December 31, 2012

NASA and NOAA In Line for Hurricane Sandy Disaster Aid Funds (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Senate-passed version of a $60 billion appropriations bill to help victims of Hurricane Sandy includes $15 million to repair damage at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility (WFF), while NOAA would get almost $500 million. The bill itself says only that the NASA money is to repair facilities damaged by the hurricane that wreaked devastating havoc on the East Coast -- particularly New Jersey, New York and Connecticut -- in October. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said in a floor statement on December 17 that "Even NASA's spaceport Wallops facility was damaged by Hurricane Sandy."  

Mikulski just ascended to chairing the Senate Appropriations Committee following the death of Senator Daniel Inouye, and remains as chair of the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee that funds NASA and NOAA.   She added that beaches near the NASA launch pad at WFF were washed away and workers had to stop testing Orbital Sciences Corporation's Antares rocket, which is part of NASA's commercial cargo program.  She said other NASA facilities also were damaged.

Some Senate Republicans unsuccessfully offered an alternative bill that would have provided less than half of the Democratic-sponsored legislation and focused on near term needs. The Democratic version passed 62-32, however, so some Republicans did support it. Whether the Republican-controlled House will pass it in the remaining few days of the 112th Congress is unclear. It is not on the list of bills to be considered by the House today. (12/30)

ESA Agrees to Explore Closer Cooperation With European Union (Source: Parabolic Arc)
In a declaration adopted at their November meeting, ESA’s ministers tasked Director General  Jean-Jacques Dordain with overseeing as process designed to evolve the space agency and to improve its cooperation with the European Union (EU).

The move comes in response to an effort by the European Commission to forge closer links between the two independent organizations, which have overlapping responsible for space policy and activities on the continent. These efforts could eventually end up with ESA coming under the control of the union sometime during the next decade. (12/30)

Key Space Issues for 2013 (Source: Space Review)
The end of the year is a natural time to reflect on the past year, but it's also an opportunity to look ahead into next year. Jeff Foust examines some of the key issues, from potential budget cuts to plans for the first flights of commercial space vehicles, that will be front and center in 2013. Visit to view the article. (12/31)

NASA is Essential for National Security (Source: Space Review)
NASA is not considered a military organization, yet can it play a role in national security? Gary Oleson, Bob Silsby, and Darin Skelly describe how NASA, from international cooperation to cost-effective technology development, can enhance national security. Visit to view the article. (12/31)

Last Thoughts About Working with the First Man (Source: Space Review)
One of the saddest events of 2012 was the death of Neil Armstrong. Dwayne Day recounts his experiences working with the first man to set foot on the Moon on an aeronautics committee last year. Visit to view the article. (12/31)

Launch Failures: Engine Out (Source: Space Review)
In October, two launches within a few days of each other suffered engine problems, although both were able to complete their primary missions. Wayne Eleazer examines how past engine problems on launches have resulted in less fortunate outcomes. Visit to view the article. (12/31)

Spaceport America Could Become a Ghost Town (Source: Citizens in Space)
A group of New Mexico legislators led by Sen. John Arthur Smith (D-Demming) is warning that the $200-million Spaceport America “could become a ghost town, with tumbleweeds crossing the runways” if critical liability legislation is not passed. The New Mexico legislature has passed a liability law that protects space-transportation operators such as Virgin Galactic, but the bill does not cover vehicle manufacturers and part suppliers. That omission puts New Mexico “at a terrible disadvantage” relative to Texas, Colorado, Florida, and Virginia, Smith said. (12/30)

Launch Indemnification Extension Goes Down to the Wire (Source: Space Politics)
The federal commercial launch indemnification regime—which protects commercial launch operators against third-party losses that exceed levels they must insure against—expires on Dec. 31, with no sign that an extension will make it through Congress in time.

So what happens if launch indemnification isn’t extended? There are commercially licensed launches coming up in early 2013, including the first test launch of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket in February and the next SpaceX Falcon 9 cargo mission to the ISS in late February or early March. During a commercial space panel at a space law colloquium this fall in Washington, I asked Mat Dunn, director of legislative affairs for SpaceX, what a failure to extend indemnification would mean for the company.

"I think the immediate effect would be that insurance rates would probably go up, and that would be negative for the industry from a cost perspective,” he said, adding it may deter some other companies interested in performing launches. SpaceX, though, would perform its launches regardless of the status of the indemnification extension, he said. “We’re prepared to execute our launches for our customers if the provision is extended or not.” (12/30)

SLS Development, Mission Possibilities Take Shape (Source:
2012: The year when the Space Launch System rocket began to take shape. For NASA, 2012 saw tremendous progress toward the development of the SLS rocket – the rocket that will see humanity’s return to regions of space beyond Low Earth Orbit and eventually on to our ultimate destination: Mars. While many initial, generalized descriptions of the SLS rocket were revealed to the general public in 2011, it was not until 2012 that the power-house rocket actually began to take shape from a true design standpoint.

Owing in large part to political dogfights about what the rocket, the successor to the Space Shuttle, would actually be, much of the work on the SLS rocket did not begin until late 2011. This work continued in earnest in 2012, with the rocket passing the first of its Preliminary Design Reviews this year. In all, 2012 began with what many had already suspected: the salvaging of the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) family from the Shuttle program for use in the initial launches of the SLS rocket. Click here. (12/30)

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