June 9, 2012

A Penny For NASA -- or For Congressional Pork (Source: SpaceKSC)
On March 7, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson appeared before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Although the committee has 25 members, only three stuck around to listen to Tyson — Bill Nelson (D-FL), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and John Boozman (R-AR). Hutchison apparently left soon after Tyson began speaking. Dr. Tyson noted that NASA's annual budget for many years has been about 0.5% of the annual federal budget. He called upon Congress to double NASA's budget:

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. Tyson's words fell upon mostly empty chairs. Nelson told Tyson he was "preaching to the preachers" and praised his eloquence. This embarrassing dismissal of Tyson might have been lost to history, except for the archival of his appearance on the committee's web site.

On June 6, former astronauts Fred Gregory and Tom Jones published in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call an article titled "NASA Could Do Great Things with More Funds" that endorsed Tyson's proposal: "It’s time to make a bold move and double NASA’s budget. With the world’s largest economy, we can afford to make this wise, 1 percent investment. Our nation’s future depends on it." Click here. (6/8)

Boulder Planetary Scientists to Shine Shoes Saturday to Highlight Budget Cuts (Source: Daily Camera)
Some of Boulder's biggest brains will be on the Pearl Street Mall this weekend -- shining shoes. Local gurus of the cosmos will join their astro-brethren across the country on Saturday for the "Planetary Car Wash & Bake Sale," an event organized by Alan Stern, associate vice president of the Southwest Research Institute's Space Science and Engineering Division in Boulder, to call attention to the deep budget cuts being proposed for NASA's planetary science program. (6/7)

CU-Boulder's Plans for $46 Million Aerospace Building Stalled (Source: Daily Camera)
Construction plans for a $46 million building -- where students and scientists would research space exploration and clean energy production -- have been sitting idle for the past three years, awaiting state funding. It could be several years before the planned addition for the Aerospace and Energy Systems building could come to fruition.

In 2009, CU's regents gave initial approval to a program plan to build the 73,000-square-foot addition on the northeast corner of the Engineering Center, where there is now a parking lot. CU's request is that the state fund 60 percent of the project cost, but little money has been doled out to college campuses for construction projects since the onset of the recession. (6/8)

Russia Awaiting Kazakhstan Permission for Baikonur Launches (Source: Gazeta)
Russia expects Kazakhstan's permission to resume satellite launches from the Baikonur spaceport next month or earlier. Asked by reporters when the situation will be unlocked, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) Vladimir Popovkin said: "In a month or maybe earlier." Earlier on Thursday, the presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan adopted a special statement on the preservation of Baikonur cosmodrome's infrastructure, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev said.

"Baikonur is our pride, and it works for the benefit of both countries," said Nazarbayev. He said that at talks with Putin they discussed the preservation of Baikonur's infrastructure, "adopted the presidents' statement on this issue." In mid-May Popovkin told reporters that the Federal Space Agency plans to reconstruct the Baikonur cosmodrome. He noted that the Baikonur cosmodrome in leased by Russia until 2050. The entire infrastructure was created during the Soviet times and is largely worn out, so its most important facilities are to be reconstructed.

"We do not want to get away from the Baikonur cosmodrome, as some say, we want two spaceports - Baikonur and Vostochny, which we have started to build, to complement each other," the head of the Russian Space Agency said. He also said that cosmonautics is a very complex thing and nobody is guaranteed from failure here, "therefore it is necessary to have reserve launch pads." (6/8)

MSFC Small Business Advocate Gives Update on Upcoming Acquisitions (Source: Huntsville Times)
MSFC Small Business Specialist David Brock gave a mildly optimistic acquistion forecast to a group of small business owners today, saying NASA's basically flat budget was good news in Washington's current spending climate. Speaking to the June meeting of the Huntsville Association of Small Businesses in Advanced Technology, Brock said Marshall's real procurement budget will end up in the $2.1 - 2.2 billion range. "It's flat, but it's not bad," he said. (6/8)

Orbiter Puts Itself into Standby Safe Mode (Source: NASA JPL)
NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter put itself into a precautionary standby status early Friday, June 8, Universal Time (Thursday evening, Pacific Time), when the spacecraft detected unexpected characteristics in movement of one of its reaction wheels. The spacecraft uses three of these wheels as the primary method for adjusting and maintaining its orientation. It carries a spare reaction wheel.

Odyssey's flight team is in communication with the spacecraft while planning actions in response to Odyssey entering the standby status, which is called safe mode. "The spacecraft is safe, and information we've received from it indicates the problem is limited to a single reaction wheel," said Odyssey Mission Manager Chris Potts of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "The path forward is evaluating the health of the reaction wheel and our options for proceeding." (6/8)

Space Scientists Hold Bake Sales to Highlight NASA Cuts (Source: USA Today)
Focusing on a $300 million NASA budget cut for planetary exploration, some American astro-brains will hold bake sales and car washes Saturday to raise a little political capital, Space.com tells us. Organizers say about 20 fund- and attention-raising events are planned nationwide.

"We're not asking for more of the pie, we're asking for less of a bite out of the pie," said Laura Seward, a graduate student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and organizer of the Planetary Exploration Car Wash and Bake Sale. "A strong robotic planetary exploration program is essential for a strong human planetary exploration program." (6/8)

Sea Launch Releases Preliminary Payload Telemetry Data on Intelsat 19 (Source: Sea Launch)
Sea Launch announced today that it has released preliminary "Quick Look" payload unit (PLU) telemetry information to Intelsat S.A. and Space Systems Loral on June 8, 2012. The data covered the full mission profile from lift off through spacecraft separation. Sea Launch successfully inserted and separated the spacecraft into its predefined orbit, but it was later reported that the spacecraft failed to deploy one of its two solar arrays.

The Sea Launch Payload Accommodations, built by Boeing Commercial Space Company, is extensively instrumented, including accelerometers, pressure sensors, and microphones. All telemetry data obtained from the instrumentation has been processed and is of high quality. (6/8)

Senate Bill Tasks ORS Office To Develop Low-cost Weather Sat (Source: Space News)
A U.S. Senate defense oversight panel recommended allocating $60 million next year to develop a low-cost weather satellite under the auspices of an office that the Pentagon has marked for closure. In its markup of the 2013 defense authorization bill (S. 3254), the Senate Armed Service Committee flatly rejected the proposed elimination of the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) office, which was established just a few years ago to develop space capabilities quickly in response to emerging military needs. (6/8)

Sea Launch: Preliminary IS-19 Launch Data Exonerates Rocket (Source: Space News)
Sea Launch on June 8 said early indications are that its rocket performed as designed May 31 when it placed Intelsat’s IS-19 telecommunications satellite into orbit, and that the satellite’s subsequent failure to deploy one of its two solar arrays was not caused by any issue with the rocket. However, in releasing preliminary “Quick Look” telemetry data, Sea Launch said that while its rocket carried the satellite to orbit within the predefined vibration and other limits, vehicle sensors recorded “an unexpected, isolated event” 72 seconds after liftoff.

Sea Launch offered no explanation for the cause of this event, saying the data show it was not a response to any malfunction of the Sea Launch rocket. But the company said it has seen a similar event once before in its 31-launch history: in January 2004, during the launch of a Loral satellite similar to the IS-19. That satellite, dubbed Telstar 14/Estrela do Sul-1, ended up with a permanently disabled solar array.

The Sea Launch statement is consistent with June 7 statements made by SS/L President John Celli, who said the last time SS/L had a problem of this nature was in 2004, with the Sea Launch rocket. The implication: SS/L only has these problems with Sea Launch. The Sea Launch statement offers the other side of the coin, implying that Sea Launch only has these problems with SS/L satellites. (6/8)

The Scientific Case for Exploring the Moon (Source: The Atlantic)
Poor Moon. It lacks the intrigue of the sun, the mystery of Mars, even the lonely metaphor of the wandering satellite. While the moon once represented humanity's wildest technological aspirations, it's now taken a "been there, done that" quality. The last time a human set foot on the lunar surface was December. Of 1972. A team of scientists thinks the moon deserves another shot. In a paper soon to be published in the journal Planetary and Space Science, Ian Crawford, of Birkbeck College in London, and his colleagues lay out a detailed case for amped-up lunar exploration. Click here. (6/8)

Intelsat To Order Two High-throughput Satellites (Source: Space News)
Intelsat will order two multifrequency satellites starting in the coming weeks as part of a new offering designed to marry the low per-megabit cost associated with Ka-band services with the widely installed base of C- and Ku-band ground equipment among corporate and government customers. Intelsat sent bid requests to satellite manufacturers earlier this year and is prepared to order at least the first of its planned Epic spacecraft within about a month. (6/8)

NASA Abandons Budget-Busting X-Ray Telescope (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Growing costs have forced NASA to cancel an X-ray astrophysics mission conceived to study intense gravity fields around black holes and collapsed stars. The Gravity and Extreme Magnetism, or GEMS, project did not pass a NASA confirmation review, a key decision point before the agency allows a mission to proceed into construction for flight, according to Paul Hertz, the space agency's astrophysics division director.

"The GEMS project was initiated under a very well-defined cost cap," Hertz said Thursday. "As they approached their confirmation review, it was clear they would not be able to complete [the mission] within their cost cap." GEMS was constrained to a cost of about $119 mission in current-year dollars, excluding the satellite's launch vehicle. (6/7)

'Intergalactic Travel Bureau' Wants to Plan Your Space Vacation (Source: Space.com)
If you're thinking about taking an exotic vacation this summer, why not look beyond Earth to one of the many intriguing destinations in our solar system? If that sounds good to you, a science outreach group may have just the ticket. The U.K.-based organization Guerilla Science has created a mock travel agency to teach the public about spaceflight and our solar system by planning far-out trips to nearby planets and moons.

The Intergalactic Travel Bureau will be featured as part of Guerilla Science's exhibit at the FIGMENT Art festival, which is being held this weekend (June 9 and 10) on New York City's Governor's Island. The free event is designed to spur imagination and invention between artists and the public in participatory ways. (6/8)

NASA Surpasses Test Facility Record with J-2X Powerpack Test (Source: NASA)
NASA's Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., broke its own record Friday when it conducted a test on the new J-2X powerpack. The test lasted for 1,150 seconds, surpassing the previous record by more than a full minute. For NASA, the test marked a milestone step in development of a next-generation rocket engine to carry humans deeper into space than ever before. For Stennis, the 19-minute, 10-second test represented the longest duration firing ever conducted in the center's A Test Complex. (6/8)

NextGen Faces Procedure, Policy-Iissue Hurdles, Experts Say (Source: Aviation Week)
Procedure and policy issues are the major roadblocks to NextGen progress, experts say. "NextGen's success will be a function of how effectively government and industry and all the stakeholders in aviation can relate with one another," said Michael Huerta, acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. (6/5)

Privacy Experts Worry About UAVs Used for Surveillance (Source: ABC News)
Unmanned aerial vehicles can be used as surveillance tools, but some privacy experts worry that the UAVs will be misused. Reps. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Joe Barton, R-Texas, have sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration urging the agency to "ensure that the privacy of individuals is fully protected and the public is fully informed about who is using drones in public airspace and why." (6/7)

U.S. Seeks International Space Cooperation, Official Says (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. wants greater global cooperation with space technology and operations, says Greg Schulte, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy. The U.S. wants to conduct joint war games with allies and share data with Japan, France and other nations, Schulte says. (6/7)

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