March 26, 2015

House Budget Keeps Sequestration Intact (Source: Military Times)
The 2016 federal budget plan approved by the U.S. House includes an additional $20 billion in overseas war funds, though the White House criticized the plan for "locking in draconian sequestration cuts." The House-approved budget provides $499 billion for defense, as mandated by sequestration. (3/25)

Senate Budget Committee Provides Potential Pathway to Sequestration Deal (Source: Defense One)
A provision by the Senate Budget Committee and Chairman Michael Enzi could provide a path to avoid sequestration spending caps in the 2016 defense budget. The 11-line provision could set the stage for a deal that would allow for more spending on both defense and non-defense budget items. (3/25)

DOD Secretary Plans Public Campaign to Stop Sequestration (Source: The Hill)
Defense Secretary Ash Carter plans to publicly campaign against sequestration caps for both defense and non-defense spending, responding to early support in Congress to keep the spending limits in place. "The secretary believes firmly that you cannot exempt the Defense Department alone from sequestration and continue to meet all the needs of our national security demands," said one source. (3/25)

Is Tallahassee's Space Agenda Too Timid? Some Ideas for Pumping it Up (Source: FSDC)
Florida has been an innovator in the development of state space policies and programs. But other states have copied and expanded on Florida's approach and they are now reaping the benefits from companies that would otherwise grow in the Sunshine State.

The Florida Legislature is now considering a modest collection of space-related proposals in Tallahassee. The Florida Space Development Council believes a more aggressive list of policy and funding items should be pursued. FSDC asks Florida space advocates to review and rate a short list of proposed legislative initiatives, so we can show grassroots support for putting some teeth in the state's space agenda. Click here. (3/26)

ULA Launches Second Mission in Less than Two Weeks (Source: ULA)
A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket successfully launched the ninth Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF satellite for the U.S. Air Force at 2:36 p.m. EDT today from Space Launch Complex-37. This is ULA’s fourth launch in 2015 and the 95th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006. (3/25)

Lawmaker Wants NASA Working on Interstellar Propulsion (Source: Space News)
NASA’s proposed, and oft-reviled, Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) may be worth doing if it helps pave the way for an electric-powered interstellar rocket engine, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) said. “[T]he great value” of an Asteroid Redirect Mission is “development of the first interstellar rocket propulsion system that would carry us to Alpha Centauri and beyond,” Culberson said.

In NASA’s notional ARM concept, a robotic probe with an ion-propelled, solar-electric propulsion system would send a small asteroid sample to a stable lunar storage orbit for astronauts to visit some time in the 2020s. In the ARM mission concept advanced by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the spacecraft’s electric propulsion system would be in the 25-kilowatt to 30-kilowatt range.

That is considerably more powerful than electric propulsion systems Earth-orbiting satellites use today for attitude adjustment, but still only about a tenth as powerful as what NASA thinks it needs for the uncrewed cargo tugs that are a notional (and unbudgeted) part of the agency’s long-term plans to send astronauts to the surface of Mars. (3/25)

The Hunt for Alien Intelligence is Going Infrared (Source: Discovery)
Astronomers have devised an instrument that could lift the veil of doubt over whether we’re alone in the universe, tapping into a type of radiation that has little trouble cutting through the vast cosmic distances or penetrating the thickest nebula.

Is there another example of a technology-savvy alien civilization out there intelligent enough to be pondering the same questions as us? Are they looking into deep space, hoping for signs of life among the rich sparkle of stars as we currently are? Now astronomers have devised a way of detecting rapid pulses of infrared radiation that could revolutionize how we look for alien beacons.

now astronomers have devised a way of detecting rapid pulses of infrared radiation that could revolutionize how we look for alien beacons. Although infrared astronomy has transformed our view of the cosmos, the technology to detect nano-second pulses of infrared radiation has not been available until now. “This is the first time Earthlings have looked at the universe at infrared wavelengths with nanosecond time scales,” said collaborator Dan Werthimer. (3/25)

ULA CEO: Next Generation Rocket to be Built in Decatur (Source: WAAY)
United Launch Alliance, the joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin that builds their Atlas and Delta rockets at in their Decatur factory, will soon be adding a new rocket to their lineup.  For now, it's known as the Next Generation Launch System, or NGLS.  ULA has kept details to a minimum for the past few months, but the company's president and CEO, Tory Bruno, confirmed that the new rocket will be built in Decatur.

Editor's Note: Seems a Space Coast manufacturing site would have dramatically lowered ULA's barge-based transportation costs for the new rocket. Also, I wonder what roles Boeing and Lockheed Martin will have in the development of the new rocket, since it would ultimately replace Boeing's Delta-4 and Lockheed's Atlas-5. (3/24)

Space Privatization, Tourism and Morals (Source: Inside Science)
Novel technologies, innovative engineering and breathtaking discoveries could be the story of the next 100 years of space exploration. But space travel involves more than math, telescopes and rovers. "I think what is happening now is as profound as the transition that took place among hunter gatherers when they left Africa 50 or 60 thousand years ago," said Chris Impey. "It took an amazing short time – just a couple hundred generations – for simple tribal units of 50 or 100 to spread essentially across the Earth."

And space exploration is about to pick up, according to Impey. The original 1960s space race that spawned the Apollo missions rose out of geopolitical strife during the Cold War. Now, the federal funds for space travel are drying up. "NASA has very little slack in its budget for new, clever initiatives," said Impey. "We are now witnessing a transition to a more private enterprise driven space program." Click here. (3/24)

Senate Passes Exemptions for Aerospace Engineers (Source: Online Athens)
The Georgia Senate sent to the governor Tuesday legislation designed to improve the state’s chances for becoming a commercial spaceport and also boosting the existing aviation industry. It voted 33-1 for a bill which would exempt engineers in the aviation and aerospace fields from the state’s licensing requirements.

The requirement hasn’t been enforced for more than a decade because there is no industry trade group that provides the curriculum and testing as is done for other types engineering branches like electrical, civil and mechanical. Editor's Note: Florida crossed this bridge several years ago. (3/24)

GAO Concerned About Unforeseen NASA Space Telescope Cost Overruns (Source: Roll Call)
NASA officials said Tuesday that the long-delayed and over-budget James Webb Space Telescope is now on track to meet its latest budget estimate and will be ready in 2018, but that the Government Accountability Office remains concerned that unforeseen cost overruns could emerge. (3/24)

The Approaching Battle over the JWST Budget Wedge (Source: Space News)
There is considerable risk to the future astrophysics portfolio at NASA, and possibly the entire space science enterprise, as a result of the James Webb Space Telescope re-programming, which moved it out of the Astrophysics Division and now is a target in the Science Mission Directorate budget.

According to Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS): “Even after launch, issues related to JWST will remain. For instance, what will happen to the additional funding poured into the Science Mission Directorate to cover JWST over-runs? Will the Astrophysics account maintain funding profiles consistent with these augmentations?" (3/25)

Senate Committee Advances NASA Deputy Administrator Nomination (Source: Space News)
The Senate Commerce Committee advanced the nomination of Dava Newman to become NASA deputy administrator on March 25, bringing the university professor one step closer to taking over the second highest ranking position at the space agency. (3/25)

NASA Selects Boulder Option for Asteroid Redirect Mission (Source: Space News)
NASA has selected an option for its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) where a robotic spacecraft will grab a boulder from the surface of a larger asteroid. NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot said he selected what the agency had been calling Option B for the robotic element of ARM in large part because it offered more choices in what object to bring back to lunar orbit to be visited by astronauts.

“From what we know of the asteroids we’ve been to, they have boulders on the surface,” he said, allowing a visiting spacecraft to choose which one to grab. “I’m going to have multiple targets when I get there. That’s what it boils down to.” Under Option B, a robotic spacecraft will travel to an asteroid several hundred meters in diameter and grab a boulder up to four meters across from its surface. (Source: 3/25)

Air Force to Eliminate ULA Infrastructure Support Contract that SpaceX Says was Unfair (Source: Reuters)
The Air Force must modify an annual "launch capability" contract awarded to United Launch Alliance, given the advent of a new competitor, senior U.S. Air Force and Pentagon officials said. Air Force Space Command Commander General John Hyten said acquisition officials were working on a plan to phase out the infrastructure support contract, which he said was initially put in place to protect "a very fragile industrial base."

He said it was not possible to have a fair competition with the contracts in place, backing an argument often made by privately-held SpaceX, which is vying for some of the launch contracts now carried out by ULA. Some funding for launch infrastructure would likely be folded into future contracts for launch services, instead of being awarded separately. (3/25)

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