Obama Outlines New Vision for NASA
President Obama outlined a new strategic vision for NASA in a speech delivered at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 15, 2010. The president announced plans to increase NASA’s budget by $6 billion over the next five years to fund initiatives that include “robotic exploration of the solar system, including a probe of the sun’s atmosphere; new scouting missions to Mars and other destinations; and an advanced telescope to follow Hubble.” Obama cited the need to “increase Earth-based observation to improve our understanding of our climate and our world” and expressed a commitment to “extend the life of the International Space Station” by five years or more.
A significant component of the new strategic plan is an increased reliance on commercial space. “We will work with a growing array of private companies competing to make getting to space easier and more affordable,” Obama said. This approach will include an investment of more than $3 billion to conduct research on an advanced heavy lift rocket. “We will finalize a rocket design no later than 2015 and then begin to build it,” he said.
In a subsequent statement to Congress on April 22, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. explained, “The president’s plan transitions away from the Constellation program, although it will restructure the Orion project to develop a standby emergency return module for the Space Station.” Bolden also said that NASA “will encourage the development of, and then purchase, commercial human spaceflight transportation services to safely access low Earth orbit.”
The strategic vision for NASA includes “a human mission to an asteroid by 2025, and a human mission to orbit Mars and return safely to Earth by the 2030s,” Obama said, adding, “and I expect to be around to see it.”
Environmental Satellite Launched
Aerospace supported NOAA and NASA in the launch of the latest Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES-P). The third and last satellite in the GOES-N, O, P series, it was launched from Cape Canaveral on a Delta IV on March 4, 2010.
Once operational, GOES-P will provide a continuation of meteorological/ environmental information and services to the GOES data user community. Aerospace played a key role in prelaunch, launch, and postlaunch activities. Jim O’Neal, systems director, Suitland program office, said, “Aerospace provided launch vehicle hardware systems status and expertise on the Delta IV launch system necessary for the review of the GOES-P launch vehicle.”
Aerospace also provided support to ground system upgrades, training simulations, and independent review team analyses for both the spacecraft and launch vehicle. During launch, Aerospace engineers served on console at the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility providing senior systems engineering support to NOAA’s launch team. Aerospace engineers will also provide support during the postlaunch test phase. GOES-P reached its on-orbit storage location in March.
Uncrewed Spaceplane Takes Flight
On April 22, 2010, the Air Force launched an Atlas V rocket carrying an uncrewed spaceplane into orbit. The Orbital Test Vehicle X-37B is the first U.S. uncrewed reentering space vehicle, according to the Air Force, and is equipped with a moderately sized cargo bay, deployable solar array, and short wings to help guide it back to Earth. Goals for the risk-reduction flight included the demonstration of new heat shield technologies, advanced guidance and navigation, a solar power generation system, and flight control systems. The launch also marked the first launch of the Atlas V without solid rocket motors.
The Air Force’s first attempt at a spaceplane was the Dyna-Soar of the early 1960s. It never flew, but its research was later applied to the development of the space shuttle and other space systems.
Austin Appointed to Defense Science Board
Aerospace President and CEO Wanda Austin was appointed to the Defense Science Board on January 5, 2010. The board is a federal advisory group that provides independent, informed advice on science and technology efforts to the secretary of defense, deputy secretary, and undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics. Current board task forces are studying trends and implications of climate change for national and international security, enhancing the adaptability of military forces, the role of autonomy in DOD systems, improvised explosive devices, and early intercept of ballistic missile defense. Austin was one of 39 new members appointed to the board.
“I am honored to have this opportunity to serve my country,” said Austin. “The Defense Science Board plays an important role in strengthening our national defense, and I look forward to working with such a distinguished group of people.”
RAIDS Monitors Space Environment from International Space Station
A project that began 25 years ago was launched into space on Sept. 10, 2009. RAIDS (Remote Atmospheric and Ionospheric Detection System) was carried to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the Japanese H-II transfer vehicle. The experiment had spent more than 15 years in storage waiting for a vehicle to take it into orbit.
RAIDS is a set of eight optical instruments developed by The Aerospace Corporation and the Naval Research Laboratory that monitor, observe, and characterize the space environment. The instruments measure limb radiances from 55 to 870 nanometers that can be converted to neutral temperatures in the 80–300 kilometer region of the atmosphere, aiding scientists in the understanding of regional density variations and their effects on satellite drag, space debris, and space weather. The instruments are also designed to help understand how solar radiation ionizes the atmosphere, which in turn will help in the refinement of satellite communication systems.
Data from RAIDS will help scientists better understand and predict global space weather changes and help protect communication and navigation satellites from space debris. The instruments are designed to help scientists monitor the shifting density of a poorly understood part of the upper atmosphere.
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