Latest News

Updated Fact Sheet on Status of NASA's FY2011 Funding

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

An updated version of our fact sheet on NASA's FY2011 Appropriations: The Debate Continues in the 112th Congress is now available. It reflects House action on H.R. 1. An amendment was adopted during floor debate reducing NASA's budget by an additional $298 million below the House Appropriations Committee's recommendation for the Cross Agency Support line.

UPDATE: Glory Launch Postponed to March 4

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

UPDATE: The launch has been rescheduled for March 4.

ORIGINAL STORY: The launch of NASA's Glory earth observation satellite has been postponed again, this time until March. Engineers still have not determined why the Vehicle Interface Control Console (VICC) sent a "hold-fire" command to the Taurus XL rocket 15 minutes before its intended launch early yesterday morning.

NASA reports that the VICC is located in a mobile launch support van a few miles from the launch pad. More time is needed to determine the cause of and remedy the problem. NASA now is looking at launch dates in early to mid-March.

Shuttle in Planned Hold, But Range Is Red

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

Space Shuttle Discovery is in its final planned hold waiting to pick up the count at T-9 minutes (9 minutes before launch). Everything was going well until moments ago when the range went red because of a problem with the range safety command system.

That's a computer, and what all this means is the subject of considerable discussion to which one can listen on NASA TV or The NASA launch director, Mike Leinbach, has decided to take the countdown all the way down to T-5 (5 minutes before launch) before deciding whether to launch today. So apparently they will pick up the count at T-9 hoping that the problem can resolved quickly.

Shuttle Holding at T-5 Minutes Hoping Range Issue Can Be Resolved

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

The countdown for STS-133 is down to the T-5 minute mark and holding. Minutes ago a problem developed with the Air Force's range safety computer system display. There is very little flexibility in the launch window today, but everyone has their fingers crossed it can be resolved in time.

Shuttle Countdown Resumes; Launch Imminent

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

The Air Force resolved their computer problem and the countdown has resumed. T-4 minutes and counting.

House and Senate Leaders Crafting Short-Term CRs

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

Amid rampant rhetoric about a possible government shutdown replete with each side blaming the other, House and Senate leaders reportedly are crafting competing short-term Continuing Resolutions (CRs) that could avoid that situation while they negotiate on a CR for the rest for FY2011. FY2011 began on October 1, but Congress has not passed any of the 12 regular appropriations bills to fund government departments and agencies. Instead it has passed a series of CRs that keep the government operating at last year's (FY2010's) level. The current CR expires on March 4.

As House and Senate members spend this week in their districts and states judging the mood of the voters, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is said to be developing a one-month CR to keep the government funded at current (FY2010) levels while Congress decides what it wants to do for the rest of FY2011. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), meanwhile, is working on one that would last only two weeks and would contain funding reductions from the FY2010 level.

How the chickens are counted is key to how much Republicans and Democrats are proposing to cut. Top Senate Democrats assert that keeping spending at FY2010 levels is a $41 billion cut. That is in comparison to what President Obama requested for FY2011. Tea Party Republicans in the House want a $100 billion cut, but that is measured against the FY2010 funding level not the FY2011 request, a much deeper reduction. The "full-year" CR passed by the House last week covering the rest of FY2011 would cut $100 billion compared to the FY2011 request or about $60 billion compared to the FY2010 level.

In a statement today, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) cited an analysis by Goldman Sachs of the House-passed CR as proving that it would cause a "double-dip recession." Press reports say that Schumer and Reid indicated that they are willing to cut more than the $41 billion represented by keeping funding at current levels, but not as much as the House. Boehner also is drafting a short-term CR, but it would be for only two weeks and would include cuts to the current spending level. A Reid aide called it a "two-week version of the same reckless measure" already passed by the House. Thus, even the short-term CRs will be quite different, so a shutdown remains a possibility.

For more on what happens if the government shuts down for lack of appropriations, see this report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). According to that report, most government employees are furloughed during a shutdown and placed in a non-pay status, although in the 1995-1996 shutdowns they were paid retroactively. Some government employees are not subject to the furlough and must continue to work in non-pay status. CRS identifies them as Members of Congress, the President, presidential appointees, certain legislative branch employees, and federal employees who are "excepted." Excepted federal employees include those "(1) performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, (2) involved in the orderly suspension of agency operations, or (3) performing other functions exempted from the furlough," according to CRS. Some of the examples listed in the report are employees who provide for the national security, provide for benefit payments, or conduct essential activities such as -- medical care of inpatients and emergency outpatient care, continuance of air traffic control, care of prisoners, law enforcement, emergency and disaster assistance, and activities to preserve the financial system, power production, and protection of research property.

ATV Docks with ISS; Shuttle Still on Schedule for This Afternoon

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) at 16:08 GMT (11:08 am EST) today, clearing the way for the space shuttle to lift off as scheduled at 4:50 pm EST this afternoon. Had the docking gone awry, the shuttle launch might have been postponed to provide an opportunity to troubleshoot that docking before the shuttle arrives at the ISS on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the six person STS-133 crew is suiting up. Steve Lindsey, Eric Boe, Alvin Drew, Steve Bowen, Michael Barratt and Nicole Stott will soon board Discovery for its final trip into orbit. Bowen replaced Tim Kopra at the last minute after Kopra was injured in a bicycle accident. Bowen also was a member of the last space shuttle mission (STS-132), making him the first astronaut to fly on consecutive flights. His spacewalking skills earned him the additional mission. He is rated as a "lead" spacewalker as is Kopra and the complexity of the spacewalks on this mission required that expertise.

"The Shuttle Has Cleared The Tower"

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

Space Shuttle Discovery is off on its final mission.

UPDATE: Glory Launch Postponed to Friday

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 23-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

UPDATE: NASA will wait till Friday, February 25, to retry the Glory launch. Launch time is 5:09 am EST.

ORIGINAL STORY: NASA postponed the launch of its Glory earth observation spacecraft this morning after an unexpected reading from the vehicle interface control console. The launch was scheduled for 2:09 am PST (5:09 am EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA. They may try again tomorrow morning at the same time if the issue can be resolved.

NASA Seeks Nonprofit ISS Manager

Laura M. Delgado
Posted: 23-Feb-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

Officials from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) outlined the key features of a solicitation for proposals for an independent, nonprofit research management organization to foster and manage the use of the International Space Station (ISS) as a National Laboratory yesterday.

Mark Uhran, ISS assistant associate administrator, explained that since 2005 when the ISS was designated by law as a national laboratory, 50 percent of the U.S. portion of the ISS has been made available for research by non-NASA entities, such as universities, private firms, and other government agencies. Based on another law, the 2010 NASA authorization act, the agency is now seeking to create an organization to manage this non-NASA research. He clarified that NASA will maintain control of the other 50 percent necessary for pursuing its own goals, which are focused on basic scientific research, biomedical human research, and technology development.

Marybeth Edeen, manager of NASA's ISS National Laboratory Office, explained that as part of its role, the new non-profit organization will carry out the "announcement-proposal, review-selection process" for use of the national laboratory, making recommendations to NASA about which researchers to select. Uhran said the organization should be in place by the end of this fiscal year, with activities ramping up as commercial transportation systems to the ISS come on line in the next 12-18 months. With a $15 million budget for the national laboratory, the relatively small organization - 15-25 people - will be tasked with communicating with potential user communities, managing agreements, as well as overseeing the execution of approved projects.

Uhran explained that progress on using the ISS as a national lab is very important because it will fulfill the vision of a station "built not solely for NASA usage." He said the goal is to "maximize [ISS's] value to the American public" for their investment and that its long-term productivity will be measured both by NASA and non-NASA usage. Creation of the non-profit organization will "be an important step in ensuring that that productivity is realized," he added.

The deadline for proposals is April 1, 2011 and selection will be made by the end of May.

Events of Interest

Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »


Subscribe to Email Updates:

Enter your email address: