November 9, 2012

Old Homestead Site for Giant Solid Rocket Motors (Source Business Insider)
In 1963, Aerojet General was given a $3 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to build a manufacturing and testing site for rockets that would send astronauts to the moon. The plant was constructed in the center of Florida's Everglades in the town of Homestead. Beneath a large metal shed, a 150-foot deep silo housed the largest solid-fuel rocket motor ever built. The rocket was tested three times between 1965 and 1967.

Then NASA dropped the project. The agency decided to go with liquid-fuel rocket engines instead. The plant was closed in 1969, leaving the rocket behind. Photographer Naaman Fletcher, who blogs at What's Left of Birmingham, visited the abandoned facility in April 2010. Here's what remains. Click here. Editor's Note: While Aerojet developed this facility, a similar one was developed in Georgia by Thiokol at the site that is now proposed for a Georgia spaceport. (10/2)

Lockheed Martin COO Ousted (Source: Daily Beast)
Lockheed Martin CEO-to-be Christopher Kubasik was ousted from the company Friday after it was revealed that he had a “close personal relationship with a subordinate employee,” according to a statement from the security company. Lockheed’s board of directors asked for and received a resignation from COO Kubasik, 51, who was scheduled to take over as CEO in January. The board said Kubasik’s relationship with a subordinate violates the company’s code of ethics and has already promoted someone else to replace him. (11/9)

Elections Could Shift Tallahassee Political Landscape for Space Florida (Source: SPACErePORT)
The Nov. 6 elections weakened the Republican grip on the Florida Legislature in Tallahassee, heralding some potential changes for the state's continued support for space programs. Prior to Nov. 6, the Republican-led House and Senate both had "supermajority" status for the GOP. Democratic gains in the Senate have erased the supermajority there, but although GOP seats were lost in the House, the chamber still has a supermajority.

Among the GOP seats lost in the House was one held by the member expected to assume House leadership in 2014, so another future-Speaker must be identified. Unknown in the Senate is whether the Committee on Military Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security will be restructured or maintain its space focus, and whether a Space Coast member will again lead the committee. Rep. Dorothy Hukill from Volusia County (just north of KSC), who has sponsored previous space-focused legislation, won her bid to join the Florida Senate.

Meanwhile, the Governor-appointed board overseeing Space Florida on Nov. 8 approved the use of FDOT funding for two infrastructure projects at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, including additional funding to convert a KSC Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) for Boeing's CST-100 capsule, and new funding believed to be intended for a second OPF that might be used for the Air Force's X-37B program. The board remarked on the relative cost-effectiveness of Space Florida's job-creation efforts, as compared with other non-aerospace economic development efforts in the state. (11/9)

Comet Collisions Every Six Seconds Explain 17-Year-Old Stellar Mystery (Source: SpaceRef)
Every six seconds, for millions of years, comets have been colliding with one another near a star in the constellation Cetus called 49 CETI, which is visible to the naked eye. Over the past three decades, astronomers have discovered hundreds of dusty disks around stars, but only two -- 49 CETI is one -- have been found that also have large amounts of gas orbiting them.

Young stars, about a million years old, have a disk of both dust and gas orbiting them, but the gas tends to dissipate within a few million years and almost always within about 10 million years. Yet 49 CETI, which is thought to be considerably older, is still being orbited by a tremendous quantity of gas in the form of carbon monoxide molecules, long after that gas should have dissipated. (11/9)

Britain Pledges 25 Percent Boost in ESA Spending (Source: Space News)
The British government, in a stunning decision for an administration that is slashing spending left and right, and views Europe with a skeptical eye, on Nov. 9 committed itself to increasing its investment in the 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA) by 25 percent starting in 2013 and extending through 2017. The announcement by the U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, whose office controls the governments’ purse strings, exceeded even the most optimistic of forecasts of how Britain would approach a new round of program decisions at ESA. (11/9)

5 Years of Incredible X-Ray Explosions From The Sun (Source: WIRED)
Want to see what happens when the sun wakes up? The solar cycle is a natural 11-year variation in sunspot numbers and space weather activity that occurs when the sun’s internal magnetic field flips. During solar minimum, the sun has very few or no sunspots and produces few large flares and coronal mass ejections — energetic explosions on the sun that spew tons of radiation and charged particles into space. But at solar maximum it shoots ever more outbursts, which can disrupt communications on Earth, sometimes to a catastrophic degree. Click here to see the video. (11/9)

SpaceX Claims First Victims as Rocketdyne Lays Off 100 (Source: KPCC)
Not SpaceX directly. NASA is backing off from running its own missions - and is turning over the servicing of the International Space Station to commercial space companies like SpaceX. Elon Musk's Hawthorne-based startup just recovered the capsule from its first mission to the ISS on a $1.6 billion contract. But the money that NASA is spending on SpaceX and others who are offering lower-cost private missions is money it won't be spending on Rocketdyne, which was sold in July by parent company United Technologies to GenCorp for $550 million. (11/8)

Canada Finds Space in Space (Source: Western News)
The future's so bright, you gotta wear shades. Better yet, make it solar viewing glasses. As Western prepares to welcome delegates from academia, industry and government next week for the 2012 Canadian Space Summit, a Canadian Space Agency (CSA) official says thanks to scientists and researchers, like those affiliated with the Center for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX), Canada is well positioned to remain a major player on the global stage.

“We (Canada) are moving forward to sustain some key areas of expertise in space exploration and Earth observation," said Manon Larocque, CSA government liaison director. “We’ve done the groundwork and are ready to contribute to future international space missions.” (11/8)

For Obama’s Second Term, NASA Revives a Plan from Clinton’s Second Term (Source: WIRED)
The "Moon Mission" story, which appeared on Oct. 7 in multiple outlets, is titled “NASA May Unveil New Manned Moon Missions Soon.” Unfortunately, the article is substantially incorrect. Interestingly, hidden behind the misleading headlines and scattered among the out-of-context quotes about piloted voyages to the moon, an asteroid, and Mars, one can find nuggets of truth that reveal the real plan.

If one reads carefully the quotes attributed to John Logsdon, one discovers that the plan calls not for manned missions to the moon, an asteroid, and Mars, but rather for an outpost at Earth-moon L2. The L2 outpost, which many believe could be built without a major increase in NASA’s roughly $18-billion annual budget – a big selling point in tough economic times – would be designed to provide NASA astronauts and engineers with experience in deep space operations which would help to ensure the success of eventual voyages beyond the Earth-moon system. (11/9)

Boeing Plans More California Cuts (Source: LA Times)
As the federal government reduces military spending, aerospace giant Boeing Co. is continuing to shrink its footprint in Southern California. One of the region's largest employers, the Chicago company said it is trimming its executive workforce 30% from 2010 levels, selling office buildings in Seal Beach and demolishing one in Huntington Beach. It has already sold property in Anaheim. These are the latest moves by the company in the last two years to bring down costs by relocating defense programs, slowing production lines and reducing its workforce in Southern California. (11/8)

Pentagon Orders Study of Commercial Satcom Opportunities, Barriers (Source: Space News)
Citing missed opportunities to utilize the commercial satellite telecom sector, the Pentagon’s No. 2 official has asked an independent advisory panel to look into the matter and identify possible ways to fix the problem. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter directed the Defense Business Board to identify opportunities, obstacles and corrective actions related to leveraging private-sector satellite communications capabilities. (11/9)

Avoiding Sequestration Would Have Biggest Economic Effect, CBO Says (Source: Bloomberg)
A report released by the Congressional Budget Office states that avoiding the automatic spending cuts of sequestration would have the biggest effect on the nation's "fiscal cliff," which encompasses sequestration and the expiration of some tax credits. "Because the tax cuts have been in place for so long, CBO expects that households would view an extension of current tax rates as a continuation of established tax policy and would therefore alter their spending very little," the report said. (11/8)

Hitchhiker Payloads Few and Far Between Despite Air Force Decree (Source: Space News)
After the maiden flight in 2007 of an adapter designed to mount six secondary payloads on rockets the U.S. government relies on to launch its large satellites, U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne called for greater use of the device. The Air Force has many Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) missions scheduled during the next five years “with anticipated excess weight margin,” Wynne wrote in 2008. “We should leverage this excess capacity by maximizing our use of the EELV Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA)... As such, it is my policy to make ESPA-hosted satellite launches a routine operation starting no later than fiscal year 2012.”

Since Wynne issued that memo, only one ESPA ring has flown. In 2009, NASA used the excess lift capacity on an Atlas 5 rocket carrying its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to launch the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS). To look for water ice buried in lunar craters, engineers from the NASA Ames Research Center and Northrop Grumman Corp. used an ESPA ring as the backbone of a science satellite. They fitted the ESPA ring with sensors, antennas, propulsion, communications and navigation systems to gather information as the Centaur upper stage and then the LCROSS spacecraft crashed into the lunar surface. (11/8)

Planetary Society Congratulates Obama, Asks for More Planetary Funding (Source: Space Politics)
What do you do when the candidate who won the election was the one whose budget cut your favorite program? In the case of The Planetary Society, the answer is to congratulate him—and ask him to reverse those cuts. In a statement Thursday, the organization congratulated President Obama on his reelection Tuesday while asking him to restore funding for NASA’s planetary science program in the forthcoming 2014 budget proposal.

“As our economy continues to rebound, we call on President Obama to invest in our future by making a commitment to increase NASA’s capacity to pursue groundbreaking robotic and human space missions over the next four years,” the society’s statement reads. “The first step along this path would be to restore NASA’s Planetary Science funding to $1.5 billion in the upcoming 2014 budget.” That restored funding, the organization said, could be used to support Mars sample return mission planning, as well as for another flagship-class mission, to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa." (11/9)

Loral Has Reservations about Telesat IPO (Source: Space News)
Loral Space and Communications will not participate in an initial public offering (IPO) of stock in satellite fleet operator Telesat of Canada as proposed by Telesat co-owner PSP but is willing to explore ways to make an IPO less unattractive from a tax standpoint, Loral Chief Executive Michael B. Targoff said. Loral, which has just sold its Space Systems/Loral satellite manufacturing arm to MDA Corp. of Canada, is “exploring options that could make a Telesat IPO attractive.” (11/9)

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