October 9, 2013

Congressman Claims JSC Employees Support Shutdown (Source: Space Politics)
While the Johnson Space Center (JSC) had the most employees excepted from furlough of any NASA center, most NASA employees there still have been furloughed: about 95%, according to a memo detailing NASA’s shutdown plans issued in late September. Nonetheless, the congressman whose district includes the center claims that most JSC employees that have contacted his office support the shutdown that, for the time being, leaves them out of work and without pay.

“Our calls from JSC employees tjhis [sic] week are about nine to one in favor of standing strong against Obama’s budget,” said Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) in a release issued Monday by his office. (The release contained several typos, perhaps the result of furloughs of the congressman’s own staff.) “With a wife who is a JSC employee I know better than most how important full NASA funding is and how many hits JSC employee [sic] have taken under Obama.”

Most of the release details Stockman’s desire to “fully restore” NASA funding, particularly for JSC-related programs. “We get more return on NASA than nearly any other agency and we need expand out investment in it,” Stockman said in the statement. That includes “working to overturn Obama’s closure of JSC’s arc-jet facility, restore manned space flight, increase NASA’s budget, extend use of the International Space Station to at least 2028, restore Mars missions and expand planetary probes,” according to the statement. He does not detail how much these efforts would cost, or how he would pay for them. (10/8)

NASA Researchers Protest Government Shutdown (Source: Palo Alto Online)
More than 70 NASA employees and their supporters gathered in front of Moffett Field's main gate on Wednesday to protest the federal government shutdown that has kept them from their jobs since Oct. 1. "We want to get back to our data analyzing and research paper writing!" said Lee Stone, president of local 70 of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, to the crowd, which began chanting "We want to work! We want to work!" (10/9)

Shutdown Creates Long-Lasting Impacts for NASA's JSC (Source: Houston Business Journal)
Space City is currently lost in the widening space of the government shutdown. As the federal government has entered the second week of a shutdown, during which thousands of Houston-based NASA employees and contractors are furloughed, the local space industry’s concern has heightened.

At JSC, only about 100 of the 3,150 civil servants regularly employed at the center are not furloughed. Hundreds more local contractors working with NASA have been furloughed and more contractor furloughs could come any day, said Tim Budzik at the Houston Technology Center’s JSC campus. Budzik has been keeping up with local contractors while they scramble to prepare for days, or even weeks, without NASA operations. “(The shutdown) put almost all of NASA’s plans on hold until after the new year,” Budzik said.

The Houston Technology Center’s JSC campus is a technology incubator that is currently working with 18 different companies trying to spin off commercial technologies from NASA JSC. Due to the shutdown, HTC has been forced to move its operation off of the JSC campus and into a temporary office. But the office move is just an inconvenience — the real problem is that the shutdown could severely impact companies trying to spin off their NASA technologies with the incubator. (10/8)

Strategic Stability Affected by Lack of Space Weapons Ban (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russia together with China plans to submit a new draft resolution on transparency and confidence building in outer space to the United Nations for consideration, the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s security and disarmament department and Russia’s envoy to the First Committee of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly, Mikhail Ulyanov, said on Wednesday.

“The lack of a legally binding ban on the deployment of weapons in outer space is the factor that affects strategic stability and aggravates transition to new agreements on nuclear weapons,” Ulyanov said. “The Russian-Chinese draft treaty designed to fill in the gap has been shelved at the Geneva Disarmament Conference for a long while and unfortunately, no progress has been made so far.” (10/9)

Meet the Asteroid That Might Hit Earth in 2880 (Source: Discovery)
There are over 10,000 near-Earth objects (NEOs) that have been identified so far — asteroids and comets of varying sizes that approach the Earth’s orbital distance to within about 28 million miles (45 million km). Of the 10,000 discoveries, roughly 10 percent are larger than six-tenths of a mile (one kilometer) in size — large enough to have disastrous global consequences should one impact the Earth.

First discovered in February 1950, 1950 DA is a 1.1-kilometer-wide asteroid that was observed for 17 days and then disappeared from view. Then it was spotted again on Dec. 31, 2000 — literally on the eve of the 21st century. Coupled with radar observations made a few weeks later in March 2001 it was found that, along with a rather high rotation rate (2.1 hours), asteroid 1950 DA has a trajectory that will bring it very close to Earth on March 16, 2880. (10/9)

Industry Leaders Claim SLS Capability Could Create New Missions (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Leaders of several major space industry companies have claimed that the unrivalled capability of the Space Launch System (SLS) may create a demand for additional missions, that will in turn increase the flight rate. Speaking at the 6th Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium, a heavyweight panel of experts spoke of their optimism that SLS may launch up to twice per year. (10/9)

Hale: NASA Needs New Strategies (Source: Huntsville Times)
NASA needs a new strategy to ensure its long-term prosperity, the keynote speaker said at the von Braun Symposium in Huntsville. Wayne Hale, a former NASA space shuttle program manager and currently the director of human spaceflight at Special Aerospace Services, filled in for NASA Administrator Charles Bolden by challenging the space agency to reinvent itself to further the efforts of space exploration.

Bolden and other NASA officials who were scheduled to attend the three-day event were absent because of the government shutdown. Hale outlined a mixed bag of NASA successes in wake of the Apollo moon missions, noting that the agency has languished for almost 40 years as different visions for NASA have died amid a lack of funding. (10/8)

Investment Firm Puts $20M into Dauria Aerospace (Source: I2BF)
 I2BF Global Ventures announced a $20 million Series B investment in Dauria Aerospace, a global satellite services company involved in the manufacturing of micro and nano satellites and the development of machine-to-machine wireless communication and earth observation technologies.

Dauria Aerospace was founded in 2011, by experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts with backgrounds from NASA, RapidEye and the Russian space program, with the aim of developing low-cost infrastructure for rapid monitoring of ground assets and activity. It integrates low-cost satellite constellations with a unique cloud-based platform called CloudEO that provides an advanced framework and easy access to GEO-application developers.

The production start of the first satellite is due this year with support from Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency. I2BF Global Ventures' $20 million investment will be used for working capital to serve existing contracts, technology development and new satellite platforms. (10/8)

Furloughed KSC Employees Volunteer to Clean Up Beach (Source: Florida Today)
Now in their second week of being furloughed by the federal government’s partial shutdown, more than 30 Kennedy Space Center employees this morning participated in a beach cleanup in an effort to make good use of their forced free time.

“We all work for the federal government, for NASA, because we want to make a difference,” said Margaret Truitt, a 29-year-old NASA human resources employee who helped organize the event. “This is a small way to give back during this furlough time, to still be productive members of society.”

Most were NASA civil servants, but the group of mostly young employees included some contractors and at least one student visiting from out of town. They gathered at the Cocoa Beach Pier at 10 a.m. and set out with buckets, garbage bags and tongs for picking up trash, all provided by Keep Brevard Beautiful. (10/8)

NASA Ban on Chinese Scientists 'Inaccurate' (Source: AFP)
A decision by NASA to bar Chinese scientists from an upcoming conference was deemed "inaccurate" Tuesday by the US congressman who wrote the law on which the restriction is based. NASA's announcement that Chinese nationals would not be permitted to enter the Second Kepler Science Conference on exoplanets at Ames Research Center sparked a boycott by some prominent US astronomers.

The restriction is based on a law passed in 2011 that prevents NASA funds from being used to collaborate with China or to host Chinese visitors at US space agency facilities. The language was inserted into a funding bill by Congressman Frank Wolf, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies. The law bans NASA funds from being used to work "bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company" or being "used to effectuate the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or utilized by NASA,"

However, Wolf's office issued a letter seeking to correct news reports on the matter, as well as NASA's stance. The law "primarily restricts bilateral, not multilateral, meetings and activities with the Communist Chinese government or Chinese-owned companies," it said. "It places no restrictions on activities involving individual Chinese nationals unless those nationals are acting as official representatives of the Chinese government." (10/8)

Congressman Wolf Overly Hawkish on China (Source: NASA Watch)
Given the relentless investigations, letters, and outright nasty badgering that Rep. Wolf has given NASA over this issue, it is small wonder that the agency made this decision. After all, Rep. Wolf had already ordered investigations into previous Chinese participation in NASA meetings and ordered NASA to do overhauls of various online servers and facility access procedures after a Chinese national was found with porn on his laptop.

Now Wolf sends NASA a letter criticising the agency for taking his rants and demands seriously. Its hard to figure out just what this guy does or does not want NASA to do. (10/8)

Industry Touts Maturity of Space Fence Technology (Source: Space News)
Executives from the two companies competing to build the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation space-object tracking system said they are so confident the service has eliminated the common programmatic risks that cause delays and costs overruns that both submitted fixed-price proposals for the billion-dollar-plus contract.

Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have developed competing designs and prototypes for the new Space Fence, a ground-based radar system that would be capable of tracking greater numbers of smaller objects than current U.S. space surveillance assets. (10/8)

Virgin Galactic's Private Spaceship Passengers Taste Weightlessness on ZERO-G Flight (Source: Space.com)
It may be at least a year before Virgin Galactic's future passengers fly to suborbital space, but some of them recently got a chance to experience weightlessness on a ZERO-G flight. Officials at Zero Gravity Corporation said 80 Virgin Galactic customers flew on chartered trips aboard their G-FORCE ONE plane during two flights on Sept. 26 and one on Sep. 27 in Burbank. The three ZERO-G flights coincided with a gathering of Virgin Galactic's paying space tourists on Sep. 25 in the Mojave Desert. (10/8)

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