March 3, 2012

DiBello: FAA Should Play Role in Regulating Commercial Spaceflight (Source: Space News)
Now that the commercial spaceflight industry has been granted a temporary extension of its grace period on regulation by the FAA, it should consider how it will establish the crucial standards that will guide it in the coming years — especially in relation to human spaceflight. The industry has a golden opportunity to embrace the FAA and strengthen its dialogue on future oversight policy and safety standards.

This increased dialogue can help shape a regulatory regime that must ultimately get into place if there is going to be a viable commercial space industry in the United States that truly supports safety. Today, there is a real danger that this opportunity may be missed, and that industry will fail to take a decisive hand in shaping its own destiny. There are many who believe that industry should be left alone during this period, without any movement toward creation of an FAA oversight regime until this market sector reaches a greater level of maturity.

This is certainly due to the perception of big government’s penchant for creating regulation and processes that may delay or place new restraints on the incredible progress that commercial human spaceflight companies have made thus far. Granted, a commercial business model thrives with less regulation and lean, efficient processes. The challenge, then — and therefore the opportunity — will lie in developing a considered and measured approach to the inevitable and necessary standards, policies and technologies to assure this nascent industry can mature quickly, effectively and safely. Click here. (3/1)

TRDA Faces Lawsuit Use of NASA and EDA Grants (Source: Florida Today)
The U.S. government has filed a civil lawsuit against Technological Research and Development Authority, alleging the authority improperly applied for millions of dollars of grants and then knowingly misused some of that funding to build its Melbourne headquarters and business incubator. The government’s lawsuit is on behalf of NASA and the Economic Development Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, both of which provided grants to TRDA in the early 2000s.

The six-count complaint mostly centers on alleged violations of the False Claims Act. The government is seeking three times the amount of federal grant money used in the project from the TRDA as well as interest and damages, or more than $9.4 million. About $2.8 million of the building project’s cost came from a NASA research grant and another $1 million came from an Economic Development Administration grant.

The lawsuit alleges TRDA officials knew the grant money could not be used for the building project but still proceeded to develop a plan with the Melbourne Airport Authority — which was not listed as a defendant in the lawsuit — to use the money for the project. (3/3)

New Technique For Asteroid Diversion (Source: Aviation Week)
Texas A&M University is leading a collaboration on a novel “soft-push” technique for diverting hazardous Near Earth Asteroids that is gathering maturity for a future orbital flight test. NASA’s Ames Research Center and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia are collaborating with Texas A&M Aerospace Engineering Professor David Hyland, as he and his students seek a flight test opportunity as a secondary payload.

“I think it’s the real deal,” says Hyland, who began work on a strategy for gradually altering the course of a distant but threatening asteroid in 1997 while he chaired the department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan. As a professor of aerospace and physics at Texas A&M, he has encouraged his students to refine the effort, and they have settled on a diversionary strategy that would alter the path of a NEA barreling toward the Earth by changing its albedo, or reflectivity. (3/2)

Oxygen Envelops Saturn's Icy Moon (Source: BBC)
A NASA spacecraft has detected oxygen around one of Saturn's icy moons, Dione. The discovery supports a theory that suggests all of the moons near Saturn and Jupiter might have oxygen around them. Researchers say that their finding increases the likelihood of finding the ingredients for life on one of the moons orbiting gas giants.

The study has been published in Geophysical Research Letters. Dione has no liquid water and so does not have the conditions to support life. But it is possible that other moons of Jupiter and Saturn do. "Some of the other moons have liquid oceans and so it is worth looking more closely at them for signs of life," Prof Coates said. (3/2)

Commercial Crew Concerns Crop Up Again in Congress (Source: Space News)
U.S. lawmakers on Feb. 29 asked President Barack Obama’s science adviser whether NASA should continue to subsidize development of more than one privately operated astronaut taxi. During a hearing on the president’s 2013 budget request for civilian science and technology programs, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren was questioned by appropriators skeptical that funding multiple competitors under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program was the fastest way to restore independent U.S. access to the international space station.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee, asked Holdren if it would be better for companies competing for the Commercial Crew Program awards NASA expects to make in August to “kind of come together under the leadership of NASA” instead. “Would you consider combining them into a star team in order to eliminate the cost that would be incurred as they dropped out and to expedite this some?” Wolf asked Holdren. (3/2)

A United Vision for Space (Source: Huffington Post)
It's been a couple of weeks since the NASA budget came out and fingers are still pointing as to who screwed up where, whose program ate what budget and why, and why is mine being singled out while yours is being kept alive? Meanwhile, in partial answer to that question, congressional staffers and their bosses are madly walking the halls, working to get this or that "must have for our national future in space" local jobs program funded or refunded, and the lobbyists are out in full force, fanning out to make sure their bosses make good money off our dreams.

Those convinced the administration of President Barack Obama is killing the space program as they knew it gather around opposition candidates in hopes they will get back into power, as NASA centers and directors keep their old Constellation, Ares and Orion brochures out and on display, awaiting the good ol' days when the idea of circumnavigating the Moon a la Apollo 8 some 50 years after it was done the first time was sufficient to keep the job force growing and cash flowing. Click here. (3/2)

Rand Institute: Eliminate Govt. Space Exploration (Source: Hobby Space)
Dr. Yaron Brook, Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute, advocates eliminating government funded space exploration and instead pursuing space development with private funding. Click here. (3/3)

No comments: