Latest News

New NRC Decadal Survey About to Start -- This One is for Solar and Space Physics

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

The Space Studies Board (SSB) at the National Research Council is about to begin a new Decadal Survey for solar and space physics. This will be the second in this discipline. The first was published in 2003. SSB Senior Program Officer Art Charo will be the study director for this one as he was for the first.

A website has been established for the study where you can learn about its parameters and nominate someone (including yourself) to serve on the steering committee or one the panels. Decadal Surveys typically take two years to complete. The steering committee is expected to hold five meetings in 2010-2011 and each of the three panels (Solar & Heliosphere Physics, Solar Wind-Magnetosphere Interactions, and Atmosphere-Ionosphere-Magnetosphere Interactions) will meet three times in 2010-2011.

The Decadal Survey is intended to prioritize research for the 2013-2022 time frame, so presumably will have to be completed in time to influence FY2013 budget decisions, which would be sometime before August 2011.

The NRC is at the end stages of the Astro2010 Decadal Survey for ground- and space-based astronomy and astrophysics. Decadal Surveys for Planetary Science, and for Biological and Physical Sciences in Space, also are underway.

Need a Great Washington Policy-Related Job? ASEB is Looking for a Program Officer

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

The Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) of the National Research Council has an opening for a Program Officer. Here's a link to the NRC posting. Program officers are mid-career professionals who serve as study directors, facilitating the work of NRC committees that write reports such as those listed on the left menu of our website. Some say the job is akin to herding cats, but it actually can be a lot of fun and you get to work with some of the country's leading experts in aeronautics and space -- and your NRC colleagues are terrific to work with (though I admit I have a very biased viewpoint on that)!!

Summer Reading List Added to Our Menu

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

To help you keep track of our Summer Reading List, we've added it to our left menu under "Other Links." Enjoy!

UPDATE: Falcon 9 is off!

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 04-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

UPDATE 6: Second stage shutdown is nominal. Everything's looking good. Congratulations SpaceX!

UPDATE 5: Stage separation is successful.

UPDATE 4: Falcon 9 is off!

UPDATE 3: SpaceX has resolved the problem and launch is now scheduled for 2:45 pm.

UPDATE2: The Falcon 9 had a launch abort seconds before launch.

UPDATE: Launch is expected at 1:30. Watch live at SpaceX or

ORIGINAL STORY: We are still awaiting the first launch of Falcon 9. Earlier problems have been resolved, but now a sailboat is "in the box" -- the prohibited area off of Cape Canaveral (for launch safety reasons). Launch now will happen no earlier than 1:30 pm.

SpaceX Releases Press Kit for Falcon 9 Launch Today

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 04-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

SpaceX has just released the press kit for the Falcon 9 launch this morning. has good coverage of the launch preparations and is currently noting that the 11:00 launch is in a race against bad weather that's coming in. SpaceX is supposed to show the launch on its website, too, but I can't get into the site.

NASA/Commerce Space Workforce Update Delayed to 10:30

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 04-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

According to a notice on NASA TV, the briefing by Charlie Bolden and Secretary of Commerce Locke will now be at 10:30 instead of 10:00. Unless it's really short, it will end up conflicting with the Falcon 9 launch at 11:00.

Musk Reasonably Confident of Falcon 9 Launch Friday

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 04-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

In a media teleconference today, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said that he feels there is about a 75 percent chance that the first launch of Falcon 9 will succeed tomorrow. He stressed that if it fails, that should not be interpreted as a failure of the commercial space launch industry. Indeed, he insists that the future of the space program depends on commercial companies like his because the government simply does not have the money to continue with the space program as it has in the past.

The four hour launch window
opens at 11:00 am EDT tomorrow. Saturday has been reserved for a second attempt in case anything goes awry, like the weather.

In response to a question about how much has been invested in Falcon 9, Musk said that it is impossible to separate Falcon 9 from Falcon 1 since so many aspects of it are the same, such as the Merlin engine, avionics, software, and ground support equipment. He said that SpaceX has invested a total of $350-400 million total to date for all versions of the Falcon and associated technology and launch site infrastructure.

He also stressed that complete reusability is his goal, although recovery will be attempted only of the first stage of Falcon 9 on this flight. For the future, though, he commented that "I would not consider SpaceX a complete success unless we get complete reusability."

A reporter asked if he felt that SpaceX was a political football, and Musk answered "Yes, we're a political punching bag, a whipping boy," adding that it was unfortunate. Opponents have taken aim at SpaceX while ignoring the Atlas and Delta, he said.

He also clarified that recent media stories about a delay between the launch of the first and second COTS demonstration flights missed the important point that what SpaceX is really trying to do is accelerate the demonstration of delivering cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). The plan was for three demonstration flights, with the third actually berthing with the ISS to deliver cargo. He now wants to do that on the second demonstration flight instead, and the third flight would be used as a backup if the second flight was not fully successful. NASA has not yet approved the new plan, however, he added.

As for the flight tomorrow, SpaceX is aiming for a 250 mile circular orbit due east out of Cape Canaveral. Musk repeated what the company put out in a press release yesterday that they will consider it a good day if only the first stage flies as planned; it would be a "great" day if the first and second stages performed correctly and the payload reached orbit.

National Security Strategy Calls for Security and Stability in Space, Healthy Workforce

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 03-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

In the introduction to his National Security Strategy released last week, President Obama once again invoked his childhood fascination with the space program, mentioning his "awe at watching a space capsule pulled out of the Pacific" while espousing that "America's greatest asset is its people." He added that "Our long-term security will come not from our ability to instill fear in other peoples, but through our capacity to speak to their hopes."

Though brief references to space capabilities are scattered throughout the report, the most extensive treatment is in the section on "Prosperity" where it is the fifth of five elements under "Enhance Science, Technology and Innovation." It asserts that the United States will "pursue activities consistent with the inherent right of self defense," but the focus is international cooperation and promoting "security and stability in space." It also emphasizes the need for investing in space technologies and "the people and industrial base that develops them." The full text of that paragraph (p. 31) is as follows:

"Leverage and Grow our Space Capabilities: For over 50 years, our space community has been a catalyst for innovation and a hallmark of U.S. technological leadership. Our space capabilities underpin global commerce and scientific advancements and bolster our national security strengths and those of our allies and partners. To promote security and stability in space, we will pursue activities consistent with the inherent right of self-defense, deepen cooperation with allies and friends, and work with all nations toward the responsible and peaceful use of space. To maintain the advantages afforded to the United States by space, we must also take several actions. We must continue to encourage cutting-edge space technology by investing in the people and industrial base that develops them. We will invest in the research and development of next-generation space technologies and capabilities that benefit our commercial, civil, scientific exploration, and national security communities, in order to maintain the viability of space for future generations. And we will promote a unified effort to strengthen our space industrial base and work with universities to encourage students to pursue space-related careers."

Bolden and Locke To Update Plans to Help Florida Space Workers

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 03-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke will provide an update on the work of their task force that was created in response to President Obama's April 15 promise to spend $40 million to help space workers along Florida's space coast. The event starts at 10:00 am EDT and will be held at the Orlando Airport Hyatt Hotel in Orlando, FL. It can be viewed on NASA TV.

UPDATE: Soyuz Safely Home

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 02-Jun-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

UPDATE: The Soyuz landed safely at 11:25 pm EDT today (9:25 am June 2 in Kazakhstan).

ORIGINAL STORY: Soyuz TMA-17 is on its way home. The spacecraft carrying threeof the six International Space Station (ISS) crew members undocked from the ISS at 8:04 pm EDT. Landing will be at 11:24 pm EDT in Kazakhstan. Live coverage is available right now on NASA TV.

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