January 26, 2014

Florida, Space Coast Attract Aerospace Business (Source: Florida Today)
A report issued in December by PricewaterhouseCoopers that said Florida ranked first overall in U.S. manufacturing attractiveness. Some of that ranking involved the incentives local communities and state lawmakers are willing to shell out to help further the growth that comes with aviation and aerospace. And some of the ranking also is because of the skilled workforce that remains from the space shuttle program. The study said Florida ranked “first in talent” for aviation.

“The Brevard area for several decades has been a bright spot for the state's aviation/aerospace sector,” said Edward Ellegood, a space policy analyst at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University “The sector has diversified substantially beyond its space transportation roots. We still have a lot of growth potential here.”

Local economic development officials, who began a fevered push for aviation and aerospace business in Brevard — including economic incentives, site visits and marketing efforts — a decade before the ending of the shuttle program in 2011, said the fruits of those efforts are what people are seeing now. Click here. (1/24)

Midland Spaceport Attracts Second Company to Texas (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
With the Midland Development Corp.’s second agreement with a company from the growing private aerospace industry, Midland — and Texas in general — may be poised to become a premier spaceflight haven that rivals the likes of California and New Mexico. MDC’s enticement of California-based private space companies XCOR Aerospace and Orbital Outfitters to Midland cost the economic development organization a combined $16.9 million in incentives.

Of that total, $6.9 million was approved Friday for Orbital Outfitters. In the agreements made with the MDC, both companies will be using their incentive funds to relocate to the spaceport at Midland International Airport. Orbital Outfitters will receive $2.2 million for the construction of its headquarters, $3.2 million for the construction of an altitude chamber complex and $1.5 million for salaries and relocation costs. Other agreements approved Friday include a ground lease from the city of Midland to MDC, which in turn will sublease land to Orbital Outfitters. (1/25)

Why Chinese Tourists are Banned from Virgin Galactic Space Flights (Source: News.com.au)
Chinese nationals have been banned from boarding Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space flights - in case they steal the rocket technology. Tycoons from China have been told they cannot be among the space tourists because of anti-espionage regulations in the US, from where the British firm's first commercial flights are due to take off later this year.

Ironically, the ban comes as Britain opens its doors to Chinese involvement in the nuclear and telecom industries and considers asking China to build the new high-speed rail network. But because Virgin's craft has a rocket engine, it is seen as potentially military technology by the US's International Traffic in Arms Regulations. (1/26)

Virgin Still has No Licence to Fly Tourists and No Rocket Powerful Enough (Source: Daily Mail)
A new book about business mogul Sir Richard Branson claims his bold plans for a space tourism company are in danger of turning into an expensive 'white elephant'. Branson Behind The Mask, by Tom Bower, claims Virgin Galactic hasn't got a powerful enough rocket to take customers into space and no licence from American aviation chiefs to do so, despite the billionaire's confident claims that flights will begin in Autumn.

'Virgin Galactic is in danger of turning into a white elephant,' he told the Sunday Times. He added that Branson had so far only managed to 'fire a primitive rocket for 20 seconds in the Earth's atmosphere'. So far Virgin Galactic has accepted more than £42million in deposits from approximately 580 individuals, according to its website. It has also applied for a licence from the US Federal Aviation Administration. (1/26)

Launch Contenders Wait for Word (Source: Florida Today)
The proposals are in. Now it’s up to NASA to decide which company, or companies, will win the opportunity to resume launches of astronauts from the Space Coast — on hold since the shuttle’s retirement in 2011. NASA would not confirm who submitted proposals by last Wednesday’s deadline.

The competition is open, but the contenders are assumed to be Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corp. and SpaceX, which are completing spacecraft designs under existing NASA partnerships worth more than $1 billion. NASA plans to award at least one contract by September, funding the building, testing and certification of vehicles and the first crewed flights to the International Space Station, hopefully in 2017. (1/26)

NASA, SNC, ULA and Space Florida Talk Dream Chaser's Future (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
During the lead up to the launch of NASA’s TDRS-L spacecraft, the space agency as well as some of its government commercial partners highlighted the fast-approaching first launch date for Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser spacecraft. Dream Chaser is one of four companies competing under NASA’s Commercial Crew transportation Capability (CCtCap) and is poised to conduct its first launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport’s Launch Complex 41 in November 2016. Click here. (1/25)

Rep. Orr Looks Out for Space-Travel Companies (Source: Arizona Central)
Tucson, we have a problem ... The Arizona Legislature has yet to agree on how to stop texting and driving, fix the state’s broken child-protection agency or improve K-12 education. But it’s apparently all over the whole space-travel thing. Rep. Ethan Orr, R-Tucson, has introduced a bill that would assure a company is not legally liable for any injuries, emotional distress or death a space-flight participant may incur if the participant signed a liability release. Next up, proposed regulations for teleporting. Beam me up, Scotty. (1/25)

Why This Mars Rover Has Lasted 3,560 Days Longer Than Expected (Source: SF Gate)
The mission wasn't supposed to last more than 90 days. But 10 years later, NASA's Opportunity rover is still in working condition and continues to send back data from Mars. The prolonged health of the rover "was not in anyone's wildest dreams," said John L. Callas, a project manager for the Mars Exploration Rover mission.

Opportunity launched on July 7, 2003. The golf-cart-sized robot landed on Mars on Jan. 24, 2004. Its identical twin, Spirit, touched down on the other side of Red Planet a couple of weeks earlier, but stopped talking to Earth in 2010, around six years into its mission. So why has the Opportunity rover been able to outlast its designed lifetime by thousands of days?

"It's a well-made American vehicle," Ray Arvidson, the rover's lead investigator was quoted by The Register as saying. "These are excellent machines, they are well designed, they're well built, they're fantastic and that's why they're still working." Callas agrees that the rover's success is due to both human ingenuity and factors that are beyond our own comprehension. Click here. (1/24)

Mars One Candidates Debate Giving Up Everything To Move To Red Planet (Source: Huffington Post)
Do you have what it takes to pack your bags and leave everyone on Earth behind? A group of potential Red Planet residents recently opened up about their fears and hopes for moving to Mars. These candidates are among the 1,058 elite shortlisted from a pool of 200,000 applicants to take part in the Mars One initiative, which is an effort to send colonists on a one-way trip to the Red Planet.

"I've been having conversations obviously with my friends and family and loved ones and I don't think it's a very easy process," Mars One candidate Sue Ann Pien says in the video. Yet, she's still determined to become one of the first-ever human Martians. Mars One will continue to sift through applicants, planning to establish the first human settlement on Mars in 2024. Click here. (1/25) 

Bolden: Search for New Deputy Administrator Ongoing (Source: Space Politics)
The position of NASA Deputy Administrator has been vacant since Lori Garver left the agency in early September to become general manager of the Air Line Pilots Association. There has, since then, been occasional speculation about who might be picked to take the job, with some wondering if the position—which, like the administrator, requires a presidential nomination and Senate confirmation—might simply be left open through the end of the administration.

On Thursday, however, NASA administrator Charles Bolden said there is an active search underway, although the ultimate decision is out of his hands. “The search is on,” he said during a “NASA Social” event at the Kennedy Space Center prior to last night’s launch of the TDRS-L communications satellite there. “I don’t pick the deputy administrator. Like me, the deputy administrator is a presidential appointee. We’ve been through several candidates and everything, and my hope is that we’re narrowing in on a final candidate.” (1/24)

Vitter to Run for Governor, Stockman Goes Missing (Source: Space Politics)
On Tuesday, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) announced that he plans to run for governor of Louisiana, which means he could leave the Senate before his current term expires in 2016. Vitter, who once served as the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee, has taken a particular interest in NASA’s use of the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

Last week, he visited Michoud with NASA administrator Charles Bolden to see work being done there on the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. However, last fall he put a hold on the nomination of NASA chief financial officer Beth Robinson to become undersecretary at the Department of Energy, claiming that “NASA has been stalling on a job creating project at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans for no apparent reason.” Robinson’s nomination is still pending.

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), the congressman whose district includes the Johnson Space Center, had already announced that he would not run for reelection in 2014 to instead challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) in the Republican primary for Cornyn’s Senate seat. Now, the AP reports, Stockman has effectively gone missing, skipping a string of House votes before this week’s recess and making “virtually no public appearances” in his long-shot Senate campaign. (1/24)

Defense-Simulation Leaders Want State Cash to Expand Research Park (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
High-tech industry leaders are on a mission to keep "simulation world" in Orlando, and they want the Legislature's help. The region's $5 billion military-training industry and a coalition of political, education and business leaders plan to ask state lawmakers for millions of dollars to pay for new construction at the Central Florida Research Park.

The goal is to add a $60 million complex to the park, offered rent-free to the military. Officials hope that will become a preemptive strike against any Pentagon actions that could dismantle the existing facilities there. Doing so could cripple an industry that has nearly 30,000 high-paying jobs across the region and plays a critical role in diversifying Central Florida's tourism-reliant economy. (1/20)

Central Florida Seeks Less Dependence on Defense Work (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
From military training contractors to commercial web app developers, many players in Central Florida’s high-tech sector expect to make 2014 a year of thinking outside the box. The region’s training and simulation industry — considered the largest in the country — is venturing outside its historic comfort zone of warfare training. A number of simulation companies have found creative new ways to ply their trade, including virtual surgery, auto maintenance, transportation, video games and theme-park attractions.

 Such moves not only make good business sense, but are a matter of survival as the defense budget faces more than $30 billion in spending cuts in 2014. It was spared a bigger hit after Congress passed a bipartisan budget deal in late 2013 that reduced the earlier planned cuts by 40 percent. (1/21)

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