November 7, 2012

Obama's Re-election Firms Up Defense Plans (Source: Defense News)
President Barack Obama's re-election means defense policies and vision he outlined earlier will now be more firmly set in place, including a plan to run a leaner military. The second term means Obama's plan to redirect resources to the Asia-Pacific region also will begin to unfold, analysts say. (11/6)

Virginia Students Win at International Space Olympics (Source: Daily Press)
Students from Governor's School for Science and Technology in Hampton, Va., have won space-project competitions at the International Space Olympics, held in Russia. Virginia schools sent the only American students to the competition, in which 200 students from around the world presented projects and had to take math and physics tests. (11/6)

Asteroid Mining Might be Better Than Mining the Oceans for Platinum (Source: Red Orbit)
Planetary Resources announced earlier this year it plans to begin looking beyond Earth for precious metals, and mining asteroids for platinum. Many skeptics have come out to say it is a ridiculous feat, and some have even gone as far as to say why leave Earth, when we have an ocean full of the metal. Chris Lewicki, Planetary Resources President and Chief Asteroid Miner, explains exactly why it is more feasible to mine asteroids, than ocean water. Click here. (11/6)

Sea Launch Base Port Could Relocate From California to Vietnam (Source: Interfax)
Interfax reports that participants in the Sea Launch project could move its base port from Long Beach in the United States to Cam Ranh in Vietnam. Russia's navy, in its effort to encircle the globe and match U.S. naval reach, has also been pursuing plans to establish a permanent presence at Cam Ranh. (11/7)

Boeing Shakes Up Defense Business, Cuts Management Jobs (Source: Reuters)
Boeing will restructure its defense, space and security business and cut 30 percent of management jobs from 2010 levels as part of a broad cost-cutting drive. Boeing, the Pentagon's second-largest supplier, said it also will close some facilities in California and consolidate several business units in an effort to trim $1.6 billion in costs by the end of 2015, on top of $2.2 billion in reductions achieved since 2010.

Boeing and other top weapons makers such as Lockheed Martin Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp and Raytheon Co have focused heavily on cutting costs and drumming up foreign sales to maintain profits as they prepare for a sustained period of weaker defense budgets. Lockheed reduced its management ranks by about 25 percent in recent years after announcing a voluntary buyout. Boeing said it would also expand efforts to cut supply-chain costs by working closely with its suppliers, but did not provide details. (11/7)

NASA KSC Seeks Contractor to Modify Ares-1 Mobile Launch Platform for SLS (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA/KSC is soliciting information about potential sources for the labor, equipment, and materials to deconstruct and modify the existing Ares-I Mobile Launcher (ML) for the new Space Launch System (SLS) at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The work consists of removal and storage of existing system components, equipment, and materials for reuse/reinstallation; demolition of system components and structure not to be reused; modification of structural elements and installation of new structural elements; reinstallation of salvaged equipment and materials, and installation of new systems, equipment, and materials. (11/7)

ULA Picks Contractor to Convert Launch Facility for Commercial Crew Missions (Source: ULA)
United Launch Alliance (ULA) has selected Hensel Phelps Construction Co. of Orlando to manage efforts to establish a commercial crew launch capability at Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. This 21-month effort could ultimately create 250-300 skilled aerospace and construction jobs in Central Florida. (11/7)

House Science Committee Set for Big Turnover (Source: Science)
A key science policymaking body in the U.S. House of Representatives is about to get a makeover. Ten current members of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology have been defeated in this year's elections or are retiring. That's one-quarter of the total membership. The panel is also expected to get a new chair, as current chief Representative Ralph M. Hall (R-TX), is term-limited under current House rules.

Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) is considered a favorite to win the gavel, but former committee chair Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI) has reportedly expressed interest in regaining his old job. The panel's senior Democrat, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), handily won reelection last night. Floridian Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) was not re-elected, leaving only Frederica Wilson (D-FL) on the committee. Before the election, there were four vacancies on the committee.

The science committee is generally considered a second-tier assignment because it has relatively little power. Although its name suggests a grander role, it has little authority over the largest federal funder of research—the National Institutes of Health. It does oversee policy for NASA, the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and other science agencies. But as a so-called authorizing committee, it has a limited influence over spending by these agencies. (11/7)

Donated Spy Telescopes Up for Grabs to All of NASA (Source: Space News)
NASA will invite scientists and engineers across the agency later this month to propose potential uses for a pair of 2.4-meter spy telescopes donated to NASA this summer by NRO. Paul Hertz, director of astrophysics for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said the astrophysics division has been evaluating whether to use one of the telescopes for a long-planned dark energy mission, but it is possible that both telescopes may wind up serving other parts of NASA, Hertz said.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will ultimately decide who gets the hardware, but he will base his decision on a report written by a team led by Marc Allen, the Science Mission Directorate’s assistant associate administrator for strategy, policy, and international matters. In “mid-November,” Allen’s team will solicit mission concepts from across the agency, Hertz said. (11/7)

U.S. Air Force Exploring New Protected Satcom Concepts (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. Air Force is laying the groundwork for a next-generation protected military satellite communications architecture with $84.3 million worth of contracts issued to 17 companies to explore a variety of options. The studies kicked off last month and will continue for two years. Today’s space-based protected milsatcom architecture consists of legacy Milstar satellites and two new Advanced Extremely High Frequency spacecraft made by Lockheed Martin. There are also payloads in polar orbit to reach areas in the extreme latitudes.

However, some in the space community question whether the Pentagon should consider a “disaggregated” architecture that allows for distributing the various functions of a protected communications satellite among different platforms. This could reduce the risk of a major service outage in the event a satellite becomes compromised, either for technical or more nefarious reasons. (11/7)

With No Methane, Life on Mars Unlikely (Source: The Scientist)
NASA’s rover Curiosity has so far failed to find evidence for the presence of methane in concentrations high enough to suggest that methane-exhaling microbes are living in the soils of Mars. The space agency announced at a press conference last week (November 2) that they could say with 95 percent confidence that methane in the Martian atmosphere does not exceed 5 parts per billion (ppb), far less than the 10 ppb that would signal that the Red Planet supports microbial life. (11/7)

Super-Earth Joins Ranks in Life-Supporting Zone (Source: Science News)
Astronomers on the prowl for potentially habitable planets have found a new candidate: a world seven times as massive as Earth in a nearby solar system. The planet orbits a star about 42 light-years away in the constellation Pictor. The star, HD 40307, was thought to harbor only three planets, but sensitive data-filtering methods revealed the presence of three more. The farthest-out of these lies in a “sweet spot,” at a distance from its star where liquid water — and thus life — could exist. (11/7)

Acaba: Huntsville's Space Station Job Tougher Than Houston's (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA astronaut Joe Acaba told reporters at Huntsville's NASA center Wednesday that the job station controllers there do is tougher in one sense than the job station controllers do in Houston. Acaba, making a visit to the center where space station science experiments are controlled, wasn't making a dig at Houston. Rather, he seemed to be thinking out loud about just how hard Marshall's job can be.

Acaba was talking about how complicated life can get on the station -- not that he doesn't love it and want to go back. Two of many things going on at the same time are taking care of the systems that keep the station functioning and performing the science experiments that are the station's reason for existing. Houston manages the systems, and Huntsville manages the science. (11/7)

Space Shuttle Exhibit Opens Saturday in Seattle (Source: NWCN)
The space shuttle trainer exhibit opens to the public Saturday at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. The 100-foot trainer was used by space shuttle astronaut crews. It's displayed in the $12 million Charles Simonyi Space Gallery that opened earlier this year. Visitors will be able to step inside the fuselage to feel what it was like to be in a shuttle. (11/7)

NASA May Soon Unveil New Manned Moon Missions (Source: NBC)
NASA is serious about sending astronauts back to the moon's neighborhood and will likely unveil its ambitious plans soon now that President Barack Obama has been re-elected, experts say. The space agency has apparently been thinking about setting up a manned outpost beyond the moon's far side, both to establish a human presence in deep space and to build momentum toward a planned visit to an asteroid in 2025.

The new plans have probably already been cleared with the Obama Administration but have been kept under wraps in case Republican candidate Mitt Romney won Tuesday night's (Nov. 6) presidential election, said space policy expert John Logsdon, a professor emeritus at George Washington University. (11/7)

Election Results Bring Potential Shifts in Space Policy Implementation (Source: SPACErePORT)
The nation re-elected President Barack Obama, with Florida (though not the Space Coast) appearing to deliver 29 electoral votes and ensuring a solid win for the 44th president. It's typical for second-term presidents to replace much of their staff, so we could see important changes in NASA's leadership at Headquarters and among the Center Directors, and also at OSTP and OMB.

Florida Senator (and Science & Space Subcommittee Chair) Bill Nelson, Rep. Bill Posey, and Rep. John Mica were all re-elected and could have considerable influence over space policies and funding in the next Congress with their growing seniority, especially if they are named to key committees. Rep. Sandy Adams lost in her primary and she and Rep. Frederica Wilson were the only Floridians on the House Science Committee. And based on GOP rules in the House, Rep. Mica will no longer chair the Transportation Committee, but he could become an appropriator.

In other states, astronaut Jose Hernandez lost his race to represent a district in California, and former space-subcommittee Rep. Nick Lampson failed in his Texas race to represent a JSC-area district. In virginia, incumbent Rep. Scott Rigell won re-election to represent the Wallops Island area. Rep. Mo Brooks was re-elected in Alabama to represent Huntsville and Decatur. Science Committee Chairman Rep. Ralph Hall won re-election in Texas (though he won't retain his committee chairmanship). (11/7)

Four More Years (Source: SpaceKSC)
Most space advocates would like to see the next Administration give a Kennedy-esque Moon speech, double the NASA budget and build Starfleet. That will not happen. It wouldn't have happened if Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama yesterday. Romney's campaign issued a position paper in September which stated, "A strong and successful NASA does not require more funding, it needs clearer priorities. Romney will ensure that NASA has practical and sustainable missions."

During the Florida Republican primary, Newt Gingrich proposed the eventual goal of a private sector initiative to build a lunar colony. Romney replied, "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.'" When he campaigned in Cape Canaveral during the primary, Romney declined the opportunity to articulate a specific policy. He'd just appoint a committee to study it.

Space was not a priority for Romney. Obama's critics have said the same of him, but the record is quite the opposite. The President came twice to Kennedy Space Center during this first term. The first was on April 15, 2010, when he articulated his space policy in an event at the Operations & Checkout Building. Obama also toured the SpaceX facilities at Launch Complex 40. He returned in April 2011, hoping to attend the STS-134 launch. It was scrubbed, so his family met with the crew and toured an Orbiter Processing Facility. Click here. (11/7)

Before the Next Four Years, Focus on the Next Eight Weeks (Source: Space Politics)
Something close to the status quo will reign in space policy in the near future. The balance of power remains unchanged: the Obama Administration will be in office for the next four years, while the Senate remains in Democratic hands and the House in Republican hands for the next two. About a fourth of the House Science Committee’s current membership won’t be back next year, and the committee will need a new chairman with Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) term-limited under Republican rules.

And there will also be speculation about changes at NASA, including how long current administrator Charles Bolden will remain on the job. However, just because there hasn’t been any major changes on either end of Pennslyvania Avenue doesn’t mean NASA will stay on its current path. The ability of NASA to achieve its exploration goals will strongly depend on what happens over the next eight weeks regarding negotiations about the 2013 budget and efforts to avoid sequestration.

Without a deal, eight weeks from today-—January 2, 2013-—the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration will go into effect, cutting NASA’s budget by over eight percent. Even if a deal is reached, the space agency may face spending cuts, although likely in a more targeted fashion than those implemented by sequestration. Those cuts could certainly impede NASA’s ability to continue on its current path. In other words, don’t look too far ahead just yet. (11/7)

Obama Win Keeps NASA on Course -- Toward an Asteroid (Source:
President Obama's re-election means NASA will likely continue along its current path, working to get astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 among other goals. A change of course was possible had Mitt Romney won the presidency, as the Republican candidate pledged to reassess NASA's path forward. But we'll never know what a Romney-revised path may have looked like, for President Obama won the day. For a brief look at some of NASA's larger aims and ambitions, which it should continue to work toward over at least the next four years, click here. (11/7)

Obama Wins Re-election, Space Policy to Remain the Same (Source: Parabolic Arc)
President Barack Obama handily won re-election against Republican challenger Mitt Romney on Tuesday, ensuring that American space policy will remain largely unchanged over the next four years. Although there will be no major policy shifts, NASA will likely face budgetary pressures as the nation grapples with the need to reduce the deficit.

The first challenge comes with sequestration, which would trigger a series of deep spending cuts in the federal budget this January unless Obama and Congress can work out a deal. Meanwhile, the song remains largely the same in Congress in terms of members on key NASA committees. And developments in California appear to bode well for strengthening a state informed consent law backed by commercial space proponents. (11/7)

Mojave Spaceport Extends Broadband for Tenants (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Tenants at the Mojave Air and Space Port will have access to broadband fiber services beginning in December. In a related move, officials are moving forward with a plan to extend broadband, power and water utilities to the test area on the north side of the spaceport, where there are currently no services. (11/7)

Need Structural Testing? Think NASA (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA has released a Request for Information (RFI) to explore the potential interest and use of its unique facilities, labs and technical expertise for structural testing at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The facilities and capabilities could support commercial, government and academic activities, and possibly lead to new technology developments.

The RFI is seeking responses from prospective partners interested in using Johnson’s extensive testing facilities to provide high-performance solutions for a variety of structural testing in diverse industries, including aerospace. These solutions can help businesses meet their challenges by helping engineers develop deeper insight in their materials and building processes. (11/7)

NASA's Space Launch System Using Futuristic Technology (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. is using a method called selective laser melting, or SLM, to create intricate metal parts for America's next heavy-lift rocket. Using this state-of-the-art technique will benefit the agency by saving millions in manufacturing costs. NASA is building the Space Launch System or SLS - a rocket managed at the Marshall Center and designed to take humans, equipment and experiments beyond low Earth orbit to nearby asteroids and eventually to Mars.

SLM is similar to 3-D printing and is the future of manufacturing. "Basically, this machine takes metal powder and uses a high-energy laser to melt it in a designed pattern," says Ken Cooper, advanced manufacturing team lead at the Marshall Center. "The laser will layer the melted dust to fuse whatever part we need from the ground up, creating intricate designs. The process produces parts with complex geometries and precise mechanical properties from a three-dimensional computer-aided design." (11/7)

Curiosity Team Switches Back to Earth Time (Source: Space Daily)
After three months working on "Mars time," the team operating NASA Mars rover Curiosity has switched to more regular hours, as planned. A Martian day, called a sol, is about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day, so the team's start time for daily planning has been moving a few hours later each week. This often resulted in the team working overnight hours, Pacific Time. Starting this week, most of the team's work will stay within bounds of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., PST. Compressing the daily planning process for rover activities makes the switch possible. (11/7)

ATK Sees Solid-Rocket Performance Boost For SLS (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA is gearing up for risk-reduction in developing its heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS), setting up a hardware-in-the-loop laboratory at Marshall Space Flight Center to exercise avionics for the big new human-rated rocket with the thrust-vector control-actuators they will be controlling in flight. The center's Propulsion Research Laboratory is running real-time simulations as hardware and software become available and can be quickly converted to accommodate new test articles.

In addition to the recycled Space Shuttle Main Engines that will be used on early SLS flights, the laboratory setups will be able to handle the strap-on boosters that are just starting to take shape with some advanced engineering study contracts from NASA. A lot of that effort is going to liquid-fuel technology, including composite tankage and a look at updating the F-1 engine that powered the Saturn V first stage.

But ATK—which is building solid-rocket boosters (SRB) for early SLS flight tests based on its space shuttle SRB—is also at work on upgraded versions designed to take the SLS to the 130-metric-ton capability Congress has ordered, while lowering the cost of producing them from shuttle-era levels. ATK went through an extensive bottom-up review of the production processes in Utah. The value-stream mapping process continues, but it has already produced significant cost-savings in the qualification boosters it is building to prepare for the early SLS flight tests. (11/5)

Russia, Vietnam to Cooperate in Space Exploration (Source: Voice of Russia)
Russia and Vietnam have reached agreement on cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. A relevant intergovernmental agreement was signed in the wake of a meeting of the two countries’ Prime Ministers, Dmitry Medvedev and Nguyen Tan Dung. The two leaders also took up prospects for boosting Russian-Vietnamese energy cooperation and made a decision to set up a high-level bilateral working group on priority investment projects. (11/7)
Asteroid Defense, Or How to Stop a Species Killer (Source: Huffington Post)
The B612 Foundation is working with NASA and the United Nations on an Asteroid Deflection Program designed to prevent Near Earth Objects (NEOs) from colliding with earth. This may sound like the stuff of science fiction, or even white elephant technology, but given that the asteroid Apophis will pass in between the Earth and the Moon in 2029 and we're glad someone is working on this stuff.

Oh, and did we mention that Apophis, which is at least 885 feet in diameter, would release 27 megatons of energy if it did hit our planet? That's a pretty big wallop compared to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima which was a measly .02 megatons. Apophis is not currently on a collision course with Earth. It will get a second chance, however, when it returns in 2036. In the meantime, there are plenty of NEOs still out there waiting to be mapped. Click here. (11/7)

Russian Investigation Ongoing in GLONASS Funding Theft (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia’s Interior Ministry continues investigation of the case on plunder of 565 million roubles, which had been allocated for development of the GLONASS space navigation system. Press service of the Moscow police reported on Wednesday, that the investigation revealed a company, to which accounts the figurants transferred the money. “The police revealed the fact of stealing the total of two billion roubles, where about 600 million were transferred to accounts of ‘one-day’ companies,” the source said. (11/7)

Launches from Vostochny to Start 2015 (Source: Itar-Tass)
The first rocket launches from the Vostochny pad will begin in 2015, Vladimir Popovkin, said during the inspection of the spaceport’s construction. "I am satisfied with progress of the construction. Most importantly, we have developed this construction. Its peak should be at the end of next year. Now the main thing is not to slow down the pace of work", he said.

"The launch and technical systems must be submitted in 2014. Installation of the main buildings, structures, networks and communications will be completed in 2013," Deputy Chief of Dalspetsstroy Paul Buyanovsky said. The construction at the Vostochny spaceport continues round the clock, the construction site employs 2,500 people, where ever third is a local resident. This year’s investments is planned to make about 20 billion roubles. (11/7)

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