August 8, 2014

Rubio: Florida Remains Nation's Space Hub (Source: Florida Today)
Texas might have won a piece of SpaceX's business, but that company and others will continue to grow in Florida, too, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday after meetings with local space leaders. "Other states are going to want a piece of the action," Rubio told reporters at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. "But as far as Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center are concerned, I still anticipate that Florida will be the central location and the hub of space activity for this country."

Rubio's optimism was similar to that expressed by his fellow senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, on Tuesday. Rubio expressed support for Space Florida's proposed Shiloh launch complex at the northern edge of KSC and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, which is now undergoing an environmental review. He acknowledged environmental concerns but said he hopes they can be worked out. "I think that's critical to making Florida a friendlier place for commercial launch operations," he said.

Beyond the Shiloh proposal, he said he would support "anything we can do to spur NASA and the Air Force and others to move a little bit quicker on opening up and making it a more friendly environment for commercial space to pick Florida over Texas or anywhere else." Rubio on Wednesday visited Patrick Air Force Base, met with local aerospace executives at Port Canaveral and then toured KSC. (8/7)

Orbcomm Expects Revenue Boost After SpaceX Patched Firm’s “Hole in the Sky” (Source: Space News)
Mobile machine-to-machine satellite-messaging service provider Orbcomm on Aug. 7 said the six second-generation satellites it launched on July 14 are proceeding through in-orbit tests and should be in service by September. The satellites, launched together on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, are expected to fill what Orbcomm Chief Executive Marc J. Eisenberg calls “a hole in the sky” of Orbcomm’s global network, and one that has limited revenue growth. (8/8)

Fired Employees Sue SpaceX (Source: Daily Breeze)
Employees at SpaceX have filed a lawsuit claiming the Hawthorne rocket company laid off 200 to 400 factory workers last month without proper notice under state law. According to the Cal WARN Act, employers generally must give a 60-day warning to workers before “mass layoffs” can occur. The California Labor Code defines a mass layoff as one that occurs within a 30-day period and affects 50 or more employees.

“The WARN Act is very clear. You’re entitled to back pay and wages if you are not given notice,” said Leonard Sansanowicz, an attorney with Feldman Browne Olivares, the law firm representing former SpaceX technicians Bobby Lee and Bron Gatling. “The notice is designed to provide the employees with the opportunity to get training in another field or to look for another job,” Sansanowicz said. “This is more of an issue with smaller communities, but even here the effects of laying off 400 people in one day is not minimal.” (8/7)

SpaceX Hawthorne HQ Sold to Investors for $47 Million (Source: Orange County Register)
The SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne was sold Wednesday in a transaction just shy of $47 million. The buyer is Chambers Street Properties, a New Jersey-based publicly traded real estate investment trust. The facility is 461,000 square feet and was used by Boeing to make its 747 passenger jes. The building includes manufacturing space, where the SpaceX builds the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon cargo capsule. (8/8)

Space Medicine (Source: Space Safety)
Space Medicine is a branch of medicine born in the ‘50s, to support the human space exploration in the hostile space environment. Not only the microgravity environment, but also the increased radiations and isolation, produce effects both on human body and minds that have not yet been fully understood in a long-term scale. Medicine in space, as well as medicine on Earth progressed step by step, adapting to the new challenges and stretching the duration of spaceflights to test the limits of the current understanding. Click here. (8/8)

ATK Passes Design Review for Space Launch System Booster (Source: ATK)
ATK has successfully completed its Critical Design Review (CDR) with NASA to verify that the five-segment solid rocket booster is on track for an unmanned, first flight of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) in 2017. The SLS vehicle is planned to launch humans deeper into space than ever before. With the successful completion of CDR, the SLS booster design can now proceed toward qualification testing. Avionics qualification efforts are also in work and will be incorporated into the vehicle qualification effort that is scheduled for completion in 2016. (8/7)

NASA Selects Proposals for Advanced Energy Storage Systems (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected four proposals for advanced energy storage technologies that may be used to power the agency's future space missions. Development of these new energy storage devices will help enable NASA's future robotic and human-exploration missions and aligns with conclusions presented in the National Research Council's "NASA Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities," which calls for improved energy generation and storage “with reliable power systems that can survive the wide range of environments unique to NASA missions." Click here. (8/7)

What a Comet Looks Like When You’re Close Enough to Touch It (Source: Slate)
On Aug. 6, 2014—and for the first time in human history—a spacecraft caught up to a comet with the intent of staying there. We’ve flown past a half dozen or so cometary bodies over the years, but never before has a probe made a rendezvous packed for the long run. Click here. (8/7)

Lockheed Martin, NASA and Navy Test Orion Ocean Recovery (Source: Lockheed Martin)
In a simulated ocean recovery of an Orion spacecraft test article, Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT], NASA and the U.S. Navy practiced recovery techniques for retrieving the crew module after it splashes down at sea following its first test flight later this year. This test allowed the team to evaluate procedures, hardware and personnel responsible for the recovery.

During the test, which took place off the coast of San Clemente Island, U.S. Navy dive teams retrieved and positioned the Orion test article on the USS Anchorage using a Lockheed Martin built recovery cradle, recovery winch, and sea anchor. The information gathered during this phase of testing will help ensure a safe and efficient recovery of the crew module and collection of flight test data after splashdown.

"Completing recovery simulations in a real, ocean environment before EFT-1 is incredibly helpful," said Larry Price, Lockheed Martin Deputy Program Manager for the Orion program. "This test allows us to improve the procedures for handling the crew module and determine if the recovery equipment designs are precise, safe and efficient." (8/7)

SpaceX's Texas Move Ominous for KSC (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA may be its own worst enemy. For years, the space agency has included among its primary missions the establishment of a dominant American aerospace and launch industry. A recent announcement by SpaceX signals that mission is succeeding, but leaves some wondering about the future of Florida’s Space Coast... Encouraging commercial ventures to use the Space Coast facilities was partially motivated by fears that NASA’s capabilities and technology would atrophy if left underutilized for almost a decade.

Yet despite a strong push towards commercialization, the ultimate goal always remained a return to manned space exploration, with NASA at the helm. That is why, in May 2014, KSC Director Robert Cabana said “If we do not have this capability to fly beyond our planet to explore on a government rocket — something that is way too expensive for a commercial company to do — we don’t need KSC anymore.” Cabana may have been making a hard sell for the Space Launch System (SLS), but his words ring more relevant than ever after SpaceX’s announcement to build its commercial launch facility in Texas, not Florida.

Editor's Note: If SpaceX's Texas launches end up being dramatically cheaper than Florida ones, budget pressures could lead NASA and the Air Force to put their missions aboard SpaceX commercial rockets in Texas. It should now be Florida's goal (and a goal of NASA and the Air Force) to basically convince SpaceX that it made the wrong move by choosing Texas... by making it more cost-effective and expedient for the company to launch from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.  (8/6)

Students to Benefit From SpaceX Texas Launch Site (Source: Valley Morning Star)
Louis Dartez, an alumnus of the University of Texas at Brownsville, faced a room crowded with television cameras, reporters and civic officials at a press conference held Monday at the offices of the Brownsville Economic Development Council. Representing physics students, Dartez had been asked to comment on the day’s big announcement that SpaceX, has selected Boca Chica Beach as a launch site for its Falcon 9 rocket.

“You all have changed my life,” said Dartez, citing the many individuals and entities that have worked on obtaining this project for more than three years. “The decision by SpaceX to select our area benefits the students of today and tomorrow.” (8/7)

Senate, House Panels Hold Up Proposed EELV Funding (Source: Air Force Times)
A Senate committee is holding up a plan to shift $100 million to an Air Force space-launch program, telling the service to devise a plan for a new liquid rocket engine. The debate over the EELV program is just one piece of a massive Pentagon request to reprogram fiscal 2014 funds within and among a myriad of accounts. Such requests must be approved by each of the four congressional defense committees, and so far, the EELV proposal has won the support of only two.

The Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee and the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee have green-lighted the plan, while the House and Senate Armed Services committees have deferred approval. SASC asked the Air Force to draw up a plan, by Sept. 30, “that leads to the production of a liquid rocket engine by 2019,” according to one of the documents, sent to Pentagon Comptroller Michael McCord by SASC Chairman Carl Levin, D-MI.

On July 16, Sen. Mark Udall, D-CO, asked Cristina Chaplain, director of acquisition and sourcing management at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), about a federal acquisition guidelines waiver that led to overruns. To that end, the Air Force recently opened the space-launch program to competition for the first time in a decade, issuing a request for proposals on July 15. (8/7)

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