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NASA is Not the Only Space Workplace Downsizing (Bigelow Too)

Bigelow joins NASA on the “downsizing” list. This is from Spacenews.com last week-

Bigelow Aerospace, which is developing inflatable space habitats for commercial use, laid off some 40 of its 90 employees Sept. 29, a company official confirmed.

“We are proceeding with a core group of fifty plus engineers, managers and support staff,” Mike Gold, Bigelow Aerospace’s director of Washington operations and business growth, said in an emailed response to questions from Space News. “This core group allows us to retain key human capital and capabilities, with which we are continuing to aggressively pursue the development and eventual deployment of the BA 330 system.”

The BA 330 is a six-person inflatable space station Bigelow Aerospace of North Las Vegas, Nev., is developing to serve commercial and government human spaceflight markets. The BA 330 is one of the proposed commercial platforms Boeing Co. intends to serve with the CST-100 space capsule it is developing with financial assistance from NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program.

Bigelow Aerospace employees told Space News that the company laid off nearly all of its machinists and that most of the workers retained are associated with the Boeing CCDev effort. Bigelow’s partnership with Boeing on the CST-100 predates Boeing’s 2010 CCDev award…

Full story…

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Sole-Source SLS, What Else Do People Expect?

MSFC had a big business meeting yesterday to kick off contracting for the SLS.

Here’s a preview by The Huntsville Times…

Blogs are already on about open competition for the big ticket items, but I haven’t seen anyone writing about what we knew all along, and that is this is going to be a big Boeing project. What else did you expect? The language in the NASA bill that approved SLS talked about using CxP contracts as much as practical to speed things up. We should not expect any big surprises on propulsion either.

If we want to see this project get half-done and cancelled in our lifetimes, NASA needs to streamline the process. This isn’t and wasn’t going to be a revolution.

At least critics have something else to write about besides Sen. Shelby and MSFC jobs. The truth here is MSFC is glad to get the SLS initial design work, but it is still letting people go, even today. The balance of work that MSFC will do on SLS is tiny compared to what was happening on Ares 1. MSFC was staffed up to design the Ares 1 Upper Stage and release designs for Boeing to manufacture. Those designers are gone. This time Boeing will do that part, and MSFC does “insight and oversight.” It’s hardly a make-work program for MSFC. It’s a “we still have too many people” program.

Read “NASA’s SLS Procurement: So Far, Sole Source Only” on Nasawatch…

From Spacepolitics…

NASA’s plan to sole-source most elements of the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket has led one member of Congress to complain to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). “I have serious concerns with NASA’s attempt to avoid holding a full and open competition to acquire the SLS,” Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA) wrote in a September 22 letter to the GAO, provided by the advocacy group Tea Party in Space (TPIS).

McClintock wrote that he believed NASA’s plans to procure key elements of the SLS through modifying existing contracts made them “de facto sole source awards” that could be in violation of the 1984 Competition in Contracting Act, which allows sole source awards only when there is a “single responsible source” to meet government needs…

Full story…

Nice try Tom, but a waste of time.

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ATK breathe life into Liberty via unfunded NASA Space Act Agreement

This is a good write-up on what is going on with ATK, NASA and the Liberty rocket idea. From Nasaspaceflight-

The company made famous in the space flight industry for their giant Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) have put their hat into the ring for potentially carrying NASA astronauts to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) via their Liberty launch vehicle. Looking very much like the cancelled Ares I – Liberty will use a five segment booster with a Ariane 5 core stage as the Upper Stage.

Liberty Agreement:

The announcement allows ATK to return Liberty back into contention with the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev-2) winners, under a similar milestone structure ATK proposed when bidding for progression in NASA’s drive to return the US back to being able to domestically launch its own astronauts.

The agreement allows for NASA collaboration on the development of the company’s Liberty Launch System as part of the CCDev-2 activities, but without NASA funding. Their goal will be to successfully impress NASA enough to be brought back into the fold by the time the CCDev-3 awards are made in 2012…

Full story…

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Pratt might jettison Rocketdyne

Spotted this on Nasawatch, from the Ctpost.com-

With support to explore outer space waning in Congress, Pratt & Whitney’s president said the company is considering a sale of its Rocketdyne division.
David Hess, president of East Hartford-based Pratt & Whitney, told reporters at Reuters annual Aerospace and Defense Summit, that Pratt had fielded interest in the California rocket-making division.
Later, Hess clarified that the sale was not imminent, but was a possible option, matching comments by a local analyst that does not expect Pratt to let the company go at a bargain price.
“With the lack of a clearly defined future path for human space exploration we are exploring all of our options with Rocketdyne,” Hess said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “Clearly we like the Rocketdyne technology that we’ve been able to leverage into our business and the highly skilled workforce. But, given the uncertainty in the space business today, we need to evaluate all our options and make decisions to ensure we’re best positioned for profitability and future growth…”

Full story…

Nasawatch entry and comments…

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Space X Looking at Third Launch Pad Option

Space X’s Elon Musk is clever. He’s got launch capabilities at the Cape and Vandenburg is in the works, and now he’s talking about Texas as a third option. Clever politics. From MSNBC.com-

Another base … in Texas?

Musk has already said that SpaceX is thinking about establishing anadditional base for launching Falcon rockets, to supplement its facilities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and the pad that’s currently being renovated at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Vandenberg pad is planned as the home base for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, which is designed to go after the Air Force’s satellite launch business.

Last month, local officials in Texas hinted that SpaceX was ready to invest up to $50 million in the Gulf Coast Regional Spaceport, south of Houston. Musk told me that he hadn’t yet decided where the third base would be located, but he made it sound as if he was firmly set on expanding operations…

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United Space Alliance Makes List of Job Killers

AOL posted a list of the 12 worst job-killing companies in the US, and United Space Alliance comes in at number eight-

8. United Space Alliance
Number of Jobs Killed: 1,950
A major contractor for NASA, United Space Alliance announced in April that it would cut 1,950 jobs as the U.S. space agency began winding down its space shuttle program. The last of those flights was completed last month with the return of the Atlantis space shuttle. The end of the flights is expected to reduce United Space Alliance’s headcount by about half — to around 2,800.

Full story…

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Huntsville Times Verifies More Contractor Layoffs

Still more layoffs are in the works. The Huntsville Times has verified the report HSP made when it heard from MSFC employees that got 60-day notices about Aug 1.

The Times found a letter that Jacobs wrote to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs that details what kind of jobs end by Oct 1.

From The Huntsville Times-

Nearly 300 more aerospace jobs are threatened in Huntsville as Marshall Space Flight Center moves to what its director calls “a smaller, leaner center.”
Jacobs Technology ESTS group notified 281 workers in writing last week that their jobs could end on or before Oct. 1, the beginning of the federal government’s new 2012 fiscal year.
Jacobs has been Marshall’s primary support contractor for engineering, science and technical services since 1989.
Jacobs currently employs or supports employment for more than 500 people in Huntsville, counting people working for its subcontractors. That number is down from recent years and reflects about 300 Jacobs team layoffs last year due to the shrinking space program…

Full story…

What’s this about? It looks like (so far) that it’s all about the end of ESTS, which has been in the works since last year. ESTS gets replaced in three parts, none of which are decided yet. These three don’t just kick in on Oct 1. Some of it won’t start until well into next year.

The contract work that was called ESTS will have names like “Engineering Science Services and Skills Augmentation (ESSSA)”, or “Engineered Solutions and Prototyping (ESP),” or “Marshall Integrated Program Support Services (MIPSS).” Local small business near MSFC is hoping that MIPSS (the smallest group) starts on or near Oct 1. Some of the others (like ESP) may take as long as 6 months.

The comments on the AL.com story are a bit off target because they are blaming the current congressional delegation for more jobs lost. Well, not exactly. What is going on is Jacobs’ ESTS is expiring, which is old news. It’s not clear yet what replaces it and when.

Space work takes long term planning to minimize job disruptions. The local community deserves better. A lot of it is out of MSFC’s control and it goes back to the previous Congress that couldn’t make up it’s mind on space exploration until the last minute.

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Four Companies Have NASA Fuel Depot Contracts

From Space.com…

If humans are ever to live and explore in deep space for extended periods, space gas stations may prove a vital necessity. Toward that end, NASA has awarded contracts to four companies with plans to study how to store and transfer fuel in space.

It’s not simply a matter of building a Shell station in orbit. Rocket fuel is cryogenic, meaning super-cold substances like liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. If not kept extremely chilled and protected, some of those liquids tend to boil off into gases.

“Storing cryogenic propellants such as liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen in space for long periods of time with minimal boil-off is critical for deep space human exploration,” according to a NASA statement…

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NASA, United Launch Alliance Announce New Commercial Crew Agreement

PR from Nasa.gov-

NASA and United Launch Alliance (ULA) managers will hold a news conference on Monday, July 18, at ULA headquarters in Centennial, Colo., to announce a new Commercial Crew Development agreement.

The news conference will begin at 11 a.m. MDT in the first floor conference center.

To participate, journalists must RSVP to ULA’s Chris Chavez at chris.s.chavez@ulalaunch.com by 9 a.m. MDT on Monday. Reporters also may participate by calling 800-951-1214. Media representatives must call by 11:15 a.m. to join the news conference.

The briefing participants are:

– Ed Mango, NASA Commercial Crew Development program manager
– Dan Collins, chief operating officer, ULA
– Dr. George Sowers, vice president, ULA business development

Full story…

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