March 10, 2012

Satellite Industry "Denounces" UNIDROIT Approval (Source: Space Policy Online)
Despite intense opposition, the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) adopted and opened for signature a protocol that critics say could significanlty damage the global commercial communications satellite industry. In a strongly worded statement the same day, the major companies and organizations involved in the satellite communications business "denounced" the action.

Simon Twiston Davies of the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) said "This new layer of supra-national law can only make the financing of new satellite projects more difficult and expensive, including those planned by developing nations to serve their citizens." David Hartshorn of the Global VSAT Forum added that "We hope that States will note the concerns of the global satellite industry and not ratify the protocol." Patricia Cooper of the U.S. Satellite Industry Association (SIA) called the action "disappointing" considering the "clear and unified opposition" of the industry. (3/10)

Schiff Comments on Mars Funding (Source: Rep. Schiff)
“I want to thank Chairman Wolf for rejecting this reprogramming request by NASA,” said Schiff.“NASA’s effort to mothball the Mars program is a disaster for America's leadership in planetary science, and I'm glad this first step has been rejected by the committee. Thanks to the brilliant scientists at JPL, we have the unique capability to design, fly and land sophisticated robotic spacecraft on our planetary neighbor, and this is not a talent pool NASA should abandon."

“I will continue to work to defeat these ill-considered cuts and restore the Mars budget. While today’s decision by Chairman Wolf is enormously positive, we still have a lot of work to do to put the Mars program back on track.” Rep. Frank Wolf sent a letter last week to Administrator Charles Bolden outlining his opposition to NASA’s reprogramming proposal until it could be properly debated. (3/10)

Ukraine Space Plan Focuses on Public-Private Partnerships, Commercial Activities (Source: Parabolic Arc)
At a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers on Feb. 15, Ukraine approved the Concept of national targeted scientific and technical space program for 2013-2017. Click here. (3/10)

Sen. Rockefeller “Appalled” at Obama Proposal to Move NOAA to Interior (Source: Space Policy Online)
Wednesday’s Senate hearing on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was intended to focus on its FY2013 budget request, but Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) used it to voice his opposition to President Obama’s recent proposal to move NOAA to the Department of the Interior.

During his opening remarks, Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, said that he is “appalled” by the Obama Administration’s proposal to move NOAA from the Department of Commerce into the Department of the Interior. He explained that his criticism had little to do with jurisdictional concerns, but stemmed from the fact that the proposal “simply does not make any sense.” “I can’t live with the thought of NOAA moved to the Department of Interior,” he emphasized.

The reorganization – part of a larger proposal announced by the White House in January to eliminate the Department of Commerce and create a new department focused on U.S. business and trade that would consolidate parts of Commerce with other federal agencies – was not mentioned again during the hearing. (3/10)

House subcommittee Rejects Wallops Upgrade of Hypergolic Fueling Facility (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The US House of Representatives Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA funding has rejected the agency’s request to upgrade an existing hypergolic fueling facility at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Va., where Orbital Sciences Corp. plans to launch its new Antares commercial cargo carrier to the International Space Station.

The work would have come at the expense of designing a new combined hypergolic fueling and spacecraft processing facility. “While upgrading and expanding the hypergolic fueling facility is not objectionable, the committee does not believe that it should be pursued at the expense of early planning for a new processing facility,” Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the House subcommittee, told NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

“If NASA wishes to proceed with the hypergolic fueling facility upgrades, a new reprogramming request identifying a different source of funds may be submitted to the committee,” Wolf said. Recently, Orbital placed the blame for their launch delays squarely on the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, which is responsible for preparing the launch pad for Orbital’s Antares rocket and its Cygnus space station cargo module, noting propellant and pressurization equipment glitches at the launch site on Wallops Island. (3/10)

Patrick to Lose National Guard Squadron, Gain Civil Service Workers (Source: WKMG)
Patrick Air Force Base escaped job cuts this year, but structure changes coming to the Air Force because of the U.S. Department of Defense budget reduction will eliminate jobs here next year. In comparison to what it had two years ago, the changes coming through fiscal year 2013 will leave the base with 15 fewer military positions, 327 more civilian positions, four more reservists, and 122 fewer National Guardsmen. That’s a net gain of 194 positions.

Proposed cuts to the Florida Air National Guard include the elimination of the 114th Range Operations Squadron and its 122 personnel based at Patrick. Of the 122 personnel to be eliminated, 17 are full-time Guardsmen. "This is distressing news for the Florida National Guard family, specifically the members of the 114th," said Maj. Gen. Emmett Titshaw Jr., the Adjutant General of Florida. "This announcement not only affects these talented space range operations personnel, but it also affects their families and the communities in which they live."

The 114th’s mission is to support range operations for government launches. Editor's Note: Patrick AFB is home to the 45th Space Wing and the Eastern Range, and most of the positions lost and gained are in support of launch operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (3/10)

Shuttle Shuffle at KSC Sets Up Discovery's Departure (Source: Florida Today)
A year to the day after touching down to end its final spaceflight, Discovery was on the move again Friday at Kennedy Space Center. The only obvious difference between Discovery then and now was the gleaming white tail cone affixed to the orbiter’s back end, evidence of its planned April 17 ferry flight to Dulles International Airport and delivery to the Smithsonian Institution. “Discovery is all buttoned up and ready to go,” said Stephanie Stilson, the NASA manager overseeing the delivery to museums this year of the agency’s three flown orbiters and the prototype Enterprise. (3/10)

Need a Job? They're Hiring in Mojave (Source: Parabolic Arc)
There are several hundred open positions in Mojave as companies such as the Spaceship Company, XCOR and Scaled Composites begin to ramp up operations. “It’s ironic that we’re having a recruitment problem in Mojave,” said Stu Witt, CEO and general manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port. He added that this is a good problem to have. Companies like Scaled Composites, the Spaceship Company, XCOR, Masten, Stratolaunch Systems, Firestar Technologies, and the Mojave Air & Space Port are now or will soon be hiring. Click here. (3/10)

Goodyear ‘Spring Tire’ Co-Developed with NASA (Source: Goodyear)
The Goodyear ‘Spring Tire’, which was co-developed by NASA, represents a future tire concept that could be used to explore the outer reaches of space, and possibly the most brutal terrains here on earth. The Spring Tire offers 800 load bearing springs and is designed to carry heavy vehicles over much greater distances than the wire mesh tire previously used on the Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), which Goodyear also helped design and construct in 1971. The air-less tire could allow for broad exploration and potential development of future outposts on the moon, or possibly allow vehicles to travel to places on earth where current tires could never go. (3/10)

Could Brazil be the Next Space Superpower? (Source: io9)
The world's sixth largest economy is making giant leaps to bolster their launch capabilities and joining with several countries to aid in their space efforts. Let's take a look at Brazil's recent space endeavors, joint projects, plans for the future, and a nice little boost in store for those launching a rocket from a secluded area of Brazil.

First off, there's Brazil's Alcântara Launch Center, which was built in 1983 and is interesting for a couple of reasons. The launch center is sequestered from the surrounding cities and only accessible by air or boat. The Alcântara site lies a little less than 3 degrees away from the equator. Launching a rocket near the equator decreases the amount of fuel needed. Click here. (3/9)

Sky Lights Go Wild, North and South (Source: MSNBC)
The solar storm that sparked so much debate this week got its second wind overnight, rewarding aurora aficionados from the Arctic to the Lower 48 to Australia. We're almost getting used to great views of the northern lights from places like Iceland (see above), Scandinavia and Russia — but last night's lights were visible from the top tier of the United States as well. "Simply the most spectacular sighting ever, for me," a skywatcher from Pierz, Minn., wrote in a note to the Auroral Activity Observation Network. "While the color was only green, I witnessed curtains and rays, with much shifting. Most incredible were the pulsations, about two per second, that extended to zenith. ... Simply magical." (3/9)

China Sets Plan For Moon Rocket Engine (Source: Aviation Week)
China is nearing what many space engineers think is the ideal for a family of space launchers: a set of rockets built with just a few standard engines and airframe modules, maximizing production runs. The family—the Long March 5, 6 and 7—will cover the 0.5-25-ton payload territory to low Earth orbit and up to 14 tons to geosynchronous orbit, meeting the great bulk of space launch demands.

So it may come as a surprise that the launcher and engine firms under national space industry group CASC are not satisfied. They are looking at introducing solid rockets into the mix, as boosters or small launchers, including some dropped from aircraft. The Long March 7, at least, will get non-standard second stages as its manufacturer, CASC subsidiary CALT, looks for ways to vary its payload. Chinese engineers are also working on engines fueled by methane or liquefied petroleum gas. (3/9)
Lawmakers Question Proposed Cancellation of Space Test Program, ORS (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force’s proposal to cancel a decades-old program that finds rides to orbit for promising space technologies was a product of the final deliberations on the Pentagon’s 2013 budget request and was not widely coordinated with the affected government organizations, a top service official told lawmakers March 8.

Testifying before skeptical members of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, Air Force Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, defended the planned cancellation of the long-running Space Test Program (STP) as well as the newer Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) program. He said the moves are necessary as part of the Air Force contribution to the $487 billion in planned reductions in defense spending over the next decade mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. (3/9)

JSPOC Conjunction Alerts Could Be Improved, Group Says (Source: Space News)
U.S. Air Force warnings to satellite operators of impending close orbital passes involving their satellites are not reliable, primarily because the service is unable to automatically process precise orbit-location data available from these companies, according to industry officials. A study by satellite operator Intelsat found that the majority of so-called conjunction summary messages it received from the Air Force’s Joint Space Operations Center (JSPOC) in September 2011 proved upon further analysis to be false alarms. (3/9)

NASA Launches International Competition to Develop Space Apps (Source: NASA)
NASA, governments around the world and civil society organizations will co-host the International Space Apps Challenge on April 21-22 with events across seven continents and in space. The apps competition will bring people together to exploit openly available data collected by space agencies around the world to create innovative solutions to longstanding global challenges. An initiative of the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan, the challenge will showcase the impact scientists and citizens can have by working together to solve challenging problems that affect every person on Earth. (3/9)

NASA Poised To Close USA Pension Shortfall (Source: Space News)
NASA hopes to close the books this summer on United Space Alliance’s (USA) half-billion-dollar pension shortfall and will likely need to use about $50 million originally budgeted for space shuttle retirement and transition activities to settle the tab. Tthe latest estimate of USA’s pension plan shortfall is $522 million. While that is less than the $548 million NASA estimated needing to pay out when it submitted its 2012 budget request to Congress last year, lawmakers ultimately appropriated just $470 million for the pension liability. NASA was told to make up any difference by diverting some of the nearly $90 million appropriated for other shuttle closeout activities on tap for this year. (3/9)

Michoud's New Orion Spacecraft to Take First Trip in 2014 (Source: Times-Picayune)
The new Orion spacecraft, built at the Michoud Assembly Facility in eastern New Orleans, will take its first trip into space in 2014, NASA announced Thursday. Troy Alexander, a production weld engineer, left, and Todd Duhon, a friction stir weld technician, do production work on the Orion ground test article crew module at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans in March 2010.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems will conduct the Orion Exploration Flight Test-1, or EFT-1, under contract to NASA, with test data during the flight to be used for additional design and development of the capsule. The unmanned capsule will be launched to an altitude of more than 3,600 miles above Earth, more than 15 times farther away than the present track of the International Space Station.

Editor's Note: While Michoud proudly proclaims itself as the development site for Orion, Florida also claims this honor, after the state invested tens of millions of dollars to modify KSC's O&C Building for Orion assembly. (3/9)

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