March 1, 2017

Texas Community Give $150K Incentive Grant to ULA After Job Creation (Source: Brownsville Herald)
The Harlingen Economic Development Corp. board on Tuesday approved $150,000 for space company United Launch Alliance for meeting employment goals as part of its deal with the city. Raudel Garza, HEDC chief executive officer, said after a closed-door session that ULA had met its requirements under a 2015 agreement. “They have more than exceeded the status quo, which is 120 jobs, and they have 148 jobs out there as of the end of 2016,” Garza said.

Editor's Note: The effectiveness and appropriateness of incentives like this has been questioned a lot lately, with a lawsuit in Arizona and an ongoing effort in Florida to eliminate Enterprise Florida and its "corporate welfare" programs. But consider that ULA recently announced plans to cut about a quarter of its workforce nationwide by the end of 2017. Maybe this incentive was a factor in the company's plans, protecting and expanding jobs at Harlingen while other sites suffered losses. (2/28)

New Air Force Nuclear Missiles Could Cost $100B: Report (Source: Law360)
The high end of an independent Pentagon cost estimate to design and build a replacement for the U.S. Air Force’s aging intercontinental ballistic missiles is roughly $100 billion, after adjusting for inflation, according to an anti-nuclear group. In a report from the Arms Control Association published on Friday, which cited “an informed source,” the group noted that the $100 billion estimate is compared to the $61 billion cost that a U.S. Department of Defense acquisition official set last summer. (2/28)

Ontario Power Plant to Develop Plutonium for NASA Deep Space Missions (Source: CTV)
NASA will use a nuclear power plant in Ontario to help produce plutonium-238. According to a Canadian news report, NASA is working with Ontario Power Generation and its venture arm, Canadian Nuclear Partners, to use a nuclear reactor east of Toronto to help produce the isotope, used in radioisotope thermoelectric generators for spacecraft missions where solar power is not feasible.

Reactor rods produced by Pacific Northwest National Laboratories in the U.S. would be shipped to the reactor to produce the isotope. Production of Pu-238 has long been an issue hindering NASA plans for missions to the outer solar system or other destinations where solar power can't be used. (2/28)

Angara Production Planned at Siberian Factory (Source: Tass)
A Siberian factory is gearing up to start production of Angara rockets. Polyot will build Angara vehicles at its factory in the Omsk Region starting later this year. The first launch of the long-delayed Angara rocket took place in 2014, but the vehicle has been slow to enter wider use as Russia continues to rely on existing vehicles. (2/28)

NASA Explores Opportunity for Smaller Experiments to 'Hitch a Ride' to Mars (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's goals for human deep space exploration are complex and ambitious. To maximize resources as it pushes the boundaries of exploration, the agency is exploring opportunities to take advantage of emerging private sector space capabilities.

NASA released a request for information Monday regarding possible commercial sources to fly limited payloads on planned, non-NASA missions to Mars. The agency will use the responses to gather market data on the complete spectrum of commercial plans, and identify any excess capacity that may exist for NASA payloads. (3/1)

Flight Hardware for NASA's Space Launch System on Its Way to Cape (Source: Space Daily)
The interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) for the first flight of NASA's Space Launch System rocket is on its way by barge to United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Operation Center at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The ICPS is a liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen-based system that will provide the thrust needed to send the Orion spacecraft and 13 secondary payloads beyond the moon before Orion returns to Earth. (3/1)

Space Florida Supports Florida Venture Forum Early Stage Capital Event (Source: SpaceRef)
The Florida Venture Forum is calling for early stage companies to apply to present at the  2017 Florida Early Stage Capital Conference at Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate , on May 19, 2017. The Conference, now in its tenth year, is one of the largest gatherings of angel and early stage investors in the Southeast, and features panel discussions, speakers, and presentations by some of Florida's fastest growing private companies.

In addition to the opportunity to present before an audience of active equity investors, presenting companies meeting designated criteria will compete for the Accelerating Innovation (AI) Award, offered by Space Florida. The AI Award offers cash prizes totaling $150,000 ($75,000 for the Winner, $50,000 for Second Place and $25,000 for Third Place) to eligible Florida companies, and companies seeking to relocate or establish presence in Florida. Click here. (3/1)

FSU Researcher to Lead U.S.-Russia Project on Health, Space Travel (Source: FSU)
A Florida State University researcher will lead a joint U.S.-Russia project that will examine the effect of space travel on astronauts’ vision, an ongoing problem that NASA has been eager to solve. The work will be funded by a $750,000 grant from NASA. Michael Delp and colleagues at the Russian Academy of Sciences previously collaborated on a study that found space travel may diminish the body’s ability to regulate blood flowing to the brain, which could contribute to temporary or permanent changes in vision for astronauts.

For this study, researchers will send male mice into space on a SpaceX rocket in August 2017. The mice will live at the International Space Station for 30 days and then return to Earth to be recovered by the U.S. Navy off the California coast. (2/27)

Congressional Candidate: Moon-Colonizing Cmpanies Could Destroy Cities by Dropping Rocks (Source: Washington Times)
A transgender-issues activist and Democratic candidate for Congress says the advent of the space tourism industry could give private corporations a “frightening amount of power” to destroy the Earth with rocks because of the Moon’s military importance. Brianna Wu, a prominent “social justice warrior” in the “Gamergate” controversy who now is running for the House seat in Massachusetts’ 8th District, suggested in a since-deleted tweet that companies could drop rocks from the Moon.

“The moon is probably the most tactically valuable military ground for earth,” the tweet said. “Rocks dropped from there have power of 100s of nuclear bombs.” After users on social media questioned her scientific literacy, the congressional candidate clarified that the tweet was “talking about dropping [rocks] into our gravity well.” (2/28)

Central Florida's Space Cluster Growing as Big Firms Prep for Arrival (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
An expanding space industry on the Space Coast has some businesses hoping and planning to get a piece of the new work. With two large new facilities on their way, the region could grow and become an even hotter region for space-related contractors who can supply Blue Origin, OneWeb or any of the already existing space companies there with materials and components for their rockets and satellites.

That could mean more contracts for local businesses to seek. “We have to position ourselves accordingly,” said Carol Craig, CEO of Craig Technologies in Cape Canaveral. “You have to say early, ‘We are a local company that will be available’ and keep talking to them when they show up."  For instance, the spacecraft parts supplier Ruag chose Titusville as its first U.S. location in November. The company hopes to employ dozens during the next several years, with Ruag expecting to have a team of about 10 in place by the end of the year.

The announcement was trumpeted by economic development officials in the region at the time. For agencies such as Space Florida, these announcements can make business recruitment easier. That type of expansion can build on itself, as clusters attract more companies within the same industry, said Christian Ketels, a researcher at Harvard Business School who has studied industry clusters in regions. The key for clusters to work, Ketels said, is for businesses and other assets like higher learning institutions or business training centers to consider themselves a unit. (3/1)

Is Buzz Aldrin Unimpressed With SpaceX Moon Mission? (Source: KCBS)
The second human to walk on the moon appears to be unimpressed with a planned SpaceX mission to fly two people around the moon sometime in 2018. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin called for space travel to the red planet on Twitter Tuesday morning, a day after SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced the moon mission. Aldrin then went on to say he supports space tourism and possibly establishing a base on the moon. (2/28)

Trump Proposes "American Footprints on Distant Worlds" in Speech (Source: Inverse)
As predicted, President Donald Trump called for an increase in American space exploration, suggesting that the country should shoot for manned landing missions, during his first address to a joint session of Congress. Trump, somewhat uncharacteristically, stuck fairly close to the official transcript during the Tuesday address.

The president touted campaign promises he says his administration has already kept, promised tax reform, and pledged to eliminate ISIS before briefly touching on space science. The 59-minutes address ended on an optimistic note, and that’s where Trump decided to shoot for the stars. “Think of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people,” he said, saying that American scientists could cure diseases and explore the cosmos. "American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream,” he said. (2/28)

Red Dragon Delayed Two Years to 2020 (Source: Universe Today)
With so many exciting projects competing for the finite time of SpaceX’s super talented engineers, something important had to give. And that something comes in the form of slipping the blastoff of SpaceX’s ambitious Red Dragon initiative to land the first commercial spacecraft on Mars by 2 years – to 2020. Nevertheless it will include a hefty science payload, SpaceX told Universe Today.

The Red Dragon launch postponement from 2018 to 2020 was announced by SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell during a Falcon 9 prelaunch press conference at historic pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “We were focused on 2018, but we felt like we needed to put more resources and focus more heavily on our crew program and our Falcon Heavy program, said SpaceX Gwynne Shotwell at the pad 39a briefing. “So we’re looking more in the 2020 time frame for that.” (3/1)

What Was Trump’s Air Force Pick Doing For All That Cash? (Source: Daily Beast)
Donald Trump famously promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington—to rein in lobbyists, shut the revolving door and curb the influence of well-heeled special interests. But so far, he’s had a hard time keeping this promise, with Wall Street veterans headed to the Treasury Department, coal industry advocates appointed to safeguard the environment, and now a former nuclear weapons industry consultant named to a job overseeing the purchase of such weapons.

Trump’s nominees for Army secretary and Navy secretary have both recently  stepped aside because of concerns over how those jobs might conflict with their private business interests. But he’s designated as the new Air Force secretary a former New Mexico Congresswoman, Heather Wilson, who’s a veteran of wheeling and dealing in Washington on behalf of private defense industry clients that paid her lucrative consulting fees. Just a day after she left Congress in 2009, Wilson went to work as for companies operating the Sandia and Los Alamos National labs.

Federal auditors at the Energy Department and one of its subsidiary agencies quickly grew alarmed because Wilson refused to account for how she was spending any of her time, even while accepting $20,000 monthly from the national labs. That prompted one auditor to call a fraud hotline operated by the Justice Department, which then kicked off an investigation of its own. (2/28)

Trump’s 2018 Budget will Squeeze Civilian Science Agencies (Source: Science)
The chunk of the federal budget that includes most of the U.S. government’s spending on basic science would shrink by 10.5% in 2018 under a plan outlined today by President Donald Trump and administration officials. It is unlikely that all civilian science budgets would see cuts under the proposal—and some could even get increases.

But the spending blueprint, which would have to be approved by Congress, highlights the financial pressures that civilian research agencies will face as Trump and the Republican majority in both houses of Congress attempt to carry out campaign promises to raise defense spending while reining in the rest of federal spending.

White House officials said today that they will ask Congress to increase discretionary defense spending by $54 billion, to $603 billion, in the 2018 fiscal year which begins 1 October. They expect to pay for that increase by cutting an equivalent amount from nondefense discretionary spending—the part of the budget that includes major basic research funders. (2/27)

Why Trump’s Plan to Cut NASA’s Climate Science Program is Harder Than it Sounds (Source: Quartz)
Within weeks of the US election, president Donald Trump said he intended to scrap NASA’s research on climate change, shifting those resources—less than $2 billion of the agency’s $19 billion budget—to its space program. Republicans have echoed that goal. Jim Bridenstine, who is reportedly being considered to run NASA, once called on Barack Obama to apologize to the people of Oklahoma for funding climate change research.

But cutting NASA’s climate science research could prove to be an expensive, logistical nightmare, according to a contractor who works as an engineer for one NASA satellite that collects climate data. The engineer requested to remain anonymous to avoid jeopardizing their employment at the agency. NASA currently has 16 earth science satellites in orbit (and three other earth science instruments attached to the International Space Station) that, in addition to climate data, collect information on the atmosphere, oceans, and land-based phenomena like wildfires.

The satellites make up the core of NASA’s climate science program, and the most immediate problem with eliminating climate research is what would be come of them. “If you stopped operations—if nobody manned the satellites—they would crash and spread space debris,” the engineer said. (2/28)

Female Engineer Sues Tesla, Describing a Culture of 'Pervasive Harassment' (Source: Guardian)
A female engineer at Tesla has accused Elon Musk’s car company of ignoring her complaints of “pervasive harassment”, paying her a lower salary than men doing the same work, promoting less qualified men over her and retaliating against her for raising concerns.

The allegations of AJ Vandermeyden, who still works at the celebrated electric car manufacturer, paint a picture of a hostile work environment dominated by men where inappropriate sexual behavior is tolerated and women face numerous barriers to advance their careers. (2/28)

LEGO to Make 'Women of NASA' Minifigs, Including Sally Ride, Katherine Johnson (Source: CollectSpace)
Mathematician Katherine Johnson, one of NASA's "Hidden Figures," will be honored with her own LEGO minifigure as part of a new toy set celebrating the space agency's pioneering women. LEGO announced it will release the fan-created "Women of NASA" set as its next LEGO Ideas commercial product.

The LEGO Ideas website enables the public to support fan-designed projects to see them offered by the Denmark-based toy company for sale. Projects that reach a 10,000-vote threshold are considered by LEGO to possibly become official products. (2/28)

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