April 23, 2016

Senate Bill Cuts Other NASA Programs to Fund SLS and Orion (Source: Space News)
An appropriations bill approved by a Senate committee April 21 provides a significant increase to NASA’s human space exploration programs by trimming funds from many other major NASA programs. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved unanimously a spending bill for FY-2017, two days after the a subcommittee approved the bill.

The bill provides $19.306 billion for NASA, an increase of more than $280 million from the administration’s request. However, NASA’s exploration account, which includes SLS and Orion, is increased by nearly $1 billion from the request. That increase includes about $840 million for the SLS, to $2.15 billion, and $180 million for Orion, to $1.3 billion. Exploration ground systems to support SLS and Orion also see a $55 million increase, although research and development activities are cut by more than $80 million.

Editor's Note: This reminds me of NASA's budget allocations for the Constellation program, which cut many science programs (focused on enabling long-duration human spaceflight) to instead fund the growing needs (and cost overruns) of the Ares launch vehicles, mainly Ares-1. (4/22)

Faulty Bracket Leaves Norwegian Satellite Grounded (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Officials from the Norwegian Space Center are looking for another launch opportunity for a microsatellite designed to track ship traffic and study space weather after engineers determined it could not safely be attached to a Soyuz rocket set for liftoff Friday. Officials decided to keep the Norsat 1 spacecraft on the ground earlier this month. Such a decision is rare so close to a launch. (4/22)

Orbital ATK's Mississippi Facility Produces 500th Large-Scale Rocket Structure (Source: Orbital ATK)
Orbital ATK's Mississippi manufacturing plant has produced its 500th large composite rocket structure for United Launch Alliance (ULA) launch vehicles. Since its establishment in 1998, the Large Structure Center of Excellence manufacturing plant has produced 68 Atlas V, 28 Delta II and 404 Delta IV large composite structures across 106 ULA launches. The 500th structure is a boat tail manufactured with zero defects for a ULA Atlas V launch vehicle. (4/21)

China Plans to Significantly Boost Launch Rate (Source: Parabolic Arc)
China is looking to significantly increase its launch rate through 2020. China will launch about 150 of its Long March carrier rockets over the next five years, one of its space chiefs said on Friday, days ahead of celebrations marking the launch of the country’s first satellite 46 years ago. There were 86 Long March missions in the five years from 2011 to 2015, and 48 from 2006 to 2010. (4/22)

NASA Seeks Industry Ideas for an Advanced Mars Satellite (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA is soliciting ideas from U.S. industry for designs of a Mars orbiter for potential launch in the 2020s. The satellite would provide advanced communications and imaging, as well as robotic science exploration, in support of NASA’s Journey to Mars. (4/22)

NASA Looks to Commercialize Solar Sail Technology (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A cubesat-scale solar sail propulsion system is being developed at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center to provide propulsion for a 6U interplanetary CubeSat to be used for the Near Earth Asteroid Scout (NEAS) project. NASA MSFC desires for the solar sail technology and design being developed for the NEAS mission to be commercially available after the completion and delivery of the flight system hardware in 2018.

To further that goal, NASA MSFC seeks to provide the solar sail propulsion system design to interested commercial entities. It is anticipated that there may be follow-on missions using the NEA Scout sail system following successful completion of the NEA Scout project. (4/22)

Russia and China Successfully Cooperate in Space Exploration (Source: Tass)
Russia and China are successfully cooperating in a range of space exploration areas, said China’s Deputy Industry and Information Technology Minister Xu Dazhe. "Russia and China have good interaction mechanisms. We have a plan of cooperation in several dozens of projects that are successfully implemented," Xu Dazhe said. Cooperation is underway "in the fields of engine technology, electronics, joint research of the Universe, development of new technologies and optimized use of space resources," he added. (4/22)

WhiteKnightTwo Returns to New Mexico Skies (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Virgin Galactic on Wednesday performed the first operational tests of its WhiteKnightTwo aircraft in New Mexico in almost two years. The dual fuselage WhiteKnightTwo – which will eventually carry SpaceShipTwo to high altitude before the vehicle drops and rockets to space – took off from Spaceport America for two hours of flight that allowed Virgin Galactic pilots and air traffic controllers at White Sands Missile Range and in Albuquerque to practice working together. (4/20)

How Aerospace is Making a Comeback in Southern California (Source: KPCC)
Since 1990, the number of people working in aerospace in Southern California has more than been chopped in half. When the Cold War was winding down, there were more than 270,000 local aerospace workers, according to the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation. In 2014, there were 85,500 in 2014. It’s a big reason why ever since, the region has had some of the weakest job growth in the entire country.

In the last few years though, the region's aerospace industry has been making a comeback by focusing more on technology, though it is still considerably smaller than it once was. The area is seeing growth in the production of guided missiles and space vehicles. More than 6,000 jobs have been added in those areas since 2004, a 64 percent increase, according to a recent LAEDC study. The pay is good, averaging $105,715 a year, almost twice the median wage in the region.

Virgin is making that rocket at a new factory in Long Beach, competing against another start-up, Elon Musk's Space X, in Hawthorne. Virgin Galactic is hiring more than 100 people for its new Long Beach plant. It is a positive boost, but it pales in comparison to aerospace's heyday; The factory is just down the road from where Boeing made C-17 cargo planes until last year. That plant used to employ thousands of people – sometimes tens of thousands. (4/22)

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