August 7, 2012

NASA Is the Government's One True Viral Hit Factory (Source: The Atlantic)
NASA may only consume 0.5 percent of the federal budget, but it generates practically all of Uncle Sam's viral marketing buzz. Never was that more apparent than on Monday morning following the successful Mars landing of Curiosity, the biggest and most advanced spacecraft ever dispatched to another planet. In an explosion of tweets, Tumbls, status updates, and blog posts, the Internet showed its love of NASA in a way other parts of the government could only dream of. So what's NASA's secret? Click here. (8/7)

Florida's Space Coast: Innovating, On the Front Lines of Change (Source: Professional Edge)
The Space Coast is ready for resurgence, after working through the first several layers of challenging transitions in the workforce due to the ending of the Space Shuttle program. In the aftermath, the county of Brevard is seeing very interesting growth, particularly in aviation/avionics and in communications, info tech and advanced manufacturing.

This is an area of Florida accustomed to nurturing technology innovation and a culture that welcomes entrepreneurs.
Some of the aerospace jobs have wound down, but there is new energy supported by the early successes of private aerospace company, SpaceX. A new era of commercial space travel has been launched. Here on the Space Coast, the rigors of start-up are a match for the up-by-the-bootstraps mentality of the high-tech, hands-on workforce that remains here. These aerospace workers are veterans of the quality and safety traditions that built a manned space program.

The area has plum companies expanding or relocating here. The way the economy's transition is being faced on the Space Coast resembles the way the area has developed, on the backs and brains of a cross-section of forward-thinking, forward-driving people—many of whom are naturally very reluctant to leave this kind of can-do environment. (8/7)

Prototype NASA Lander's Engine Shuts Down During KSC Test (Source: Florida Today)
A prototype NASA lander’s engine automatically shut down shortly after igniting this morning at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility, aborting a first attempt at a free flight. “We had good ignition, but an automatic engine shutdown occurred before liftoff due to an on-board software trigger,” project staff said in a Twitter message.

It wasn’t immediately clear when a next attempt would be made. The flight is one of more than a dozen planned over the next several months by the Johnson Space Center-based Project Morpheus. It follows 20 tethered tests, with the vehicle suspended from a crane, including one last Friday shortly after Morpheus’ arrival at KSC. The series of tests hopes to culminate in a roughly half-mile hop to a landing site within a hazard field mimicking a lunar landscape that has been constructed at the north end of Kennedy’s shuttle runway. (8/7)

Six Questions for SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell (Source: Txchnologist)
Gwynne Shotwell makes rockets. But she’s not just another engineer thinking about fluid mechanics, loads and escape velocities—she’s one of the few people shaping the future of space exploration. Shotwell is the president of SpaceX and leads day-to-day operations at the company that is at the forefront of commercial space travel. Shotwell, a Women in Technology International Hall of Fame inductee, holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics from Northwestern University. She is also active in getting more students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. Click here. (8/7)

Does Mars Belong to America Now? (Source: Forbes)
It took 8 months for America’s rover “Curiosity” to make it to Mars. The mission will end up costing nearly $2.5 billion. Moreover, America is the first nation to land a rover on Mars. It seems only fair that the U.S. should be able to claim Mars as American territory. Right? Well, not so fast. According to the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (AKA “The Outer Space Treaty”), exploration of space, including landings on Mars and all other celestial bodies is done for “the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind.”

Specifically, Article II of The Outer Space Treaty declares: “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.” Other provisions include requiring the use of Mars for peaceful purposes, consistent with international law. America is also prohibited from establishing “military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies…” (Article IV) In short, America may have gotten there first, but all we get are bragging rights. (8/7)

Florida-Based Black Sky Training Moves Beyond Spaceflight (Source: Black Sky Training)
Black Sky Training will begin offering a specialized series of courses for General Aviation pilots. This series is intended to fill the need for ongoing training as outlined by the FAA and NTSB at this year’s AirVenture at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Psychological Training, recognizing and reacting to Hypoxia, will be given in one of the only privately owned and operated Hypoberic chambers in the U.S. Under an exclusive deal with the Southern AeroMedical Institue, Black Sky Training will offer courses under the direction of a Board Certified Doctor and a written by a Master CFI.

This chamber and training allows a pilot to experience ALL of the symptoms of Hypoxia, proving a life saving lesson that is missed during standard low O2 training. Until now, this training was available only through commercial flight schools or through Black Sky Training’s Suborbital Pilot training program. David Allen spokesmen for Black Sky and SAMI stated “Hypoxia is one of, if not the leading cause of pilot error during approach and landing. (8/7)

Bob Cabana on Florida's Future in Space (Source: Florida Voices)
The agency recently entrusted [KSC] with its newest human spaceflight program, a first for the center. In partnership with the Johnson Space Center in Houston, the Commercial Crew Program at Kennedy is spurring the innovation and development of commercial spacecraft and launch vehicles to transport our astronauts to and from low Earth orbit and the International Space Station.

We'll also be the starting point for NASA's Orion crew capsule and Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket, which will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. Our Launch Services Program is as busy as ever, too, gearing up for at least 25 missions to study places such as Mars, Pluto and our sun. It's hard to convey everything that our center is working on right now, but rest assured we are busier than ever. Our lights are still on, our doors are still open and the list of extraordinary things we plan to accomplish in this lifetime is long. (8/7)

Frank DiBello on Florida's Future in Space (Source: Florida Voices)
Although there are many hundreds of jobs at KSC working to prepare for that next bold mission with SLS and Orion, we won’t see a launch beyond LEO with astronauts until later in the next decade. The immediate future for Florida, and the new excitement in the community, comes from the commercial crew and cargo developments. Their success will spell an exciting new chapter in America’s proud tradition of exploration, and it’s a development for which Florida is uniquely positioned.

That other countries are now also pursuing the challenge of space exploration is at once, a challenge, an opportunity, and inevitable. Is there competition? Yes. But the U.S. still spends more on its space programs than the rest of the world combined. Granted, its only less than 0.5 percent of the federal budget, but it remains a point of pride for all Americans. (8/7)

John Walker on Florida's Future in Space (Source: Florida Voices)
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers is the premier aerospace union in the U.S. It has been part of the space program from its inception and our members have been proud to be part of the history we’ve made. While our Congress has decided to rest on our past accomplishments, other nations see our lack of forward-thinking as an opportunity to permanently move ahead of us, and take the obvious economic and scientific benefits for themselves, leaving us in their dust.

If we wish to remain a dominate political, scientific and economic power, we need to rethink and recommit to the obvious benefits of a strong and varied manned and unmanned space program. We must also remember that on the national security front, space has always been the “high ground” that we must keep in order to keep our nation safe. Our future demands that we realize what we are losing if we continue upon our present course. I can’t understand why we would ever give that up willingly. (8/7)

Rep. Sandy Adams on Florida's Future in Space (Source: Florida Voices)
NASA and the aerospace industries are a symbol of pride and honor for our country and represent the best hopes and ideals of our nation. The truth is that because of President Obama’s decision to cancel Constellation without a follow-up program ready for implementation, America’s space program is currently forced to rely on foreign nations, like Russia and China, to send our astronauts to the International Space Station.

Throughout my time in the Florida Legislature, and today in Congress, I have worked closely with Space Florida to help bring local companies to the Space Coast. My office has been working with entrepreneurs looking to move their companies to Central Florida, and I have served as a liaison with Space Florida, the Governor’s Office, and these job creators to help find ways to bring new jobs to the Space Coast.

NASA and the companies that have been created as a result of the space program contribute billions of dollars to the local economy. People have made their livelihoods and continue to base their future plans on the support of the space program – this is no small matter. This impact is not lost on me and as long as I am in the House of Representatives, it will not be lost on my colleagues. (8/7)

Rep. Bill Posey on Florida's Future in Space (Source: Florida Voices)
Space is not simply the final frontier, it is the military high ground. The reality today is that if we fail to lead the world in space we would jeopardize our national security and our economic security. Russia and China are redoubling their investments in space and they are nipping at our heels, threatening our dominance of space.

In early 2009, the Obama administration decided to abruptly cancel NASA’s Constellation program that was designed to send U.S. astronauts back to the moon and eventually on to Mars. Since then, it took more than two years for NASA to regain its footing, yet there is still a lack of a clear direction for the future. That is why I introduced H.R. 1641, the Real Space Act, bipartisan legislation giving NASA a clear mission moving forward – returning to the moon.

Several commercial space companies are already choosing Florida’s Space Coast as their new home... We could have closed the U.S. human space flight gap so that we were not reliant on the Russians, but sadly, the administration showed no interest in considering H.R. 1962, the American Space Access Act, bipartisan legislation I offered to close the space gap and keep America first in space. Protecting our nation and creating jobs in the 21st Century will require our leaders to put forward a bold vision for human space flight. (8/7)

Politics Cloud Dialog on Florida's Future in Space (Source: SPACErePORT)
Maybe its because of the election, but like so many other Americans I am tired and dismayed by the intensely polarized nature of today's politics. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle seem to never miss a chance to throw a barb or accusation at the opposing party...while the majority of voters want them to work more closely together in a civilized, courteous--and productive--way. Witness the comments above by Reps Adams and Posey, and John Williams representing organized labor, in what was supposed to be a constructive dialog on Florida's future in space.

Adams blames President Obama for a situation better attributed to President Bush, and she seems more interested in making veiled appeals toward re-election than offering constructive comments about Florida's future in space. Posey is similarly focused on criticizing the President instead of providing details on his legislative proposals. Williams is a bit less partisan, but takes the opportunity to blame Congress (and not the President) for our problems.

I'm not the only one wishing that our members of Congress (and the President) would move beyond the finger-pointing, set aside their ideological biases, and take action to support space policies, programs, and compromises that are in the best interest of the nation, not just their political parties and re-election hopes. Click here to see all of the "Florida's Future in Space" statements. (8/7)

Stop-Gap Spending Bills, Sequestration Cloud 2013 Budget (Source: Defense News)
Lawmakers next month will vote on a measure that will provide the government six months of stop-gap funding and that, plus possible sequestration cuts, are making it unclear how much defense contractors and the Pentagon will have to operate in 2013. Under a stop-gap measure, called a continuing resolution, no new programs are allowed to be started, leaving the defense industry in limbo, an Pentagon expert says. (8/6)

Labor Department is Wrong on WARN Notices, Congressman Says (Source: Politico)
Defense contractors should reject the Department of Labor's assertion that they don't need to convey WARN layoff notices to workers in November, says Rep. Buck McKeon, R-CA. Cord Sterling, Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) vice president for legislative affairs, said the Labor Department's memo on the matter "does not provide companies with an exemption to the WARN Act notification requirements." Editor's Note: AIA President Marion Blakey is a former official of the George W. Bush administration. AIA has been aggressively campaigning on behalf of the aerospace industry to encourage the President and Congress to fix the sequestration problem. (8/7)

Sequestration Fears May Be Overstated, Some Federal Officials Say (Source: Washington Post)
From the Labor Department's memo telling defense companies they don't need to send workers WARN layoff notices to a defense official saying Pentagon purchasing hasn't slowed, some in the federal government are pushing back against predictions of a sequestration catastrophe. Their efforts come as the defense industry ratchets up its campaign to halt the possible spending cuts. (8/5)

Pentagon Will Forego Widespread U.S. Base Shutdowns (Source: The Hill)
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says the Defense Department won't pursue widespread U.S. base closures next year, following lawmakers' rejection of such plans. Instead, the Pentagon will focus on shrinking its overseas military presence. (8/6)

Third X-51A Hypersonic Test Targeted For Mid-August (Source: Aviation Week)
U.S. Air Force officials say the third, and possibly final, attempt to reach or exceed sustained speeds beyond Mach 5 with the X-51A hypersonic demonstrator is set for Aug. 14. Describing the X-51A as “the key to the next step in hypersonics,” Air Force Research Laboratory Aerospace Systems Director Doug Bowers says that even the mixed success of the initial X-51A flights has proved invaluable to advancing the state-of-the-art.

“The first X-51 was mostly a success, the second flight was a hung store [failed to release from the B-2 mothership] and on the third the inlet started but un-started. Every flight test we’ve had has been a learning opportunity, and until we took it to flight we really didn’t know the unknowns.”

The latest X-51A includes a series of hardware and software changes to counter issues that are thought to have brought the last flight to a premature end after only 9.5 sec. of powered flight at around Mach 5. The second flight, on June 13, 2011, ended when the vehicle’s Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne SJX61-2 engine failed to transition from ethylene fuel to JP-7. The ethylene is used to start the scramjet, while JP-7 is used for sustained flight. (8/6)

Why Iran is Sending a Monkey to Space in the Face of Sanctions (Source: Al Arabiya)
Despite facing tight international financial sanctions, Iran is pursuing plans to soon launch a monkey into suborbital space. The rhesus monkey is undergoing special training for its upcoming mission aboard a Kavoshgar-5 rocket, said director of the Iranian Space Agency, Hamid Fazeli. The plan involves keeping the monkey alive in a specially-designed capsule. Brian Weeden at the Secure World Foundation said it is much more difficult to place something into orbit, but a successful monkey mission would still be a step forward for the Iranian space program.

The country is also reported to be putting the finishing touches on a secret new facility to launch satellites in a southeastern province near Pakistan -- a step some analysts fear will move Iran closer to developing intercontinental ballistic missiles. Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said in June that it was 80 percent complete. Iran has repeatedly denied any military intentions behind its space program, saying it is motivated instead toward such as earthquake monitoring and imaging and development of telecommunications.

Iran’s recent monkey launch plans come amid new economic sanctions to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty allows all countries to use space in a peaceful manner and, Weeden said, and so far Tehran has been doing that. Many ask what drives Tehran to choose to spend millions on sending a monkey into space amid this financial mayhem. Weeden said the motivation is most likely prestige and pride, whilst showing the international community a space program is solely for peaceful purposes. That would undermine any political or legal attempts to hinder the program, and allow for the regime to also improve its ballistic missile capabilities. (8/7)

Russian Launch Failure Is Fourth Mishap Since 2010 (Source: Bloomberg)
The Russian Proton-M launch failure was the fourth failure of a Russian spacecraft launch in less than two years. Three failed launches since December 2010 involved the Proton-M, while a fuel malfunction brought down a Progress craft in August last year, the vessel’s first crash since it started flights in 1978. Russia controls 40 percent of the market for space launches, which mainly involve transporting satellites and equipment for others.

The Russian space agency chief, Vladimir Popovkin, was appointed last year after the firing of his predecessor because a Proton-M rocket failed to deliver three navigation satellites into orbit. Within four months of Popovkin’s appointment, Russia lost its most powerful telecommunications satellite, Express-AM4, after another faulty Proton-M launch. (8/7)

Five Potential Habitable Exoplanets Now (Source: Space Daily)
New data suggests the confirmation of the exoplanet Gliese 581g and the best candidate so far of a potential habitable exoplanet. The nearby star Gliese 581 is well known for having four planets with the outermost planet, Gliese 581d, already suspected habitable. This will be the first time evidence for any two potential habitable exoplanets orbiting the same star. Gliese 581g will be included, together with Gliese 667Cc, Kepler-22b, HD85512, and Gliese 581d, in the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog of the PHL @ UPR Arecibo as the best five objects of interest for Earth-like exoplanets. (8/7)

Russian Rocket Fails to Reach Target Orbit (Source: AP)
A Russian Proton rocket on Tuesday failed to place two communications satellites into a designated orbit, officials said, marring the prestige of the nation's space program a day after NASA landed a robotic vehicle on Mars. Russia's Roscosmos space agency said the Proton-M rocket was launched just before midnight Monday from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The booster's first stages worked fine, but the upper stage intended to give the final push to the satellites switched off earlier than expected.

The engine's malfunction stranded the Russian Express MD-2 and Indonesia's Telkom-3 satellites in a low orbit that would make it impossible for space officials to recover them, Russian news agencies reported. The Indonesian satellite was Russian-made. The failure comes a day after NASA managed to land a roving laboratory the size of a compact car on Mars after an an eight-month, 352-million-mile (566-million-kilometer) journey. A Russian robotic probe designed to study a moon of Mars got stranded in Earth orbit after its launch last November and eventually came crashing down in January. (8/7)

Lawmakers Seek To Curb EELV Block Buy (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force should limit any bulk order of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) rockets from United Launch Alliance (ULA) to three years’ worth of missions to give competing companies a chance to bring alternative vehicles to market, the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee said in a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. “We support the Air Force’s effort to achieve some economies of scale to provide the best value for the taxpayer, but we are concerned that any EELV block buy that goes beyond three years worth of launches will unnecessarily exclude competition,” Reps. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) wrote in the Aug. 2 letter. Rogers and Ruppersberger are the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

The letter urged Panetta to do away with “the infrastructure subsidy we provide to ULA” and quickly develop “clear entrance criteria for new competitors” in the market for launching U.S. national security satellites. Besides paying ULA for the hardware and services associated with specific Atlas 5 and Delta 4 launches, the Defense Department also covers a portion of the company’s overhead under the cost-plus EELV Launch Capability contract.

Rocket maker SpaceX, which is looking to break into the U.S. military launch market, has argued that the Launch Capability contract masks ULA’s true launch costs, giving the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture an unfair advantage. The lawmakers also said SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which has flown three times to date, and Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket, which is expected to make its maiden flight in December, “are opening an important window of opportunity to make room for new EELV competitors and reap significant cost savings without sacrificing launch reliability.” (8/6)

White House Plans Discussion on Sequestration Impacts on Science/Tech (Source: White House)
On August 8 at 2:00 p.m. EDT, please join John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Mr. Jon Carson, Director of the Office of Public Engagement; and Robert Gordon, Executive Associate Director of the Office of Management and Budget, for a conference call to discuss the potential impacts on science, technology, innovation, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education funding of budget sequestration and across-the-board budget cuts. This call will give more information about the importance of a balanced approach to the budget and provide an opportunity for you to ask questions of senior Administration officials. Click here. (8/6)

From Terror to Triumph (Source: Space Review)
Sunday night NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission arrived at Mars, safely landing the Curiosity rover on the surface. Jeff Foust recounts the concerns leading up to the landing, the thrill of the landing itself, and what the implications for that success might be. Visit to view the article. (8/7)

Commercial Crew's Winners and Losers (Source: Space Review)
On Friday NASA announced the long-awaited awards for the next round of its commercial crew competition, making agreements with three companies. Jeff Foust reports on the awards and the reactions from the companies that won them as well as those that lost out. Visit to view the article. (8/7)

Revelations (Source: Space Review)
In recent months the National Reconnaissance Office has declassified a surprising amount of information about early classified satellite programs. Dwayne Day looks at what those documents have revealed about the early days of military and intelligence space programs. Visit to view the article. (8/7)

Legal Issues Surrounding Space Debris Remediation (Source: Space Review)
A key challenge to dealing with the growing population of orbital debris is a legal regime that makes it difficult to implement solutions to remove these objects. Michael Listner examines the legal complications and offers an approach to resolve it. Visit to view the article. (8/7)

It's All Systems Go For Astrotech (Source: Seeking Alpha)
It seems the stars may finally be aligning for a small commercial aerospace company. Astrotech Corporation (ASTC), based in Austin, Texas provides space services to NASA, the United States Department of Defense, and commercial customers worldwide. From Titusville, Florida, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, Astrotech Space Operations provides support for its customers to successfully process their satellite hardware for launch, including advance planning, use of unique facilities, spacecraft checkout, encapsulation, fueling, and transport.

Astrotech's backlog is now the strongest it has been in years and earnings are getting back into positive territory after several lean quarters. 3rd quarter earnings per share were $0.05 on almost a 100% increase in revenue to $10.0M. The company's rolling 18 month backlog was $34.8M at March 31st, 2012. Tangible book value sits at $1.84 per share and the market cap is only slightly over $23M. (8/7)

India to Launch 5 Satellites This Year (Source: Xinhua)
India is to launch at least five satellites this year, a top space official said Monday. "Three satellites -- Spot-6, a French satellite and a small Japanese communication satellite will be launched next month via Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket. The other two would be launched later this year," P.S. Veeraraghavan, the Director of state-owned Vikram Sarabhai Space Center, said. The French satellite will soon be brought into India while the Japanese satellite is already in the southern spaceport of Sriharikota. The two launches will take the space agency's total tally of ferrying foreign satellites to 29. (8/6)

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