill to Avoid Defense Cuts (Source: Defense News)
Republicans in the Senate have offered a bill to cut federal jobs by 5% instead of sweeping defense cuts. "I believe that the cuts ... aimed at the Department of Defense are a threat to our nation's security and we are opposed to that draconian action," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of sponsors of the bill. (2/3)

ATK CEO: Up to 200 Layoffs as Company Realigns (Source: TwinCities.com)
Defense contractor Alliant Techsystems is realigning its business units as it deals with weak sales in its aerospace and armament systems divisions and sliding profits, possibly resulting in about 200 jobs cuts. The company, which in October moved its headquarters from Eden Prairie to Arlington, Va., has about 2,700 employees in Minnesota.

On a call with Wall Street analysts Thursday, Chief Executive Officer Mark DeYoung announced a "streamlined operating structure," in which four divisions will be consolidated to three - aerospace, defense and sporting. In an interview with Bloomberg News published Thursday, DeYoung said the company plans to cut "a couple of hundred jobs" as part of the reorganization. The company, also known as ATK, has 17,000 employees worldwide. (2/3)

Vega Set for Inaugural Flight (Source: ESA)
On 13 February, the European Space Agency will perform the first qualification flight of its brand new Vega launch vehicle. The very first Vega will lift off from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, to release nine satellites into orbit and add a new capability to Europe’s fleet of launch systems. (2/3)

Is Russia’s Space Program Viable? (Source: Voice of America)
Russia is the only country ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station and back since NASA retired its aging fleet. But Russia's space agency has experienced a string of mishaps in recent months. Some analysts are worrying about the reliability of the Russian space program. Click here. (2/3)

Much Riding on Upcoming Commercial Launch (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
NASA controllers and curious spectators won't be the only ones watching the upcoming launch of the first commercial vehicle to the International Space Station. Lawmakers, administration officials and other policy makers with a role in deciding NASA spending will be watching as well. The launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, now scheduled for late March, is billed as a demonstration mission to show the world a private company can safely deliver cargo to the space station under a 12-flight, $1.6-billion resupply contract.

But the launch also can be seen as a test of whether it was a good idea to retire the shuttle and have the private sector take over the job of carrying crew and cargo to the space station. John Logsdon, founder and former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, calls the launch "a really high-stakes event ... symbolic of a new way of doing business in space."

"It's very important," agreed Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, top Republican on the Senate science committee, which oversees NASA. "Every step that's taken toward fulfilling the role (private companies) have been given by the administration is important." (2/3)

Communists in Space (Source: American Thinker)
Newt Gingrich's moon colony proposal received a great deal of ridicule from the media and his fellow Republican contenders. In response to a question about Newt's ideas, Mitt Romney stated that he'd "rather be rebuilding housing here in the U.S." (Will the government under Romney begin constructing colonies for poor Americans?) Ron Paul, throwing a rock from his glass house, made a quip about sending politicians to live on the moon. Rick Santorum, who must always be contrary, accused Newt Gingrich of being irresponsible with American tax dollars during a time of severe debt.

While we Americans would likely share our [lunar] progress and invent new technologies which would benefit the entirety of civilization (and this can be said of any free country who pursues this, though we would do it best!), the Chinese view things with a purely mechanical eye aimed at benefiting the Communist Party. This is not a surprise to those who understand the true nature of communism. Far from being about the workers of the world and abolishing the classes, communism merely shifts power into a new class of party elites and military leaders. (2/3)

Congress Acts to Protect Space Industry from Regulation (Source: Bakersfield Californian)
The emerging commercial space industry is proving to be an important economic engine in eastern Kern County -- and beyond. But some have worried that the industry's "learning period" could be stalled if a moratorium on federal regulations is allowed to expire at the end of this year. Now it appears that won't happen. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, the House majority whip, was able to insert a provision in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that will extend the moratorium nearly four more years to Oct. 1, 2015. (2/3)

Japan: Building a Disaster-Resistant Nation / Tsunami Warning Systems in Space (Source: Yomiuri Shimbun)
Norihiro Sakamoto, the former head of technology at the Society of Japanese Aerospace Companies, currently serves as a researcher for the Tokyo Foundation and has been advocating development of a "real-time warning system" for tsunami. Sakamoto's plan is to make better use of existing satellites so that they are able to make quicker tsunami forecasts.

This would involve using a quasi-zenith satellite system, whereby a satellite is always located near Japan's zenith, so that there is a continuous link with offshore tsunami observation devices. To prepare for a disaster when communication networks and satellite dishes are forced offline because of tsunami-related damage, an idea has been floated of building an "ultra-large deployable satellite dish" that can conduct satellite communication through cell phone networks. (2/3)

Ariane 5 to Launch Galileo Constellation (Source: Arianespace)
Arianespace signed an agreement to launch satellites in Europe’s Galileo satellite positioning system by Ariane 5 launchers. This agreement provides for the possibility of using Ariane 5 launchers in 2014 and 2015 to complete the deployment of the Galileo constellation. Arianespace will have launched the 26 satellites in this constellation using a combination of Soyuz launch vehicles (two satellites per launch), and Ariane 5 launchers (four satellites per launch). The contract for adapting the Ariane 5 launcher to enable simultaneous launch of four Galileo satellites was also signed today by the European Space Agency and EADS-Astrium. (2/3)

NGA EnhancedView To Absorb $50 Million Cut (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) could be forced to renegotiate elements of two multibillion-dollar commercial satellite imagery contracts with U.S.-based DigitalGlobe and GeoEye as it implements a $50 million cut to the agency’s fiscal 2012 budget appropriation and braces for even more substantial spending reductions to the EnhancedView program in fiscal 2013 and beyond.

Valued at $7.3 billion, the 10-year EnhancedView program has come under increasing budget scrutiny from lawmakers and administration officials as the U.S. Defense Department seeks to reduce spending in line with a massive drawdown in military might around the world. For now, the initial funding cut of $50 million represents a roughly 10% reduction to the program total this year, though NGA has some discretion in determining how the cuts are allocated. (2/3)

Russia Revises Soyuz Launch Schedule After Processng Mishap (Source: CBS News)
Russian space managers have ordered delays for upcoming manned Soyuz flights to the International Space Station in the wake of a test mishap that over pressurized and damaged the descent module of a Soyuz scheduled for launch March 30 to ferry three fresh crew members to the International Space Station, a senior NASA managers said Thursday.

Mike Suffredini, manager of the space station program, said his Russian counterparts informed the station team they had decided to scrap the damaged descent module and to accelerate processing of the next downstream Soyuz to take its place. As a result, three of the station's current six crew members will extend their stay in orbit by a month and a half and return to Earth April 30, and the crew that had planned to launch on March 30 will be delayed to May 15. (2/2)

Six NASA Technologies In Play at the Super Bowl (Source: GCN.com)
The growth of the Super Bowl, and football and sports in general, has many contributing factors, including marketing, the disposable income of fans, and the teams and games themselves. But technology has been key, making it possible to see games better, communicate about them, share video clips and play fantasy football online.

Probably no other government agency invented more technologies on display in the game than NASA. The space program has incubated a lot of everyday technologies, of course — either invented by NASA or by contractors for the program — such as water filter systems, the microwave, bar codes, the artificial heart and the miniaturization of practically everything. The agency has a site, NASA Spinoff, devoted to its inventions. Click here. (2/2)

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