February 1, 2010

Funds Cut for Lockheed Martin’s Orion Spacecraft for NASA (Source: Denver Business Journal)
President Barack Obama’s proposed federal budget, released Monday, cuts off funds for NASA’s Orion space vehicle, a project led by Colorado-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems. The Littleton-based division of Lockheed Martin, which won the project in 2006, oversaw design and construction of the Orion capsule over the past four years. The company employs about 650 locally and at space centers nationwide for the high-profile Orion project that was expected ultimately to be worth $8 billion.

Editor's Note: Orion's end puts a huge question mark on the O&C Building at KSC. The facility was modified for Orion using $35 million from the State of Florida budget. That's a lot of money for a building that won't be used as intended, and it won't be the first time NASA changed plans for a building built or modified with Florida tax dollars. (2/1)

Congresswoman Kosmas' Statement on Release of NASA Budget (Source: NASA Watch)
"The cancellation of Orion is especially troubling and goes against the recommendations of the Augustine Commission. The State of Florida has made significant investments to prepare KSC facilities for Orion, and the Space Coast anticipated, invested in, and planned for the commitment to be fulfilled in order to help preserve jobs." (2/1)

Moon Exploration is Not Dead (Source: Space Daily)
It's clear by now that America's grand plans for returning astronauts to the Moon have been quashed, at least in the short term. The Constellation program, originally created to land astronauts there by 2020, is no more. But that doesn't mean that astronauts will not return in the future, nor does it mean that lunar exploration will cease in the meantime.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is delivering wonderful images of the Moon, and uncovering new discoveries. Scientists as also still digesting the results of the LCROSS mission, which crashed a rocket stage near the Moon's south pole in 2009, and proved the existence of water there.

Two spacecraft from NASA's Themis constellation have been sent to lunar orbit, to continue their mission there under Artemis. NASA also expects to launch the LADEE orbiter, which will sample the Moon's tenuous atmosphere, and the twin GRAIL spacecraft, which will map the Moon's gravitational field, giving clues to the Moon's interior. (2/1)

Russia Set To Launch Another Space Truck To ISS (Source: Space Daily)
Russia is preparing to launch a Progress cargo spaceship on a resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The Progress M-04M freighter will lift off on a Soyuz-U carrier rocket from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan on Wednesday at 03:45 GMT and is expected to dock with the ISS on Feb. 5, delivering food and water supplies, fuel and scientific equipment. (2/1)

Florida Governor Comments on Space Policy (Source: EOG)
“I am concerned that President Obama’s decision to end NASA’s Constellation program, and prematurely conclude the nation’s significant investment in moon exploration, may place the nation’s space leadership role in question. Without a bold policy and goal for the future of American space exploration, we may cede our nations’ premier space leadership to other countries. Despite today’s announcement, there are significant opportunities for Florida in the commercial space industry, and I will work aggressively to ensure Florida is prepared to capitalize on these possibilities.” (2/1)

NASA Selects Commercial Firms for Crew Transport Concepts (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded $50 million to further the commercial sector's capability to support transport of crew to and from low Earth orbit. This step is the first taken by NASA consistent with the president's direction to foster commercial human spaceflight capabilities. Blue Origin will receive $3.7 million; Boeing will receive $18 million; Paragon Space Development Corp. will receive $1.4 million; Sierra Nevada will receive $20 million; and United Launch Alliance will receive $6.7 million. (2/1)

ATK Fights Back (Source: NASA Watch)
"To abandon Ares I as a baseline vehicle for an alternative without demonstrated capability nor proven superiority (or even equivalence) is unwise and probably not cost-effective." In the weeks and months ahead we are hopeful that the Congress and Administration will work together to deliver a budget that supports a program that capitalizes on the investments the nation has made in the Constellation program, closes the gap in US capability to return to space, and best assures continued US leadership in space. We believe ATK will continue to play a significant role in America's future space exploration."

Editor's Note: After the Augustine Panel's deliberations, there was an expectation that the bickering about launch vehicle alternatives would end with a decision by the President. Looks like that was wishful thinking. (2/1)

Shelby Was For The Private Sector Before He Was Against It (Source: NASA Watch)
In his Jan. 27 response to the President's State of the Union address, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said: "Our focus must be on jumpstarting the economy and creating jobs through policies that spur economic growth in the private sector. The path to economic recovery and sustained growth runs through the private sector, not the federal government."

In his Feb. 1 response to the President's NASA budget plan, Sen. Shelby said: "We cannot continue to coddle the dreams of rocket hobbyists and so-called 'commercial' providers who claim the future of US human space flight can be achieved faster and cheaper than Constellation. I have consistently stated the fallacy of believing the cure-all hype of these 'commercial' space companies, and my position has been supported time and again by both the experts and the facts." (2/1)

Bolden: We Weren’t Headed to the Moon Until Late Next Decade, If Then (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden was bluntly honest in his support of President Obama's new plan, as it relates to the Constellation program. He acknowledged what critics — and Sentinel reporters — have been saying for years: it was billions over budget, years behind schedule and wouldn’t have gotten Americans back to the moon until sometime late in the 2020s, if then. Here’s an excerpt:

"The Augustine Committee observed that this path was not sustainable, and the President agrees. They found that Constellation key milestones were slipping, and that the program would not get us back to the moon in any reasonable time or within any affordable cost. Far more funding was needed to make our current approach work. The Augustine Committee estimated that the heavy lift rocket for getting to the moon would not be available until 2028 or 2030, and even then they found “there are insufficient funds to develop the lunar lander and lunar surface systems until well into the 2030s, if ever.”

"So as much as we would not like it to be the case, and taking nothing away from the hard work and dedication of our team, the truth is that we
were not on a path to get back to the moon’s surface. And as we focused so much of our effort and funding on just getting to the Moon, we were neglecting investments in the key technologies that would be required to go beyond." (2/1)

Obama Plan Includes NASA Budget Growth (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA is requesting $19 billion for FY2011, a 1.5% increase over FY2010's budget of $18.724 billion. Its 5-year budget plan would see modest increases thereafter, reaching $20.660 billion by FY2014. That is about $1 billion short of the level proposed by the Augustine Committee, which called for a gradual increase by FY2014 to a level $3 billion above the FY2010 NASA budget, with inflation-adjusted budgets thereafter.

The NASA budget released today projects funding to FY2015, when NASA's budget would increase by another 1.9% to $20.990 billion. NASA Administrator Bolden said that the President is increasing the NASA budget by $6 billion over the next 5 years (apparently compared to his FY2010 budget estimate), calling that "an extraordinary show of support." (2/1)

NASA Exploration Budget Highlights (Sources: Orlando Sentinel, SpaceFlightNow)
In his five-year projections for NASA's budget, President Obama intends to invest $7.8 billion in Technology Development over the next five years, as urged by the Augustine Panel to enable beyond-LEO exploration. This would include autonomous rendezvous, orbital fuel transfer systems and closed-loop life support systems.

$3.1 billion is planned for "Heavy-Lift" rocket development (propulsion technologies). And $3 billion is planned for precursor robotic missions to the moon and beyond to test technologies for eventual manned flights. $6 billion is planned for developing a commercial crew launch capability over the next five years.

$3 billion is planned for "Space Operations" over five years, including funds to upgrade facilities in support of commercial launch programs. $2.5 billion is planned for terminating the Constellation program. (2/1)

Obama Aims to Revitalize Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
Prior to Monday's NASA budget announcement, I understand that NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden contacted General Ed Bolton, commander of the 45th Space Wing at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, to inform him that President Obama's plan included investments to upgrade the spaceport to ensure that commercial rockets can operate at lower costs. He was unable to provide details on the level of funding that would be provided. Below is an excerpt from the budget announcement:

"The Budget supports the revitalization of NASA to put in place the right workforce and facilities to function as an efficient 21st Century research and development agency. A major focus of this effort will be to create the 21st Century launch facilities and infrastructure needed at Kennedy Space Center, transforming the facility to more effectively support future NASA, commercial, and other government launches." (2/1)

Ares Evolution (Source: The Space Review)
Monday might have marked the beginning of the end of the Ares 1 launch vehicle, a concept with many supporters but also many detractors. Former NASA astronaut and associate administrator Scott Horowitz provides his insights into the development of the Ares 1 and why it's still the right vehicle for NASA. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1555/1 to view the article. (2/1)

If Constellation Dies (Source: The Space Review)
So what will happen if, as expected, the White House's new plan ends the Ares 1 and 5 launch vehicles? Taylor Dinerman suggests that Congress will feel the need to "correct" that decision. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1554/1 to view the article. (2/1)

The EMP Threat: Fact, Fiction, and Response (Source: The Space Review)
Yousaf Butt concludes his two-part examination of the threat of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) by describing the threat posed by geomagnetic storms triggered by solar activity. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1553/1 to view the article. (2/1)

How to Build a Shuttle-Derived Heavy-Lift Program (Source: The Space Review)
The changes in NASA's exploration strategy, if enacted, could leave NASA without a heavy-lift launch vehicle. Edward Ellegood proposes a way for interested states to lobby for the development of one. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1552/1 to view the article. (2/1)

UCF Helping NASA Speed Shuttle Prep Times (Source: UCF)
A University of Central Florida study aims to reduce the time it takes to prepare the space shuttle for a launch after an attempt has been scrubbed. United Space Alliance, NASA’s prime space shuttle contractor, awarded UCF a contract to optimize the assembly steps necessary for the integration of the space shuttle to the launch structure. To accomplish that goal, the UCF team built replicas of the sealing interface in the shuttle’s external fuel tank’s gaseous hydrogen vent line and is studying how the materials behave in different assembly scenarios. (2/1)

Shelby: NASA Budget Begins Death March for U.S. Human Space Flight (Source: WAAY)
U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, issued a statement sharply criticizing the NASA budget put forth by President Obama. "The President's proposed NASA budget begins the death march for the future of US human space flight. The cancellation of the Constellation program and the end of human space flight does represent change – but it is certainly not the change I believe in." (2/1)

Aldrin Endorses Obama Space Plan (Source: NASA)
"Today I wish to endorse strongly the President’s new direction for NASA. As an Apollo astronaut, I know the importance of always pushing new frontiers as we explore space. The truth is, that we have already been to the Moon – some 40 years ago. A near-term focus on lowering the cost of access to space and on developing key, cutting-edge technologies to take us further, faster, is just what our Nation needs to maintain its position as the leader in space exploration for the rest of this century."

"We need to be in this for the long haul, and this program will allow us to again be pushing the boundaries to achieve new and challenging things beyond Earth. I hope NASA will embrace this new direction as much as I do, and help us all continue to use space exploration to drive prosperity and innovation right here on Earth." (2/1)

New Mexico Businesses Bank on Spaceport Tourism Dollars (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
In designing a new boutique hotel for Picacho Hills, Bob Pofahl and his company initially proposed a 20- to 40-room facility. But that was before he knew much about Spaceport America. After researching plans for the $200 million, state-owned project, Pofahl, who is CEO of Picacho Mountain Development, said he became convinced that's where the region's economic future lies. In fact, he's banking on it.

"Because of the spaceport, we're looking at expanding the boutique hotel to 40 to 80 rooms," said Pofahl, who has been involved in developing 20 Embassy Suite hotels around the country and two hotel projects in Baja, Mexico. The boutique hotel could be built within 36 months, Pohfahl said, but "if Spaceport America starts moving as fast as we think it is, we might speed that up." Pofahl's hoping to capitalize on what state officials say will be a major component of spaceport-related economic development: New tourism. (2/1)

White House Confirms Course Change for NASA (Source: Space News)
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is canceling Constellation and is prepared to fight any congressional effort to save it, the nation’s top budget official said Jan. 31. White House Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag and White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer confirmed Obama’s plan to kill NASA’s Constellation program, a five-year-old effort to replace the aging space shuttle fleet with new rockets and spacecraft optimized to return astronauts to the Moon.

“…[W]e are proposing a cancellation of the Constellation program at NASA even while making other investments in long range [research and development] there, which again is a significant step,” Orszag said in response to a reporter’s question about the tough choices Obama faced in drafting his 2011 spending plan. Obama’s top-line spending proposal for NASA is expected to increase slightly over the 2010 appropriation of $18.7 billion and would including some funding for an alternative means for transporting crews to and from the international space station.

Facing a federal deficit of $1.26 trillion in 2011, Obama is proposing a three-year freeze on most non-defense discretionary spending, a move the president believes will save $250 billion over the next 10 years. (2/1)

NASA's New Launch Tower Rises, But Its Mission is Unclear (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Early Thursday morning, a giant crane at KSC slowly hoisted a steel cage and set it down on top of nine others, completing a 355-foot tall launch tower for NASA's new Ares I rocket. It was the crowning achievement of a $500 million project at the heart of KSC's efforts to prepare for NASA's Constellation moon program. Later that day, White House officials confirmed that President Barack Obama planned to cancel Ares I — and with it NASA's plans to return to the moon.

Instead of Ares I, Obama wants to turn to private companies to launch astronauts into space. In a matter of a few hours, the tower and its base, together called a mobile launcher, went from being a symbol of NASA's ambitious moon program to an emblem of the agency's uncertain future, an emblem that has cost $217 million to date. To critics, it's an example of NASA's profligate spending on Constellation — about $9 billion over the last six years — which is still as many as seven years away from producing a rocket that could reach the International Space Station, let alone take humans to the moon.

But NASA insists that the launcher, unlike some other Constellation investments, is money well spent. "It can be converted to accommodate a number of other rockets," said Morrie Goodman, NASA's associate administrator for public affairs. "It is not a symbol of an end, but could be a symbol of a beginning." Once work was finished on the elevator and air-conditioning systems, a second phase next year was supposed to add the guts of the ground-support systems that Ares would need. If all went according to plan, the launcher was supposed to be ready by 2014. (2/1)

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