News: April 2007 Archives

NRO Launch Info

Ocean Recons Readied - NRO readies sea surveillance flight, optical satellite procurement, Aviation Week and Space Technology

"Secret National Reconnaissance Office dual satellite ocean surveillance mission to track potential terrorist movements at sea and Chinese and Iranian ship tactics is being readied for liftoff June 14 here on an Atlas V, say intelligence sources. The National Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS) flight is designated NRO L-30. "We're on track for a mid-June launch of the Atlas V," says Lt. Col. Kent Nickle, director of operations for the 5th Space Launch Sqdn. of the 45th Space Wing here. He did not address the secret ocean surveillance payloads, however."

Star Trek's Scotty, NASA's Cooper in space, AP

"The cremated remains of actor James Doohan, who portrayed "Scotty" of the Star Trek starship Enterprise, and Gemini astronaut Gordon Cooper sailed into suborbital space this morning aboard a rocket launched from the southern New Mexico desert. It marked the first successful launch from Spaceport America, a commercial spaceport being developed in Upham, N.M."


Editor's note: Over the past few days there has been a lot of heavy breathing and arm waving on various space discussion and space collectible websites about comments that former (and therefore out of the loop) astronaut John Young supposedly made that the Orion/Ares 1 projects were doomed and/or other rumors that Mike Griffin was going to be replaced. This is just pure Internet-hyped goofery with no basis whatsoever in fact or reality. So, would all of you who are engaging in this pointless exercise please, just sit down, and shut up.

IG Investigation Update

NASA Chief Improperly Destroyed Tapes of Meeting, Lawmaker Says, Washington Post

"NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin held an unusual meeting with the staff of the inspector general who oversees his agency and then ordered that video recordings of the meeting be destroyed, a House panel said yesterday."

Larger Virginia Tech Shooting Panel Being Considered, US News & World Report

"One name in the mix to be on, or perhaps to run, the still-unformed commission is Sean O'Keefe, the president's former NASA administrator and deputy budget chief. O'Keefe is now chancellor at Louisiana State University. He had previously served in the first Bush administration as Navy secretary and Pentagon comptroller and later worked at Penn State and Syracuse universities."

Sharp Objects Sale at KSC

Sealed Bid 804200-2007-0033: "Miscellaneous Knives, Scissors, Finger Nail Files, and Other Sharp Objects, apx. 50 boxes. Some items may be rusty. FSC: 9999 Acquisition Cost: $3,000 Condition: Used/Fair - Scrap"

Editor's note: Have a look at the photos. This is quite a collection of "sharp objects". I wonder where they collected all this stuff from - and why they collected it in the first place.

Editor's update: The clear consensus from NASA Watch readers is that this stuff was probably collected from people entering the KSC Visitor's Center as they went through the metal detectors.

Army gives Stanford $105M for supercomputing center at NASA Ames East Bay Business Times

"The U.S. Army has given Stanford University a $105 million, five-year grant to build a computing research center at NASA Ames Research Center. Stanford said the Mountain View-based facility will be used for advanced simulations to help develop new materials for military vehicles and equipment, improve communication on the battlefield, and aid detection of biological or chemical attacks."

Queen Elizabeth II to Visit NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

"The visit to Goddard will include a presentation and reception with employees, a demonstration of the new Science on a Sphere visualization system, and a tree planting ceremony at the Goddard visitor center. The queen will have an opportunity to speak with the current crew aboard the International Space Station. The duke will tour facilities used to build and evaluate satellites and equipment being prepared for space flight."

Editor's note: ... and all work at GSFC will come to a halt for a day or so. Gee, I wonder that the cost of this meet and greet exercise will be?

The Air Force Minotaur 1 rocket carrying the Missile Defense Agencys Near Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE) satellite was launched at 2:48 a.m., Tuesday, April 24.

Updates and photos

YouTube video of launch below.

NASA shooter feared being fired, police say, AP

"Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt said Phillips bought the .38-caliber revolver March 18, two days after receiving an e-mail citing deficiencies in his job performance and saying that he was going to be reviewed. A copy of the e-mail was found in Phillips' lunch bag on the day of the shootings, police Lt. Larry Baimbridge said."

Statement by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin on Shootings at Johnson Space Center

A Message from NASA Johnson Space Center Director Michael Coats on Today's Shootings

"A tragedy struck our NASA family today. While we don't yet understand all that's happened, our hearts and prayers go out to the families and coworkers who lost their loved ones today and to the survivor who endured a tragic ordeal."

Senator Sean O'Keefe?

Editor's note: There is a rumor going around NASA about Sean O'Keefe's next job i.e. that he is going to run for the U.S. Senate. As you may recall, O'Keefe is currently chancellor of LSU. I asked him today to comment on this rumor. He replied "I was asked that question at a faculty meeting recently. My response was to remind folks that William Tecumseh Sherman was the first President of LSU. His famous refrain when asked if he'd run for President of the U.S. was "if nominated I will not run, and if elected, I will not serve." My refusal to ever be a candidate would make Sherman's sound like he was equivocating! Translate - I'd rather be dead in a ditch than ever be a candidate for public office."

Another Google Giggle

Editor's note: Check out this link from Google maps which describes how to drive from New York to Italy. Step 24 is rather straight forward.

NASA rethinks plan to close robotics office, Huntsville Times

"Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., in a morning speech said he was counting the days until NASA Administrator Michael Griffin lost his job. And Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, in an afternoon interview questioned whether Griffin misled him about the future of the Lunar Precursor Robotics Program, based at Marshall Space Flight Center. ... NASA is reconsidering plans to close a lunar robotics office in Huntsville, a decision announced Tuesday evening, a few hours after two members of Alabama's congressional delegation escalated their dispute with the space agency."

Editor's note: It would seem by virtue of these remarks (which seem to border on being a slow motion temper tantrum) that Sen. Shelby is becoming increasingly frustrated now that his party is in the minority and he is less able to bully Mike Griffin - and NASA - around.

Orbital Express Satellites Successfully Separate, Remate, DARPA

"The two Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Orbital Express spacecraft, launched March 8 in a mated configuration, yesterday successfully separated for the first time."

Boeing Orbital Express Conducts First Autonomous Spacecraft-to-Spacecraft Fluid and Component Transfer

"In its first on-orbit demonstration 300 miles above the Earth, Boeing's Orbital Express system autonomously transferred propellant fuel and a battery from one spacecraft to another, marking industry firsts for the revolutionary system."

Editor's note: Here is an update page at DARPA. Lots of cool pictures and videos.

'Smart dust' to explore planets, BBC

"Tiny "smart" devices that can be borne on the wind like dust particles could be carried in space probes to explore other planets, UK engineers say. The devices would consist of a computer chip covered by a plastic sheath that can change shape when a voltage is applied, enabling it to be steered. Details were presented at the National Astronomy Meeting in Preston."

NASA JSC Solicitation: Construction of Office Building 20 at NASA Johnson Space Center

"NASA/JSC plans to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the construction of a new three story office building onsite at the Johnson Space Center. The new office building will be approximately 93,400 square feet and accommodate approximately 520 people."

Reader note: "I just saw your posting on the JSC office building. It's explained on page SD21-22 of the FY08 budget:" Basically, folks have been working out of temporary metal buildings. There's a lot of info in that supporting data section of the FY08 budget doc."

Editor's note: Even without knowing what this building is for I am a little confused.

Inspector general to be focus of hearing, Orlando Sentinel

"A long list of allegations against NASA Inspector General Robert Cobb will be the subject of a congressional hearing May 9, House and Senate sources confirmed Monday. A federal investigation recently found that Cobb, installed in 2002, "engaged in abuse of authority" and sometimes created an appearance that he lacked independence over an agency he was supposed to oversee."

Two Letters That Nelson, Gordon, and Miller Do Not Want You To See, earlier post
Can You Hear Me Now? Sen. Nelson's Shouting Press Officer Responds, earlier post
Good Grief, Now Its a "Battle", earlier post
Let's Hang The IG From The Nearest Tree, earlier post

New Generation of Space Tether Scheduled for Launch 17 April 2007, Tethers Unlimited

"The Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) "Multi-Application Survivable Tether" (MAST) experiment will be launched April 17th to study the dynamics of tethered spacecraft formations and survivability of a new multistrand tether technology in low Earth orbit (LEO). The MAST experiment consists of three GPS receiver-equipped picosatellites stacked for launch into a volume about the size of a loaf of bread."

Liftport - The Space Elevator Companies Shuts Down, Editorial, The Space Elevator Reference

"Starting a business from the ground up is extremely tough. I know, I've done it a few times. So I'm not surprised to read that Liftport has shut down operations. This is according to what's posted by Brian Dunbar in the Liftport blog."

Editor's note: Eric Sterner is leaving NASA. Charles Scales will be the new Associate Deputy Administrator for Policy and Planning. Bob Hopkins will be the acting Chief of Strategic Communications.

Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut Dies at 84, AP

"Kurt Vonnegut, the satirical novelist who captured the absurdity of war and questioned the advances of science in darkly humorous works such as "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Cat's Cradle," died Wednesday. He was 84."

Editor's note: So it goes.

Lockheed-Martin CEO: crisis in aerospace engineering, EE Times

"Lockheed-Martin Corp. CEO Robert Stevens warned Tuesday (March 10) that "space is broken, badly broken" and the U.S. space effort needs an infusion of both federal funds and a revitalized engineering infrastructure to rescue both civilian and military efforts."

Where Democrats and Republicans should boldly go, opinion, LA Times

"Republicans and Democrats must come together on seeing the "Vision for Space" through. Any delay would cost the taxpayers billions of dollars in research and development and further increase the time from when the space shuttle stops flying in 2010 until we get the next-generation Orion spacecraft into orbit. Even with the current "vision," it is anticipated that our nation will have no Americans flying on American spacecraft for at least four to six years. A delay now would put our nation at a serious disadvantage in terms of national security."

Orbital Express Update

Ball Aerospace's NextSat Delivers First-Rate Performance

"Following launch, the ASTRO spacecraft experienced an anomaly with the guidance and control systems. To allow time to correct the problem, control of the mated pair was shifted from ASTRO to NextSat and the OE team used NextSat's guidance system to successfully point the mated stack towards the sun. Since then, revised software has been successfully loaded and validated, and the ASTRO vehicle is currently controlling the OE stack in the planned nominal mode."

Editor's note: The first letter, from Clay Johnson, Chairman of the President's Council on Integrity and Efficency to James Burrus, Chairman of the Integrity Committee, asks Burrus to confirm a number of things with regard to NASA IG Robert Cobb:

"First, I asked for clarification of whether the Integrity Committee concluded that Mr. Cobb had broken any laws or acted illegally. You reported that he had not. Instead, the conclusions of the Integrity Committee related to management and appearance concerns.

Editor's note: While things seem to be going better for Orbital express - images, fuel transfers, etc., word has it that the reaction wheels were installed upside down inside of Orbital Express - and ground software checks were not run with that change taken into account. Also, sources report that Orbital Express software code was actually being written while the spacecraft was sitting at the Astrotech facility undergoing final integration just prior to launch. I spoke with someone from DARPA PAO about these issues last week. They were supposed to get back to me with answers to my questions about the reaction wheel and software issues - and put me on their distribution list for written updates - neither of which they have done.

Video From Orbital Express
Orbital Express Is Not Out of the Woods - yet
Orbital Express - Good News - And Not So Good News
Boeing Orbital Express page

Finding Doomsday Asteroids, editorial, NY Times

"How much effort should we expend to ward off the possibility that an asteroid might some day collide with Earth? Space experts attending a recent conference in Washington lamented the failure of the federal government - indeed, of the entire world - to take the threat seriously enough. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, at virtually the same moment, advised Congress on steps that could be taken to find and divert threatening asteroids only to conclude that it couldn't afford them."



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This page is an archive of entries in the News category from April 2007.

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