February 7, 2014

3-D Imaging to Help Preserve Crumbling Rocket Facilities (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Launch Complex 14, where NASA rocketed John Glenn and America into space in the Friendship 7 Mercury capsule 52 years ago, is now a shambles of rust and crumbling concrete. "These launch complexes were not built to last," said Thomas Penders. After decades of minimal maintenance on these sites, the Air Force has assigned Penders to preserve what can be saved of the old, abandoned rocket facilities that stand or lay among the dunes and scrub brush of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. High-tech imaging is his next step.

An $86,000 grant has brought in one of the nation's premier laser 3-D imaging programs, the Alliance for Integrated Spatial Technologies at the USF, to survey, map and create virtual-model videos of six of the highest-priority historic rocket sites, including four launch complexes. Using laser scanners developed by FARO Technologies of Lake Mary, USF scientists Travis Doering and Lori Collins and their team this week began recording digital computer models of all that is left.

The 3D surveys will allow Penders to assess what needs and can be done to stabilize and perhaps restore the space structures. Then he can seek money for restoration. "It's all dependent on budget. As you know budgets are kind of tight these days," he said. "The Air Force has been very supportive." (2/7)

Independent Candidate Wants Rep. Mo Brook’s Job (Source: WHNT)
Former NASA engineer and Huntsville resident Mark Bray says he is a political outsider, but due to the gridlock in D.C., he feels now is the time to bring new ideas to Capitol Hill. Bray will face off against incumbent (R) Rep. Mo Brooks for the 5th District Congressional seat. There is no Democrat in the race and Rep. Brooks will have a primary battle against Athens resident Jerry Hill for the Republican ticket. (2/7)

Ariane 5 Delivers Athena-Fidus and ABS-2 Satellites to Orbit (Source: America Space)
Arianespace has triumphantly kicked off an impressive salvo of launches from the South American spaceport with its first mission of 2014. Liftoff of Mission VA-217—with an Ariane 5 carrying the joint French/Italian Athena-Fidus military communications satellite and the ABS-2 commercial communications satellite for Asia Broadcast Satellite into geostationary transfer orbit—occurred on Feb. 6 following a 60-minute delay caused by heavy rain, ground winds and an elevated risk of lightning. (2/6)

Baiterek Launch Facility in Kazakhstan Faces More Delays (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia is holding up the transfer of a space launch facility currently under construction to Kazakhstan, the head of the Central Asian nation’s space program said Thursday. Baiterek, which is being built at the Russia-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, is central to Kazakhstan’s ambitions to become a space power, but progession on its completion has been marred by disagreement on how to develop the project.

Kazcosmos space agency chief Talgat Musabayev said Thursday that Baiterek was being considered by Russian federal agencies and had resultantly been delayed. Musabayev last year announced a revision to plans agreed in 2004 to develop Baiterek as a launch pad for Russia’s modular Angara rocket. The facility will be converted to a launch platform for the Ukrainian-built Zenit rocket, Musabayev said. (2/6)

Slate's Misleading Hit Piece on the Future of NASA (Source: Planetary Society)
Charles Seife’s recent piece in Slate is a tragic lost opportunity. It is a misinformed rant dressed up in the trappings of a thoughtful essay. Where it should be provocative, it is ad hominem. Where it should inform, it misleads. The piece is full of rhetorical tricks, cheap jabs, lazy logic; it misleads the reader into thinking NASA is something it's not (i.e. responsible for its own policy) and is ultimately damaging to the critical discussions that need to happen in the public sphere. (2/6)

SLS Contractors: We 'Will' Hit Critical 2014 Milestones (Source: Huntsville Times)
The four prime contractors for NASA's Space Launch System say they are on track with America's new deep space rocket and will be ready to take their biggest steps so far this year including launching an Orion crew capsule for the first time. The four primes - Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Aerojet Rocketdyne and ATK - issued a joint press release Thursday on their progress. The contractors say they met with NASA recently "to ensure the teams are on track." (2/6)

Kepler Finds a Planet with a Wobble (Source: SEN)
NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope has discovered a planet that wobbles wildly, leading to rapid and erratic changes in seasons. The tilt of the spin axis on the planet, designated Kepler-413b, can vary by as much as 30 degrees over 11 years. By comparison, Earth's rotational precession is 23.5 degrees over 26,000 years. Researchers are amazed that this far-off planet is precessing on a human timescale. (2/6)

GenCorp Reports Fourth Quarter Annual Results (Source: GenCorp)
Net sales for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013 totaled $485.3 million compared to $298.2 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012. Net loss for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013 was ($3.7) million compared to a net income of $2.8 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012. (2/7)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Could Lay Off 225 Due to Merger (Source: Space News)
Aerojet Rocketdyne, the company created in July by the $550 million merger of the top two U.S. suppliers of liquid-fueled rocket engines, could lay off as many as 225 employees by March as it streamlines operations, parent company GenCorp said.

Notices to employees who could be affected went out Jan. 30, Sacramento, Calif,-based GenCorp said in a Feb. 7 press release announcing earnings for the fiscal quarter and year ended Nov. 30. The company would incur a one-time cost of $15.7 million related to the downsizing, GenCorp said. (2/7)

U.S. Satellite Export Regs Remain a Frustration for European Industry (Source: Space News)
European industry’s need to sell telecommunications and Earth observation satellites independent of U.S. technology has not diminished with the promised relaxation of U.S. satellite technology export regulations, government and industry officials said.

The changing expectations of export customers, they said, means that European prime contractors, and their governments, need to be able to offer much more than hardware to close a sale. If they need to consult U.S. or other non-European authorities about the hardware’s export or eventual use, they risk losing credibility in their effort to position themselves as a U.S. alternative. (2/7)

Lucid and Ross Selected for U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Two distinguished former NASA astronauts -- Shannon Lucid and Jerry Ross -- will be inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame as the 2014 class, officials announced Friday. Lucid, the only American woman to serve aboard the Russian space station Mir, and Ross is the first human to complete seven space shuttle missions.

Their selection as the 2014 inductees was announced today at the new Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex by Dan Brandenstein, chairman of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and himself a four-time shuttle astronaut and Hall of Fame member. (2/7)

Manufacturers Seen as Beneficiaries of French Satellite Funding (Source: Space News)
The French government on Feb. 6 committed another 30 million euros ($40 million) to cost-shared work with French satellite builders on next-generation broadband satellites that could be in orbit starting in 2017, but probably will not cover France. The planned disbursement, from the French public bond fund to support job-producing technologies, follows a 40 million-euro commitment in November 2011 as part of a program now called THD-Sat, for Very High Throughput satellite. (2/7)

Air Force To Re-Examine Dual-launch Funding (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force is initiating an extensive review of nearly every element of its launch activities for 2017 and beyond, including the feasibility of U.S. production of the Russian-built RD-180 rocket engine and scrapping the service’s involvement in developing dual-launch capabilities. Gen. William Shelton described the launch study as one of his major initiatives for 2014. The key, he said, is to find the right contracting strategy for space launches in future years.

For nearly a decade, United Launch Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture, has had a virtual monopoly on the national security launch market with its Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets. But the Air Force plans to introduce competition in the coming years, giving new entrants like Space Exploration Technologies Corp. a shot. (2/6)

Air Force Hopes to See Domestic Production of RD-180 (Source: Space News)
The Air Force will examine the Atlas 5’s RD-180 main engine, built by RSC Energomash in Russia and sold to ULA by RD-Amross, a joint venture between the Russian manufacturer and United Technologies Corp. Although ULA says it has a solid stockpile of RD-180s, reliance on Russian engines for national security launch has long been a simmering concern.

In November, however, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) introduced a bill calling for an estimate of the costs of manufacturing an alternative to the Russian-made RD-180 engine in the U.S. The bill also asked for an estimate of the savings that a U.S. engine would provide during the life of the EELV program, on which ULA is prime contractor. Bill Parsons of RD-Amross said the company likes the idea of building the RD-180 in the U.S. — RD-Amross has all the designs for the engine — but doing so could increase its cost by as much as 50 percent.

Shelton was skeptical. “I think there’s certainly people have their own motivations for making those kind of statements,” Shelton said. “Do we want to insulate ourselves from future concerns about reliability of delivery of RD-180s? That is a true national security question.” Editor's Note: Pratt & Whitney had originally planned to produce U.S. versions of the RD-180 at its West Palm Beach, Florida, facility. Would that facility still be used now that UTC sold Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne? (2/6)

No comments: