March 11, 2012

Florida Legislature Ends Session With Space Accomplishments (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Florida Legislature passed multiple space-focused bills and provided substantial funding for statewide space industry development. Space Florida's annual budget was finalized at $10 million ($4 million of which is now "recurring" for the agency). $15 million was included in the Florida Dept. of Transportation budget for spaceport infrastructure ($5 million each for three projects). $10 million was included for the Space Coast Economic Development Commission for innovative economic development investments aimed at mitigating the negative impacts of NASA job losses. And two university space research projects were funded.

SB-643 was passed (and signed by the Governor) to provide $10 million in tax credits for the space industry, while providing an official definition for "launch support facilities." HB-59 was passed to establish Cecil Field as a state "spaceport territory", consistent with the empowerment granted to Space Florida in Chapter 331, Part Two, Florida Statutes. HB-7041 was passed to fix "glitch" items from last year's legislative session, adding the Governor as a voting member and chairman of the Space Florida board. Other measures that were passed will have indirect impacts on the space industry. (3/11)

Space Research Institute Established by Florida Legislature (Source: SPACErePORT)
The annual Florida Legislative Session has ended with a largely positive outcome for Florida's space industry. Among the items approved by legislators is a new space research institute that would be led by the Florida Institute of Technology and would receive about $5 million annually. Here's the language that was inserted in a "conforming bill" to accompany the state's budget package:

"Beginning 30 days after notice by the Department of Economic Opportunity to the Department of Revenue that the Department of Economic Opportunity has approved a plan developed by the Florida Institute of Technology for establishing a space exploration research institute, the department must distribute $416,666 monthly to the Florida Institute of Technology for the purpose of operating a space exploration research institute. This amount represents sales and use taxes generated by visitor activity at the Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Florida Institute of Technology shall develop a plan for the space exploration research institute in conjunction with Space Florida." (3/11)

Virginia Spaceport Gains $7.5 Million Annual Fund (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The Virginia General Assembly adjourned today in Richmond without a two-year $85-billion dollar budget; however, a six-member House and Senate Conference Committee did obtain passage of a substitute measure that provides $7.5 million annually to the spaceport's operating authority "to foster and stimulate the growth of the commercial space flight industry in Virginia." The original request of $15-million annual allocations to the newly created "Commonwealth Space Flight Fund" was cut in half in the conference committee compromise this year.

The authority will be downsized from 13-to-9 members consisting of the Virginia Secretary of Transportation and the Director of the Virginia Department of Aviation (or their respective designees), one member representing the business community; one member representing the financial industry; one member representing the marketing industry; one member representing the legal industry; one member representing the research and development industry; and two at-large members. Returning or newly appointed members will start July 1, 2012.

The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority is charged with having a new strategic plan by December 1, 2012 to implement the new plan. Two outside studies of the space flight authority and the spaceport were conducted in 2011.
The conference committee passed measure also included the language offered by State Delegate Terry G. Kilgore to clarify existing law regarding tax revenue transfers paid to the state by companies participating in the sales of human space flights and space flight training based in Virginia. Tax revenue generated would be transferred to the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. (3/11)

Tyson: The Case for Space (Source: Foreign Affairs)
If the United States commits to the goal of reaching Mars, it will almost certainly do so in reaction to the progress of other nations -- as was the case with NASA, the Apollo program, and the project that became the International Space Station. For the past decade, I have joked with colleagues that the United States would land astronauts on Mars in a year or two if only the Chinese would leak a memo that revealed plans to build military bases there. Click here. (3/11)

Letter to Congress Shows Support for Commercial Crew (Source:
Former Astronauts, researchers, educators and industry leaders have expressed support for the Commercial Crew Program in a response to a letter written by several Members of Congress to White House Science Advisor John Holdren last week. Here's an excerpt: "We firmly believe that NASA has created a Commercial Crew Program that will be both safe and reliable, and that its choice of Space Act Agreements or other contracting mechanisms has no effect on the ultimate safety of the vehicles." Click here. (3/11)

Sunspot 1429 Not Done Yet - Releases 2 More M-Class Flares (Source: NASA)
On March 10, 2012, the sun released another two M-class flares. One, rated as an M5.4, peaked at 12:27 AM EST. The second, rated as an M 8.4, peaked at 12:44 PM EST. These two flares came from the same Active Region (AR) on the sun, designated number 1429, that has already produced three X-class and numerous M-class flares over the past week. (3/11)

Know Your Space Tycoons (Source: Scientific American)
You’ve probably used their technologies or shopped in their stores. But would you trust them to fly you into space? Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen is the latest to join the commercial space race with his new venture, Stratolaunch Systems. Stratolaunch plans to build the world’s biggest airplane to launch rockets from the sky. The appeal of this kind of air launch is that the aircraft flies a rocket to the most favorable launch latitude for a specific mission. Click here to see how the entrepreneurs’ aspirations (and fortunes, as estimated by Forbes) compare. (3/11)

Entrepreneur Astronaut: Here’s How You’ll Get to Space (Source: Mashable)
Richard Garriott, age 50, was the 483rd person to leave planet Earth — and he’d like you to be one of the first thousand. Garriott, creator of the popular Ultima videogame series, spent a good chunk of his fortune visiting the International Space Station via Soyuz rocket in 2008 (with ground-based assistance from his father Owen, a former NASA astronaut). Now he acts as an advisor to both NASA and commercial space companies.

He said while the cost of his flight was in the tens of millions of dollars, competition will bring the cost of a sub-orbital trip down to the same as a round-the-world ticket within a matter of years. What’s going to take us there: entrepreneurial spirit. “If I could make a profit in going to space, I would go all the time,” Garriott said. Indeed, he made several million dollars while in space — partly by developing a new kind of earth-imaging software for NASA, partly by growing protein crystals for pharmaceutical companies. Click here. (3/11)

Space Research Postdoctoral Fellowship Program Soliciting Applications (Source: NSBRI)
The application period for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute's (NSBRI) Postdoctoral Fellowship Program is now open. The two-year fellowships are available in any U.S. laboratory carrying out space-related biomedical or biotechnological research. Click here. (3/11)

Maritime Satcom Market Tops 5.5% in Terminal Growth, $1.4 Billion in Revenues (Source: Euroconsult)
Euroconsult forecasts that the number of satellite communications terminals in the global maritime market will nearly double over the next decade, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7% over the 10-year period. While MSS terminals are still expected to account for the majority of terminals deployed over the decade, VSAT service providers should gain significant market share in terms of revenue in the coming 10 years. (3/11)

Iridium Delivers Its Smallest Voice and Data Module to Developers (Source: Iridium)
Iridium Communications announces the commercial availability of the Iridium Core 9523 transceiver. The Iridium Core 9523 further emphasizes the company's Iridium ForceSM vision of bringing vital building blocks to partners who develop innovative, portable communications devices. 26 Iridium development partners, including FLYHT, SkyTrac Systems and Fastwave Communications, have been working with the Company to design Iridium Core 9523-based voice and data communications devices. A photo is here. (3/11)

Iridium Announces Fourth-Quarter and Full-Year 2011 Results (Source: Iridium)
Iridium Communications reported solid financial results for the fourth quarter of 2011. Net income was $8.4 million for the fourth quarter of 2011, as compared to $10.1 million for the fourth quarter of 2010. Iridium reported fourth-quarter total revenue of $95.0 million, which consisted of $66.6 million of service revenue and $28.4 million of equipment, engineering and support revenue. Total revenue grew 8 percent versus the comparable period of 2010. The Company ended the quarter with 523,000 total billable subscribers, which compares to 427,000 for the year-ago period. Total billable subscribers grew 22 percent year-over-year. (3/11)

2012 A Space Fallacy: Newt Gingrich v. America (Source: Stanford Review)
As I write this article on the night of the Oscars, it strikes me that if the GOP race were framed in terms of a movie, Gingrich would be cast as the villain. If not for his philandering love life, than most definitely for his sci-fi space colony plans. America’s “civil courage” does not come from individual sacrifice to a vague national goal. America’s civil courage comes from the knowledge that our government was instituted to protect our civil liberties and rights, and that individual men and women need not fear following their dreams because the government will not be there to legislate what they can and cannot do.

Americans do not need to individually sacrifice for a vague governmental plan. Americans have sacrificed in countless wars not because the government asked them to, but because they felt it was both in their interest and the interest of the country to support the war effort. Thus, the problem with Gingrich’s plan is not that he wants to support space travel, rather it is the fact that he, and others who support his general idea, would ask the common citizen to sacrifice to the god of national identity.

Another concerning part of Gingrich’s plan is not the impractical nature of it, since space travel is certainly possible. It is the idea that space travel is a necessary goal for America, the ideal that the government and citizens should work and sacrifice for together in order to achieve it. All told, Newt Gingrich wants to use taxpayer dollars in order to support a program that has no feasible basis for the government to be involved in it. (3/11)

What Does Huntsville Owe Wernher von Braun? Some Say Everything (Source: Huntsville Times)
When Charles Bradshaw came to Huntsville in 1951 to work with Wernher von Braun, he remembers there being "two restaurants in town." He remembers a courthouse square where cotton brokers met farmers in front of Cotton Row brokerages teetering on the edge of the Big Spring cliff. There was clearly more to Huntsville than those first impressions. When Bradshaw arrived, the "nice little cotton town" was nearly 150 years old and rich in Alabama and American history.

And there's certainly more to Huntsville today. The city is the center of the second-largest metropolitan area in Alabama; the economic, medical and cultural focus of north Alabama and southern middle Tennessee; and a worldwide brand name for missiles and rockets. It boasts America's second-largest research park and a population where almost 40 percent has a college degree.

There is no question that von Braun helped change Huntsville. It grew from about 13,000 people during World War II to 180,000 today. But how much of today's city is due to this German-born scientist who led the early rocket work of both the Army and NASA in Huntsville? All of it, say many who were there. All of it springs from one man who could inspire a dream of space in a congressional committee or a coal miner and knew how to get from that dream to the launching pad. (3/11)

China Aims to Launch 100 Satellites With 100 Rockets During 2011-2015 (Source: Xinhua)
China has set a target of completing a space mission of "100 rockets, 100 satellites" during the five years between 2011 and 2015, a senior space executive said Saturday. On average, China will complete about 20 launch missions each year before 2015, said Zhang Jianheng, deputy general manager of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC). "The densely arranged launch missions and flight tests have posed an unprecedented challenge to the country's space program," said Zhang, a deputy to the country's top legislature. (3/11)

Russia's Space Chief Taken to Hospital (Source: AP)
Russia's space agency says its chief Vladimir Popovkin has been hospitalized. Roscosmos spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov on Sunday confirmed the hospitalization but would not elaborate. Russian news agencies earlier quoted Roscosmos as saying that Popovkin had been taken to hospital with "physical and emotional exhaustion." The 54-year-old Popovkin had been leading the Russian space agency since April. Russian tabloid Life News on Sunday posted a photo of Popovkin with his head bandaged, and quoted sources as saying that the space chief had been drunk when taken to hospital. (3/11)

Roscosmos Denies Receiving NASA Offer to Extend Contract to Fly to ISS (Source: Interfax)
NASA has not yet asked the Russian Federal Space Agency to sign a contract to use Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry U.S. astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) from 2016 to 2017, Roscosmos manned flight programs director Alexei Krasnov told Interfax-AVN on Sunday. "The contract signed by us is valid through 2015. But this contract has not been prolonged for 2016-2017, and negotiations on prolonging it are not being held at the moment," Krasnov said. (3/11)

FIT Rocket Club Aims to Fligh High With Project, Careers (Source: Florida Today)
Things are looking up for student rocket enthusiasts at Florida Tech. A 60-member club on campus called the FIT Student Rocket Research Society (SRRS) is designing a large-scale rocket and launch program. Their goal: to launch their rocket higher than 100,000 feet and log GPS data to become a contender for $10,000 in prize money. The student engineers are developing the rocket according to requirements for the Carmack prize from Armadillo Aerospace, a leading developer of reusable rocket-powered vehicles. They’ve received financial support from Northrop Grumman. (3/11)

NASA Database Explains Past Errors, But Few Use It (Source: Florida Today)
NASA has never been good at learning from its mistakes. Indeed, it repeats costly and tragic ones. So it’s troubling to read one of the reasons why in an audit issued last week by the space agency’s Inspector General. NASA has done a good thing in developing an agencywide system to capture details about lessons learned on projects, a searchable database program managers can pore through to identify pitfalls and land mines that can affect budgets, schedules and safety.

The Lessons Learned Information System provided NASA with a tool where mistakes could be recorded for the historic record, in a form that had the potential of helping prevent the kinds of repeat mistakes that have plagued the agency throughout its history. One problem: The inspector general says most NASA project managers are not using the system. The majority are not submitting any lessons learned to the system and few are searching the system for lessons that they might apply to their own work. (3/11)

Future NASA Mission to Sun is 'a Life's Dream' for Some (Source: LA Times)
The chest-high rack of electronics Justin Kasper is assembling in a Massachusetts office park will fit in a shoe box before he's done. It won't be much to look at — a few inches across, shaped rather like a coffee cup attached to a Kindle — but to Kasper, it'll serve as eyes across nearly 100 million miles of space. In less than seven years, that cup will be journeying to the center of the solar system to scoop up bits of the sun. "This really has been a life's dream," said Kasper, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. (3/11)

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