Griffin: KSC Could Lose Thousands Of Jobs

Thousands of people could lose their jobs as NASA transitions from the space shuttle to its new Ares/Orion system beginning in 2010, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin warned this week.

“Our new systems will require and should require fewer people to operate the shuttle which is an expensive system,” Griffin said.

India Takes Step Toward Human Spaceflight, Space Station

The Indian government has appropriated an additional $200 million for development of the country’s nascent human spaceflight program, according to the Hindustan Times.

The funding provided to the Indian Space Research Organisation includes a near 24 percent increase to the Department of Space, the newspaper reported. Part of the allocation goes to the Indian Institute for Space Technology under construction near Thiruvananthapuram.

NASA Sprints to Finish ISS So It Can Go Back to the Moon

World Magazine reports on NASA’s sprint to finish the International Space Station by 2010 so it can turn its attention toward landing people on the moon by 2020.

The full article requires a $5 subscription, so if you are interested in receiving 8 issues of a magazine that bills itself as “Today’s News | Christian Views,” then click here.

Florida Prepares for the Post-Shuttle Era

The Naples Daily News has a story about Space Florida, the state-created organization set up to make sure that Florida maintains its leading role in space exploration in the decades ahead.

Space Florida is working to attract new companies to make use of the state’s extensive aerospace expertise for projects as diverse as space tourism and asteroid mining.

CEO and President Steve Kohler says the space industry is in transition, with the shuttle retiring in 2010 and private space vehicles and orbiting facility coming online soon. Florida is now facing competition from Texas and even Singapore.

“Challenges create opportunities,” Kohler said.

Starchaser rethinking NM Spaceport America site

British-based Starchaser Industries says it is reconsidering whether to launch its rocket from New Mexico in favor of sites in Europe and Florida, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.

CEO Steve Bennett told the paper that after conducting a study on launch options, “it became clear that New Mexico may not be the optimum location from which to conduct Starchaser operations.” Bennett didn’t elaborate, but the company’s closed its facility near Las Cruces in November.

Spaceport America officials said that Starchaser’s decision would not affect plans for the facility, which is set to open in 2010.

Blogging from NASA’s 3rd Exploration Conference

Rob Coppinger is blogging from NASA’s 3rd Exploration Conference in Denver. Rob provides detailed rundowns from various sessions, including extensive coverage of the space agency’s plans for human Moon missions. One intriguing post includes proposals for commercial participation in the lunar program.

Florida Considering Zero Liability Law for Space Tourism Companies

Jeff Foust over at Space Politics reports that the Florida Legislature is considering a zero liability law that would cover space tourist launched. The law, similar to one that Virginia passed, provides immunity to space companies for injuries or deaths as long as they get an “informed consent” agreement from tourists. The exceptions are gross negligence or intentional harm.

Foust has more on his blog here. You can also read the proposed Florida Senate and House bills here.

SpaceX to delay first Falcon 9 launch by 9 months

SpaceX has slipped the first launch of its Falcon 9 vehicle by nine months to June, 2009, according to Florida Today.

The El Segundo, Calif.-based company headed by Internet billionaire Elon Musk is receiving $278 million from NASA to launch three vehicles under its COTS program. COTS is designed to help develop commercial alternatives for cargo and crew delivery to the International Space Station.

Flight Global also has a story that includes comments from Musk blaming the delays on a shift in launch sites from a small Pacific atoll to Cape Canaveral and the “enormous amount of work” required to build a new rocket.

Meanwhile, SpaceX says it has completed qualification testing of its Merlin regeneratively cooled engine for its smaller Falcon 1 rocket, which is scheduled for Spring 2008. Two previous launch attempts of the missile failed.

UA shoots for the moon

The Arizona Daily Wildcat has published an editorial praising the university’s participation in the Google Lunar X Prize. The paper believes the combination of UA’s imaging experience, Raytheon’s missile technology, and Carnegie Mellon robotics expertise makes this a very strong entry in the competition to land a rover on the lunar surface.

“Private exploration is lighter, leaner and smarter than lumbering government projects, and we’re glad the UA is playing an important role in the future of space exploration. Google may be paying for the prize, and the UA may be a formidable competitor, but it’s humans everywhere who will reap its rewards,” the editors write.

Our view: An ear full

Florida Today questions the feasibility of a commercial spaceport at Kennedy Space Center in the wake of public hearings where residents spoke against its possible location in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The newspaper wonders whether the project is financially feasible and whether it would have a detrimental impact on tourism and the environment. “[Residents] also offered a good suggestion: Consider building the complex at abandoned launch sites at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,” the paper writes.

The Stars: Our Destination

The York University newspaper Excalibur has an article on the future of space exploration, which it sees in the form of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and other tourist vehicles.

“Popular opinion sees space flight as a sidebar to human development. Even NASA, with their use of aging, decrepit and obsolete shuttles, appears to believe the same. But fear not, for our savior has arrived in the form of a virgin. Well, the Virgin Galactic program that is. Virgin has taken the initiative in commercializing space travel as a luxury for those who can afford it,” Brent Rose writes.

Wildlife refuge is for birds not rockets, group tells NASA

An eclectic group of residents composed of birders, boaters, nudists and former NASA employees pleaded with the space agency not to build private launchpads near a world-renowned wildlife refuge, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

“That you would even consider it boggles my mind,” Wes Biggs of Orlando told NASA representatives during a public hearing. “The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge isn’t just another refuge. It’s one of the jewels of the federal wildlife system, and it is known worldwide.”

NASA wants commercial companies to build new launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center. It is considering several possible locations. Residents urged agency officials to make use of an abandoned Air Force range for the project. However, agency officials said it would be difficult to obtain the land from the military.

Florida Today also has a story about the public hearing.

Seven generations: a re-evaluation of the Paine Report

Alex Howerton has an interesting op-ed piece at The Space Review looking at the present and future state of American space exploration and doesn’t find much to feel confident about. Inadequate funding, weak political support and an apathetic public are all dragging down the U.S. effort. A change of administration next year may well doom the human moon program.

Howerton has a solution, however: go back to the future. He proposes resurrecting the 1986 National Commission on Space report, Pioneering the Space Frontier. Dubbed the Paine Report after its chairman, Dr. Thomas O. Paine, it is an excellent road map for future space exploration, Howerton says.

You can read his full commentary here.

Space Florida Actively Engaged in Growing State’s Aerospace Economy

Space Florida Press Release

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Feb. 20, 2008) – Space Florida is actively engaged with dozens of commercial space companies who have expressed an interest in expanding existing operations, or bringing new business to Florida, and state officials are confident in their ability to support these entrepreneurial ventures.