February 21, 2013

NASA Creates New Directorate for Space Tech as Sequester Cuts Loom (Source: Space Policy Online)
The long awaited formal announcement of a new Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters was made today. The move should help put space technology on a more equal footing with science, exploration, and aeronautics, although it appears that the Obama Administration plans to cut space technology significantly more than other NASA programs if the sequester goes into effect next week.

On the one hand, the Obama Administration has been a chamption for space technology investments, expanding the role of the Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) and giving it more progammatic responsibility. Under the new structure, STMD will oversee many of those programs while Chief Technologist Mason Peck leads efforts in technology transfer and commercialization. OCT will also continue to develop strategic partnerships, manage agency-level competitions and prize activities, and document and communicate the societal impacts of NASA's technology efforts. (2/21)

KSC Team Continues Space Station Support (Source: NASA)
Even though the structural elements of the International Space Station prepared in the processing facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida are now in space, the team at KSC continues to support the orbiting laboratory in a number of ways. As evidence of that support coupled with international cooperation, hardware destined for the space station just left KSC, headed for the Tangashima Space Center in Japan. There it will be turned over to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in preparation for launch on the H-II Transfer Vehicle 4 (HTV-4) mission this summer.

The KSC team also completed the planning, processing and integration of unpressurized Orbital Replacement Units (ORU) for the Main Bus Switching Unit (MBSU) and Utility Transfer Assembly (UTA) -- both important elements for keeping the space station running. "The Utility Transfer Assembly is a critical component of the S3 and P3 truss segments' Solar Alpha Rotary Joints. Its function is to pass electrical power generated by the solar arrays to the other ISS elements and payloads," said KSC's Steve Bigos. (2/20)

ISS Research (and the Station's Future) Looking Up (Source: NewSpace Watch)
Scientists are hinting at some significant Dark Matter findings from ISS-based research. If R&D on the ISS becomes more visible and more clearly successful, this will greatly encourage steps towards insuring that the station will continue beyond 2020. (Usually an eight year extension till 2028 is given as the next increment in the ISS lifetime.)

If it was known soon that the ISS would be extended till 2028, this could help commercial transportation companies offering crew and cargo rides to the station and also help companies doing R&D on the station. They companies would, for example, have a stronger case when trying to attract investment if they can say their base in space will be there 15 more years rather than just 7. (2/20)

Space Coast Energy Group Seeks Experts to Tackle Projects (Source: SCEC)
The Space Coast Energy Consortium is seeking qualified subject matter experts (SMEs) to support activities of the Consortium as it grows, develops and creates energy cluster opportunities for the Central Florida region. The Consortium is accepting statements of qualification for SMEs for energy related technologies, operations, financing and policy. The objective of this solicitation is to establish a list of pre-qualified SMEs with the capability to provide a variety of professional services for tasks and projects in the near future. Click here. (2/21)

Sensenbrenner Seeks Answers to Asteroid Preparedness From NASA (Source: Space Policy Online)
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden yesterday asking about the nation's preparedness to identify and mitigate threatening asteroids. Sensenbrenner, a former chairman of what is now called the House Science, Space and Technology Committee who unsuccessfully sought to resume that chairmanship for the current Congress, said the asteroid events last week "raise questions about our preparedness for future objects coming toward Earth."

Sensenbrenner said that finding and tracking asteroids is just one step and now is the opportunity to "survey our capabilities and assess how we can better use limited resources to identify potential threats." He also wants to know what can be done to "eliminate the threat of an asteroid or meteor impacting the Earth, colliding with the Moon, or disrupting our space-oriented communications and scientific equipment..." (2/21)

Space Leadership Preservation Act To Get Hearing Next Week (Source: Space Policy Online)
The House Space Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing next week on the Space Leadership Preservation Act, a bill introduced in the 112th Congress by Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), and Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), among others. Then-full committee chairman Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) reportedly promised his colleagues he would hold a hearing on the legislation and the promise is being kept by his successor as chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). The hearing is at 10:00 am on Feb. 27. Witnesses have not been announced.

The bill would create a Board of Directors chosen by the administration, the House and the Senate made up of former astronauts and eminent scientists. The board would: a) prepare a budget request that is submitted concurrently to the President and Congress; b) recommend three candidates for NASA administrator, deputy administrator and chief financial officer -- the president would be encouraged to select one of them who would then be approved by the Senate; and c) prepare a quadrennial review of space programs and other reports. Click here to read the bill. (2/21)

Cape Canaveral AFS Wins Energy Performance Award (Source: AFSPC)
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), an installation of the 45th Space Wing, was awarded the Headquarters AFPSC Installation Energy Performance Award for fiscal year 2012. The IEPA program, developed in 2012, is an AFSPC initiative to recognize the installation that best meets the energy focus for that year. Nineteen installations competed for the award and CCAFS won with a total of 39.4 out of 45 possible points.

"Cape Canaveral maxed out points for programming the installation's allotted share of AFSPC Energy Focus Funds and negotiating project bids within 120 days of receiving Authority to Advertise," said Bongioanni. "They also earned extra points for awarding additional projects in excess of their original share of funds." Editor's Note: I'm guessing the presence of multiple commercial launch tenants contributed to the CCAFS's competitiveness, since the 45th Space Wing is obliged to provide metered electricity to a large number of tenant-occupied facilities. (2/21)

Space Coast Must 'Keep the Pressure On' to Benefit From Commercial Space (Source: Florida Today)
The emerging commercial space industry ultimately will create a new wave of wealth in the U.S., and Florida’s Space Coast is well positioned to benefit. But an industry captain told community leaders Wednesday that they need to continuously push to draw new commercial space business to the historic birthplace of U.S. space exploration.

“I really think that commercial spaceflight represents a pretty big economic engine, not just for advancing us in human spaceflight, but also for whatever regions are aggressive in attracting companies to build, or maintain, or operate out of their areas,” Michael Lopez-Alegria, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, told dozens at a Space Coast Economic Development Commission luncheon.

“And, I think you guys get it. You have a lot of advantages already. You’ve got, obviously, the preeminent launch complex in the world right next door. You’ve got a lot of skilled labor. You have a great heritage, and there are things that sort of naturally geographically attract people,” said Lopez-Alegria. (2/21)

Editorial: Seven Ways to Make DoD a Better Buyer of Commercial SATCOM (Source: Space News)
With significant budget cuts looming, and mission requirements increasing, the cost-efficient use of commercial SATCOM can help the Department of Defense (DoD) be more effective in today’s resource-constrained times. Earlier this month, executives from commercial satellite firms came together to offer seven practical steps that would allow the DoD to save money, while ensuring reliable access to commercial SATCOM services.  

This document from the satellite operators was written in response to the Department of Defense’s Better Buying Power 2.0 (BBP2.0) initiative. BBP2.0 was implemented to develop, “fundamental acquisition principles to achieve greater efficiencies through affordability, cost control, elimination of unproductive processes and bureaucracy, and promotion of competition. BBP initiatives also incentivize productivity and innovation in industry.”

The satellite operator’s paper was designed to respond to the BBP2.0 initiative by providing experience-based recommendations that could help DoD make better, lower-cost use of commercial SATCOM. Here are some key insights from that document. (2/21)

US Military's Robot Space Plane Settles Into Mystery Mission (Source: Space.com)
The U.S. Air Force's mysterious X-37B space plane is quietly chalking up mileage in space more than two months after its latest launch into orbit. The robotic X-37B space plane soared into orbit atop an Atlas 5 rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Dec. 11. The mini-shuttle's mission is known as Orbital Test Vehicle-3 (OTV-3), since it is the third classified mission under the Air Force's X-37B program.

How long OTV-3 will remain in Earth orbit is unknown. The hush-hush space plane mission is officially on Air Force space tracking books as USA-240. "The mission is ongoing," said Air Force Maj. Eric Badger. "As with previous missions, the actual duration will depend on test objectives, on-orbit vehicle performance and conditions at the landing facility." (2/21)

Want to Smell Space? Sniff a Cosmic Candle (Source: Space.com)
Space enthusiasts can now bring the smell of the cosmos into their homes without ever leaving Earth with a new votive candle created by an online toy company. The minds behind ThinkGeek — a company that specializes in nerdy gifts — have crafted a scent that smells like outer space in candle form.

"Space is the ultimate science-y thing. When we decided to come up with a line of geeky candles, there was a lot of debate as to what type of scents we'd be going after," ThinkGeek spokesman Steve Zimmermann said. "One of them obviously is space. It's also the biggest challenge which kind of excited us. Has anybody ever really contemplated what space would smell like?"

Zimmermann and his colleagues quickly found out that plenty of people were asking and answering that same question. Some of those smells include a gunpowder-smelling, ozonelike odor that is distinct to space. Astronauts returning from space walks have described the smell of space as out-of-this-world acrid aroma that could be the result of atomic oxygen adhering to their spacesuits. But the creators behind the smell of space candle did not think a burning smell would sell well in a world filled with flowery votives. (2/21)

At Fast-growing Hispasat, Profit Continues To Rise (Source: Space News)
Hispasat of Spain, which in recent years has been one of the fastest growing and most profitable commercial satellite fleet operators, on Feb. 21 reported that its growth and profitability increased in 2012. Madrid-based Hispasat said revenue in 2012 grew 6.9 percent, to 200.3 million euros ($270.4 million). (2/21)

An Investment Strategy for National Security Space (Source: Heritage Foundation)
Today’s space systems fulfill five purposes: (1) environmental monitoring; (2) communications; (3) position, navigation, and timing; (4) integrated tactical warning and attack assessment; and (5) intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. These missions are integral to a new American way of warfare. Direct and indirect challenges to American power in space are growing.

This Special Report sets out a framework that guides policymakers on how to invest in national security space capabilities over the next decade. The framework is, by necessity, holistic, as many of the individual national security space programs in question are classified. The overall purpose is not to provide hard figures for specific programs, though the study does use such data, when available, in order to support broader assertions. Click here. (2/20)

SpaceX Founder Battles Entrenched Rivals Over Launch Contracts (Source: Huffington Post)
For several years, Elon Musk and SpaceX have been locked in an asymmetrical K Street war with the aerospace industry giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin, a war that sheds light on how major players in Washington throw their weight around. SpaceX's rapid rise has coincided with the Obama administration and its revamping of the procurement process at NASA, which has awarded Musk's company multiple lucrative contracts.

"We're battling Boeing and Lockheed, and those guys have extremely sharp elbows," Musk said. "So, you know, when there's multi-hundred-million-dollar government contracts, which Boeing and Lockheed have had essentially a quasi-monopoly [on], or an actual monopoly in the case of launch, they do whatever they can to prevent us from competing...The sharpest elbows we've seen are from Lockheed, specifically Lockheed," Musk said.

More than just a battle between industry heavies and the lean upstart, the Lockheed-Boeing-Musk showdown could dramatically influence the federal government's future spending habits, especially as the sequester closes in on the defense industry. Even if Congress and the White House reach a deal to avert the sequester, NASA and the Pentagon still confront a future of strained budgets. So the aerospace giants are fighting to maintain their hold on ever-dwindling slices of the federal pie. (2/21)

NASA KSC Space Day Planned by Florida Space Institute at UCF (Source: FSI)
The University of Central Florida's Florida Space Institute (FSI), home to the NASA-sponsored Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC), will host a NASA KSC Space Day on March 12 in Orlando. FSI is now led by former NASA Glenn Director Ray Lugo. Click here. (2/20)

Space Coast High School Seeks Support for CubeSat Project (Source: MIHS)
Merritt Island High School (MIHS), home of the DaVinci Academy, has been selected by NASA to fly a CubeSat. "StangSat" (MIHS' mascot is a Mustang) will measure vibration and shock environments during the launch of a future unmanned mission. Prior to the final launch, MIHS plans a suborbital flight on a Garvey Spacecraft Corp. vehicle that would launch from the Mojave area.

MIHS is seeking community sponsors to support a seven-day trip to Mojave in the Spring of 2013. They need to raise approximately $10,000 to send 10 students and two chaperones. Please consider supporting their efforts. You can contact Tracey Beatovich here, or visit their "MIHS CubeSat" page on Facebook. (2/20) 

EchoStar Shrugs Off HughesNet’s Modest Subscriber Growth (Source: Space News)
EchoStar Corp.’s Hughes division on Feb. 20 reported a modest increase in subscribers to its U.S. satellite broadband service in 2012, but company officials said they remain confident that the new EchoStar 17/Jupiter high-throughput satellite is being well-received by the market. EchoStar, which purchased broadband satellite hardware and services provider Hughes in June 2011 for $2 billion, said its attempts to enter the satellite-television markets in Brazil and India appear bogged down by multiple factors. (2/21)

New Insights on That Private (Crewed?) Mars Mission (Source: NewSpace Journal)
Dennis Tito and several co-authors plan to present a paper at an upcoming IEEE Aerospace Conference, discussing a crewed free-return Mars mission that would fly by Mars, but not go into orbit around the planet or land on it. This 501-day mission would launch in January 2018, using a modified SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched on a Falcon Heavy rocket. According to the paper, existing environmental control and life support system (ECLSS) technologies would allow such a spacecraft to support two people for the mission, although in Spartan condition.

“Crew comfort is limited to survival needs only. For example, sponge baths are acceptable, with no need for showers,” the paper states. NASA would also have a role in this mission in terms of supporting key ECLSS and thermal protection system technology development, although the paper makes clear this would be a private-sector effort. (The paper’s co-authors include NASA Ames director Pete Worden.) The paper makes no attempt to estimate the cost of the mission, beyond concluding that it “would be significantly less than previous estimates for manned Mars missions” and be financed privately.

The paper adds that if they miss this favorable 2018 opportunity, the next chance to take advantage of this lower energy trajectory would be in 2031. The IEEE Aerospace Conference is taking place next month in Big Sky, Montana. Click here to see a SpaceWorks infographic describing the timing for such a mission. (2/21)

Space Coast Benefits from Tax Incentives for Business Growth (Source: Florida Today)
As the former CEO of a Space Coast manufacturing company that was twice approved for ad valorem tax abatements, and now as chairman of the Ad Valorem Tax (AVT) Abatement Council, I have seen incentives from inside and out. I know they are a responsible, effective way of strengthening our economy with little downside risk. An AVT abatement is not a direct payment to an eligible company.

The company must perform on its promise to hire and implement capital improvements in order to get this credit on subsequent years’ property taxes. And, keep in mind, the companies do pay taxes. An AVT abatement represents a reduction in property taxes, not their elimination. School taxes, water management, special district taxes and other important community assets are not affected by the AVT. Companies pay these taxes in full.

Another key point is that, for smart, strong businesses, incentives are merely the icing on the cake. Businesses consider numerous factors and attributes when choosing a location in which to expand or locate. Fortunately on the Space Coast, we have many of those advantages, from our skilled workforce and competitive wage structure to our strong education system and unparalleled quality of life. (2/21)

GOP Chairmen Go After Pete Worden (Source: Aviation Week)
A pair of powerful Republican congressional committee chairmen with NASA oversight have highlighted a growing schism in U.S. space policy with their public charge that a senior NASA manager failed to protect sensitive U.S. defense technology being adapted for civil use. In suggesting that “political pressure may be a factor” in a Justice Department decision not to issue criminal charges in the case, they are raising the stakes in an ongoing debate about the proper roles of government and the private sector in space exploration.

The official in question, Ames Research Center Director Simon P. “Pete” Worden, vehemently denies he has been lax in protecting technology covered by International Trade in Armaments Regulations (ITAR), and says he has never been approached by federal law enforcement officials about the matter.

But Worden and his supporters epitomize the “new space” approach adopted by the Obama administration, including freewheeling efforts to promote innovation, international outreach and open-handed transfer of technology developed at taxpayer expense to the private sector. In the process, they have drawn sharp criticism from some whose interests and experience follow a more traditional line, including the drafters of an unsubstantiated but highly detailed whistleblower document that has circulated on Capitol Hill for months. Click here. (2/18)

The Kenya Space Sector Characterization (Source: Space Kenya)
Kenya urgently needs to formally integrate space technology in its development agenda  because "space technology is a specialized capability which is inherently endowed to accelerate the realization of national sustainable development goals thereby expeditiously transforming Kenya into the envisioned newly industrialized country." The specific application areas of space technology are tabulated in the section on ‘Why Kenya Needs Space Technology’. Click here. (2/20)

Safran Still Interested in Avio’s Space Business (Source: Space News)
France’s Safran aerospace engines group, which was bested by General Electric in the bidding to purchase Italy’s Avio, on Feb. 21 said it remains interested in Avio’s space division. In a conference call with investors, Safran Chief Executive Jean-Paul Herteman said Safran’s Herakles solid-rocket propulsion division has been working with Avio for more than 20 years on Europe’s Ariane rocket series.

General Electric’s $4.3 billion purchase of Avio in December did not include the space division, whose near-term prospects have improved since the November agreement by European Space Agency governments to start design work on a next-generation Ariane rocket, called Ariane 6. Safran and Avio have a joint-venture company called Europropulsion that provides the solid-fueled strap-on boosters for Europe’s current Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket. (2/21)

DOD May Furlough Nearly Entire Civilian Workforce (Source: Defense News)
Nearly 800,000 civilian workers at the Pentagon may face furloughs at the end of April if sequestration takes effect, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said. By the middle of next month, employees may receive warnings that they could be furloughed. The Defense Department doesn't expect to lay off workers this year but said layoffs are a possibility next year. Editor's Note: Civil servants at the 45th Space Wing provide critical services for new and existing launch programs. (2/20)

End House Recess and Stop Sequester, Democrats Urge (Source: The Hill)
House Democrats are calling on Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, to call back lawmakers from recess and hammer out a sequestration-stopping deal before the March 1 deadline. "Being on recess during this period is absolutely absurd," said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-VA. The GOP counters that Democrats and the White House haven't put forth a sequester fix that would have enough votes for approval. In a panel hearing scheduled for today, House Democrats will detail the effect that they believe sequestration cuts would have. (2/20)

ILS Refiles Fraud Suit Against Former Chief Technical Officer (Source: Space News)
Commercial Proton launch provider International Launch Services (ILS) has turned to a Virginia state court to sue the company’s former chief technical officer and an accomplice for what it says is a five-year conspiracy to commit fraud. They claim James Bonner, who was fired in August as ILS’s chief technical officer, and an accomplice, Thomas Dwyer, bilked ILS for $1.8 million between May 2007 and July 2012.

ILS filed similar allegations in October in a federal district court, alleging that Bonner and Dwyer committed violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. The district court dismissed the charges without prejudice, meaning ILS could have refiled allegations in the same federal court. Instead, ILS has elected to sue Bonner and Dwyer for civil conspiracy to commit fraud by setting up shell companies that purported to perform safety-data analyses of launches for ILS during the five-year period.

ILS says that it was Bonner himself who did the work, and that he and Dwyer pocketed the ILS payments for 137 safety-data packages submitted during the five years in question. The new lawsuit suggests that Bonner’s activities may have gone beyond what Bonner’s lawyers, in rejecting the RICO claims, had labeled “garden variety” breaches of fiduciary duty. ILS claims Bonner also was at work creating a direct ILS competitor that would perform sales and marketing for a Chinese rocket to compete for global commercial launch business. (2/21)

World's Leading Asteroid Expert Joins Deep Space Industries (Source: DSI)
Deep Space Industries announced that astronomer and asteroid expert Dr. John Lewis will assume the role of Chief Scientist for the firm, whose goal is the exploration, harvesting and processing of space resources, such as asteroids. Author of such seminal works in the field as the books “Rain of Iron and Ice” and “Mining the Sky,” Dr. Lewis is considered to be one of the the world's pre-eminent asteroid experts. (2/21)

Antares Engine Test Rescheduled for Friday Evening at Wallops Island Spaceport (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility will provide launch range support for an Orbital Sciences Corp. Antares rocket engine test scheduled for Feb. 22 at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad-0A. The window for the engine test, or hot fire, is 6-9 p.m. EST. The test will fire the Antares’ dual AJ26 rocket engines, which will generate a combined total thrust of 680,000 lbs., for about 30 seconds while the first stage of the test rocket will be held down on the pad. (2/20)

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