April 18 2012

Satellite Industry Group Applauds Obama Administration Assessment of Export Policy (Source: SpaceRef)
The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) applauds the Administration's release today of a report that recommends reform of the nation's export policies for satellites and related items. The report, which was prepared by the Departments of Defense and State, as required by Congress in Section 1248 of the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, assesses the national security risk of reforming United States export control policy for satellites and related items.

The "Final Section 1248" Report makes seven key findings, and includes six detailed attachments. It lists the satellites and associated parts and components that can be regulated under the Commerce Control List with acceptable risk. The Report concludes that "Applying more stringent export control policies and practices than are imposed by other advanced satellite-exporting countries places the U.S. satellite industry at a distinct, competitive disadvantage that undermines the U.S. space industrial base to the detriment of U.S. national security, while doing nothing to protect the technological advances that are critical to giving our war fighters the advantages that U.S. technology can afford them." (4/18)

Are Ross Perot and Google's Founders Launching a New Asteroid Mining Operation? (Source: Technology Review)
On Tuesday, a new company called Planetary Resources will announce its existence at the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery at The Museum of Flight in Seattle. It's not clear what the firm does, but its roster of backers incudes Google cofounders Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, filmmaker James Cameron, former Microsoftie (and space philanthropist) Charles Simonyi, and Ross Perot.

According to the company's press release: "...the company will overlay two critical sectors – space exploration and natural resources – to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP. This innovative start-up will create a new industry and a new definition of ‘natural resources’." That sounds like asteroid mining. Because what else is there in space that we need here on earth? Certainly not a livable climate or a replacement for our dwindling supplies of oil. (4/18)

JUICE Leads Billion-Euro Space Race (Source: BBC)
A proposal to study Jupiter's icy moons is now the front runner to be chosen as a billion-euro space mission. However, formal selection of the concept will have to wait until a key European space committee meets to discuss the various contenders in May. The JUICE mission would launch in 2022 and would help assess whether Jupiter's moons could support life. It has been up against two other concepts in the European Space Agency's Cosmic Vision competition. The JUICE (JUpiter ICy moon Explorer) proposal envisages an instrument-packed, near five-tonne satellite at launch that would be sent out to the Solar System's biggest planet, to make a careful investigation of three of its Galilean moons. (4/18)

USAF Space Command Chief Embraces Smallsats (Source: Aviation Week)
Several next-generation satellite systems built by the U.S. Air Force could rely on smaller, simpler and cheaper designs, says Gen. William Shelton, Air Force Space Command chief. Shelton says he continues to push for “disaggregation” of U.S. military satellites, which calls for separating payloads once hosted on large satellites and placing them on more numerous, smaller systems with an eye toward distributing capability and controlling costs.

The general, speaking at the 28th National Space Symposium here, said future space situational awareness and weather satellites are among those being considered for disaggregation. “It doesn’t take huge optics, nor does it take sophisticated onboard processing to provide [needed] data” for the follow-on to the Space-Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) satellite designed specifically to surveil objects in geosynchronous orbits. (4/18)

Saturn V To Mars? (Source: Aviation Week)
Among the kerosene-fueled rocket engines NASA is considering as a powerplant for its planned heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) is the venerable F-1 engine that took 12 men to the Moon. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, which owns rights to the massive engines built by its predecessor Rocketdyne, proposed it as an option to companies that have submitted risk reduction proposals to the U.S. space agency for a strap-on SLS booster.

The advanced booster would crank the lift capacity of the deep-space SLS up to at least 130 metric tons, from the targeted 70 metric tons after its first scheduled flights in 2017 and 2021. It's early days yet, to say the least, but the engine-maker had interest in the big old engine from some of the launch vehicle companies that submitted proposals, so it's on the table for the time being.

NASA will decide this summer what design options for the advanced booster that it wants to pursue, and the F-1 has some advantages. It's still the most powerful rocket engine ever built, and Rocketdyne engineers in the 1960s solved issues like combustion stability that would cost a fortune to recreate today. (4/18)

There is Plenty of Business for Everyone, Rival Launch Providers Say (Source: National Defense)
The satellite launch industry of late has suffered from decreased demand, rising costs and overcapacity. That coupled with U.S. government budget cuts have made for some heated rivalries among providers. Two of these companies are United Launch Alliance, a Lockheed Martin-Boeing consortium that currently has a monopoly on U.S. government contracts for heavy lift rockets, and SpaceX, a 10-year old company that is developing the Falcon Heavy vehicle designed to compete with ULA.

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president, said there is room for multiple launch providers. "The key is whether you can provide reliable launches at a price point that is attractive to the customer." There are 40 to 50 commercial, nongovernment launches competed annually that represents about $5 billion per year, plus the $3 billion up for grabs from NASA, the Air Force and the NRO, she said. "There is plenty of business for everybody," she said. (4/18)

World Military Spending Slowed Last Year, Report Says (Source: Reuters)
Economic slowdowns across the globe flattened military spending worldwide in 2011, a recent report says. Even with increases in spending by China and Russia, 2011 saw the end of 13 years of increases, according to the report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. (4/15)

NASA Advances on Plan to Use Algae as Fuel (Source: KGO-TV)
NASA is moving ahead on a project to turn algae into fuel in an attempt to lessen dependence on oil. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has loaned the space agency wastewater and tanks to test the project, which over the long term involves growing algae in offshore containers. (4/15)

End of Shuttle Program Stifles Progress (Source: Daily Gamecock)
Space Shuttle Discovery mesmerized Americans one last time Tuesday morning, although in a slightly different fashion. Atop a modified Boeing 747, Discovery swept through the clouds and made a low-pass flyover over the nation’s capital on the way to its final resting place at the Udvar-Hazy Center aeronautical museum. Its final flight represented the last hurrah for the shuttle program and the impending dark age for U.S. space exploration.

With the program’s first launch in 1981 and final landing this past summer, the shuttle program has captured the imaginations of a generation. While the Apollo missions were highlighted by moon landings, the Space Shuttle program’s pride and joy was Hubble. The telescope — launched with faulty sights resulting in blurry images — was privy to five shuttle missions to repair and update its mechanical pieces. With aid from the shuttle and its missions, Hubble literally opened its eye to the unimaginable imagery of deep space for all of us on Earth to enjoy.

The Space Shuttle program also played a critical role in the construction and resupplying of the International Space Station. In this case, the shuttle was the only vehicle large enough to put essential modules of the ISS up to orbit, allowing the crew to play Legos miles above Earth’s atmosphere. (4/18)

Massive EELV Cost Growth Reported To Congress (Source: Aviation Week)
The Pentagon has declared that the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) project has exceeded its original projected per-unit cost by 58.4%, triggering a rigorous review under the Nunn-McCurdy program oversight law. Through the EELV program, the government procures Atlas V and Delta IV rockets from United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The cost growth was reported April 13 to Congress.

The increase resulted from several factors. The 2004 baseline called for 137 projected launches, though only 91 have actually been manifested, owing largely to delays in satellite development and procurement efforts. Scott Correll, Air Force program executive officer for launch, says the propulsion systems are a major contributing factor in the increase in EELV cost, based on the findings of a “should-cost” review into the program that he led. (4/18)

Parts Testing Cited for GPS III Cost Growth (Source: Aviation Week)
Though parts for the new GPS III satellites are costing more than planned, Lockheed Martin says the rigor applied by the U.S. Air Force in quality assurance is setting a new industry standard. Based on a recommendation from The Aerospace Corp., the Air Force required additional testing for parts bound for the GPS III satellites, says Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin’s navigation systems vice president. These tests were deemed necessary to avoid some of the problems that plagued past programs.

For example, tin was found in a part of the Lockheed Martin Space-Based Infrared System (Sbirs) satellite after it was already built; this prompted significant work and testing to remove and replace the suspect part. The GPS III program office estimates the cost of the development and first two satellites is now $1.6 billion owing to the higher cost for qualifying parts and unspecified “additional scope” added to the contract. (4/18)

Garver: Funding Cut Would Only Delay Commercial Crew Effort (Source: Space News)
NASA remains committed to preserving competition in its commercial crew initiative even if Congress does not provide the full $830 million requested for the effort in 2012, said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. She said the agency likely would stretch out rather than change its approach to the Commercial Crew Program should it not be fully funded next year. Stretching out the program would extend the time during which NASA is dependent on Russia for crew transport to and from the international space station, she said. (4/18)

Editorial: Hutchison Gets Her Way with SLS, at the Expense of Commercial Crew (Source: SPACErePORT)
Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) has worked closely with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) in recent budget cycles to support their shared interests in NASA's heavy-lift Space Launch System and the Commercial Crew Program. The SLS, however, is closer to Hutchison's heart and she has some leverage that Nelson lacks. Hutchison is an appropriator and Nelson is not. Hutchison also is retiring from the Senate and departing Senators traditionally get what they ask for as a sort of parting gift from their colleagues.

Unfortunately, although the SLS is certainly in Nelson's and Florida's interest, the Commercial Crew Program that Nelson should vigorously defend is being short-changed to pay for Hutchison's top priority. The Senate committee approved only $525 million for Commercial Crew, which is $300 million less than NASA requested. If enacted, this lower budget would result in a much-slowed procurement of Commercial Crew services, and an extended reliance on Russian transport services for U.S. crew members at the International Space Station.

Meanwhile, in Colorado Springs, Neil deGrasse Tyson lamented the lack of interest or participation by the majority of House and Senate members in any hearings related to space policy. He complained that only those members who represent NASA centers or moneyed space industry interests seem to take any interest in space. That may be understandable in the House, where members are expected to pay most attention to their districts and direct constituents, but the Senate is supposed to be a more deliberative body, worrying about issues in a broader national context. (4/18)

Washington Watches as Space Age Flies Into History (Source: Washington Times)
Traffic stopped Tuesday morning, and people watched the Space Shuttle Discovery make a low flyby of the nation’s capital. The veteran spacecraft was ferried atop a Boeing 747 to its final assignment as a museum exhibit. It was a fitting farewell to another symbol of America’s former glory.

Not a decade ago, the U.S. claimed the title of the world’s premier space-faring nation. The space-shuttle fleet was the primary means of sending man into orbit. There even were periodic discussions about changing the name of the U.S. Air Force to the Aerospace Force. That ended last July when the space shuttle Atlantis completed its last mission. Now if Americans want to travel in space, they go up as passengers with the rest of the cargo, and it is the air arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard that calls itself an aerospace force.

There was a time when the space program was a symbol of American achievement, a source of pride and inspiration to generations. Those days are gone. In his 2011 budget, President Obama canceled NASA’s Constellation project, the package of launch and landing vehicles that were to replace the aging shuttle fleet to carry Americans into space. (4/18)

NASA Official Sees 'New Era' in Wake of Shuttle Retirement (Source: Colorado Springs Gazette)
As the nation’s most traveled space shuttle made its final flight, the head of the nation’s space agency struck an optimistic tone on Tuesday — vowing that U.S. astronauts won’t always rely on other nations to get to space. “Just because the shuttle is retired, doesn’t mean NASA is shuttering,” said Charles Bolden, NASA’s administrator. “Far from it. I believe the best is yet to come.” (4/18)

Pentagon Releasing Satellite Report (Source: Defense News)
The Pentagon is about to release the long awaited “1248” report, which addresses the national security impacts of changing the rules governing the export of satellites. The 1999 National Defense Authorization Act transferred export-licensing jurisdiction over commercial satellites and related components to the State Department, making them the only items on the U.S. Munitions List (USML) for which licensing jurisdiction is explicitly mandated by law. (4/18)

'Flying From UAE to US in One Hour Will Become Reality' (Source: Emirates 24/7)
Virgin Galactic will build a spaceport in Abu Dhabi that could eventually reduce flight times from the capital to the United States to one hour. A report in Emarat Al Youm quoted Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides as saying, “Under the 2009 deal the two companies agreed that Abu Dhabi would gain exclusive regional rights, subject to receipt of regulatory clearances, to host Virgin Galactic tourism and scientific research space flights.” (4/18)

Candidates in Orbit - The Late, Great U.S. Space Program (Source: Weekly Standard)
We’ve had some fun with space policy in the 2012 presidential race. Saturday Night Live, the Daily Show, candidate debates, and other forms of low comedy had us all laughing at Newt Gingrich’s proposal for moon statehood. Ron Paul said, “I think we should send some politicians up there.” So it would be a blue state, and there goes Republican control of the Senate. Mitt Romney said, “If I had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I’d say, ‘You’re fired.’ ”

But fun with space policy is about all we’ve had. Space is not an issue in this election. There are good reasons it should be. NASA is cheap. Its budget is $17.7 billion, one-fourth the budget for the Department of Education, which ought to​-—​considering the state of public schools, where none of the kids can do this math​—-​give its money to NASA. National prestige is important, even if our current president doesn’t know it. China is trying to become America without democracy while America is trying to become France without cheese calories. (4/18)

Inmarsat Partners with Honeywell to Deliver Global Xpress (Source: Flight Global)
Honeywell has signed a deal worth an estimated $2.8 billion over 20 years to supply onboard hardware for the Inmarsat Global Xpress (GX) in-flight connectivity network. The agreement with Honeywell comes less than a month after Inmarsat and previous supplier Rockwell Collins revealed that they had halted contract negotiations. Honeywell will supply the antennas and satellite terminals that will connect the future Inmarsat satellite constellations with its chosen service providers - GoGo and OnAir. (4/18)

Diarra: Launch of NASA Scientist Into Mali Politics (Source: AFP)
Mali's new prime minister, Cheick Modibo Diarra, is an accomplished astrophysicist who worked on five NASA missions and became a US citizen, but said he never forgot the Malian town of his birth. He earned degrees from universities in France and the United States, where he later taught mechanical and aerospace engineering before returning to Mali to found a political party ahead of an aborted presidential run. (4/17)

Spaceport America Milestones: Record Rocket Launch, Runway Add-On (Source: Space.com)
Spaceport America carried out a vertical rocket launch this month, with a sounding rocket hurling payloads to a record altitude above the complex in New Mexico. Meanwhile, a Phase Two spaceport construction and evolution decision has been made to add an extra runway to the already finished, nearly two-mile-long "Spaceway" at Spaceport America.

That runway is to support operations of Virgin Galactic, the spaceline firm bankrolled by adventurer and entrepreneur Richard Branson. Virgin Galactic is the spaceport’s anchor tenant and will use the facility to support suborbital space tourism flights using the WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo launch system. Click here. (4/17)

Is Humanity Quietly Abandoning a Future in Space? (Source: Reuters)
As astronaut Leroy Chiao watches the space shuttles he crewed make their final journeys to become museum pieces, he worries humankind is unthinkingly ditching space exploration and a future beyond Earth. "It's hard to escape the idea that we are going backwards," Chiao - a veteran of three shuttle missions and a trip to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz rocket and now a private consultant and adviser to industry group the Space Foundation - told Reuters. (4/17)

North Korea Vows to Go Ahead with Space Program (Source: RIA Novosti)
North Korea will continue further development of its aerospace technologies, including a satellite program, despite the UN Security Council condemnation, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Tuesday. “We will continue to exercise our sovereign right for the use of space, recognized by universally accepted by international laws, which are above UN Security Council resolutions,” the agency quoted the North Korean Foreign Ministry as saying in a statement. (4/17)

Lockheed Braces for Cuts in Space Programs (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. Defense Department is unlikely to kill major military satellite programs even if it is forced to double $487 billion in spending cuts already planned for the next decade, but cuts and delays are a sure bet, a senior Lockheed Martin Corp. executive said. "There'll be cuts and slips, and it'll be painful and it'll be disruptive to the supply chain and it'll ultimately cost the government more," Joanne Maguire, executive vice-president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems, told Reuters in an interview at a space conference in Colorado. (4/17)

Consulting Firm Hires Tumlinson for New Commercial Space Practice Group (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Austin-based communications consultancy Formation has announced the addition of a practice group dedicated to the commercial space industry. Formation helps launch and grow business and policy initiatives with a unique blend of strategic communications, design and entrepreneurial thinking.

“I have a great deal of personal interest in enabling growth in the commercial space industry,” says Shelby Stephens, Formation co-founder and strategy design director. “Combine our company’s strong strategic communications capabilities with a background in engineering and aerospace, and we’re in a good spot to help some commercial space companies get to the next level.”

The space practice group at Formation includes commercial space evangelist Rick Tumlinson as a strategic adviser. “Rick brings us decades of space advocacy experience and a deep knowledge of the industry,” Stephens adds. “And, he’s something of a renegade – certainly outside the box – and that seems to fit well with our culture.” (4/17)

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