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The European research and analysis firm Euroconsult has released a new report projecting $1 billion in annual data sales for earth observation satellites in 2009, "a figure expected to nearly quadruple by 2018." The report, Satellite-Based Earth Obervations, Market Prospects to 2018, also reports that 260 Earth observation and meteorology satellites will be launched in the next 10 years "generating $27.4 billion in manufacturing revenues."
The report is being released in advance of a one-day Symposium on Earth Observation Business to be held on September 10, 2009 in Paris, France. It is part of World Satellite Business Week (Sept. 7-10) to be held at the Westin in Paris.
The official website for the Augustine committee has posted an update saying that a "Summary Report" will be transmitted to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) next Tuesday, September 8. Rumors have been rampant all week that an executive summary of the report would be issued imminently. NASA's legislative affairs website continues to show congressional hearings on the report for September 15 (House Science and Technology Committee) and September 16 (Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee) though the hearings are not listed on those committees' websites yet. The Augustine committee is mandated to provide options for the future of the human spaceflight program. How quickly the Obama White House will make decisions based on those options is unclear, but with the FY2010 budget being debated in Congress and the FY2011 budget request in formulation by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), time is short.
Colin Clark reports in DODBuzz
that some aerospace companies are being forced to sell subsidiaries in order to comply with the recently enacted Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act. Clark quotes sources as saying that Northrop Grumman's pending sale of its TASC unit is a case in point. Some of those sources are highly critical of the strict interpretation of the law by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO
), which designs, builds and operates the nation's reconnaissance satellites. A follow-up story
by Clark includes a link to the NRO memo and a response from a "government official" to the original story.
The original story included this criticism of NRO's interpretation of the law.
"Intelligence community sources say the National Reconnaissance Office, builder and operator of the nation's spy satellites, is interpreting the bill's language very strictly. 'The NRO is nuts!' said one irate expert. They are being more draconian than anyone else and it is hard to understand why. While there are certainly instances where the same company should not be involved in helping with the requirements during a competitive acquisition they are going beyond this. In fact companies with 40 years worth of experience in a particular specialty are being thrown over the side in search of purity. This is not in the government's best interest from either performance or cost perspectives. This is all part of the NRO destroying itself and paying attention to process.'"
The follow-up story included this response from an unnamed government official:
"'I don't care how many firewalls' a company puts up to mitigate OCI, the fact remains TASC provides advice on the cost, schedule & performance of developmental contractors such as Northrop Grumman. It is particularly disconcerting when going through a source selection and we need the advice of a particular subject matter expert but we can't turn to him because the company he works for is owned by one of the potential bidders,' the official said. 'This is a good thing and not a bad thing. The sky is not falling as a result and the other companies mentioned above will absorb contracts and employees as a result. There will be no perception of conflict and I don't have to kick my subject matter experts out of the room during a crucial time in a review.'"
Results from the freshly refurbished Hubble Space Telescope are about to be put on display along with the STS-125 space shuttle crew that made it all possible. NASA will hold two press conferences next week, at 11:00 am and noon EDT on September 9, to show off new images and the crew. See NASA's press release for details.
Politifact.com gives President Obama a "Promise Kept" grade for using the private sector to improve spaceflight. The website -- a project of the St. Petersburg Times -- is tracking 18 promises made about the space program by the President during the campaign. So far they score him as having kept three promises (the other two are adding another shuttle flight and enhancing earth mapping) with two more "in the works" (improve climate change data records, and revise regulations for export of aerospace technologies) and the rest with "no action." Many of the latter decisions are awaiting the Augustine committee report.
One option for human exploration of Mars that gets little attention or discussion is whether these new explorers should plan on a one-way trip. Lawrence Krauss, director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University and author of "The Physics of Star Trek" advocates this approach in an op-ed for the August 31, 2009 New York Times. Here are some of his points:
" While the idea of sending astronauts aloft never to return is jarring upon first hearing, the rationale for one-way trips into space has both historical and practical roots. Colonists and pilgrims seldom set off for the New World with the expectation of a return trip, usually because the places they were leaving were pretty intolerable anyway. Give us a century or two and we may turn the whole planet into a place from which many people might be happy to depart."
"Moreover, if the [cosmic] radiation problems cannot be adequately resolved then the longevity of astronauts signing up for a Mars round trip would be severely compromised in any case. As cruel as it may sound, the astronauts would probably best use their remaining time living and working on Mars rather than dying at home. "
UPDATE: 6:30 PM EDT, Wednesday, September 2
According to the Associated Press, Mt. Wilson isn't out of the woods yet, but the situation is improving. Observatory Director McAlister continues to post updates, but the web address has changed again. Currently they are being posted at http://www.chara.gsu.edu/CHARA/MWO/fire.php. The UCLA Towercam is not operating any longer, apparently a victim of severed lines when a backfire was lit yesterday. Dr. McAlister sounds increasingly optimistic about the situation and draws attention to an interesting op-ed by Tim Rutten that appeared in the LATimes this morning.
UPDATE: 8:00 PM EDT, Tuesday, September 1
Firefighters had a comparatively successful day fighting the fire and it is now 22% contained and growing at a slower rate. The LATimes is reporting that Mt. Wilson remains in danger, however. Observatory director McAlister has switched to the alternate server mentioned in his message above. Go to http://joy.chara.gsu.edu/CHARA/fire.php for his updates. Earlier today he was expressing guarded optimism based on the reports he was receiving
Original post, September 1 am
A photo from UCLA's Towercam taken this morning (Tuesday, September 1) shows the fire near the Mount Wilson Observatory. Meanwhile, Hal McAlister, Director of the Observatory, has been posting updates on the observatory's website. The most recent is from yesterday, August 31, at 5:30 pm PDT:
"Monday, 31 Aug 09, 5:30 pm PDT - As I mentioned earlier, we have lost the new backup power to the mountain. In anticipation of a possible loss of all power to the Observatory, where the MWO webserver is located, this update site will be relocated to http://joy.chara.gsu.edu/CHARA/fire.php. I will continue posting material on the current server, but if and when it goes dark, please make a note now to try the other URL if you are interested in keeping in touch with this situation from our perspective. In this event, the Towercam will also go dark. In the meantime, please keep coming to this site."
The LATimes has an article this morning outlining the observatory's scientific achievements to date.
Space.com is reporting today that the new target date for testing the Ares rocket motor is September 10 at ATK's facilities in Promontory Utah. The first attempt was scrubbed 20 seconds prior to ignition on August 27. Indications were that there was a problem with an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), but engineers have determined that the problem was not hardware or software on the booster itself, according to the report. They are now looking at ground test hardware as the possible source of the problem.
The fate of the Ares program remains in the hands of the Augustine committee that is looking at options for the future of the human space flight program and the policy makers who will determine the path forward based on those options.
An editorial in today's Washington Post issued a rallying call for NASA to embrace entrepreneurial space companies. Here's an excerpt:
"Now that the station is nearly complete, this might be an optimal time to open space to entrepreneurs. Many companies claim they possess the capacity to transport humans and payloads into space; the [Augustine] review committee found their reports convincing enough to suggest that these space entrepreneurs could take over the transport of astronauts and supplies to the space station after the shuttle program ends.
"It's time to boldly go where no man has gone before. That means opening space to the kind of private-sector competition that revolutionized cyberspace and making sure the next human exploratory efforts are based on real scientific need."
NASA's Orion spacecraft has successfully completed its preliminary design review (PDR), according to the agency.
Orion and its Ares launch vehicle are part of NASA's Constellation program to replace the space shuttle and ferry crews to the International Space Station (ISS) and return humans to the Moon by 2020. Reminiscent of an Apollo capsule, Orion is designed to sit atop its Ares booster, rather than on its side like the space shuttle orbiter.
The Orion design is considered superior from a safety standpoint in at least two ways. First, it would not be affected by foam or other debris that might fall from the Ares. Foam shedding from the space shuttle's external tank caused the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy. Second, the crew could use an emergency abort system to propel the spacecraft away from the Ares if there was a serious launch vehicle malfunction during launch. The 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy occurred because of the failure of a component (an O-ring) in one of the shuttle's Solid Rocket Boosters.
The fate of the Orion and Ares programs remains up the air, however, as everyone awaits the report of the Augustine committee and White House and congressional action thereafter. There are rumors that an Executive Summary of the report may be released very soon, but no official word from NASA about that.
Events of Interest
- National Tribute to Sally Ride, May 20, 2013, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC
- Intl Space Arts Workshop, May 20-22, 2013, NASA Research Park, Moffett Field, CA
- Lunabotics Mining Competition 2013, May 20-24, 2013, Kennedy Space Center, FL
- Secure World Foundation/Women in Aerospace-Europe Discussion on Cooperation versus Competition in Space Activities, May 21, 2013, Brussels, Belgium
- House SS&T Sbcmte Hrg on Next Steps in Human Exploration, May 21, 2013, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building. 2:00 pm ET
- HASC Strategic Forces Sbcmte Markup FY14 NDAA, May 22, 2013, 2212 Rayburn House Office Building, 10:30 am ET
- NEW NASA News Conf on Upcoming ISS Crew Launch and ISS Science, May 22, 2013, NASA Johnson Space Center, 1:00 pm Central Time (2:00 pm Eastern Time)
- House SS&T Sbcmte Hrg on Restoring US Leadership in Weather Forecasting, May 23, 2013, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building, 9:30 am ET
- Senate Commerce Nomination Hrg for Penny Pritzker to be Sec of Commerce, May 23, 2013, 253 Russell Senate Office Building, 11:00 am ET
- International Space Development Conference (ISDC), May 23-27, 2013, San Diego, CA
- Soyuz TMA-09M Launch and Docking with ISS, May 28, 2013, launch from Kazakhstan at 4:31 pm ET, docking at ISS at 10:17 pm ET (watch on NASA TV)
Full calendar with filters »
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