May 18, 2014

Fed's Cuts are Adding Concern at NASA Glenn (Source: Cleveland Business)
A series of budget cuts has wounded NASA Glenn Research Center at a particularly bad time. The cuts have stopped NASA Glenn from pumping tens of millions of dollars into two big high-tech projects — projects that could help protect the center at a time when the broader federal agency is looking to jettison resources it doesn't need.

In response, local officials are trying to help NASA Glenn win federal funding for at least one of those space technology projects. Because without that money, there's a real risk that more work could be moved from NASA Glenn to larger NASA centers in other states, according to officials from the Greater Cleveland Partnership and the union representing scientists and engineers at NASA Glenn. (5/18)

SpaceX Dragon Returns to Earth (Source: AP)
The commercial cargo ship Dragon returned to Earth from the International Space Station on Sunday, bringing back nearly 2 tons of science experiments and old equipment for NASA. SpaceX's Dragon splashed into the Pacific, just five hours after leaving the orbiting lab. After a one-month visit, the SpaceX cargo ship was set loose Sunday morning. Astronaut Steven Swanson, the station commander, released it using the big robot arm as the craft zoomed more than 260 miles above the South Pacific. (5/18)

As Government Budgets Squeeze, Space Executives Eye Growth (Source: The Gazette)
The old saw is "it's always sunny in space." And even as budget cuts slow defense and NASA spending, Colorado's space business leaders say that forecast holds true. In Colorado Springs, Air Force Space Command has cut more than $1 billion from its budget in the past year, bringing it down to $11 billion annually.

But that hasn't discouraged business leaders, who say space, even in the military sector, will grow. Part of the optimism is driven by how dependent the military has become on space-based assets. The space industry, in the spotlight this week with the 30th annual Space Symposium at The Broadmoor, is key for Colorado, where it accounts for an estimated 3 percent of the state's workforce. (5/18)

Rockets Leap into the 21st Century with GPS Upgrade (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Signaling a new chapter in the long-sought modernization of the U.S. Air Force's launch ranges, Friday night's flight of a Delta 4 rocket was tracked via satellite instead of by radar in a move officials say is a money-saving upgrade to the military's aging range infrastructure.

A special avionics system mounted on the 20-story launcher transmitted its location to controllers on the ground using Global Positioning System navigation data. The Delta 4 rocket Friday happened to be boosting a fresh GPS spacecraft into orbit to replenish the Air Force-run satellite fleet circling Earth more than 12,000 miles up.

Most rockets launching from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., have for decades been tracked by a C-band radar. Each rocket is fitted with a C-band transponder which helps the radar lock on to the launcher on its flight into space. (5/18)  

Wubbo Ockels, First Dutch Astronaut to Fly in Space, Dies at 68 (Source: Collect Space)
Wubbo Ockels, who in 1985 became the first Dutch citizen to fly into space, died Sunday (May 18), the European Space Agency (ESA) confirmed. He was 68. Ockels' death was due to complications from renal cancer. In May 2013, he confirmed to Dutch news services that he had been diagnosed with an aggressive kidney cancer and that it had spread to his lungs. (5/18)

GAO: Orion, SLS Estimates Are Off (Source: Florida Today)
NASA expects to spend up to $8.6 billion to develop the Orion capsule being designed to send astronauts far from Earth, starting in 2021. But government watchdogs recently found something missing from that estimate: It does not include nearly $5 billion spent when Orion was part of an earlier exploration program called Constellation, canceled in 2010. The omission is one of several the U.S. Government Accountability Office said show a lack of transparency in NASA’s preliminary-cost estimates for its human exploration program.

NASA now estimates it will cost $19 billion to $22 billion to develop the initial versions of Orion, the SLS rocket it will fly on, and a launch pad and other infrastructure at KSC. An uncrewed test launch is planned in late 2017, followed by a first crewed mission in 2021. The estimates provide no information on how much it will cost to develop later, more capable versions of the vehicles. For example, the SLS rocket starts out with an initial ability to lift 70 metric tons, but to enable Mars-class missions it is intended lift 105 and then 130 metric tons.

NASA’s figures cover the cost to develop the first SLS that flies in 2017, but not the cost of its second launch in 2021. The preliminary numbers also don’t attempt to estimate how much the program will cost over its lifetime, including annual operating costs. In short, they don’t follow best practices, according to GAO. That’s a concern for a program whose predecessor was canceled when funding fell well short of what was needed, pushing it years behind schedule. (5/17)

No comments: