Latest News

NASA Appoints New Constellation Program Manager

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 14-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

NASA just announced that the new program manager of the Constellation program is Lawrence D. Thomas, who most recently was deputy program manager for Constellation at Marshall Space Flight Center. The new job is at Johnson Space Center (JSC). Charles M. Stegemoeller was appointed as Constellation deputy program manager. He had been director of the program planning and control office for the Constellation program at JSC. NASA "reassigned" Constellation program manager Jeff Hanley on May 26, prompting calls from some Members of Congress for an Inspector General investigation. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden was quoted as saying that Hanley lost his job because he was too "attached" to the Constellation program, which the Obama Administration wants to terminate.

Japanese Asteroid Sample Return Capsule Recovered

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 14-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) reports that it "completed the recovery of the Hayabusa capsule at 4:08 pm on June 14, 2010 (JST). The capsule is deemed intact at the moment." The recovery time was 3:08 am this morning EDT. Check back for more news as it becomes available.

New Space Station Crew Getting Ready to Launch

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

Three new crew members for the International Space Station (ISS) are getting ready for launch on Russia's Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft on Tuesday.

Shannon Walker and Doug Wheelock from the United States and Fyodor Yurchikhin from Russia will join American Tracy Caldwell Johnson and Russians Alexander Skvortsov and Mikhail Kornienko who already are on the ISS. The Soyuz TMA-19 launch is scheduled for 5:35 pm EDT on Tuesday, June 15, with docking at the ISS expected on Thursday at 6:25 pm.

NASA Looking for Three Legislative Specialists

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

NASA has three openings in its Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs for Legislative Specialists at the GS-9 to GS-12 level. U.S. citizenship is required. Applications can be submitted until June 18. Check it out on USAJOBS.

Japanese Space Agency Confirms Hayabusa Capsule's Landing Site

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

UPDATE: See truly amazing video from a NASA DC-8 of the reentry on YouTube. You can see the mother spacecraft burning up as a fireball while the return capsule continues on its descent.

ORIGINAL STORY: The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) reports that it has confirmed the landing site of the asteroid sample return capsule from the spacecraft Hayabusa (also known as Muses-C). The capsule landed in the Woomera Prohibited Area in Australia. The mother spacecraft burned up in the atmosphere as planned; only the capsule was designed to survive reentry. The BBC adds that the capsule will not be approached until daylight local time and "safety and sterilisation protocols will not permit the capsule's evacuation and transfer to Japan for several days."

Scientists are wondering what samples are in the capsule. The Hayabusa mission survived a number of technical challenges during its 7 year mission, one of which reportedly was that the mechanism that was intended to grab a sample from the surface of the asteroid after the spacecraft landed malfunctioned. The BBC reports that Japanese scientists remain optimistic that, at a minimum, enough dust would have been generated by the spacecraft's landing that some of it would have made its way into the chamber of the return capsule.

Japanese Asteroid Probe Presumably Back on Earth

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA's) asteroid sample return spacecraft, Hayabusa, presumably has landed in Australia as planned. The BBC reports that the reentry spacecraft hit the top of the atmosphere at 13:50 GMT (9:50 am EDT), but it would take recovery teams several hours to pinpoint the landing site and determine if it landed intact. No information about the actual landing has yet appeared on JAXA's website. A video of the reentry is on UStream. The fireball begins to emerge at 2:58 into the video. Beautiful!

Events of Interest: Week of June 14-18, 2010

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The following events may be of interest in the coming week. For more information, see our calendar on the right menu or click the links below. Congressional activities are subject to change; check the appropriate website for up-to-date information. All times are EDT.

During the Week

The House may take up the FY2010 supplemental appropriations bill: the Senate-passed version (H.R. 4899) or its own (not yet reported from committee). The Senate-passed version includes language stating that funds appropriated in FY2010 or before can be used to continue the Constellation program and NASA should not terminate Constellation contracts "for convenience."

It is also possible that the House or Senate will act on a FY2011 budget resolution, or a "deeming resolution" as an alternative, that would set the amount of funds available for each appropriations subcommittee to spend. Technically, the subcommittees cannot act on their FY2011 appropriations bills until those limits are set.

Entirely separate from the U.S. Congress, the U.N. Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOUS) will continue its meeting in Vienna, Austria through Friday.

Tuesday, June 15

  • The International Space University (ISU) will hold a scholarship fund dinner, 6:30 pm, Westin Grand Hotel, Washington DC

Wednesday, June 16

  • Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on FY2011 DOD budget request, 10:30 am, 192 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC

Thursday, June 17

Text of Letter to NASA From HS&T Asking For Budget Details by June 16

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 11-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

The bipartisan leadership of the House Science and Technology (HS&T) committee and its Space and Aeronautics subcommittee sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden yesterday, the text of which is available here. It asks for budget details by June 16, 2010 so the committee can proceed with writing an authorization bill for the agency, and stresses that the funding projections for NASA's human spaceflight program do not meet what the Augustine Committee said was necessary to fund any of the options it identified.

Signed by committee chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), full committee ranking member Ralph Hall (R-TX), subcommittee chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and subcommittee ranking member Pete Olson (R-TX), the letter asks NASA to provide budget details about the new plan for human spaceflight taking into account the new initatives announced by President Obama on April 15 (a crew escape vehicle for the International Space Station and a $40 million jobs fund for Florida space workers). Gen. Bolden told the committee at a May 26 hearing that the agency would be submitting a revised FY2011 budget request "in the near future," but would not specify when.

The congressional letter suggests that the committee is skeptical that the new Obama plan is any more executable in terms of budget than the Constellation program the President wants to cancel. It specifically asks NASA to provide not only the planned budgets, but "the budgetary analysis and assumptions used to demonstrate the executability of your proposed plan...."

The letter points out that the amount of human spaceflight funding requested in the FY2011 runout is about the same as what was in the FY2010 runout, which the Augustine committee concluded was insufficient to fund any of its options. It also reveals that budget guidance given to NASA through the year 2025 -- the date by which NASA is supposed to send a human mission to an asteroid -- is "$40-50 billion less than the amount the Augustine panel said would be needed to execute any of its exploration options."

South Korean Navy May Have Recovered Rocket Debris

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 11-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

The South Korean Navy may have recovered some of the debris from the country's failed rocket launch yesterday, reports the Yonhap News Service. The debris was recovered just south of Jeju Island, Yonhap reported. Latest speculation from Seoul is that the rocket exploded just before the first stage engine was about to reach maximum thrust. The first stage was built by Russia. The two countries are working together to determine the cause of the failure.

House Calls for Development of Standards to Protect Electric Grid from Severe Space Weather Events

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 11-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

On Wednesday, the House passed the Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense (GRID) Act, H.R. 5026 (H. Rept. 111-493), whose purpose is to protect the U.S. bulk-power system and electric infrastructure. Cybersecurity and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threats and vulnerabilities are addressed in the bill. The EMP vulnerabilities include severe space weather events, or "geomagnetic storms" as they are called in the bill.

Space weather refers to the effects on Earth and its environs of the Sun's "coronal mass ejections" - more commonly known as solar flares. It has long been known that solar flares disrupt high frequency radio communications, but they can also disrupt the Earth's magnetic field causing voltages in electric transmission lines that can damage the large transformers that are critical components of the electric grid. A 1989 power outage that affected a large swath of northeastern Canada was caused by such an event.

With the world increasingly dependent on terrestrial electrical power grids, as well as terrestrial and space-based communications systems and satellite-based navigation and timing (GPS), the consequences of severe space weather events could be catastrophic. The National Research Council published a report in 2008 describing the potential societal and economic effects of severe space weather events and asked whether U.S. institutions are prepared "to cope with the effects of a 'space weather Katrina,' a rare, but according to historical records, not inconceivable eventuality?"

The GRID bill focuses on the electric grid only. Among its provisions is directing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), through its electric reliability organization, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), to establish a reliability standard to protect the bulk power system from geomagnetic storms. FERC must "identify the nature and magnitude of the reasonably foreseeable geomagnetic storm events against which the standards should protect, similar to the identification of a 'design basis threat.' The standards must balance risks against the cost of protecting against those risks."

At a meeting on space weather issues Tuesday, Dr. Chris Beck, a staff member for the House Homeland Security Committee, noted that there is no companion bill in the Senate. With the Senate moving slowly on most legislation, he does not expect the bill to reach the Senate floor, but was relatively optimistic that it might be incorporated into an appropriations bill.

Events of Interest   

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


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