July 11, 2013

Russian Spaceport Workers Fired for Cannabis Use (Source: RIA Novosti)
Five builders working at the site of Russia’s newest cosmodrome in the Far East have been fired for illegal drug use, the Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN) said. “There were five men aged between 25 and 50 detected with signs of drug use. Express-testing showed traces of drugs from the cannabis group. They were all fired,” FSKN spokeswoman Svetlana Fedotova said. Suspicions about drug use at the Vostochny cosmodrome construction site were first aroused in April when sniffer dogs found signs of illegal substances during an inspection, Fedotova said. (7/11)

NASA Authorization Act Approved by House Panel on Party-line Vote (Source: Space News)
On the same day that another House panel approved the smallest NASA budget since 2007, the House Science space subcommittee approved — on a straight party-line vote — a two-year NASA authorization bill that would ban a proposed asteroid capture mission, cut back NASA’s Earth science program, and mandate more crewed exploration of lunar space in preparation for an expedition to Mars.

The NASA Authorization Act of 2013, written by the subcommittee’s Republican leadership, passed by a vote of 11 to 9, with no Democrats supporting the proposal and one Republican abstaining. The bill must still be approved by the full House Science, Space and Technology Committee before the House can vote on whether to send the proposal to the Senate. The subcommittee bill authorizes $16.87 billion for NASA in both 2014 and 2015, a level consistent with the across-the-board sequestration cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011, but about 5 percent lower than NASA’s 2012 budget. (7/10)

Steve Isakowitz Named President of Virgin Galactic (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, announced the appointment of Steven J. Isakowitz as president of Virgin Galactic LLC. Isakowitz has served as executive vice president and chief technology officer since he joined the company in 2011. He will continue to report directly to Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company.

Virgin Galactic plans to launch tourists to suborbital space from Spaceport America, located just north of Doña Ana County. The first flight could happen later this year. Since joining the company in September 2011, Isakowitz has played a key role across a range of areas and led the development of LauncherOne, a orbital launch system for small satellites, according to the news release. (7/10)

Report: Air Force Should Use Private Space Firms as Model (Source: Air Force Times)
The Air Force of the future should look a little more like SpaceX and other small, private space exploration companies, according to a recent report from the service’s chief scientist. The Air Force’s current acquisition process is incapable of producing innovative systems quickly and affordably, former Air Force Chief Scientist Mark Maybury said in a June 21 report called “Global Horizons: United States Air Force Global Science and Technology Vision.”

And the increasing complexity of integrating advanced technology into aircraft such as the F-35 will likely further slow the development process in the future. This “threaten[s] to erode the current decisive technology advantage” the Air Force now enjoys over its adversaries, Maybury said. He retired June 28. Maybury said the Air Force needs to emulate the rapid prototyping processes used by SpaceX and Scaled Composites, which he said produce aerospace vehicles 50 percent faster than under traditional acquisitions. (7/10)

Utah Company Helps Spaceport America Get Runway Ready (Source: KSLTV)
A small town in New Mexico is hoping a commercial spaceport will revive the community and bring in big names. As Spaceport America gets it's launchpad ready to sustain flights, the facility has high hopes for the future. To accommodate daily departures and arrivals, there's a 12,000-foot long runway. A crew of Utahns from A-Core Concrete Cutting was hired to put on some finishing touches on the runway. "We are grooving the runway for traction," said Tyson Porter with the company. (7/11)

We've Been Mooned (Source: Sunshine State News)
Quick! Before somebody else claims the moon, let's do something to pretend we care about our American legacy there. Wait! I know! Let's create a lunar national park! Never mind that President Obama effectively killed space travel and turned NASA into pretend climate scientists. A pair of Democratic congresswomen, Donna Edwards from Maryland and Eddie Bernice Johnson from Texas, want to create a national historic park on the surface of the Moon to commemorate the Apollo lunar landing missions that took place between 1969 and 1972. Click here.

Editor's Note: Sunshine State News is a conservative-leaning news outlet that never hesitates to publish the Republican party line. As usual, they're a bit inaccurate in portraying President Obama as having "effectively killed space travel", while it has been congressional Republicans who have done most to slow the development of commercial human spaceflight capabilities to replace the Space Shuttle. (7/11)

Soil Detoxifocation at Proton-M Crash Site Completed (Source: Tengri News)
Detoxification of soil of soil pollutants at the crash area of the Russian Proton-M rocket-carrier finished on July 10. “Evaluation of damage and elimination of consequences of the emergency crash of the Proton-M are still underway at Baikonur cosmodrome. Detoxification of pollutants at the crash site stated on July 9,” the message states. The required detoxifying agents were delivered to the cosmodrome from Almaty, Shymkent and Astana on July 8. (7/11)

Proton Crash Caused by Upside-Down Sensors? (Source: The Verge)
The fate of the Russian Proton-M rocket that crashed in Kazakhstan last week may have been sealed by critical sensors that were installed "upside down." According to reports in Russian media, the investigators have determined that human error was to blame, as faulty preparations lead to the rocket launching with velocity sensors at incorrect polarities. (7/10)

Space Launch System Funding Restored to $1.8B in House Committee (Source: Huntsville Times)
A House subcommittee budget released late Monday authorizes $1.8 billion in spending for NASA's Space Launch System in 2014, restoring $400 million cut in a draft authorization bill released last month, but apparently taking that money from ground support for the launch system. More importantly for the program, the House appropriations subcommittee that actually funds NASA also released its budget late Monday giving a firm $1.775 billion to SLS next year and funding ground support separately.

NASA programs, like the SLS whose core booster is being developed at Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center, wind their way through two sets of House subcommittees and committees. One set authorizes programs and spending levels, and one actually appropriates money. Authorization is important - the agency can't do what it isn't authorized by Congress to do - but appropriations are the bottom line. (7/10)

Where Do Astronauts Go When They Need “To Go?” (Source: APS)
Alan Shepard became the first American to fly in space on May 5, 1961. Although NASA engineers had put considerable planning into his mission, dubbed Freedom 7, noticeably missing from this extensive preparation was a way for him to urinate in his spacesuit. During a lengthy launch delay, the inevitable happened, and Shepard’s urine short-circuited his electronic biosensors. In less than a year, engineers had remedied this seeming oversight for John Glenn’s Mercury orbital flight. The system developed for Glenn stood the test of time, remaining in use until the early days of the Space Shuttle program. Click here. (7/10)

Bolden: The Asteroid Mission: Why We Choose To Go (Source: The Hill)
“But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?” — John F. Kennedy

Fifty-one years ago, a young president asked a question that cut to the heart of the American explorer spirit. For me, NASA’s vision statement says it all. Why do we choose to go? To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind. It is hard to imagine anything more beneficial to humankind than protecting our planet from a dangerous asteroid that could strike Earth with devastating force, something we don’t currently have the ability to do.

In addition to developing technologies that will aid in our planning for the first human journey to Mars, an asteroid mission will help us learn more about how to prevent an impact from one of these mysterious objects. Three years ago, President Obama set a goal of sending humans to an asteroid for the first time by 2025 and making a crewed journey to Mars by the 2030s. The president’s $17.7 billion 2014 budget for NASA assures steady progress toward fulfilling those ambitious goals. Click here. (7/10)

House Republicans Detail Proposed Domestic Spending Cuts (Source: Reuters)
Underscoring their priorities for the next U.S. budget talks, Republican lawmakers detailed additional cuts to domestic programs to boost funding to defense and security agencies. The proposed reductions, released by the House Appropriations Committee, would reduce fiscal 2014 funding for the White House, the District of Columbia, the Internal Revenue Service and other financial services-related agencies by $3 billion. Many of the accounts already are squeezed by the "sequester" automatic spending cuts.

The Republican proposals also would cut NASA's budget by $928 million compared to last year, cut another $198 million from the Department of Commerce and $259 million from the National Science Foundation, which funds an array of scientific research projects. At the same time, the Republican-controlled committee has proposed giving the Department of Justice, which includes the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and federal prisons, an increase of $770 million above the current sequester level.

Federal court funding also would get a $12 million boost from the fiscal 2013 level. "This legislation targets taxpayer dollars to federal law enforcement and safety programs, ensuring that the essential functions of the federal government - protecting the life, liberty and property of our citizens - are maintained," House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers said in a statement. (7/9)

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