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The webinar scheduled by the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) to make the case for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be on September 21 instead of September 19 and the speaker's list has grown in number and clout. Among those joining the event is Nobel Prize winner John Mather whose name is almost synonymous with JWST.
The webinar will take place at 2:00 pm EDT. To register for it, go to this website. The current speakers list includes the three originally scheduled (Mountain, Smith and Abraham) plus four others. The complete list is:
- John Mather, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Nobel Prize (2006), Senior JWST Project Scientist and Chair of the JWST Science Working Group
- Rick Howard, JWST Program Director at NASA Headquarters
- Eric Smith, JWST Deputy Program Director at NASA Headquarters and former JWST Program Scientist
- Matt Mountain, STScI Director
- Julianne Dalcanton, University of Washington
- Roberto Abraham, University of Toronto
- Jonathan Lunine, Cornell University
JWST supporters were cheered by the Senate Appropriations Committee's decision yesterday not just to approve the $374 million requested for JWST for FY2012, but to increase it to $530 million so the telescope can be launched in 2018. By contrast, the House Appropriations Committee (HAC) directed that the project be terminated and included no funds for it when marking up its version of the FY2012 appropriations bill that includes NASA (the Commerce-Justice-Science or CJS bill).
Neither the full House or Senate has voted on the CJS bill yet, and after that they must reach agreement on a final compromise version of the bill, so there are still many steps in the process to determine how much money the project will get. HAC wants to terminate the project because of significant cost overruns and schedule delays. Advertised by its advocates as the successor to the wildly popular Hubble Space Telescope, they are hoping to convince those who pay the bills that the resulting science is worth the cost. The current estimate is $8.7 billion.
NASA will hold a commercial crew program forum on Friday (tomorrow) at the Kennedy Space Center press site.
The forum is from 11:00 am - 12:00 pm EDT and will be broadcast via a webcast at http://commercialcrew.nasa.gov.
Three International Space Station (ISS) crew members have returned home, landing at midnight EDT (10:00 am local time in Kazakhstan) after a somewhat nail biting descent when communications were temporarily lost.
Russian cosmonauts Andrei Borisenko and Alexandr Samokutayev and NASA astronaut Ron Garan returned in their Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft. Everything proceeded normally until capsule separation at 11:33 pm EDT. At that point, Russian Mission Control lost voice contact with the crew. Search and recovery forces in an Antonov aircraft eventually were able to reestablish communications with the crew and reported that they were OK. Landing took place on schedule; the spacecraft landed on its side. The recovery forces are now extracting the crew from the Soyuz capsule.
Earlier in the day, the Space Station Control Board, composed of representatives of all the partners in the ISS program, released a tentative schedule for the next cargo and crew flights to the ISS. The dates are slightly different from what was reported in the Russian media on Tuesday.
The next Progress cargo craft will be launched to ISS on October 30, as earlier announced. The next crew launch, Soyuz TMA-22, will be on November 14 instead of November 12, however. That means docking with the ISS on November 16. The three ISS crew members currently aboard ISS (NASA's Mike Fossum, Japan's Satoshi Furakawa and Russia's Sergei Volkov) will stay until November 22 instead of returning on November 16. That will provide a few days to hand over operations from one crew to the next.
Once they return, the ISS once again will be staffed with only three instead of six crew. The other three - NASA's Don Pettit, Russia's Oleg Kononenko and Europe's Andre Kuipers - will launch on December 26, arriving two days later. That will restore the ISS to a 6-person crew.
NASA's press release said the dates "may be adjusted to reflect minor changes in vehicle processing timelines."
The schedule for launching cargo and crew flights to the ISS was disrupted when the Progress M-12M cargo spacecraft failed to reach orbit because of a launch vehicle malfunction on August 24.
The ISS partners had to consider the possibility that the ISS would have to be destaffed temporarily if the Soyuz rocket could not be recertified for flight quickly. A Russian investigating commission concluded that the failure was due to a blockage in a fuel line in the third stage of the Soyuz rocket that was "accidental." Russia is resuming flights of the Soyuz rocket, which has several variants. One variant is now scheduled for launch on October 1 carrying a navigation satellite. The October 30 Progress launch will be a second opportunity to test the system before committing it to launching crews.
NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) will reenter on September 24 plus or minus one day according to the agency.
NASA announced last week that UARS is on its way back to Earth and pieces are expected to survive reentry. It posts updates on its website with current information as the orbit decays. The exact moment when it reenters is dependent on factors such as solar activity so is very difficult to predict with certainty until close to the event. When it reenters determines where the pieces land and hence that also cannot be known with certainty until close to the end. The Earth is 70 percent covered with water, reducing but not eliminating the chances of the debris harming anyone or anything on the planet.
The NASA UARS website will be updated more frequently as reentry nears. NASA is using the hashtag #UARS on its Twitter feed to provide updates as well.
Russia is quickly recovering from the double rocket failures experienced in August.
Itar-Tass reports today that the Proton rocket will return to service on September 22. Its payload is identified only as a "defence satellite." On August 18, a Proton rocket with a Briz upper stage malfunctioned stranding the Express-AM4 communications satellite in the wrong orbit. An investigating commission determined that it was caused by human error in programming the upper stage.
A few days later, on August 24, the third stage of a Soyuz U rocket failed dooming the Progress M-12M cargo spacecraft it was carrying. The spacecraft was taking cargo to the International Space Station. A different, but similar, version of the Soyuz rocket is now scheduled to launch a navigation satellite on October 1. That launch originally had been scheduled for late August, but was postponed pending the review of the August 24 failure.
The Russians determined that a clogged fuel line was responsible for the Progress M-12M failure and that it was "accidental." The next launch to ISS is now scheduled for October 30. It will be another Progress spacecraft. The first flight of a Soyuz (yet another variant) with a crew is scheduled for November 12.
UPDATE 3: The full committee approved the bill (along with three others they had under consideration today). As far as we can tell no amendments were adopted. Details have not yet been released.
UPDATE 2: Additional details of the subcommittee action were added in update 1. This update adds Info from a Mikulski press release and the audio of the markup. FULL COMMITTEE MARKUP IS AT 2:00 TODAY (THURSDAY).
The Senate Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee marked up its version of the FY2012 appropriations bill that includes NASA and NOAA today. The full committee will mark it up tomorrow at 2:00.
A summary of the subcommittee's action is posted on the committee's website.
The Senate subcommittee recommended $17.9 billion for NASA, $509 million less than what the agency received in FY2011, but $1.1 billion more than what the House Appropriations Committee recommended ($16.8 billion). The committee's statement says that it provides enough funds to launch the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) chairs the subcommittee. A press release from her offices clarifies that the amount included in the subcommittee's recommendation for JWST in FY2012 is $530 million out of a total of $5.1 billion for the NASA's science programs. NASA's request for JWST was $374 million and for the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) was $5 billion. The House Appropriations Committee recommended terminating the JWST program and provided no funds for FY2012. It recommended $4.5 billion for SMD overall.
For NOAA, the Senate subcommittee recommended $5 billion, $434 million more than FY2011, including $920 million for the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). That is similar to what the House Appropriations Committee approved for JPSS ($901 million), and still less than the request of $1.07 billion.
The audio of the subcommittee markup is available on the committee's website. Senator Mikulski states during the markup that they have included "stringent bill language limiting the development costs" of JWST.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), ranking member of the subcommittee, did not specify in her remarks the dollar amounts in the bill for the Space Launch System and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle other than saying they are at the authorized levels in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. She added that the bill also funds the "commercial vehicle that will be the interim" capability to get to the International Space Station.
The bill will be marked up at full committee level on Thursday, September 15, at 2:00 pm EDT.
Flights of Russia's Soyuz rocket from France's launch site in Kourou, French Guinea are being affected, but not delayed, by the failure of a similar rocket launching the Progress M-12M cargo spacecraft last month.
Russia's news agency, Itar-Tass, reports that two Soyuz rockets that are being readied for launch at Kourou will have their third stages replaced. The action will not delay the launches, however, according to the report. They are scheduled for October 20 and in December of this year.
Russia and Europe reached agreement to launch the Soyuz rocket from Kourou in 2004. The idea is for Soyuz to fill the niche of a medium-class launcher in Europe's suite of launch vehicles, joining the large Ariane 5 and small Vega launchers. Because the launch site is to close to equator (7 degrees north latitude) compared with Russia's southernmost launch facility at Baikonur (50.7 degrees north), the rocket can take much more payload to orbit. The payload capability from Kourou is 3 metric tons compared to 1.7 metric tons from Baikonur. Initially, Soyuz flights from Baikonur were expected as early as 2006, but there has been none as yet.
A Soyuz rocket launched from Baikonur that was intended to place a Progress cargo spacecraft on a trajectory to replenish the International Space Station failed on August 24. An investigating commission determined a clogged fuel line was the cause. Flights of the Soyuz with Progress spacecraft are expected to resume from Baikonur next month, and a simlliar rocket carrying three ISS crewmembers in November.
About an hour ago NASA sent out an announcement that the decision on the Space Launch System (SLS) would be revealed at 10:00 this morning. A press briefing has just begun at the Senate. Watch at NASA TV.
Here is the text of NASA's press release:
David S. Weaver
Headquarters, Washington Sept. 14, 2011
Michael Braukus/J.D. Harrington
NASA ANNOUNCES DESIGN FOR NEW DEEP SPACE EXPLORATION SYSTEM
New Heavy-lift Rocket Will Take Humans Far Beyond Earth
WASHINGTON -- NASA has selected the design of a new Space Launch System that will take the agency's astronauts farther into space than ever before, create high-quality jobs here at home, and provide the cornerstone for America's future human space exploration efforts.
This new heavy-lift rocket-in combination with a crew capsule already under development, increased support for the commercialization of astronaut travel to low Earth orbit, an extension of activities on the International Space Station until at least 2020, and a fresh focus on new technologies-is key to implementing the plan laid out by President Obama and Congress in the bipartisan 2010 NASA Authorization Act, which the president signed last year. The booster will be America's most powerful since the Saturn V rocket that carried Apollo astronauts to the moon and will launch humans to places no one has gone before.
"This launch system will create good-paying American jobs, ensure continued U.S. leadership in space, and inspire millions around the world," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "President Obama challenged us to be bold and dream big, and that's exactly what we are doing at NASA. While I was proud to fly on the space shuttle, tomorrow's explorers will now dream of one day walking on Mars."
This launch vehicle decision is the culmination of a months-long, comprehensive review of potential designs to ensure the nation gets a rocket that is not only powerful but also evolvable so it can be adapted to different missions as opportunities arise and new technologies are developed.
"Having settled on a new and powerful heavy-lift launch architecture, NASA can now move ahead with building that rocket and the next-generation vehicles and technologies needed for an ambitious program of crewed missions in deep space," said John P. Holdren, assistant to the President for Science and Technology. "I'm excited about NASA's new path forward and about its promise for continuing American leadership in human space exploration."
The SLS will carry human crews beyond low Earth orbit in a capsule named the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. The rocket will use a liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel system, where RS-25D/E engines will provide the core propulsion and the J2X engine is planned for use in the upper stage. There will be a competition to develop the boosters based on performance requirements.
The decision to go with the same fuel system for the core and the upper stage was based on a NASA analysis demonstrating that use of common components can reduce costs and increase flexibility. The heavy-lift rocket's early flights will be capable of lifting 70-100 metric tons before evolving to a lift capacity of 130 metric tons.
The early developmental flights may take advantage of existing solid boosters and other existing hardware. These flights will enable NASA to reduce developmental risk, drive innovation within the agency and private industry, and accomplish early exploration objectives.
"NASA has been making steady progress toward realizing the president's goal of deep space exploration, while doing so in a more affordable way," NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said. "We have been driving down the costs on the Space Launch System and Orion contracts by adopting new ways of doing business and project hundreds of millions of dollars of savings each year."
NASA elected to initiate a competition for the booster stage based on performance parameters rather than on the type of propellant because of the need for flexibility. The specific acquisition strategy for procuring the core stage, booster stage, and upper stage is being developed and will be announced at a later time.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up the FY2012 appropriations bill that includes NASA and NOAA this week.
Subcommittee markup was announced yesterday. It will be held tomorrow at 2:30 pm in 192 Dirksen Senate Office Building. The committee has more recently announced that full committee markup will be held the next day, Thursday, September 15, at 2:00 pm in 216 Hart Senate Office Building. It is one of three appropriations bills on the committee's agenda for that afternoon.
Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) headlined a hastily arranged press event in the Senate this morning announcing the long awaited decision on the design of the Space Launch System (SLS). NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and other Members of Congress were also there and NASA will hold a more detailed media teleconference at noon today with NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Bill Gerstenmaier. The Senate Appropriations Committee is marking up the bil that includes NASA beginning this afternoon, making the SLS announcement particularly timely.
At the Senate event, Senator Nelson stated that the cost of the SLS will be $10 billion through 2017. The main purpose of the SLS is to launch astronauts to destinations beyond low Earth orbit in a spacecraft called the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV). Nelson said the MPCV cost through 2017 would be $6 billion, and the cost of associated ground facilities is $2 billion in that time frame, a total of $18 billion. That is essentially $3 billion per year for the next five years.
The press conference did not gloss over the fact that the White House and Congress have been at loggerheads over the program. Congress directed NASA to build the SLS and MPCV in the 2010 NASA authorization act as a compromise with the Obama Administration, but Hutchison and Nelson have accused the Obama Administration of deliberately undermining the law.
Hutchison referenced that in her remarks this morning. She said that the Wall Street Journal article last week asserting that the White House was in a state of "sticker shock" over the cost of the program was the tipping point, and that she, Nelson and others met with Administration officials including the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Jacob Lew, yesterday to iron things out.
Hutchison is the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that authorizes NASA activities and is also the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee that appropriates NASA's funding, so is an especially powerful influence on NASA in the Senate.
She and other congressional speakers this morning focused on the future and how delighted they are that everyone is now working together. Retaining the skilled aerospace workforce that might otherwise be decimated with the termination of the space shuttle program and ensuring U.S. preeminence in space exploration were recurring themes at the press conference.
Two House members, both Democrats, spoke at the Senate event: Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), ranking member of the House Science, Space and Technology (HSS&T) Committee, and Rep. Chaka Fattah, ranking member of the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee that funds NASA.
Their Republican counterparts, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), chairman of HSS&T, and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the CJS subcommittee, chose instead to issue their own press release (which also included Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS), chairman of the HSS&T subcommittee that oversees NASA). They expressed satisfaction that the decision finally had been made, but used the opportunity to sharply criticize the Obama Administration. While Hutchison remarked on the unplesantness of watching sausage being made, her focus was on the fact that everyone was now in agreement. The three House Republicans instead complained stridently about the Administration's "obstructionism," which they assert has cost "thousands of American jobs." The HSS&T committee will hold a hearing on the future of the human spaceflight program on September 22.
Events of Interest
- American Meteorological Society (AMS) Annual Meeting, January 22-26, 2017, Seattle, Washington
- Prospects for the Defense Budget (CSIS), January 23, 2017, 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington, DC, 10:30 am - 12:00 pm ET (webcast)
- SASC Hearing on Defense Budget for FY2018 and Onwards, January 24, 2017, 216 Hart Senate Office Building, 9:30 am ET (webcast)
- Senate Commerce Cmte Markup (incl two space-related bills), January 24, 2017, 253 Russell Senate Office Building, 10:00 am ET (webcast)
- AIA/AIAA/Space Foundation Aerospace 101 Briefing, January 24, 2017, 2325 Rayburn House Office Building, 11:30 am ET
- Natl Academies Earth Sci Decadal Survey Town Hall Mtg (in Conjunction with AMS), January 24, 2017, 6:30-7:30 pm Pacific Time (9:30-10:30 pm Eastern)
- European Space Policy Conference, January 24-25 2017, Brussels, Belgium
- NASA News Conf with Upcoming ISS Crew, January 25, 2017, Johnson Space Center, TX, 2:00 pm ET (1:00 pm local) Watch on NASA TV
- NASA Day of Remembrance Pre-Event, January 26, 2017, KSC, FL 10:00 am (watch on NASA TV)
- Interagency Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Cmte (AAAC), January 26-27, 2017, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA
- 50th Anniversary of the Outer Space Treaty (ASIL/SWF), January 27, 2017, Georgetown Law School Gewirz Student Center, Washington, DC, 12:00-2:00 pm ET
Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »
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