April 20, 2013

Uwingu Advisors Reaffirm Commitment to Planet Naming (Source: Uwingu)
"As Adisors to the Uwingu project we wish to reaffirm our belief in the goals and achievements of the organization. It is unfair to characterize this citizen participation in astronomical nomenclature as being anything like those organizations that purport to sell astronomical objects to the public. Uwingu's mission is scientific and educational and directly benefits the space science community. It provides a means by which ordinary citizens can feel connected to and help support the discoveries of exoplanets that continue to excite and astonish the human imagination. Click here. (4/20)

NASA Capturing an Asteroid: Do it in House, Do it Commercially, or Don't Do It (Source: Yahoo!)
As reported in a number of media sources, the new Obama budget proposal will include a $100 million down payment for a plan to capture an asteroid, bring it closer to Earth, and then visit it with astronauts. However the plan has already sparked an argument. Should the project be done as a NASA program or "in a new way" by partnering with commercial firms? Should capturing an asteroid be done at all? Click here. (4/20)

Editorial: NASA Playing Politics with JPL Open House (Source: Pasadena Sun)
It's just not right that the pearly gates to Geek Heaven, perhaps better known as the annual JPL Open House, have been slammed shut. Originally planned for June 8 and 9, one of the most highly-anticipated local events of the year was canceled this week and JPL leaders blame NASA, which in turn blames the federal spending cuts ("sequestration") for this very disappointing turn of events.

We question whether the cancellation of an educational outreach effort that draws north of 35,000 people over a weekend was really necessary to make ends meet, or if it was more of a case of drumming up public sympathy for the budget cuts. After all, no parent wants to tell their budding young scientists and engineers that they can't go learn about the missions to Mars and the other fascinating work that goes on at the campus in the Arroyo Seco this year — or at least until after the "budgetary dust settles," as a JPL spokesperson stated this week.

Surely there were other ways to close the gap without involving a time-honored tradition that allowed curious people to learn more about the lab's endeavors. But perhaps they aren't of the type that could rouse as loud an outcry from supporters. Editor's Note: Surely there's some politics to this, but NASA (and other agencies) seem to be avoiding the politically difficult issue of civil service workforce reductions. They remain at roughly the same levels while contractors have been shedding jobs left and right. (4/20)

Antares Launch Attempt Scrubbed, Moved to Sunday (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Antares launch from Wallops Island has been scrubbed again, this time because of upper level winds. The next launch attempt will be tomorrow, Sunday, April 21, 2013, at 5:00 pm ET.  The weather is forecast to be favorable except possibly for surface level winds. (4/20)

Wiring Space Flights (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
When Virgin Galactic starts flying paying passengers to space from southern New Mexico, all technical issues before, during and after flights will be tracked and managed with a homegrown, Albuquerque software system. Ultramain Systems Inc.’s technology, now used by major airlines worldwide, will allow spacecraft pilots and ground maintenance workers to digitally log all technical issues and mutually share that information in real time. Virgin Galactic chose Ultramain this month, following a global bidding process.

Ultramain will begin installing the system by May at Virgin Galactic’s base operations, and on its air vehicles, in the Mojave Desert in California, but the ground-based control will eventually be moved to Spaceport America. Virgin also expects to use the software on all its future operations and vehicles worldwide, said Virgin Galactic President and CEO George Whitesides. (4/20)

Ireland: Job Creation and Growth with Space (Source: ESA)
Ireland is setting an example for how space technologies can contribute to economic growth and recovery through the maritime sector. Over 100 European specialists in policy, space technology, industry and maritime interests met this week on the Emerald Isle to learn more. Satellites can support the development of our seas and oceans in areas such as aquaculture, renewable energy, resource extraction, fisheries protection and tourism.

With ESA’s help, Irish companies and researchers are developing innovative maritime services using satellite-derived data in these areas, providing an opportunity for growth and employment in addition to contributing to numerous socio-economic activities. Click here. (4/19)

Rep. Schiff and Sen. Feinstein Call on NASA to Not Gut Planetary Science (Source: SpaceRef)
Today, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) sent a letter NASA Administrator Charles Bolden calling on him to keep any operating plan for the fiscal year consistent with the funding levels and allocations directed to it by Congress earlier this year. There have been reports that the FY 2013 NASA Operating Plan will slash funding from the Planetary Science programs. Schiff and Feinstein were joined by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative John Culberson (R-TX) in sending the letter.

In the letter, the congressional leaders write: "While we fully understand that the funding levels enumerated in the bill and report are subject to change to reflect the across the board and sequester cuts, we expect that the balance among programs will remain consistent with the structure directed by Congress." (4/19)

NASA Opens Door to Commercial Partnerships on the Moon (Source: Space News)
As NASA prepared for the rollout of its 2014 budget request — a $17.7 billion spending plan that includes a $105 million down payment for a revamped asteroid exploration initiative — its head of space operations quietly signed an agreement with Bigelow Aerospace to explore options for a lunar base and public-private orbital outposts near the international space station and at gravitationally stable Lagrange points 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.

The Space Act Agreement, signed March 25 by NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, William Gerstenmaier, is intended to gather options for extending NASA’s commercial space development programs, currently focused on transporting cargo and crew to the international space station (ISS), to follow-on human exploration programs, Bigelow Aerospace founder and president Robert Bigelow said.

“The purpose of this agreement is to facilitate and explore, in a manner that meets both national and commercial goals and objectives, joint public-private arrangements that would continue to build the ability for humans to live and work in space through the expansion of exploration capabilities beyond low Earth orbit,” the agreement says. (4/19)

Space Aeronautics Internship Program at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: FSGC)
The NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC) and Space Florida (SF) have partnered in a STEM Internship Program at the Space Life Sciences Laboratory (SLSL), Exploration Park KSC, during summer 2013. This trial program in 2013 will comprise up to 4 SLSL research project interns. This is a paid internship of $5,000 for the 10-week program that will commence on June 3, and conclude on August 9, 2013.

The goal of the Internship program will be to train and recruit Florida science/engineering students into the aerospace & aviation workforce as future employees, while encouraging further study and academic achievement. Particular emphasis will be directed towards building and strengthening allegiances between Space Florida, Florida Space Grant Consortium, NASA-KSC, Florida Universities, as well as Space Life Sciences Laboratory & Exploration Park tenants. Click here. (4/19)

DOD Should Improve Its Satellite Control Operations Says GAO (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Department of Defense (DOD) needs to improve its satellite control operations according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  DOD currently uses stand-alone control facilities for each satellite system, but instead should have shared systems that take advantage of commercial practices, the report concludes. (4/19)

Mars One Launches Astronaut Selection (Source: Hobby Space)
Mars One will launch its Astronaut Selection Program on Apr. 22 at a press conference in New York. The briefing will be moderated by Emily Lakdawalla, Senior Editor at the Planetary Society. The panel will include Bas Lansdorp, General Director and Co-Founder, Mars One; Norbert Kraft, Medical Director, Mars One; Gerard ‘t Hooft, Nobel laureate and Ambassador, Mars One; Grant Anderson, Sr. VP Operations, Chief Engineer and Co-Founder, Paragon Space Development Corp.; and Bryan Versteeg, Mission Concept Artist, Mars One. (4/19)

Why the Antares Launch is a Make or Break Moment for Orbital Sciences (Source: Washington Business Journal)
With the debut launch of its new rocket now set for Saturday, Orbital Sciences Corp. has a whole lot at stake — most notably a potential recovery from the fallout of costly failures by the rocket's predecessor. The maiden flight of the Antares rocket was supposed to be April 17, but got bumped in the final minutes before takeoff because of a premature disconnection of a data cable. The goal is to verify processing, countdown and launch procedures as well as to provide flight testing of — among other things — payload separation systems.

From a business perspective, it is not just the rocket that is being put to the test but also the Dulles-based company itself. For one thing, Antares will be used for Orbital's "commercial resupply services" contract with NASA to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. That's significant. The contract is valued at $1.9 billion. For another, a successful launch is a chance to recover from the high-profile, $424 million failure in March 2011 that involved Orbital's Taurus XL rocket, the second failure in two years.

The failures led NASA to terminate a $70 million contract awarded to Orbital in May 2010 to provide launch services for the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2, which is designed to enable more reliable predictions of climate change. Orbital Sciences (NYSE: ORB) reported a 2 percent or $5.2 million decrease in revenue from its space launch vehicle segment during 2012, primarily due to decreased production work on Antares, combined with lower revenues from Taurus and Pegasus space launch vehicles, partially offset by increased activity on the Minotaur launch vehicle. (4/19)

Report Cites Duplication in U.S. Air Force Ground Systems (Source: Space News)
Before investing in new satellite programs, the U.S. Air Force should see whether it can reduce duplication and find efficiencies in its ground-based satellite control infrastructure, according to the Government Accountability Office. Wherever possible, ground systems should be built to support multiple satellite programs, the congressional watchdog agency said. Entitled “Satellite Control: Long-Term Planning and Adoption of Commercial Practices Could Improve DOD’s Operation,” the report said moving to common ground control systems could allow for increased automation and use of off-the-shelf products. (4/19)

Weather Delays Student Launch Initiative Until Sunday (Source: AL.com)
NASA's annual Student Launch Initiative has been pushed back a day due to inclement weather. The student rocket challenge was slated to begin at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday at Bragg Farms in Toney. Officials announced this morning that the launches would be pushed back a day due to the severe weather and rain that occurred overnight. The students' awards ceremony will still be held Saturday night, however. It begins at 6:30 p.m. at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center's Davidson Center for Space Exploration. (4/19)

Lawmakers Question NASA Funding for SLS-Orion, Planetary Science (Source: Space News)
In a preview of a budget hearing scheduled for April 25, NASA’s lead appropriator in the U.S. Senate raised concerns about the reduced level of funding the agency requested in 2014 for planetary science, the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket and its companion Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. “I’ll be very blunt: With Sen. Shelby as my vice chairman, we can’t cut Orion and SLS,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said. “That’s the political reality.”

Although Mikulski chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and its commerce, justice, science subcommittee, she shares power in both roles with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), a fierce defender of NASA’s Huntsville-based Marshall Space Flight Center and its marquee program, SLS. Mikulski said the commerce, justice, science subcommittee will review NASA’s $17.7 billion budget request during an April 25 hearing — a day after the House Science, Space and Technology space subcommittee holds its own NASA budget hearing. (4/19)

Wackiest Missions That Never Happened (or Ended Badly) (Source: America Space)
For every triumph, such as the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity, there are any number of missions that never made it off the drawing board. Here’s what happens when space flight stops being polite and starts getting real. Five missions that were as audacious as any plan to lasso an asteroid. Every mission has one thing in common: they held great promise and would have possibly yielded incredible scientific dividends gleaned from their data and findings, but, alas, some never happened, some never worked, and some worked perhaps a little too well. Click here. (4/19)

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