January 4, 2013

More USA Workers Lose Jobs (Source: Florida Today)
United Space Alliance has let go 111 local employees, a month after cutting 119 positions at Kennedy Space Center. The layoffs come as transition and retirement of the shuttle program nears completion, ending the work for most of the Houston-based contractor's employees. The cuts will drop USA's headcount to 785 in Florida, with another 836 in Texas. The joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin has now laid off more than 6,000 total employees since 2009, including more than 4,300 from KSC. (1/4)

Curiosity Spots Mystery Mars Object (Source: Discovery)
While using its robotic arm-mounted Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera to take some close up photos of the surface of a rocky outcrop at a location dubbed "Yellowknife Bay" on Dec. 19 (sol 132 of the mission), a bright object could be seen in one of the raw images uploaded to the mission's website. Its discovery has caused quite a stir on AboveTopSecret.com where it was first reported.

Alerted to the mystery feature, MSNBC's Alan Boyle assumed it was just another piece of litter accidentally dropped from the rover. However, this isn't the case. On putting the question to NASA spokesman Guy Webster, it appears initial analysis has confirmed it is part of the rock and not something dropped on top. "That appears to be part of the rock, not debris from the spacecraft," Webster told Boyle.

So what could it be? The high-resolution MAHLI camera is intended to snap close-up observations of Mars surface features -- acting like hand lens magnifiers used by geologists in the field. Therefore, the object -- that, as noted by Boyle, is shaped like a tiny 'flower' -- is pretty small. Naturally, the ever-optimistic and irrational part of my brain wants this to be evidence of some kind of Mars fossil, but in all likelihood, it's a concentration of minerals embedded in the rock. The former may sound more exciting, but the latter is the most likely explanation. (1/4)

A Vast Rotating Disk of Dwarf Galaxies Surrounding the Andromeda Galaxy (Source: CFH)
A new study of our nearest giant cosmic neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy, shows that more than half of its small, dwarf galaxy companions are aligned in a giant disk that appears to rotate around the bright host also known as Messier 31. The PAndAS (Pan-Andromeda Archaeological Survey) team used MegaCam on the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope to conduct the survey, complemented by spectroscopic follow-ups with the W. M. Keck Observatory.

Large galaxies like Andromeda and our own Milky Way have long been known to be orbited by an entourage of smaller galaxies. These systems - that are individually anywhere from ten to at least hundreds of thousands times fainter that their bright hosts - were thought to trace a path around the big galaxy that was independent of every other dwarf. The fact that astronomers now see that a majority of these little systems in fact contrive to map out an immensely large - approximately one million light years across - but extremely flattened structure, implies that this understanding is grossly incorrect. (1/4)

2012 in Polish Space Activities (Source: Kosmonauta)
Without a doubt, Poland becoming a new member state of the European Space Agency (ESA) was the most important achievement in 2012. After years of efforts, which came from different scientific, industrial and political groups, the integration process with ESA was finished last year. It was not an easy task – after a fast conclusion of the technical part of negotiations with ESA, the Polish government made no action for several months. Later it became clear that the Polish Ministry of Finance was against joining ESA due to high costs.

As a response, a public action supporting Polish accession to ESA was initiated. Several different professional societies supported this action, presenting the reasons why it was important for Poland to join ESA. Moreover, a “negative scenario” was also presented, which described a possible outcome if Poland did not join the Agency. The public support action finished with a success on the 12th of June 2012. On that day, the Polish government decided to accept the negotiated terms and join ESA. Click here. (1/4)

India's First Astronaut Slams ISRO (Source: Times of India)
While speaking on 'Should India invest in manned space program', Rakesh Sharma slammed the government for not having a vision. "We need a different kind of fire, a vision, and I am sorry to say that it is lacking at the top echelons. ISRO needs to send manned space programs as robots cannot explore. It needs to be done before all resources are utilized. We need plans for international collaboration than competition," he said. (1/4)

Spaceport Tops Lawmaker Goals (Source: Las Cruces Bulletin)
If there’s one legislative effort that most southern New Mexico lawmakers will be focused onwhen the 60-day session begins Tuesday, Jan. 15, it’s expanding liability protection for companies taking tourists into space. As she has the past two sessions, Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Mesilla Park, will be sponsoring the main spaceport legislation, referred to as the expanded informed consent bill, because the original bill gave protection from lawsuits by having passengers acknowledge that taking a rocket-powered flight into space is inherently risky.

The spaceport legislation enjoys bipartisan support, such as Republican Rep. Terry McMillan of Las Cruces. “I can’t imagine a single legislator from Doña Ana County not supporting this,” McMillan said. “This is too important to us. This has the potential to infuse money into our economy. A lot of it. Taking passengers to space is just the start of what could happen out there. The potential is huge. (1/4)

NASA Funds UMass Lowell Research on Space Weather (Source: UML)
While large space-weather events, known as space storms or solar storms, can trigger spectacular displays of auroras, the high-energy particles produced by these storms can harm the health of spacewalking astronauts as well as airline passengers and crews flying at high altitudes along polar routes. Geomagnetic storms can also create a surge in electrical current, overloading electric power grids and damaging transmission lines and oil pipelines, notes Song.

Solar storms start out with coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, which are enormous bubbles of plasma flowing out from the sun. “CMEs travel through interplanetary space and eventually hit Earth, potentially affecting our lives and those of orbiting satellites,” says Paul Song. “The effects we feel on the Earth depend on how the interactions take place between a CME and Earth’s magnetosphere, a region well above the atmosphere where most satellites fly, and the ionosphere, which is roughly the top of the atmosphere.”

Song, together with Distinguished Research Prof. Vytenis Vasyliunas and Asst. Research Prof. Jiannan Tu of the CAR, recently received a three-year grant from NASA worth more than $356,000 to study these interactions. (1/4)

America's Rocket Renaissance (Source: Parabolic Arc)
During recent public talks, Scaled Composites Founder Burt Rutan has bemoaned the lack of recent rocket development in the United States. After the initial burst of creativity in the 1950′s and 1960′s, decades went by with very few new rockets being developed. He has also pointed to Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipTwo, SpaceX’s Dragon and Stratolaunch Systems air-launch project (which he worked on for 20 years) as the only serious developments in the field at present.

My first thought was: Burt’s wrong. There’s a lot more going on than just that. Including developments just down the flight line in Mojave that he somehow fails to mention. And my second thought was: well, just how wrong is Burt, exactly? A lot, it turns out. Click here. (1/4)

Beam Me Up! William Shatner Tweets With Astronaut in Space (Source: Space.com)
Move over Scotty, Captain Kirk has a new favorite engineer. Actor William Shatner, the Canadian actor who portrayed the iconic captain of the Starship Enterprise on TV's "Star Trek" hailed Canada's soon-to-be first space station commander on Twitter to find out the latest news from orbit. Shatner wrote to Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield, who posts Twitter updates as @Cmdr_Hadfield, Thursday (Jan. 3) using his own Twitter handle @WilliamShatner.

"@Cmdr_Hadfield Are you tweeting from space? MBB," Shatner wrote, signing off with his abbreviation of "My Best, Bill." It did not take long for Hadfield, a mechanical engineer and retired colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces, to beam a reply down from the International Space Station. "@WilliamShatner Yes, Standard Orbit, Captain. And we're detecting signs of life on the surface," the astronaut wrote. (1/4)

Congress Girds For Future NASA Budget Battles (Source: Aviation Week)
A housekeeping measure for the U.S. civil space program adopted in the final hours of the expiring Congress includes language reaffirming congressional support for NASA’s current spending priorities in the budget battles ahead. The legislation, needed to extend government indemnification of third-party damages from commercial space launches and to allow NASA to continue buying human-spaceflight services from Russia, also included “sense of Congress” language reaffirming support for a mix of government and commercial human spaceflight vehicles.

The “Space Exploration Sustainability Act” adopted Jan. 2 specifically lists the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS), the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle and commercial crew and cargo space vehicles under development with NASA backing as “inherently complementary and interrelated,” and forbids the use of SLS or Orion funding to pay for commercial-vehicle development.

“This action by Congress reaffirms the intent of the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, which reflected a hard-fought Congressional and Administration consensus for the future of NASA in the post-shuttle era,” stated retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who was credited by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden with forcing the White House budget office to free funding for the SLS. “I am delighted that this will be one of my final acts as a U.S. Senator.” (1/4)

Is January Chinese ASAT Testing Month? (Source: All Things Nuclear)
In 2007 and 2010 China conducted anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons tests, both on January 11. Rumors circulating for the past few months suggest that some within the U.S. defense and intelligence community believe China is preparing to conduct another ASAT test. The first media report on these rumors appeared in October.

China’s Ministry of Defense challenged the information in that report, but in November contacts in China told us an announcement about an upcoming ASAT test was circulated within the Chinese government. We were unable to find a public statement confirming plans for a test in the Chinese media or on publicly accessible Chinese government websites. Then, just before Christmas, a high-ranking U.S. defense official said the Obama administration was very concerned about an imminent Chinese ASAT test.

Given these high-level administration concerns, and past Chinese practice, there seems to be a strong possibility China will conduct an ASAT test within the next few weeks. What kind of test and what the target might be is unclear. The Obama administration has three choices: it can make a quiet diplomatic effort to persuade China to cancel or at least postpone the test, it can publicly call on China not to test, or it can remain silent until China conducts the test and then complain about it afterwards. (1/4)

Protest Slows NASA Open Source Project (Source: FCW)
NASA's plans to transition to a content management system with open source architecture are on hold for a little while. The agency awarded a $40 million blanket purchase agreement in mid-December to InfoZen to replace the agency’s existing CMS – operated for several years by eTouch Federal Systems LLC – with open source architecture to run its 140 websites and 1,600 web assets and applications.

But that contract has come under protest from eTouch Federal Systems LLC, which filed a formal bid protest on Dec. 28 against NASA’s new deal with InfoZen. The contract is now under review by the Government Accountability Office with an expected resolution by April 8, according to a NASA official. (1/4)

Mars Mission Launch in October (Source: The Hindu)
The mission to Mars would take place as scheduled in October, director of ISRO’s Ahmedabad-based Physical Research Laboratory J.L. Goswami said here on Friday. The work on the project was proceeding smoothly and the equipment for five experiments to be conducted during the mission should be ready by March for integration into the satellite, he told reporters on the sidelines of a panel discussion on payloads for the mission.

Dr. Goswami indicated that the mission would be launched with the help of ISRO’s workhorse PSLV –XL. According to current plans, the launch is scheduled for around October 22. The satellite will initially orbit around the Earth for about a month to ensure that all the systems are functioning properly. Around November 26, it will exit the Earth’s orbit and embark on a journey to Mars, which is expected to last around 300 days. (1/4)

Looking for Life on Mars: What's Next (Source: CNN)
In less than a month, the Opportunity rover will begin her 10th year on the surface of Mars. She has already outlived her 90-day warranty 35 times over, like a human living 2,500 years instead of 70 – an astonishing engineering achievement. But how has Mars science advanced during this period?

Opportunity and her twin sister, Spirit, went to Mars to determine whether, where, and how liquid water ever flowed across the Martian surface. Before their missions, we knew Mars had dry river valleys, but how could we be sure that water carved them? Where were the minerals that liquid water leaves behind: the clays that dominate our tropical soils on Earth, or salts deposited after evaporation? Click here. (1/4)

Giant Sun Eruption Could Swallow 20 Earths (Source: Space.com)
A massive eruption on the surface of the sun this week blasted out a wave of super-hot plasma so high that it could tower over 20 Earths, NASA officials say. The New Year's Eve solar eruption occurred Monday (Dec. 31) and was captured on camera by NASA's powerful Solar Dynamics Observatory, a sun-watching spacecraft that constantly records high-definition video of our star. The result: an eye-popping video of the New Year's Eve sun storm.

Despite its size, the solar eruption was not the most powerful example of the sun's stormy wrath, NASA officials said. The sun is currently in an active phase of its 11-year solar activity cycle  and is expected to reach its peak level later this year. However, NASA scientists have said that the peak of the current cycle, known as Solar Cycle 24, may be the lowest of its kind in a century. (1/4)

NASA to Hold Commercial Crew Program Status Update Jan. 9 (Source: NASA)
NASA will hold a status update news conference to discuss the progress of the agency's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) at 2 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Jan. 9. The briefing from Kennedy Space Center will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency's website. Through CCP, NASA is facilitating the development of U.S. commercial crew space transportation capabilities to achieve safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from low-Earth orbit for potential future government and commercial customers. (1/4)

Will We Ever Get Crazy Enough to Go to the Stars? (Source: National Geographic)
To get to the stars, we’ll need many new materials and engines but also a few of the old intangibles. They haven’t vanished. In fact, they almost seem to be bursting forth again in the imaginative space vacated by the space shuttle, which in 2011 joined the Saturn V as a museum exhibit. In the conversation of certain dreamer-nerds, especially outside NASA, you can now hear echoes of the old aspiration and adventurousness—of the old craziness for space. Click here. (1/4)

Bolden Clarifies Fiscal Cliff Status for NASA Employees (Source: NASA)
"The agreement reached by Congress and signed by the President delays sequestration for a period of two months, until March 1, 2013.  Accordingly, no automatic reductions in budgetary resources will take place at this time.  The deal provides Congress with additional time to work on a balanced plan that can prevent these automatic spending cuts from ever occurring... This means that, for the time being, there will be no changes to our day-to-day operations or any personnel actions taken due to the threat of sequestration." (1/4)

Cornyn: Government Shutdown May Be Needed (Source: Space Policy Online)
"The coming [budget] deadlines will be the next flashpoints in our ongoing fight to bring fiscal sanity to Washington. It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain. President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately." (1/4)

Congress Tells NASA and White House, Again, It Wants Space Launch System (Source: Huntsville Times)
In one of its last acts before adjourning, the 112th Congress gave final approval Wednesday to a law telling policymakers in both the White House and NASA -- again -- that Congress is serious about wanting the new heavy-lift rocket being developed in Huntsville, Al. The measure, which includes other sections critical to future space exploration, now goes to President Obama for his signature.

Congress had been asked to extend third-party liability indemnification for commercial space launch companies and to remove a potential legal hurdle to continued use of Russian rockets as space taxis for American astronauts. The law doing both of those things is called the"Space Exploration Sustainability Act," and it was passed Monday by the Senate and accepted without objection Wednesday by the House.

But senators led by outgoing Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX, and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, attached an amendment to the Senate version stating again that Congress expects NASA and the White House to follow through on what Hutchison called "a hard-fought congressional and administration consensus" reached in 2010. That deal passed into law in late 2010 requires NASA to pursue both commercial space development and government development of a new heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule together called the Space Launch System. (1/3)

Astronomers: Milky Way May Contain Close to 200 Billion Planets (Source: NY Daily News)
Our solar system may consist of only eight planets, but our Milky Way galaxy might contain close to 200 billion planets, according to a recent study. Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology reached this estimate after unlocking what could be a pattern of planet formation that extends throughout the galaxy. Click here. (1/3)

Comet Ison is Not the Comet of the Century – Yet (Source: Guardian)
Comet Ison is on its way. This icy messenger from the distant past is as big as a mountain and has the potential to light up the night sky later this year … or it could fizzle out. We must be careful not to expect too much. There is almost a year to go before Comet Ison reaches the inner solar system, yet excitement is already running high. The web has filled with stories of how this comet could become brighter than the full moon.

If the comet truly becomes brighter than the moon, it will be visible in the daytime and will indeed be the comet of the century. However there is no guarantee that Comet Ison will be this spectacular. It is far too early for astronomers to be making such predictions. Comets are notoriously fickle beasts. In the past they have disappointed as often as they have dazzled. Some of the web's more informed commentators have already noted this. (1/4)

Military Space Communications Lacks Direction (Source: Space Daily)
The Defense Department is at a standstill when it comes to figuring out what it will require to maintain its future military space communications architecture, both industry and government officials said at a recent industry conference - and nobody seems to be in charge. The backbone of military communications for expeditionary warfare is increasingly dependent on satellites. U.S. forces showed up in Iraq in 2003 with satellite terminals, and left eight and half years later having never bothered to tap into landlines.

During that time, the demand exploded for communications satellites as a means to link between long distances. The U.S. military, lacking the capacity to send large amounts of data through its own systems, was forced to go to commercial satellite operators and lease transponders at high costs - currently some $1.2 billion per year. An estimated 80 percent of all U.S. military satellite communications now travels through about 50 private sector spacecraft, which do not provide the highly protected, jam-resistant capabilities the military needs. (1/4)

Pancake Structure in Andromeda Galaxy Upends Galactic Understanding (Source: Space Daily)
Astronomers using the Canada-France-Hawaii and W. M. Keck Observatory telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii have been amazed to find a group of dwarf galaxies moving in unison in the vicinity of the Andromeda Galaxy. The structure of these small galaxies lies in a plane, analogous to the planets of the Solar System. Unexpectedly, they orbit the much larger Andromeda galaxy en masse, presenting a serious challenge to our ideas for the formation and evolution of all galaxies. (1/4)

Science Investment: A Moral Imperative (Source: Huffington Post)
There is no greater testimony to the wisdom and value of supporting scientific research than the awards ceremony held earlier this month in Stockholm, Sweden, where scientists were honored with Nobel Prizes. For the three U.S. researchers feted for work in chemistry, medicine and physics -- half of this year's honorees in those disciplines -- support came not only from their institutions, but also from taxpayer dollars.

Research grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, NASA and other federal agencies fuel the innovation and discovery that havelong made the United States a scientific juggernaut. It's impossible to know what pursuits will pay off in the kinds of blockbuster findings that lead to Nobel Prizes, but it is absolutely essential that the mission be undertaken. And precisely because of the speculative nature of the endeavor, only federal support can properly underwrite the kind of research that spans the scientific process from laboratory experiment to bedside. (1/2)

1950s Land Campaign a Cover-Up for Baikonur (Source: Space Safety)
According to a post in the Friends of NASA forum on LinkedIn in December, a 2006 Russian documentary movie called "Secrets of the Century: Baikonour" suggested that the large 1950s Soviet agricultural campaign, known also as Raising of the Tzelina, was nothing more than an extreme cover up designed to conceal the logistically demanding construction of what is today known as Baikonour Cosmodrome. In the western media this speculation went rather unnoticed.

There is no doubt that at the height of the cold war in the middle of the 1950s when the cosmodrome’s construction was conceived, the former USSR was willing to go great lengths to keep their military projects away from the sight of their number one enemy at the time – the USA. With no satellite surveillance available, concealing even such a large construction operation was somehow possible. Clearly, the reconnaissance airplanes were very limited and vulnerable in that regard. Click here. (1/4)

'Black Beauty' Meteorite Could Yield Martian Secrets (Source: AFP)
A fist-sized meteorite nicknamed "Black Beauty" could unlock vital clues to the evolution of Mars from the warm and wet place it once was to its current cold and dry state, NASA said. Discovered in Morocco's Sahara Desert in 2011, the 11-ounce (320-gram) space rock contains 10 times more water than other Martian meteorites and could be the first ever to have originated on the planet's surface or crust.

After more than a year of intensive study, a team of US scientists determined the meteorite formed 2.1 billion years ago during the beginning of the most recent geologic period on Mars, known as the Amazonian, NASA said. The abundance of water molecules in the meteorite -- about 6,000 parts per million, 10 times more than other known rocks -- suggests water activity persisted on the Martian surface when it was formed. It is generally accepted that Mars had abundant water early in its existence -- scientists ponder if life might once have existed there -- but the nature of its evolution to a cold and dry place remains a mystery. (1/3)

Virginia Spaceport Gears-Up for Launches to ISS and Moon in 2013 (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority launch pads at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia are anticipating a busy year of orbital space launches in 2013 as the commercial firm Orbital Sciences Corporation begins its first commercial operations to the International Space Station and the first civil lunar mission from the spaceport.

Later this month, the Antares booster rocket will have a hot fire test of rocket engines while remaining stationary on the launch pad to test the pad and vehicle. If the hot fire test is a success, Orbital Sciences Corporation will boost the Antares rocket to space on its first test flight from Pad 0-A without the Cygnus. On 12 August 2013, Orbital Sciences will use the first five-stage Minotaur V rocket to boost the NASA Lunar Atmospheric Environment Explorer (LADEE) to learn more about the Moon. (1/3)

Northrop Grumman to Design Lunar Lander for Golden Spike (Source: Examiner)
The Golden Spike Company, a start up that proposes to land people on the moon on a commercial basis, has contracted with Northrop Grumman to design its lunar lander. The original Apollo lunar lander was designed by Tom Kelly, who worked for the Grumman Aircraft Company. A lunar lander is one of the pieces of hardware that Golden Spike needs that cannot be bought off the shelf and modified for cis-lunar operations. Northrop Grumman has agreed to begin a preliminary process of drawing up requirements for a lunar lander capable of delivering two people to the surface of the moon.

The commercial lunar company hopes to get money from people and institutions interested in traveling to the moon and back. In the meantime the same article suggests that a lunar return is still in the back of NASA’s collective mind, despite the fact that President Obama cancelled the Constellation return to the moon program and has ordered the space agency to send astronauts to an asteroid. (1/3)

Atoms Reach Record Temperature, Colder than Absolute Zero (Source: Space.com)
Absolute zero is often thought to be the coldest temperature possible. But now researchers show they can achieve even lower temperatures for a strange realm of "negative temperatures." Oddly, another way to look at these negative temperatures is to consider them hotter than infinity, researchers added. This unusual advance could lead to new engines that could technically be more than 100 percent efficient, and shed light on mysteries such as dark energy, the mysterious substance that is apparently pulling our universe apart. (1/3)

Yuri's Night 2013 is Open for Business! (Source: Yuri's Night)
That's right--the World Space Party is back to celebrate the 52nd anniversary of human spaceflight. Earlier today, we officially opened party registration for next year's Yuri's Night, so if you've been waiting to sign your event up, now's your time to shine! If you're still on the fence, make sure to at least check out our new website! We're also in the final stages of finishing up our "Mission Control Center" party management system, making it easier for organizers to create and promote their events. Click here. (1/3)

Defense Bill Gives Yeager Second Star in Retirement (Source: SPACErePORT)
HR-4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY-2013, was signed by President Obama on Jan. 30. The 1000+ page bill includes one section for "Advancement of Brigadier General Charles E. Yeager" to the rank of Major General on the Air Force's list of retired personnel. The promotion does not affect Yeager's retirement compensation or provide any other financial benefits. Yeager is an aviation legend. In 1947 he became the first person to break the sound barrier. (1/3)

Stacking of Atlas 5 Rocket Begins for NASA Launch (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Cape Canaveral's 2013 launch season began taking shape today as technicians started assembling the Atlas 5 rocket for the year's first Space Coast mission -- delivery of a NASA communications satellite into orbit on Jan. 29. The ULA rocket will haul the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite K (TDRS K) to space to reinforce NASA's communications network that routes voice calls, telemetry streams and television signals from the International Space Station, as well as science information from the Hubble Space Telescope and other orbiting spacecraft. (1/3)

For Sale: NASA Space Shuttle Stuff (Source: RIA Novosti)
Now that the US space shuttle program is defunct, NASA is leasing and selling some of its facilities and equipment at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to private companies and entrepreneurs. Among the items being sold, according to the Orlando Sentinel: Launch Pad 39A, where shuttles blasted off into space, the Vehicle Assembly Building, the launch control center, a parachute-packing plant, and the world’s longest runway, a 15,000 foot (4,572 meter) landing strip. (1/3)

USAF Explores Options for Protected, Tactical Satcom (Source: Aviation Week)
The U.S. Air Force is exploring new ways to provide the most sensitive satellite communications—-including presidential control over nuclear forces—-to users around the globe, in order to reduce costs and provide better service. The service is studying a variety of options that would break from the decades-old standard of building five large, expensive satellites—-such as Milstar and the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) constellations-—for protected strategic and tactical communications.

“What we are trying to do is fundamentally change the way we are doing business,” says Dave Madden, director of the Air Force's Milsatcom system program office. “If they want us to reduce the cost, we either have to take a lot of risk . . . or we have to figure out how to fundamentally do the job differently.” Risk in this area is generally not an option, as these satellite systems support the nuclear command-and-control mission as well as special operators globally. (12/31)

Hutchison, Nelson Win Passage of Space Leadership Bill (Source: U.S. Senate)
U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) applauded the House passage of HR 6586, "Space Exploration Sustainability Act" which included the Nelson-Hutchison amendment. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), incoming Chairman of the House Science Committee, presented the bill on the House floor yesterday, where it passed without objection. The measure now goes to the President for his signature.

The sense of Congress clearly reaffirms the existing law in requiring a balanced approach to developing a new heavy lift vehicle and crew exploration module (the Space Launch System and the Orion exploration vehicle) as well as developing a new commercial space launch capability for both crew and cargo to the ISS and other potential destinations in low-Earth orbit.  It also underscores the importance of not pursuing those developments at the expense of each other, or of NASA’s other vital missions.

The legislation also extends the authority for third-party liability indemnification for commercial launch providers, which is essential to enable the commercial market to grow and thrive. It extends that authority for one year, while the Federal Aviation Administration conducts a review of the underlying formula for calculating probable levels of loss. (1/3)

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