April 21, 2016

Hoyer Calls on Shelby to Cease Obstruction of Ex-Im Bank Nominee (Source: Washington Times)
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer is lending his voice to calls for the Sen. Richard Shelby, R-AL, to allow the Senate Banking Committee to move forward a nominee to the Export-Import Bank. Without a quorum, Ex-Im cannot provide support for large deals. "To the extent that it is not working, it is undermining American jobs and America's economy," he said. "I would urge Sen. Shelby to remove his hold." (4/19)

It’s ‘War’ Twixt Appropriators & Authorizers Over RD-180s (Source: Breaking Defense)
The Senate battle over Russian rockets keeps rocking. Senators Dick Durbin and Richard Shelby sent most of this morning’s defense appropriations hearing defending the Pentagon’s plan to keep using the cheap and technologically reliable but politically toxic RD-180 until an American-made replacement is ready, sometime around 2020-2021.

Durbin and Shelby denounced the effort by Senate Armed Services chairman John McCain to get rid of the Russian-made rocket motors immediately, calling it a rash move that would risk the military’s “assured access” to space, undermine competition, and increase costs by $1 to to $5 billion.

“There is a war….between the authorizing committee and the appropriations committee,” Durbin said, hastily correcting his slip to “debate.” “There’s a belief on the authorizing committee that we should stop cold, not buy any more of these Russian engines,” the senator said. “What I have heard from the Department of Defense is that would leave the United States vulnerable.” (4/21)

OneWeb, Blue Origin Already on the Hunt for More Florida Workers (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
OneWeb will create a total of 250 high-wage jobs with an average wage of $65,579 within five years, but that may be just the start. "I know we talk about 250 jobs, but we plan to do much bigger things here in Florida and create opportunities even beyond that," said OneWeb Satellites CEO Brian Holz.

Blue Origin plans to create 330 new jobs and has advertised job openings thus far for a launch engineer, orbital launch site facilities development engineer, orbital launch site fluid systems development engineer and ground support equipment development engineer. (4/21)

US' Private Space Industry Opposes Use Of ISRO Launch Vehicles (Source: NDTV)
Amid the US' push to expand cooperation with India in the space sector, the country's nascent private space industry has expressed its opposition to the large scale use of low cost ISRO launch vehicles for putting American satellites into orbits.

Such a move, corporate leaders and officials of the fast-emerging American private space industry told lawmakers this week would be detrimental to the future health of the private sector US space companies as it would be tough for them to compete against low-cost Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launch vehicles, which they alleged are subsidized by the Indian government.

Editor's Note: The U.S. managed a launch quota program in the 1990s, limiting the number of U.S. satellites that could be launched by Russian, Chinese and Ukrainian rockets. The program protected the U.S. launch industry but it harmed the U.S. satellite industry, which opposed the quota system. The quotas strengthened the competitiveness of foreign satellite manufacturers and contributed to advances in foreign satellite technologies that previously were available only in U.S. satellites. (4/21)

Raytheon Loses Bid For Rehearing In $1B Satellite Suit (Source: Law 360)
The Ninth Circuit refused Wednesday to reconsider its ruling reviving a would-be whistleblower's $1 billion False Claims Act suit accusing Raytheon of covering up noncompliance on a weather satellite sensor subcontract, rejecting the company's contentions of a circuit conflict. The original panel offered no insight into its decision to deny Raytheon a rehearing other than to say the determination was unanimous. Nor has any Ninth Circuit judge requested the appeals court vote to take on the challenge as a whole. (4/20)

Workforce Follow-Up (Source: SPACErePORT)
I received a lot of positive feedback for my Florida Today op-ed on the need for a renewed focus on workforce development to meet the needs the expanding aerospace industry on Florida's Space Coast. Readers were especially supportive of my comments on technician-level training and certification. So, I want to pass along information on some programs that employers should know about.

The Space Coast Machinist Apprenticeship Program (SCMAP) has been educating Skilled Machinists since 1997, providing a Journeyman Certificate to apprentice workers who complete their program. With free tuition for its students, SCMAP uses a machine shop at Eastern Florida State College in Cocoa but also requires students to serve as apprentices at local companies. SCMAP wants to enter into apprenticeship partnerships with the region's new aerospace manufacturers. Click here for information.

Then there's SpaceTEC, a national center for aerospace technical training and certification. SpaceTEC works with employers and colleges nationwide to develop training curricula and industry-supported, accredited certifications. SpaceTEC is recognized by the FAA and the National Science Foundation as an authority for certifying the launch industry's technician workforce, similar to an A&P certification but for rockets instead of aircraft. Click here for information. Get involved! (4/21)

Orbital ATK Offers EELV-Class Rocket (Liberty?) for Launch From Florida (Source: Florida Today)
NASA is in negotiations with Orbital ATK about the potential use of Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building and other facilities to support launches of a new commercial rocket. The rocket is in the very early stages of development as a possible competitor to vehicles flown by SpaceX and United Launch Alliance, so its future is uncertain, but Orbital ATK has said it could be ready to launch as soon as 2019.

If it does materialize, a deal with Orbital ATK would further KSC’s vision of becoming a “multi-user” spaceport by making commercial use of a facilities now needed only for NASA missions. Today’s announcement follows NASA’s request for proposals last year from private companies interested in using the assembly building's currently vacant High Bay 2, where space shuttles were once assembled for launches, as well as shuttle mobile launcher platforms.

Editor's Note: This could be a resurrection of ATK's Liberty rocket, which has been on-hold but not officially canceled. Liberty was/is based on a single Solid Rocket Booster from NASA's Space Launch System and a second stage based on the Ariane-5's. The Liberty plan was/is to use the same mobile platform and launch pad as SLS, which takes advantage of NASA's low launch rate for SLS. (4/21)

Embry-Riddle to Name Engineering & Aerospace Innovation Complex After Congressman John Mica (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will dedicate the complex housing its new Advanced Aerodynamics Laboratory and Wind Tunnel buildings to U.S. Representative John Mica (R-Florida) in honor of his key role in supporting the university’s educational and research endeavors.

The University’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the naming of the complex, which is currently under construction. The buildings, to be known as the John Mica Engineering and Aerospace Innovation Complex or “The MicaPlex,” are slated for completion in Spring 2017.

Recently awarded a $5 million construction grant by the State of Florida, the complex will serve as the cornerstone of the 90-acre Embry-Riddle Research Park, housing an array of technology-focused labs. Its wind tunnel will feature testing, measurement and air flow functions unlike any other comparable technology in the Southeast. (4/8)

Space Tourism Under Legal Fire in Tucson (Source: Courthouse News)
The Goldwater Institute objects to the agreement because Pima County awarded the building contracts to companies that it worked with in secret to develop the project, allegedly violating the state's competitive bidding rules and mandatory public auction and appraisal laws.

But Pima County Administrator Charles Huckelberry, the lead defendant, said that he drafted the plan in secret because of competition from other states that were wooing World View. "In drafting the economic development agreements with World View, the county followed all of the enacted Arizona laws related to economic development incentives. Specific statutes that are used by a number of jurisdictions, as well as the state, provide that incentives can be made for economic development purposes," Huckelberry said.

"I hope private space exploration and tourism is the wave of the future," Goldwater's James Manley said. "But as long as the government is subsidizing it, we are just fooling ourselves." Lead plaintiff Richard Rogers et al. seek a declaration that the deal violates the gift clause and other laws, and an injunction stopping the lease-purchase from going forward. (4/19)

House Panel Wants NRO to Take Over Some Air Force Weather Missions (Source: Space News)
A U.S. House panel that oversees military space matters wants to re-assign some of the Air Force’s weather duties to the National Reconnaissance Office. In a draft of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017, the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee said it wanted to fence half the funding for the Air Force’s next-generation weather satellite program until the service develops a plan to transition the acquisition authority and funding authority for some space-weather missions to the NRO. (4/20)

Russia, US Discuss Boosting Efficiency of Cooperation at ISS (Source: Sputnik)
Russia and the United States discussed the possibility of increasing the efficiency of cooperation at the International Space Station (ISS), including the need to optimize the docking standards, Sergei Savelyev of Roscosmos said. A single docking interface is needed so that any ship could dock with the station, in particular, taking into account that over several years new US space ships will be built, he specified. (4/20)

NASA Interested in Using Russia's Vostochny Spaceport (Source: Sputnik)
The United States and other partners of the Russian space agency Roscosmos have been interested in Russia’s new Vostochny spaceport, although NASA has voiced no concrete plans to use it yet, the Roscosmos deputy chief said. Savelyev, who has been in the US capital on a working trip, told journalists that Roscosmos and NASA were yet to figure out how they could use the spaceport in Russia’s Far East jointly, but added that this was a matter of "a not-so-distant future. (4/20)

The NASA Robot That Failed to Do Its Job (Source: Smithsonian)
It looks so much like an intelligent robot that it hardly seems fair to call it a dummy. For decades it languished in a warehouse at the National Air and Space Museum and no one knew what it was. “It used to sit, covered with dust and filthy, in a sort of homemade chair, for years and years,” says NASM curator Paul Ceruzzi. “Everybody, every day would walk past it and sort of chuckle at it. And it’s like, ‘What are we doing with this thing?’”

The mystery was solved when Mike Slowik, a businessman in suburban Chicago, contacted Ceruzzi. In the early 1960s, Slowik’s late father, Joe, an engineer at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, created an articulated dummy for NASA, to test astronaut spacesuits. “From that moment on,” Ceruzzi recalls, “I said, well, gee, this is actually pretty important.”

Joe Slowik’s creation was a hydraulically powered figure weighing 230 pounds, its height adjustable from 5 feet 6 inches to 6 feet 2 inches. Under its aluminum skin a network of nylon tubes circulated oil at a pressure of 1,000 pounds per square inch. The high fluid pressure powered the dummy’s hydraulic activators to move the joints. (4/20)

Inside the Grand Plan to Send Humans to Mars (Source: Smithsonian)
The reality of traveling 250 million miles is still so mind-blowing that it makes even one of the officials tasked with getting us there almost giddy. But NASA is already deep into the engineering phase of how to get to the Red Planet. “We’re living it,” says Newman, who was a professor of astronautics and engineering systems at MIT before she became NASA’s deputy administrator a year ago. “That’s what the future is. It’s now for us.” Click here. (4/20)

Mice Flown in Space Show Nascent Liver Damage (Source: U. of Colorado)
In a discovery with implications for long-term spaceflight and future missions to Mars, a researcher at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has found that mice flown aboard the space shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth with early signs of liver disease.

"Prior to this study we really didn't have much information on the impact of spaceflight on the liver," said the study's lead author Karen Jonscher, PhD, an associate professor of anesthesiology and a physicist at CU Anschutz. "We knew that astronauts often returned with diabetes-like symptoms but they usually resolved quickly." (4/20)

Space Weather Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate (Source: Space News)
A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation April 20 to improve space weather forecasting and preparedness efforts in parallel with a space weather strategy released by the White House last year.

The Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act is intended to codify into law the responsibilities various government agencies have for forecasting and studying space weather, as well as assessing the vulnerability of the electrical grid and other critical infrastructure to geomagnetic storms. (4/20)

To Find ET, Look at Who’s (Maybe) Looking at Us (Source: Science News)
As Earth whips around the sun, it casts a shadow into the galaxy. If that shadow passes over cosmic neighbors that host reasonably intelligent aliens, they would see Earth the same way NASA’s Kepler space telescope sees some of them: as a periodic dip in the light from our sun. If we want to listen for alien radio broadcasts, those are the parts of the sky we should tune into.

Within 3,500 light-years of Earth, there are 82 known stars that might host curious extraterrestrials who could detect Earth’s shadow. The stars, roughly similar to or a bit cooler than the sun, encircle the solar system in nearly the same plane as Earth’s orbit — a narrow band that’s home to the 12 zodiac constellations. And these are just the stars that astronomers know about. There could be 300,000 stars hosting 30,000 rocky habitable worlds in this sliver of the galaxy. (4/20)

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