February 18, 2017

GAO Drops NOAA's GOES Weather Satellites from High-Risk List, but Adds DOD's (Source: Space Policy Online)
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued its biennial assessment of high-risk government programs yesterday.  The report addresses programs in all parts of the government, including civil and national security space programs.  NOAA's weather satellites have been on the high-risk list for several years, but GAO praised NOAA's progress with its GOES series of geostationary weather satellites and concluded they no longer warrant inclusion. NOAA's polar orbiting satellites remain on the list.  GAO also added DOD's weather satellite program to the high-risk list because DOD lacks a comprehensive plan for providing required capabilities. (2/16)

Trump Mum on Ex-Im Bank During Speech at Boeing Plant (Source: Space News)
President Donald Trump made no mention of the U.S. Export-Import Bank during a speech Feb. 17 some had expected to include a call for restoring the bank’s full lending authority. Ex-Im has lacked a full board of directors since Congress reauthorized the bank in December 2015 (after letting its charter lapse for the first time in its 82-year history), limiting the executive-branch institution from providing loans greater than $10 million. Boeing, the largest exporter in the country, has relied on the federal institution to help finance large aerospace projects, namely aircraft and satellites. (2/17)

SLS Rocket Flight Hardware Begins Arriving at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Boeing)
Workers at United Launch Alliance will soon ship to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport the Boeing and ULA built second stage propulsion element that will fly on NASA’s Space Launch System’s first flight in 2018. Called the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), it is a modified Delta IV second stage, designed by Boeing to propel Orion beyond Earth’s orbit on the first integrated flight of SLS and Orion.

This test flight of SLS will lift the Orion capsule beyond Earth. The ICPS will provide the Trans Lunar Injection (TLI) burn to send Orion and the service module on its way to the moon. Concurrently, Boeing is working on the second stage for the next SLS mission, EM-2, which will carry crew and cargo farther into deep space with a more powerful Exploration Upper Stage. (2/17)

Possible NASA Administrator Bridenstine Wants To Fight North Korea (Source: NASA Watch)
"President Trump should order the Secretary of Defense to position American assets and shoot down Kim Jong Un's next missile launch. Intercepting a North Korean missile would signal to Pyongyang that America has the capability and the willingness to defend our allies and the homeland. In the parlance of military strategy, the missile defense option enhances deterrence-by-denial."

Bridenstine has a military background and it is natural that he'd have concerns about issues such as this - and speak out about them. When I have heard him speak about space he does well when it comes to military, communications, and commercial space. But when it comes to NASA science - nothing but crickets. If Bridenstine is the nominee to become NASA administrator he clearly needs a Deputy and a strong AA and Center Director contingent to make up for his clear lack of science management experience.

The fact that this "exclusive" op ed by Bridenstine appears on Breitbart News, the controversial former employer of Trump's avatar Steve Bannon should not be lost on people. This sort of op ed placement does not happen by accident these days. There is clearly an idealogical mind meld going on here - as well as the beginnings of a possible Alternate NASA PR machine - one independent of NASA PAO - in the making. (2/17)

Singapore Wants to Shoot for the Stars (Source: Straits Times)
Singapore too has space ambitions. Even though commercial travel through space may still be some light years away, the Singapore Space and Technology Association (SSTA) believes the Republic can reach for the stars in other ways. The development of space technology - such as in satellites, satellite communications and image data analytics - is one area with potential, said Ms Lynette Tan, director of the SSTA, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary next week. Nanyang Technological University last month launched its seventh satellite into orbit from the International Space Station. (2/17)

NASA Not Muzzled (Yet) on Climate Change (Source: Washington Post)
NASA is still talking about climate change, four weeks into the Trump administration. Despite concerns that the new administration would muzzle the agency's Earth science outreach, NASA continues to provide information through social media on climate change issues, even when those statements contradict views previously expressed by Trump himself. A NASA spokesman said it's "business at usual" for its Earth science programs. That's in contrast to the EPA, which has been in a "media blackout" since Trump's inauguration four weeks ago. (2/17)

First SLS Launch Could be Dedicated to Gene Cernan (Source: Space News)
If lawmakers get their way, the first launch of NASA's Space Launch System could be named after the late astronaut Gene Cernan. A "sense of Congress" resolution introduced in the House this week asks NASA to name the first SLS launch, Exploration Mission 1, the "Cernan-1" after the astronaut. Cernan, the commander of Apollo 17 and the last Apollo astronaut to walk on the moon, passed away last month. (2/16)

NASA Picks Two University Space Research Institutes for Funding (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected two proposals for the development of university-led space technology research programs. The two Space Technology Research Institutes will each receive $15 million over five years to advance technologies that can support NASA's exploration programs. One, the Center for the Utilization of Biological Engineering in Space (CUBES), will study how biological processes can be harnessed to manufacture materials needed for long-duration missions. The Institute for Ultra-Strong Composites by Computational Design (US-COMP) will work on a high-strength aerospace structural material based on carbon nanotubes. (2/16)

Scientists Are About to Switch on a Telescope That Could Photograph a Black Hole's Event Horizon (Source: Science Alert)
Called the Event Horizon Telescope, the new device is made up of a network of radio receivers located across the planet, including at the South Pole, in the US, Chile, and the French alps. The network will be switched on between 5 and 14 April, and the results will put Einstein's theory of general relativity through its paces like never before.

The Event Horizon Telescope works using a technique known as very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI), which means the network of receivers will focus in on radio waves emitted by a particular object in space at one time. Because there are so many of these antennae all tuned in on a single spot, the resolution of the telescope should be 50 microarcseconds. To put that into perspective, it's the equivalent of being able to see a grapefruit on the surface of the Moon. (2/17)

Moon is Star of Congressional Hearing on NASA's Future (Source: USA Today)
The Oklahoma lawmaker considered the front-runner to be NASA’s next administrator wants the U.S. to re-establish its dominance on and around the moon. “We all want to get to Mars in 2033 (but the moon) is critically important to the geo-political position of the United States of America,” GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine said Thursday. “Mars is the horizon goal. It’s critical. We need to get there (but) the moon I believe is necessary.”

Bridenstine’s comments, made during a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on NASA’s future, adds more fuel to the speculation that the Trump administration favors a return to the moon that President Obama largely abandoned due to cost concerns. (2/16)

Florida’s Space Coast Is Filling the ‘Crater’ Left by NASA (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The pad’s rebirth illustrates the economic rebound of Florida’s Space Coast as it transitions to a more-diverse aerospace economy, with a significant commercial sector, from one powered by government investment dating back to the administration of John F. Kennedy. In the past six years, the area’s economic development agency has announced projects bringing in $1.4 billion in capital investment and generating an estimated 7,900 jobs.

That includes 1,800 new jobs announced by Northrop Grumman, which landed a Pentagon contract in 2015 to build long-range bombers. “The Space Coast is kind of on fire right now,” said Greg Wyler, founder of OneWeb Ltd., which aims to use hundreds of satellites to provide internet access in rural and emerging markets. In a joint venture with a division of Airbus SE, OneWeb plans to break ground soon on a high-tech manufacturing facility at Exploration Park at KSC. The facility, expected to employ 250 people, is designed to crank out three satellites a day when it opens next year.

Commercial space companies like SpaceX, founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, and Blue Origin, started by Amazon.com Inc. Chairman Jeff Bezos, are setting up facilities. Smaller startups such as Moon Express Inc., which plans to send a tiny spacecraft to the lunar surface later this year, also are making investments. And a host of others are expanding operations and hiring engineers and technicians, including Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer SA, which employs 650 people in the area. Click here. (2/17)

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