March 22, 2012

Virginia Congressman: Shift Commercial Crew Money to Mars Missions (Source: Space News)
The chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA appealed to the agency to reduce the scope of its Commercial Crew Program and direct resulting savings into robotic Mars exploration, which is in line for deep cuts. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) asked Charles Bolden the same question he asked of the White House’s chief science adviser last month: would NASA’s partnership with commercial companies to develop astronaut transports be cheaper if the companies competing for NASA funds combined their efforts into a single “all for one and one for all” project?

“At least give them an opportunity to express whether or not they could,” Wolf urged Bolden during the hearing. “Any savings that we could get would also allow us to continue the Mars program.” Wolf urged NASA to have that conversation sooner rather than later. “There will be a point where people have made so many investments in so many different processes that can’t be connected and therefore it’s too late,” Wolf said. “At least give them an opportunity to express whether or not they could” cooperate. (3/22)

Senator Kills Plans for New BRAC Round (Source: FLDC)
A Pentagon base closing initiative died Wednesday when a key senator announced she will block any effort to create a new base closing commission. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, chairwoman of the Senate Armed Services Committee panel with jurisdiction over military installations, said she is willing to allow the closing of U.S. military bases overseas, but not domestic bases.

There is strong opposition to new base closures on the House Armed Services Committee, which also appears unlikely to approve the legislation necessary to create a base closing list. However, unless the Pentagon can change McCaskill’s mind, her announcement seals the fate of the proposal. It takes only a single senator to hold up legislation. (3/22)

Petition to Increase NASA's Budget to 1% of Federal Budget (Source:
"Currently, NASA’s budget only represents about half of one penny of every dollar spent by the United States government annually. We are calling to have NASA’s budget increased to one penny on the dollar. That’s it, as crazy as that sounds, it is still only 1 penny of every dollar spent annually. As Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson says, 'Right now, NASA's annual budget is half a penny on your tax dollar. For twice that—-a penny on a dollar—-we can transform the country from a sullen, dispirited nation, weary of economic struggle, to one where it has reclaimed its 20th century birthright to dream of tomorrow.'" Click here. (3/22)

House Appropriators Question Bolden on Mars, Commercial Crew, and... Shuttles (Source: Space Politics)
NASA administrator Charles Bolden’s two-and-a-half-hour appearance before the Commerce, Justice, and Science subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee covered some expected ground, including some heated discussions about the agency’s planetary science program as well as questions about its commercial crew program. But a hearing that long also allowed members to delve into other topics, from cybersecurity to China to an issue that’s still a sore point for some members: the disposition of the retired shuttle orbiters. Click here. (3/22)

AsiaSat Reports Rising Profit, Remains Bullish on Satellite TV Market (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator AsiaSat of Hong Kong on March 22 reported an 18 percent increase in revenue and a 26 percent increase in operating profit for 2011 compared to 2010 and said it remains optimistic about the near-term potential of its core direct-broadcast television markets. The company said its SpeedCast subsidiary, which provides two-way broadband links to corporate and government customers, posted a 16 percent increase in revenue for the year and now accounts for about 14 percent of AsiaSat’s total sales. (3/22)

Geologists Discover New Class of Landform - on Mars (Source:
An odd, previously unseen landform could provide a window into the geological history of Mars, according to new research by University of Washington geologists. They call the structures periodic bedrock ridges. The ridges look like sand dunes but, rather than being made from material piled up by the wind, the scientists say the ridges actually form from wind erosion of bedrock. (3/22)

Latin America Remains a Hot Spot for Satellite Fleet Operators (Source: Space News)
Latin America has been the hottest regional growth market for satellite services in the past couple of years and shows few signs of cooling down as the major fleet operators report high satellite occupancy rates and the smaller owners plot their own growth strategy there. Direct-broadcast television, cellular network backhaul, government broadband-stimulus projects — none of these demand sectors appears to be out of breath, satellite service providers and operators said March 14 during the Satellite 2012 conference here, organized by Access Intelligence LLC. (3/22)

Official Slams Russian Space Industry Spat (Source: RIA Novosti)
Dmitry Rogozin, Russian deputy prime minister in charge of space and defense, strongly condemned the mutual accusations exchanged by the Russian space agency and a space industry contractor. Russian Space Agency Roscosmos and the state-financed space industry contractor Russian Space Systems accused each other on Wednesday of financial and organizational mismanagement.

“Dmitry Rogozin is extremely critical about the scandal around Roscosmos. He categorically prohibited the management and employees of subordinate structures to publicly discuss this issue,” the deputy premier’s spokeswoman Lidiya Mikhailova said. She quoted Rogozin as saying that “such public disagreements and strong accusations may do significant damage to the Russian space industry.”

On Wednesday a letter was posted on the Russian Space Systems website, proposing that Popovkin leave his post. The letter, signed by Russian Space Systems deputy head Ivan Golub, accused the Roscosmos chief of “illegal audits” and “creating uncontrolled structures.” It was later removed from the website on the grounds that it was intended for internal use and was released by a mistake. The letter triggered an angry reaction from the Russian space agency. (3/22)

Key SBIRS Capability is Delayed (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force will not be able to fully utilize a key capability aboard its new generation of missile warning satellites until at least 2016 because the associated ground-system software will not be completed until then, according to a top service official. The issue affects the speed with which the Air Force can assess and provide appropriate warnings of missile launches around the world. (3/22)

Toward Flags of Convenience for Space (Source: @SpaceLawyer)
As is currently done with ships at sea, there is some thought going into establishing a "flags of convenience" regime in international space law. Here's one suggested approach: “Each State shall fix the conditions for the grant of its registration to space objects. There must exist a genuine link between the State and the space object; in particular, the State must effectively exercise its jurisdiction and control over space objects registered by it."

"In doing so, the State shall in particular ensure due compliance by the operator of the registered space object – preferably by means of a system of authorization, licensing and supervision – with the applicable rules of international space law.” Click here. (3/22)

Jupiter's Melting Heart (Source:
Jupiter might be having a change of heart. Literally. New simulations suggest that Jupiter's rocky core has been liquefying and mixing with the rest of the planet's innards. With this new data, astronomers hope to better explain a recent puzzling discovery of a strange planet outside of our solar system. "It's a really important piece of the puzzle of trying to figure out what's going on inside giant planets," said Jonathan Fortney, a planetary scientist at the University of California Santa Cruz who was not affiliated with the research. (3/22)

Embraer Facility Will Be Owned by Space Florida (Source: Reuters)
Space Florida, a state-backed economic development agency focused on expanding aerospace and related business in Florida, will finance, build and own a new Embraer engineering center facility, which is expected to employ about 200 engineers and other highly skilled workers, with average annual salaries of $70,000. The first 40 positions will be filled this year, said Gary Spulak, president of Fort Lauderdale-based Embraer North America.

Space Florida will finance $18.2 million for the project, with another $6 million coming from the Florida Innovation Fund. "This new state-of-the-art facility will increase the scope and depth of our engineering capacity, extending it globally," Spulak said. "This is a very significant one-of-a-kind project and a big win for Florida, Brevard County and the city of Melbourne," he added. (3/22)

Roscosmos, Skolkovo Look to Solve Russia’s Space Worker Shortage (Source: Parabolic Arc)
On March 22-23, the Skolkovo Fund, the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), and JSC “Scientific and Production Corporation (NPC) “REKOD” will hold the first all-Russian scientific-practical conference titled, “Problems Involving the Capacity of Higher Educational Institutions for Training and Advanced Training in the Use of Space Activities, and Ensuring the Competitiveness of Domestic Space Products and Services.”

Opening the conference will be: the head of Russian Federal Space Agency, Vladimir Popovkin; chief executive of a cluster of space technology and telecommunications, Sergey Zhukov; as well as representatives from the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation and the Russian Academy of Sciences. The event will be attended by representatives from leading universities, enterprises, rocket and space industries and regions of Russia. (3/22)

National Space Society Announces Glenn and Carpenter as Featured Guests (Source: NSS)
The National Space Society is pleased to announce that Project Mercury astronauts, Senator John Glenn and Commander Scott Carpenter, will be the featured guests at the Society's annual Governors' Dinner and Gala being held at the National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC on May 25.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Glenn's (February 20) and Carpenter's (May 24) historic flights in 1962 as the first two American astronauts to orbit Earth. Further, the National Space Society is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its founding due to the merger between the National Space Institute and the L5 Society in 1987. (3/22)

Safety Group Warns NASA's Commercial Crew Adviser Teams to Stay Objective (Source: Florida Today)
Concerned about the design of some propulsion system components in its Dragon capsule, SpaceX engineers turned to a small NASA team for advice. The so-called Partner Integration Team, one of seven assigned to work with each of the companies developing commercial crew vehicles, put SpaceX in touch with the right NASA expert. The connection helped “get us to solution in a timely manner,” said Garrett Reisman, head of SpaceX’s program to upgrade the Dragon for human spaceflight.

While independent safety advisers recognized the important role the NASA partner teams will play as the Commercial Crew program progresses — company proposals for a third round of NASA funding are due Friday — they also raised concern that government officials could get too cozy with their commercial partners. “It will be important to ensure that the tendency to ‘over-identify’ with the contractor does not result in a lack of objectivity by the NASA representative,” the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel wrote in its annual report.

While supporting the companies, the teams also act as a front line for the agency to monitor work and flag concerns. The panel recommended NASA rotate team members so “a fresh set of eyes are always protecting the government’s interest.” After working together for barely a year, NASA team leaders and their commercial counterparts don’t anticipate problems. (3/22)

PayPal Founder’s SpaceX Preps First Human-Piloted Shuttle Launch (Source: WebProNews)
It’s been about fourteen months since the first successful private spaceship launch, Dragon, and now SpaceX is prepping to step into their next phase: a human-piloted launch. SpaceX is preparing the next flight test in which the Dragon spacecraft will go to the International Space Station: first with supplies then, later, with humans. SpaceX is notable in space exploration history as it was the first private company to ever receive the FAA’s commercial license to reenter a spacecraft from orbit. More, in safely returning its spacecraft to earth, SpaceX achieved what only six countries on earth have been able to do. (3/19)

Air Force Looks to Private Industry for Bandwidth Solutions (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. Air Force has pointed to commercial communications satellites as playing a larger role in helping the military meet ever-growing demand for greater bandwidth capability. The increase in remotely piloted aircraft coupled with "better sensors and more demand for the data they provide to troops on the ground" make expanding bandwidth a top priority, this feature says. The military is looking to private communications companies for ideas. (3/22)

GOP Budget Plan Seeks Way Out of Defense Sequestration Order (Source: Defense News)
The GOP budget plan presented by House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, may potentially skirt the budget cuts to defense triggered by last year's failed deficit reduction deal, this feature says. Ryan's budget seeks $554 billion for the base budget and $88 billion for overseas contingencies for fiscal 2013, numbers similar to what the Obama administration requested. (3/22)

CASIS Reviews NASA Experiments for Commercialization Potential (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization managing research on the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, has organized a group of world-class scientists to review experiments flown in space by NASA over the last 10 years. The goal is to identify findings or areas of further study that could lead to breakthrough technologies and products for people on earth.

The panel, led by Timothy Yeatman, a veteran surgeon, scientist and pioneer in the fields of genomics and personalized medicine, is the first of its kind. The effort marks the first high-level international scientific review of NASA experiments with the aim of maximizing use of the station and unlocking the value of America’s investment in the $100 billion orbiting platform.

All the individuals selected for the panel share strong backgrounds in demonstrated bio-commercial successes as well as in pure research. Since being established by CASIS in early January 2012, the group has focused on experiments that NASA conducted in biology, reviewing more than 135 projects and papers. The experts are now in the process of prioritizing their findings, and initial indications are, according to Yeatman, very promising for attracting commercial interest in several areas. (3/22)

Excitement Builds for 1st Private Spaceship Flight to Space Station (Source:
Anticipation and excitement over the first-ever launch of a private spaceship to the International Space Station next month is steadily building, astronauts and NASA flight controllers said. The Dragon capsule will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida.

If all goes well, it will fly up to the orbiting laboratory, conduct tests, and then dock there May 3. "Our fingers are crossed for SpaceX to launch and successfully come to the space station," NASA astronaut Sunita Williams said during a news conference Tuesday. Williams is due to lift off atop a Russian Soyuz spacecraft July 15, along with a Russian cosmonaut and a Japanese astronaut, to serve on the space station's Expedition 32 and Expedition 33 missions. (3/22)

Witt Celebrates 10 Years at Mojave Air and Space Port (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Stuart Witt is celebrating his 10th anniversary as CEO and General Manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port. He reminisced a bit about his decade as head of the desert facility and looked ahead during a meeting of East Kern Airport District on Tuesday. Witt recalled his first board meeting where everyone was very concerned about the future of the airport. But, the airport is now thriving as an R&D and test flight center where multiple companies are building the world’s most advanced aircraft and spaceships. (3/22)

In Search for Alien Life, Researchers Enlist Human Minds (Source: New York Times)
On a chilly morning last week, Jill Tarter sat in a makeshift corner office facing the Allen Telescope Array, pondering a set of parallel lines that striped a window in her MacBook. Dr. Tarter directs the Center for SETI Research — SETI is the search for extraterrestrial intelligence — and the 42 antennas that sit outside her window are once again sampling radio emissions from a patch of sky that offers a window into one of the spiral arms of our galaxy. Shuttered for more than a year by budget problems, the array was turned back on in December to continue its search. Now, the searchers have another reason for optimism.

With new Web-based software called SETILive, an army of independent citizen-scientists are being enlisted to help with the hunt for unusual signals. The software, which can be found at, was designed by Zooniverse, a team of programmers and scientists who have created Web-based systems to enable citizen participation in research in fields like astronomy and marine biology. SETILive was switched on late last month. (3/22)

GAO Sees Progress on Satellites, Risks Remain (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. military is finally launching new satellites after a decade of cost overruns and schedule delays, but some spacecraft still face rising costs and others lack the ground systems to process all the data they are gathering, a new report found. Cristina Chaplain, analyst with the congressional Government Accountability Office, told a Senate hearing that Pentagon officials were focused on fixing problems and implementing reforms despite declining budgets, but various issues still needed to be resolved.

U.S. senators seized on problems identified in the new report as they questioned a number of senior Pentagon, Air Force and Navy officials about their plans to cut $2 billion from spending on satellite programs in the fiscal 2013 budget. The officials said the cuts were the result of difficult choices made to cut defense spending by $487 billion over the next decade, as agreed by the White House and Congress. Click here. (3/22)

How Big is the Sun, Really? (Source: Sky & Telescope)
With all the attention that astronomers have lavished on old Sol over the centuries, you'd think that by now they'd know its diameter to, oh, 10 or 12 significant digits. Nope. While the Sun's girth has indeed been measured dozens of times over the past 40 years, the results haven't converged on a single value and scatter by as much as ± 0.1%. One big reason is that, though some measurement techniques are extremely precise, their accuracy suffers because of the turbulence induced by Earth's atmosphere. Most often astronomers use a compromise value of 865,000 miles (1,392,000 km). (3/22)

Nebulous Future Weighs Down Russia's Space Program (Source: Moscow Times)
Sitting on a bench dressed in a blue bathrobe, veteran cosmonaut Alexander Laveikin is relaxing after an after-work tennis match with his friends, all of them former cosmonauts who took part in many Soviet space missions. But while the faces of the men on the court are recognizable to many people born during the 1970s, the modern Russian space industry is struggling to recruit new blood to a once prestigious occupation.

"There was a time when we felt the country's attention drawn toward us," said the youthful-looking Laveikin, who flew to the space station Mir in 1987. Now 60, Laveikin looks back nostalgically on the glory days. Originally an aerospace engineer, he joined the Soviet cosmonaut detachment, a dream job at that time. "I wanted to become a pilot like my father, and I became both a pilot and a cosmonaut," he said. Click here. (3/22)

Japan to Launch South Korean Satellite on H-2A Rocket in May (Source: Mainichi Daily)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. said Wednesday they will launch the Korea Multipurpose Satellite-3, using an H-2A rocket, on May 18. The transaction represents the first satellite launch service order won from an overseas customer, according to JAXA which developed the rocket jointly with Mitsubishi. The KOMPSAT-3 was developed by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute of South Korea to engage in satellite earth observation and provide high-resolution images needed to analyze geographical information. (3/22)

NASA Employing Mojave-Based Companies for Payload Rides (Source:
At least two commercial aerospace companies with operations in eastern Kern County are expected to benefit from a new partnership between NASA and private companies developing commercial access to space. On Wednesday, NASA's Flight Opportunities Program announced its selection of 24 space technology payloads slated for flights on commercial reusable launch vehicles, balloons and a commercial parabolic aircraft. The flights are projected to take place this year and next. The microgravity conditions accessed by such flights are valuable for conducting tests and experiments in a wide range of disciplines.

Masten Space Systems and Virgin Galactic -- both use Mojave as a base for testing and development -- are each expected to provide vehicles under contract with NASA for payload launches. Other flight platforms include the Zero-G parabolic airplane, Near Space Corp. high altitude balloons and additional launch vehicles from Texas-based Armadillo Aerospace and Colorado-based UP Aerospace. (3/22)

Globalstar’s White-knuckle Ride Entering Crucial Stretch (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Globalstar is entering a make-or-break period during which it is counting on new satellites to generate sufficient revenue to pay off debts associated with the billion-dollar second-generation constellation, according to company and industry officials. The company, which in the past three years has become expert at walking the high wire, has slashed expenses sufficiently to report a gross profit for the three months ending Dec. 31. (3/22)

JPL Trial: Coppedge, NASA Agency Tell Different Tales (Source: La Canada Valley Sun)
Two very different narratives are emerging from the trial in which former Jet Propulsion Laboratory worker David Coppedge claims he faced discrimination because he discussed the theory of intelligent design with co-workers. Early this week, Coppedge testified that co-workers posted cartoons on their doors mocking the theory of intelligent design, which holds that God or an intelligent agent guided the creation and evolution of the universe.

Coppedge, who encouraged co-workers to watch DVDs on the subject, claims managers barred him from discussing religion or politics while co-workers were allowed to do so. His attorney, William Becker, said Coppedge worked with an unblemished record as a systems administrator on NASA's Cassini project to Saturn until 2009, when a co-worker complained about Coppedge and the intelligent-design DVDs. Click here. (3/22)

NYC’s 911 Call to NASA (Source: New York Post)
So, it is rocket science after all. City Hall is bringing in scientists and engineers from NASA to oversee the final construction of the new 911 system, a project that’s already years behind schedule — and nearly $1 billion over budget. “They’re going to be performing what I would refer to as [quality control] on steroids,” Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway told The Post yesterday.

“This is a process that was pioneered by NASA. They’re going to be looking at this from the ground up.” NASA will be paid between $13 million and $17 million, and will have an on-site team of as many as 20 people. NASA did not respond to questions yesterday. Originally proposed in 2004, the system includes two new call centers, as well as a whole array of new communications programs supposed to connect the Fire Department, Police Department and Emergency Medical Services, which have long operated separately. (3/22)

FCC Moves Ahead on Dish Cellphone Network (Source: The Hill)
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on Wednesday to move ahead with a plan to convert a block of airwaves from satellite use to cellphone use. Much of the spectrum, which is in the 2 GHz band, belongs to satellite television provider Dish Network, which hopes to launch its own wireless carrier. It plans to use the spectrum for a next-generation 4G mobile broadband network. (3/22)

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