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If all goes according to plan, tomorrow (Tuesday, September 8) will open the next chapter in determining the future of the U.S. human space flight program. The "summary report" of the Augustine committee is due to be transmitted to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and NASA that day. How much detail will be contained in the summary report is unclear, but it should at a minimum outline the committee's determination of which options the White House and NASA should include in their "trade space" as the future of the program is debated once more.
The Augustine committee is tasked with providing options, not making recommendations. Many who are eagerly -- perhaps anxiously -- awaiting the committee's report point out that options can be written in such a manner as to telegraph intentions, and perhaps that will be the case, but one can certainly expect firm statements of findings. What is clear from the public meetings is that the committee has concluded that --
Many of the committee members also seem to have a preference for extending the lifetime of the International Space Station (ISS) to 2020. How they will handle the other major issues -- whether additional shuttle flights should be flown beyond the six currently scheduled, what should be the next destination for human space flight if the country decides it is willing to spend the money and, if so, whether NASA should continue with Ares/Orion or choose a different architecture -- is less clear from the public record.
As pointed out by Jeff Foust on Spacepolitics.com, on Friday the White House released a list of 10 individuals for whom ethics waivers were granted, including NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. The waiver, which was signed on July 23 by someone whose signature is obscured on the document, can be found here.
Virgin Galactic's business plan does not appear to be negatively affected by the global economic downturn according to a September 4 Aviation Week & Space Technology article.
"With a rather unique support base of $40 million in deposits representing $60 million in total income from 300 suborbital adventurers, the project's financial footing remains firm despite the global economic gloom. 'These are the kinds of customers who are not much affected by that, and sales this month are better than they were a year ago. Regardless of what's happening in the economy, success or failure is in the hands of the people in the project,' says [Virgin Galactic President Will] Whitehorn."
NPR's Science Friday highlights the Rocket Park Mini-Golf course at the New York Hall of Science in Queens. It isn't just fun, but teaches the mini-golfers about the space program. Check out the video on NPR's website. Former astronaut Charles Camarda (who flew on the STS-114 Return to Flight mission) now works on public outreach at NASA and is interviewed in the video as he plays a round of golf with a group of kids. Looks like fun!
Indonesia's Palapa-D telecommunications satellite has successfully arrived in geostationary transfer orbit despite the underperformance of China's Long March 3B rocket according to Thales Alenia Space, the satellite's manufacturer. A press release from the company states that three perigee boost maneuvers were used to reach the correct orbit for this phase of the satellite's checkout; it still must be boosted into geostationary orbit for its operational phase. Using some of the satellite's fuel to achieve the correct orbit may reduce the satellite's operational life, but the company said it had conducted the unplanned perigee burns "with optimised use of propellant."
NASA and ATK announced today that the rescheduled test of the Ares 1 rocket motor will be conducted on September 10. Space.com reported the story on Wednesday. The test will take place at 1:00 pm MT (3:00 pm EDT) and will be carried live on NASA's media channel.
The House Science and Technology Committee has scheduled a hearing on "Options and Issues for NASA's Human Space Flight Program: Report of the 'Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans' Committee," otherwise known as the Augustine committee. The hearing will be held on September 15 from 2:00-4:00 pm in 2318 Rayburn House Office Building. Mr. Augustine and NASA Administrator Bolden are the scheduled witnesses.
Euroconsult Projects $1 Billion in Earth Observation Data Sales in 2009 Rising to $3.9 Billion by 2018
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 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.
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