November 19, 2013

Silicon Valley Goes to Space (Source: KQED)
Now, in the age of cutbacks and federal furloughs, NASA is turning to the private sector to more cheaply get to Low Earth Orbit, a region roughly 100 to 600 miles above earth where the International Space Station is located. From space tourism to plans to mine the moon, dozens of for-profit companies, many with the business models, characters and the high-tech, risk-taking culture of Silicon Valley, are reshaping American space exploration.
“In the old days, with all of these specifications, the reviews would get down to every nut and bolt,” Scott Hubbard said. “In this new age, now, in ‘new space’, companies like SpaceX, like Orbital Sciences, are building their own vehicles, and NASA is saying, ‘OK, if you give us a service meeting this type of a milestone and this level of reliability, we’ll just take it…we’re not going to investigate every nut and bolt.’”

But the private sector isn’t simply providing lower-cost services to NASA. More fundamentally, it is disrupting the space industry by creating new technologies that make getting into space cheaper. And that is expanding the commercial, scientific and even extreme adventure possibilities of space. Click here. (11/18)

Lockheed in Florida Avoids the Worst of Layoffs (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Lockheed Martin Corp. unleashed another downsizing last week aimed at eliminating 4,000 jobs nationwide – a move that appears to hit nearly every sector of the company except its Missiles and Fire Control unit in Orlando. While the local simulation operation only took a minor hit – 20 pink slips were issued – Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control Orlando came away unscathed this time around. The company employs more than 4,400 at its Sand Lake Road facilities in south Orlando.

The latest round of cutbacks follows more than four years of companywide downsizing by Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed that has eliminated about 30,000 jobs through involuntary layoffs, voluntary retirements and attrition. Lockheed’s Orlando missiles operation has not been immune to the cuts – more than 130 jobs have been eliminated there since 2008. But one look at the huge lineup of contracts Lockheed Missiles has received this year would suggest why it has been able to weather the latest storm undamaged, at least for now. (11/18)

CASIS and Wings Over Rockies Unveil ISS Exhibit (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), in association with Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, unveiled an exhibit dedicated to the ISS at the “Spreading Wings” gala featuring former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin and renowned astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson in Denver, CO over the weekend. (11/19)

Dubai, of All Places, Is Becoming a Space Tourism Hub (Source: Foreign Policy)
The United Arab Emirates is a country known for its outrageous tourist attractions, each more ambitious than the last, from massive indoor ski slopes to archipelagoes of entirely man-made islands. Given this history, it might not seem so remarkable that space tourism pioneers are turning to the country for the tourists of the future.

Tickets for what is being called the first commercial space flight, slated to take off at the end of 2014, have gone on sale in Dubai. It marks the first time the company behind the flight has opened ticket sales up to Middle Eastern consumers. Space Expedition Corp. (SXC), is close to finishing its first reusable spaceship at a desert location outside of Los Angeles. When commercial flights begin, the spaceship will make four trips into space each day, breaking the sound barrier within a minute and entering space within four. (11/18)

State Rep. Steve Crisafulli Supports Space (Source: Sunshine State News)
Q: You've pushed to add a cost-benefit analysis to the legislative process. Talk about Florida's space industry -- you worked to get its $10 million budget renewed last session. What's the cost-benefit analysis on that?

CRISAFULLI: I think it's important that when we're laying down appropriations, for example, with Space Florida or somebody like that, it's important for us to know that there's a return on that investment. It's important for us to know that if we're incentivizing businesses, that we're doing it in a way in which they have skin in the game. And if we're putting incentives out there that we know that those incentives don't go into play until, obviously, our partner from the private sector has met the obligations that they've been asked to meet.

Editor's Note: Crisafulli, who's district includes the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, is in line to become the Speaker of Florida's House of Representatives in 2014. (11/19)

NASA Scout Blasts Off for Mars to Search for Lost Air (Source: New Scientist)
After decades of robots scouring the surface, a Mars explorer is about to get its head in the clouds. NASA's new mission to the Red Planet will be the first to extensively explore Mars's upper atmosphere. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission lifted off today at 1328 EST from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

When it reaches Mars in late 2014, the orbiter will search for clues to when and why the planet went from a warm, wet world to the cold, dry desert we see today. The probe could also fill a looming break in our ability to communicate with rovers on the planet's surface, and it could provide valuable data for future missions hoping to land humans on Mars. (11/18)

Update on Near-Earth Objects (Source: NASA JPL)
While initial reports from the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., categorized object 2013 US10 as a very large near-Earth asteroid, new observations now indicate that it is, in fact, a long-period comet, and it is now designated C/2013 US10 (Catalina). The comet was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Ariz., on Oct. 31, 2013, and linked to earlier pre-discovery Catalina observations made on Sept. 12. The initial orbit suggested this object is a large, short period, near-Earth asteroid. (11/18)

Russia, Kazakhstan Unveil Spaceport Tourism Plans (Source: Voice of Russia)
Russian and Kazakh officials unveiled plans to develop the city and its Baikonur Spaceport as a world-class tourist attraction. The city government offered 35 properties for the purpose of redeveloping them into restaurants, museums and hotels. At present, the tourist visits to Baikonur are at about 1,000 a year, which is a trifling trickle. (11/18)

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