February 22, 2013

Furloughs for Air Force and FAA, But Not NASA at KSC (Source: SPACErePORT)
DOD and FAA officials have already announced plans for personnel furloughs if the budget sequestration occurs. This could include personnel from those agencies at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. However, based on comments during a Community Leaders Breakfast this week, it appears unlikely that a furlough of NASA personnel at KSC is planned.  KSC Director Robert Cabana said that--as of now--there are no plans for furloughs at KSC.

Meanwhile, contractor personnel laid off after the Shuttle program's retirement have lamented the fact that their jobs have vanished while Civil Service job numbers remain unchanged at KSC and other NASA centers. Many of them wouldn't mind if federal employees also felt the pain of government-wide belt tightening. (2/22)

Right-Wing Mars Guru: Is Zubrin America's Best Hope for Colonizing Red Planet? (Source: Motherboard)
When you think of people who urge humanity to go to the stars, you tend to think of cheery liberal icons like Carl Sagan or Neil deGrasse Tyson. But Newt Gingrich had to get his starry-eyed and much-ridiculed ideas about space exploration from someone, and it certainly wasn't any of those guys.

Enter Robert Zubrin, the right-wing bulldog for space travel. Trained as a nuclear engineer, he's spent more than 20 years pushing for the colonization of Mars through books like 1996's The Case for Mars; advocacy through the Mars Society, which he founded and leads; and relationships with people like Newt Gingrich, whom he advised on space policy in the 1990s. He's not a hardcore Republican ideologue by any means, but he regularly rails against environmentalists for being "anti-growth", writes for the National Review, and proudly wears his American nationalism.

Zubrin, who just published a new e-book called Mars Direct: Space Exploration, the Red Planet, and the Human Future, spoke to me by telephone from his home in Colorado about why to go to Mars, how we might get there, and why it will be important to defend private property and entrepreneurship on the fourth planet from the sun. Click here. (2/22)

India to Launch Mars Mission in October (Source: Times of India)
The country's first mission to Mars will be launched in October. It'll be the culmination of 10 missions planned this year. It'll be launched using a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle's (PSLV) XL from Sriharikota. On reaching the red planet, it'll be inserted into its orbit. The nine-month voyage will study the origin of Mars and gain more information about the planet. "Methane sensors will be used to predict the possibility of life on the planet," an official added. (2/22)

Cuts Could Launch Defense Consolidation Wave (Source: FOX Business)
The defense industry could see a wave of consolidation if sequestration cuts go into effect March 1, and mergers and acquisitions would be particularly likely among smaller and midsize companies, analysts say. "Any further reduction in defense spending poses a risk and could lead to consolidation," said Marina Malenic, an industry reporter for defense and security consultant IHS Jane's. (2/20)

Expert: Economic Incentives Will Keep Space Coast Ccompetitive (Source: Florida Today)
Florida's Space Coast has a history in the space industry and a pool of talented workers, and a key launch facility, but to stay in the competition to lure commercial spaceflight companies, it needs to do more, including providing economic incentives for firms to relocate, says Michael Lopez-Alegria, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. Speaking at a Space Coast Economic Development Commission luncheon Wednesday, Lopez-Alegria told his audience that commercial spaceflight has the potential to be a boost to the economy. (2/21)

Shiloh Site Request Still Being Worked by NASA, As Is Webb-McNamara (Source: SPACErePORT)
During a Q&A at this week's Community Leaders Breakfast at KSC, Robert Cabana made clear that the state's request for the Shiloh launch site is still being considered within the agency. Meanwhile, I hear it is KSC's current opinion that the Webb-McNamara Agreement between DOD and NASA does not necessarily apply to commercial launches conducted from KSC property.

The 1963 agreement (posted here) establishes the Air Force as the responsible agency for ensuring public safety for launches from both the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center (collectively established as the "Cape Canaveral Spaceport" in Florida law). By declaring Webb-McNamara invalid for KSC commercial launches (a position the Air Force may oppose), KSC could establish their own alternative to Eastern Range safety responsibility...or perhaps allow the FAA to serve as KSC's range safety authority for commercial missions.

While this might make NASA facilities like LC-39A more attractive to commercial users, it wouldn't necessarily accomplish Space Florida's goal with Shiloh of removing both the Air Force and NASA from the safety equation. Companies like SpaceX seem inclined to operate under FAA oversight. Its an industry decision. If they feel they can comfortably and confidently operate in the middle of a Federal installation then they may launch in Florida. If they don't, they will go elsewhere. (2/22)

Matrix Composites Recognized by Lockheed Martin (Source: Matrix)
Matrix Composites of Rockledge (on Florida's Space Coast) announced Lockheed Martin’s recent recognition for their attention to detail and customer commitment in 2012. Lockheed Martin relies heavily on its supply base to provide critical components needed to meet their customer’s needs. Matrix Composites became one of Lockheed Martin's suppliers in 1996. Since that time, the company has achieved STAR Supplier status for quality, delivery, responsiveness and process control.

“In 2012, Matrix Composites successfully delivered their product to us 100 percent on-time and with zero quality defects,” said Tom Simmons, vice president of Supply Chain Management at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company. “We’d like to thank Matrix Composites and its employees for their commitment and attention to detail.” (2/22)

Orbital Conducts First Stage "Hot Fire" Test of Antares Launch Vehicle (Source: Orbital)
Orbital Sciences Corp. successfully conducted an extended-duration “hot fire” test of the first stage propulsion system of its new Antares™ medium-class rocket. Developed over a four-plus-year period, Antares will be used to launch cargo supply missions to the International Space Station as part of a $1.9 billion contract with NASA.

The 29-second test took place on Feb. 22 at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s (MARS) Pad 0A, which was designed and built over the last several years to accommodate liquid-fuel space launch vehicles. The primary goals of the test were to ensure that the launch complex’s fueling systems and the Antares stage one test article functioned properly in a fully operational environment, that engine ignition and shut down commands operated as designed, and that the dual AJ26 first stage engines and their control systems performed to specifications in the twin-engine configuration.

The test included a full propellant loading sequence, launch countdown and engine ignition operation. The pad’s high-volume water deluge system flowed throughout the entire period of the test to protect the pad from damage and for noise suppression. (2/22)

KSC Visitor Complex and Valiant Air Command Offer Ultimate Aviation Combo Package (Source: KSCVC)
Valiant Air Command and the KSC Visitor Complex have partnered to offer a special ticket package in celebration of the 36th Annual TiCo Warbird AirShow, March 22-24, 2013. The Ultimate Aviation Combo package includes a one day admission to the TiCo Warbird AirShow and a one day admission to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex valid March 22-24, 2013. (2/22)

Meteor Threat Hearings Will Question NASA Priorities (Source: Huntsville Times)
The chairman of the House space subcommittee said in Huntsville Thursday that upcoming hearings on the dangers of near-Earth objects like the Russian meteor will mean "tough questions" about NASA's mission. "We have to ask some difficult, tough questions about near-Earth objects," U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) said in an interview. "Are we focusing our dollars in the right place? Should we be worrying about Mars or distant planets, or should we be worried about the things that could disrupt our way of life on Earth?" (2/22)

Egyptian Protesters Sign Up Morsi to Go To Space (Source: AP)
Egyptian opposition groups are so desperate to get rid of President Mohamed Morsi, they’re getting creative. The April 6 Youth Movement—one of the major protest groups responsible for leading the 2011 uprising that took down former dictator Hosni Mubarak—has entered the country’s Islamist president’s name in an online drawing for a trip to space. On its Facebook page, April 6 wrote of the contest, “For sure no one in the universe can put up with blatant lies, reneging on promises except for the brotherly people of the moon.”
The contest is being run by Axe, a brand of men's grooming products. It promises to send 22 people to the edge of space and back aboard a private spaceship. For the competition, Axe teamed up with US astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon during NASA's Apollo 11 mission in 1969. (2/22)

Russian Police Carry Out Searches in Space Firm Fraud Case (Source: RIA Novosti)
Police have conducted searches as part of an investigation into alleged fraud at a satellite communications company, the Interior Ministry's Moscow branch said on Friday, but did not give further details. Former executives of the Gonets company, which is part of the federal Glonass satnav program, are suspected of abuse of office and misusing funds, the ministry said.

Investigators suspect former Gonets managers paid over 9.5 million rubles (about $300,000) under contracts that were never implemented, the ministry said. Earlier media reports said Gonets' former chief Alexander Galkevich, who stepped down in 2011, was detained on suspicion of embezzling 350 million rubles when buying satellite system components. (2/22)

How to Kill a Killer Asteroid (Source: CNN)
Unlike the movie Armageddon, Dr. Bong Wie wouldn’t send up a team of oil rig drillers, opting instead for an unmanned satellite on a rocket. The satellite would split into two parts once arriving at the asteroid; the first would burrow a hole and the second would deliver the nuclear bomb. Wie says he can adapt already-existing technologies developed for space travel and military uses to make his plan work. With a grant from NASA he is now honing his ideas. Click here. (2/21)

Webb Telescope to Have a Texas-Sized Presence at Festival (Source: Space Daily)
Everything is bigger in Texas and a life-sized model of the world's largest space telescope, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope will be on display at the South by Southwest (SWSX) Interactive Festival along with Webb-related exhibits, educational events, interactives, visualizations, scientists and much more. The NASA events at SXSW will occur March 8-10, 2013 in Austin. (2/22)

DARPA Seeks to Defuse the Threat of Ionizing Radiation (Source: Space Daily)
Ionizing radiation can be a silent killer. While scientists have made some strides in preventing immediate death from exposure, there are currently few intervention technologies to protect against long-term morbidity and mortality. In light of the diverse, persistent and substantial threat posed by ionizing radiation, the Department of Defense seeks new ways to protect military and civilian personnel against the immediate and longer-term effects of acute exposure.

Exposure to ionizing radiation would be a particular concern in the aftermath of a large-scale release of nuclear material, such as might occur following either a natural disaster or a deliberate attack. The damage to Japan's Fukushima nuclear reactor after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake raised concerns regarding U.S. preparedness to treat large-scale human exposure to ionizing radiation. (2/22)

ISS Plays Host to Innovative Infectious Disease Research (Source: Space Daily)
Performing sensitive biological experiments is always a delicate affair. Few researchers, however, contend with the challenges faced by Cheryl Nickerson, whose working laboratory aboard the International Space Station (ISS) is located hundreds of miles above the Earth, traveling at some 17,000 miles per hour.

Nickerson, a microbiologist at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute, is using the ISS platform to pursue new research into the effects of microgravity on disease-causing organisms. "We seek to unveil novel cellular and molecular mechanisms related to infectious disease progression that cannot be observed here on Earth, and to translate our findings to novel strategies for treatment and prevention." (2/22)

Texas Congressman Blames Obama, Senate for NASA Sequestration (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Steve Stockman, R-TX, slammed President Obama and the Senate for sequestration’s possible cuts to NASA. Stockman made his comments at the Johnson Space Center on Wednesday. “NASA funding fulfills one of the few legitimate functions of government. Friday’s destructive explosion over Russia of a meteor we never saw, and the near-hit by an asteroid, should be a warning to Obama against further cuts to NASA,” Stockman said. “Cuts to NASA jeopardize our safety and security.”

Stockman is a member of the House Science Space and Technology Committee, and sits on the subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. Stockman said the House had passed two bills to prevent sequestration, but they failed in the Senate. He said two areas are better suited for government cuts. “It makes no sense to cut NASA funding while we’re spending $2.2 billion to give people free cell phones,” Stockman said. “We’re spending $26 billion on food stamps for people who make too much money to qualify for them, but we’re cutting NASA? That’s irresponsible.” (2/21)

Something Useful for America’s Underemployed Space Agency To Do (Source: The Economist)
NASA has become a curious hybrid. Part of it is one of the world’s leading scientific research organizations. This NASA sends robot probes to the planets, runs space telescopes and has already sponsored projects devoted to looking for large asteroids—-the ones that would blow humanity to kingdom come. If such a large, “planet-killing” asteroid were discovered, though, the chances are that earthlings would have decades, or centuries, to act; a small nudge, judiciously applied by rocket motor or nuclear explosion, would be enough to send it off course.

The real problem is “city-killers”—-things too small for existing surveys to see, but large enough to do serious damage. And it is here that the other NASA might be brought into play. The non-scientific NASA that brought you the Apollo project has been looking for a proper job since 1972, when Apollo was cancelled. It thought it had found it in the Space Shuttle, but building a cheap, reliable orbital truck proved impossible. It thought it had found it in the Space Station, but that has turned into a scientifically useless tin can in the sky. The latest wheeze is to build a rocket that might one day, many administrations hence, go to Mars.

In a well-ordered world, this bit of NASA would have been closed down years ago. That it has not been is due, in large measure, to the lobbying power of aerospace companies which see the agency as a way to divert money from taxpayers’ pockets into those of their shareholders. This pocket-picking would be less irksome if something useful came of it. Why not, therefore, change this part of NASA’s remit to protecting the planet from external attack, not by evil aliens but by an uncaring universe? (2/21)

Safran Plans Avio Space Bid as Plane-Engine Earnings to Slow (Source: Bloomberg)
Safran SA (SAF), Europe’s second-biggest maker of aircraft engines, is looking at bidding for Avio SpA’s space propulsion-unit as growth at its main business slows. Safran, based in Paris, has begun exploratory discussions with Turin-based Avio before any formal negotiations, Chief Executive Officer Jean-Paul Herteman said on a conference call. (2/21)

Federal Furloughs Would Hit Around April 1 (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Federal workers are expected to begin taking unpaid leave by late March or early April if the government absorbs $85 billion in spending cuts set to start March 1, according to estimates from different agencies. Even though the process begins March 1, many federal agencies must notify employees 30 days before beginning furloughs. That means the eventual impact of the cuts at many agencies could be slow-moving and give Congress and the White House more time to negotiate an alternative to the cuts—something both sides say they favor. (2/20)

Ground-Based Hazmat Transfer: Next Milestone in NASA Robotic Refueling (Source: Space News)
Later this year, in the next major milestone for NASA’s robotic refueling demonstration program, an operator in Maryland will take control of a robot 1,400 kilometers away in Florida and attempt to fill a mockup satellite with a corrosive fuel oxidizer. It would be the first so-called Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) demonstration in which a remotely operated robot handles nitrogen tetroxide, one of the dangerous chemicals used aboard real satellites.

The nitrogen tetroxide test is tentatively scheduled for “the fall or winter timeframe this year,” Cepollina said in a Feb. 19 interview. The robot and model satellite will be located at the Kennedy Space Center, which is equipped to safely store, handle and — if necessary — clean up the hazardous fluid. (2/21)

'Space Shuttle Atlantis' Exhibit Gains Logo, Official Opening Date (Source: CollectSpace)
NASA's final space shuttle to return from Earth orbit will be exhibited to the public in a facility that bears simply the retired orbiter's name, the Florida visitor center that has been entrusted with space shuttle Atlantis' display announced on Thursday.

NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida also revealed the logo for its new 90,000 square-foot, $100 million "Space Shuttle Atlantis" exhibit, which will be used on monument signage at the entrance and on a variety of retail merchandise, marketing and promotional materials when the building opens to the public on June 29. Click here. (2/21)

No Furloughs Seen in NASA's Huntsville Programs (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA isn't expecting budget sequestration to lead to contractor furloughs in Huntsville, where work on a new heavy-lift rocket remains one of the agency's top priorities. However, 26 research contracts to small companies and universities have been put on hold to keep funding for the big rocket secure. That was the word this morning from NASA officials attending a Small Business Alliance meeting at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center today. More than 450 contractors, and subcontractors attended to learn more about getting NASA contracts. (2/21)

Bolden Tours Huntsville Manufacturing Site (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. will tour a cutting-edge NASA manufacturing center in Huntsville Friday. The facility is being used to make parts for the new heavy-lift rocket being developed at Marshall Space Flight Center. Bolden will visit the National Center for Advanced Manufacturing Prototyping Facility. He will look at equipment used in selective laser melting, which is similar to 3-D printing. NASA says the equipment is being used in "the production of complex, strong metal parts without welding, while reducing manufacturing time and costs." (2/21)

Vietnam to Launch 3rd Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
Vietnam will launch its third satellite into orbit in the second quarter of 2013, according to a document approved by the Vietnamese Government Office. Vietnamese media VnExpress quoted Bui Trong Tuyen, vice president of Vietnam's Space Technology Institute, as saying that the VNREDSat-1A, an earth observation optical satellite, is designed for the service of earth observation, analysis of natural resources, environmental management and natural disasters monitoring. (2/21)

Abort Motor for 1st Orion Arrives in Florida (Source: Space News)
A large but inert launch-abort motor for NASA’s first Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle arrived at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on Feb. 21, where it will be integrated with the capsule despite having no role in Orion’s debut flight. “The main abort motor is what we’re talking about here,” said ATK's Charles Precourt. The motor, designed to produce 2,224 kilonewtons of thrust, would whisk Orion and its crew to safety in the event that a problem occurred during launch.

Orion’s 2014 flight debut, a stress test for the capsule’s heat shield and avionics systems, will see an unmanned version of the capsule launched by a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket, reaching a maximum altitude of about 5,800 kilometers. The capsule will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere after two orbits. The main launch-abort motor will not be fired during the test, for which NASA is paying Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver $375 million.

SLS will first launch Orion in 2017, sending an unmanned capsule on a seven-day mission to lunar space. In 2021, SLS will send a crewed Orion capsule to lunar space for a 10- to 14-day mission. The capsule’s launch abort system will carry live motors for the 2021 flight. Between the first and second SLS launches, NASA will fully test the Orion abort system in an Altitude Abort Test, which  was originally scheduled for 2015 but was pushed out due to budget pressure. In the test, Orion will be launched from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on a converted Peacekeeper missile stage. (2/21)

NASA Plans Miniaturized Electrospray Propulsion Technologies (Source: America Space)
NASA’s Space Technology Program is calling for proposals to develop miniaturized electrospray propulsion technologies which could revolutionise the propulsion systems for small satellites. Electrospray thrusters use electricity to energize material, then disperse a resulting liquid or aerosol through an emitter to generate thrust.

Developing low-mass, lightweight microthruster technology has the potential to radically change propulsion capabilities of small satellites by allowing variable thrust propulsion, stabilization, and precision pinpointing. Such microthrusters might be of use for very fine pointing aboard future space observatories. (2/21)

Florida Space Day Video Online (Source: America Space)
Florida Space Day will be held on March 6 in Tallahassee. The annual event is organized by a Space Day Committee that includes about a dozen space industry leaders representing companies and organizations from around the state. Click here to see a new video promoting Space Day. (2/21)

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