March 5, 2013

Lawmakers Move to Protect Weather Satellites (Source: Space News)
Lawmakers are seeking to immunize civilian weather satellite programs from budget shortfalls that otherwise would result from the budget-cutting sequester that began March 1 and from an extended continuing resolution that would fund federal activities at 2012 levels for the remainder of this year. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the House Appropriations commerce, justice and science subcommittee, said the operation of weather satellites is a high priority and that recent storms such as the tornadoes in Alabama and Hurricane Sandy proved weather satellites helped saved lives. (3/5)

GOP Sequester Alternative Would Soften Blow for NASA, NOAA (Sources: Space News, Space Policy Online)
A full-year continuing resolution introduced March 4 by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) to fund the U.S. federal government through September would also reapportion the $85 billion sequester to soften the blow for GOP priorities, including NASA human spaceflight programs and NOAA’s GOES-R weather satellite program.

Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense are the big winners in Rodger’s bill; both would be given greater flexibility for dealing with the across-the-board spending cuts that took effect March 1. The Pentagon also would be funded $2 billion above President Barack Obama’s request for fiscal year 2013, which began Oct. 1.  Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the  NASA and NOAA champion who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, is open to Rogers' proposal.

As for NASA, the bill apparently holds NASA to its FY2012 funding level adjusted for the sequester. Within those constraints, however, it adds funding above the FY2012 levels for the Space Launch System (SLS), commercial crew, exploration R&D, and SLS ground operations, and also allows a larger transfer of funds from the Exploration account to the Construction account for construction activities related to SLS and Orion. (3/5)

U.S. Missile Warning Radars Could Squelch ESA’s Proposed Biomass Mission (Source: Space News)
European Earth scientists organizing a funding competition among three finalist missions on March 5 were told that the biggest issue facing one of them is not its advanced technology, but the U.S. Defense Department’s priority allocation of radio frequencies.

Meeting in Graz, Austria, to select the the 7th Earth Explorer mission to be flown by the 20-nation European Space Agency (ESA), backers of the Biomass mission were pelted with questions about how badly the U.S. network of missile warning and space-tracking radars in North America, Greenland and Europe would undermine Biomass’ global carbon-monitoring objectives. (3/5)

NASA Wallops Recovery Continues from Hurricane Sandy (Source: NASA)
Hurricane Sandy came ashore in northern New Jersey Oct. 29, 2012, and as the powerful storm made its way along the East Coast it brought damage to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia. The Wallops Shoreline Protection Project has been managing the restoration efforts and released before and after photos of the shoreline. Hurricane Sandy removed about 700 feet of protective berm and about 20 percent of the beach protecting Wallops Island, home to NASA Wallops' launch pads and launch support facilities. Click here. (3/5)

Sequestration Could Delay Weather-Satellite Launches (Source: Washington Post)
Across-the-board spending cuts totaling $1.2 trillion in the next decade kicked in Friday. Under sequestration, NOAA would have to reduce the number of its contractors by about 1,400, Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said in a recent letter to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), who chairs of the upper chamber’s Appropriations Committee.

Those reductions would also result in a two- to three-year launch delay for two so-called geostationary satellites, which would “increase the risk of a gap in satellite coverage and diminish the quality of weather forecasts and warnings,’’ Blank wrote. NOAA typically has two geo­stationary operational environmental satellites in use, with one backup.

Launch delays in the $7.67 billion program may lead to a period of a year or longer when the system will not have a backup, according to a Government Accountability Office report this month. The program’s contractors include Bethesda-based Lockheed, which has received $651 million for its work on the satellites since 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News. Melbourne, Florida-based Harris Corp., which is developing the ground system, has received $570 million since 2009, according to the data. (3/3)

Northrop Grumman Moves Jobs to Space Coast, St. Augustine (Source: Orlando Sentinel) Northrop Grumman Corp. said Monday it plans to add 920 jobs to its operations in Melbourne as part of a companywide realignment, nearly doubling the Brevard County plant's current work force and making Florida a winner — at least for now — in the defense industry's latest consolidation.

Northrop selected the Melbourne unit to serve as its "manned-aircraft center of excellence" — one of five new centers it intends to establish to make itself more cost-efficient and competitive, company officials said. The company's St. Augustine plant will gain 80 jobs as Northrop's new aircraft-integration center of excellence. (3/4)

Golden Spike Welcomes Producer/Director to Board of Advisers (Source: Golden Spike)
Golden Spike —the world’s first company planning to sell human lunar expeditions to countries and corporations around the world announced today that it has added film and documentary producer, director, and writer, Dr. Duncan Copp, from the United Kingdom, to its distinguished Board of Advisers.

Copp, who also holds a PhD in Planetary Geology, produced the highly acclaimed feature documentary, In the Shadow of the Moon. Copp has produced and directed numerous award-winning films for National Geographic, PBS, the BBC, and the Discovery Channel. He adds important, international expertise and depth to Golden Spike’s media advisory team. (3/5)

Branson: This Isn't Sci-Fi (Source: Virgin)
We are making fantastic progress on Virgin Galactic's preparations for travel to space. It has been an amazing, at times agonizing process to get the space program this far, and as the weeks and months pass we are steadily witnessing more little bits of history.

The team just conducted an extremely significant night rocket motor firing, which has been described by Matt Stinemetze, Scaled Composites' Program Manager for the development and testing of our space vehicles, in the fantastically descriptive piece below. His words show the huge excitement now emanating from the Mojave Desert, as we move closer to breaking the sound barrier and then building up to full spaceflight in the coming months. (3/5)

Space Tourism Gets Ready for Liftoff (Source: Lloyd's)
Space is the final frontier for hundreds of high net worth individuals seeking the ultimate tourist thrill. However, as industry delegates to a symposium held at Lloyd’s heard, some risk issues remain unresolved. Suborbital flight – flying higher than 100km above sea level – will soon be a reality for anyone willing and able to pay thousands of pounds for a ticket. There are plenty of people already queuing for the privilege of being among the first 1,000 humans to experience space travel.

At a Space Tourism – Risks & Solutions seminar, held at Lloyd’s, Nick Hughes put the event into sobering context, noting that Feb. 1 was the 10th anniversary of the Shuttle Columbia disaster. On the day of the seminar news emerged of the failure of a Sea Launch commercial satellite launch. The insurance loss, the space market’s biggest, is estimated at $400 million.“It’s possible that some of the enthusiastic people involved in the business and some of those that have signed up to take a sub-orbital space flight have not taken on-board the extent of the operational and legal risks involved in such a venture,” Mr Hughes said.

Space tourism operators will be able to arrange insurance for their space craft “hulls”, and third party liability cover will be mandatory. The technology and flight envelope of the suborbital vehicles means that this new market is going to attract the attention of both the space and aviation insurance markets, Mr Wade explains. However it isn’t entirely clear how coverage will be apportioned. That’s because the key question of whether the crafts are rockets with wings - or rocket-propelled aircraft – is unresolved. (3/4)

Governor Martinez to Join Virgin Galactic CEO Whitesides at Chamber Lunch (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Governor Susana Martinez will join multiple Chambers of Commerce as they host George Whitesides, CEO & President of Virgin Galactic on March 5 for a luncheon titled “Space: The New Frontier.” Whitesides will highlight the opportunities for economic development in New Mexico related to the space industry. Governor Martinez will address the space industry and its opportunities for economic development.

“As we gear up for hopeful signing of the spaceport liability legislation, our luncheon offers a great opportunity to see two of the key players making this happen,” said Terri Cole, President and CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. (3/4)

NASA Selects Education Support Contractor (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected Paragon Tec Inc. of Cleveland to support educational programs at Glenn Research Center, NASA Headquarters in Washington, and other NASA centers, as necessary. The contract begins April 1 with an 18-month base performance period. It includes options to extend the work through March 31, 2018. If NASA exercises all options, the maximum potential value for the five-year, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract is $55 million.

Paragon Tec Inc. and its subcontractors, Ohio Aerospace Institute of Cleveland and Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies Inc. of Greenbelt, Md., will provide program and technical support services for the management of NASA's educational programs at the national, regional and local levels. (3/4)

NASA Selects Contractors for Engineering Solutions and Prototyping at Marshall (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected three companies to provide engineering solutions and products to Marshall Space Flight Center. The companies are Radiance Technologies, Teledyne Brown Engineering, and Wyle Laboratories. The contracts have a potential value of $350 million, with a five-year performance period with a minimum order quantity value of $1 million.

Under the contract, the three companies will compete to provide engineering solutions and products for design, development, test, evaluation, operations and training in support of MSFC flight projects, human and robotic exploration, science and technology development, future programs/projects, and other MSFC organizations that have similar needs. (3/4)

When NASA Blew Holes In Arizona for Apollo (Source: Discovery)
NASA knew full well that the Apollo lunar landing missions were risky, and it took steps to minimize the chances of losing astronauts in space. Redundancies were built into the spacecraft, and astronauts and technicians alike spent hours simulating missions. Mission planners also used simulations to anticipate as many aspects of a lunar mission as possible, going so far, in 1967, as recreating the moon in northern Arizona.

The Arizonian landscaping was part of the Astrogeology Research Program, a joint undertaking between NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Beginning in 1963, the idea was to give Apollo astronauts as realistic a training ground as possible for their eventual EVAs on the lunar surface. The program’s main site was a place called Cinder Field, an area where basaltic cinders covered the natural clay landscape. To make it more moon-like, NASA added craters to the site with dynamite. (3/4)

SpaceX Growing Pains (Source: Aviation Week)
While the VIP bus at Cape Canaveral was aflutter with fretting about an uncontrolled splashdown in the Atlantic on Sunday, the SpaceX engineers were quietly going through their checklists to figure out what was wrong. The clock was running, but there turned out to be plenty of time. And the technical people who actually do the work at NASA didn't panic either. They knew they didn't have to let an out-of-control Dragon anywhere near the space station.

The SpaceX team had the thrusters firing about five hours after a perfect launch on the company's Falcon 9 rocket. Instead of a splashdown, we were treated to a grapple and berthing at the International Space Station early Sunday morning. That's how it goes. The SpaceX crew deserves credit for doing their job. Sure, the were lucky to get things resolved before power or altitude became a problem. But they made their own luck.

ISS Astronaut Kevin Ford summed up the situation after helping grapple the Dragon. "It's not where you start," he radioed to controllers. "It's where you finish. You guys really finished this one on the mark." (3/4)

Orion Components Arrive at KSC in Preparation for Test Flight (Source: America Space)
There has been talk in some quarters that NASA’s next manned spacecraft, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, will never fly. Someone should probably send NASA a memo. On Feb. 27 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, members of the media were taken on a tour of the Launch Abort System Facility where they got to see the Launch Abort System (LAS) that will be used on the first flight of Orion, currently slated to take place next year. This mission has been dubbed Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1). Click here. (3/4)

Obama's Path to Second-term Success Goes Through Space (Source: Huffington Post)
NASA is known for its soaring goals in exploration, national prestige, and planetary defense in the form of NEO (near-Earth object) detection. But pursuing the goals of the U.S. space program presents an extraordinary opportunity for the administration's second-term domestic agenda. A path to a strong manufacturing base, STEM education, advances in clean energy, and ultimately a thriving middle-class, goes through space.

It's no surprise that a vigorous space program stimulates rapid technological development. Even the minimum physical requirements for NASA's missions of exploration are steep and require innovation and creative problem-solving, spurring spinoffs with wide-ranging applications. More than any other industry, the space program incites passion, daring, and inspiration among the public. It motivates people, young and old, to pursue math, science, and engineering in school -- the all-important STEM fields that are required for our country to remain competitive.

NASA provides inspiration that inevitably leads to innovation. By showcasing Mr. Ferdowsi (at the State of the Union speech) who represents the unrivalled potential of NASA's engineering, science, educational, and motivational contributions to the nation, the administration highlighted the space program as a powerful tool in enabling its domestic agenda. With stable funding and solid Congressional support, NASA's success can be America's success. (3/4)

Curiosity Rover Out of safe Mode, Still Recovering (Source: AP)
NASA says the Curiosity rover is returning to normal after a computer problem limited its activities. The space agency said Monday that the car-size rover exited safe mode over the weekend, meaning it suspends its science activities but is still in contact with Earth. Curiosity is now preparing to resume its science experiments — perhaps by next week. Engineers still don't know what caused Curiosity's memory glitch. The rover was in the middle of analyzing powder from a rock it recently drilled into. (3/4)

New Comet's Potential Mars Collision in 2014 Explained (Source:
A newfound comet is apparently on course to have an exceedingly close call with the planet Mars in October 2014, and there is a chance — albeit small — that the comet may even collide with the Red Planet. The new comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) was discovered Jan. 3 by the Scottish-Australian astronomer Robert H. McNaught, a prolific observer of both comets and asteroids who has 74 comet discoveries to his name. Click here. (3/4)

Commercial Space Race Heats Up (Source: Nature)
The Falcon 9 rocket, which made its fifth successful flight on 1 March, has stolen the spotlight in the commercial space race. Built by SpaceX, a young company based in Hawthorne, California, the rocket has become NASA’s choice for hauling cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). But it may soon have competition from a rocket that has kept a low profile (see ‘Battle of the rockets’).

After years of delays, Orbital Sciences of Dulles, Virginia, has slated the first test flight of its Antares rocket for April. If that goes well, its second mission could carry an unmanned Cygnus spacecraft to the ISS within months. “There’s no one main problem, no show-stopper,” says Orbital spokesman Barron Beneski. “In hindsight, this has just taken us longer to do than we thought it would.” Click here. (3/4)

Proposed House Budget Ups Funding for SLS, Commercial Crew (Source: Planetary Society)
The U.S. House of Representatives unveiled their proposed funding bill for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year, which provides NASA funding at 2012 levels with the exception of its Exploration division. The bill is a modification of the current Continuing Resolution (CR), which has been in place since October 1st of 2012, and currently funds the federal government at 2012 levels. This resolution expires on March 27th, 2013. If the U.S. Congress does not pass an additional funding bill, the government will shut down on March 28th.

This bill comes from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The Senate, controlled by Democrats, will most likely create its own funding bill for the remainder of 2013, possibly an "omnibus" – a bill that contains all of the appropriations bills from individual committees packed into one piece of legislation. These appropriations would more directly reflect funding proposals from President Obama's 2013 budget, which has yet to be passed. (3/4)

Wolf Demands to Know Why Chinese will be at Langley Meeting (Source: Space Policy Online)
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the House subcommittee that funds NASA, wants to know why NASA is allowing Chinese to attend a meeting at NASA's Langley Research Center next week.  Wolf authored language in NASA's funding bill prohibiting the agency from having any dealings with China unless certain conditions are met.

The letter states that NASA will be hosting a meeting of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) Strategic Implementation Team at Langley Research Center (in Hampton Roads, VA) that includes representatives of the People's Republic of China.  The meeting is scheduled for March 12-14 and NASA has not provided a required certification to Congress about the meeting, he asserts.

By law (P.L. 112-55), neither NASA nor the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) may "develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company" including "the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or utilized by NASA." (3/4)

NASA Plans Colorado Forum on Commercial Crew Program (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA's Commercial Crew Program anticipates holding a public forum (Industry Touch Point) and One-on-One sessions with interested parties on April 8, 2013 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The purpose of this forum is to convey additional details and further develop NASA's Phase 2 acquisition strategy for the Commercial Crew Program Certification.

NASA expects to provide additional information on NASA's evolving acquisition strategy and obtain industry input to enable NASA to refine and mature the phase 2 acquisition strategy. NASA expects to conduct a morning briefing open to the public and hold 1-hour long One-on-One sessions. (3/4)

As Sequestration Goes Into Effect, Revisiting its Effects on NASA (Source: Space Politics)
Friday evening, President Obama signed an order officially enacting the across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration after the White House and Congress failed to develop an alternative deficit reduction package. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released at the same time a report to Congress detailing the amounts of those cuts. This table lists the effects of sequestration on NASA’s budget, based on a 5.0% cut for each of NASA’s accounts. (3/2)

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