Briefs

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  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 15 October 2008
09:32 am ET






NASA and Alliant Test Flexible Solar Array

A flexible disk-shaped solar array was deployed successfully by NASA and AlliantTechsystems (ATK) as part of a technology risk-reduction project expected to aid development of the U.S. space agency’s Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle.

Minneapolis-based ATK said in an Oct. 9 press release that fabrication and deployment testing of the full-scale UltraFlex wing hardware has helped NASA, Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin and ATK address design questions and reduce potential risks.

The 5.5-meter-diameter solar arrays weigh half as much as traditional rigid-panel solar arrays, according to ATK, and are nearly identical to those that will provide power to Orion during its missions.

“Solar array performance and weight are critical factors in the development of vehicles that will be traveling to the [international space station] and the Moon,” ATK Space Systems President Carl Marchetto said in the press release. “The completion of these preliminary tests begins to demonstrate the critical functions and capability UltraFlex technology brings in support of the successful development of the Orion vehicle.”

ATK developed the UltraFlex arrays under contract to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as part of the New Millennium Program’s Space Technology 8 technology validation program.

NASA Sticks with 2009 for Mars Science Lab Launch

NASA will push ahead with its plan for an October 2009 launch of the already over-budget Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) despite ongoing technical and schedule difficulties all but certain to push the cost of the mission past $2 billion.

Officials in charge of NASA’s Mars program made the announcement Oct. 10 following a meeting with NASA Administrator Mike Griffin to discuss what to do about the mission in light of continued cost growth. MSL’s price tag has risen $300 million since mid-2006 topping $1.9 billion in NASA’s latest public estimate.

Doug McCuistion, the director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, said MSL will need more than $1.9 billion whether it launches as planned in October 2009 or is delayed two years until the next optimal launch window opens in 2011. McCuistion said NASA was not at liberty to say how much additional money MSL would need until it has a chance to square its budget needs with the White House and Congress.

NASA Mars officials are due to meet with Griffin about MSL again in January. By that time, McCuistion said, MSL officials expect to show that some key hardware and software deliveries holding up the project have been made and that testing has continued to go well.

While NASA could still decide to cancel MSL, NASA’s associate administrator for science, Ed Weiler, described that as an unlikely scenario.

“It’s easy to say, ‘let’s just cancel it and move on’ but we’ve poured over a billion-and-half dollars into this,” Weiler said. “The science is critical. It’s a flagship mission in the Mars program and as long as we think we have a good technical chance to make it we are going to do what we have to do.”

Weiler
said he would look for additional money for MSL in the Mars budget before putting the pinch on the rest of NASA’s planetary science portfolio.

ITT Wins $1.26 Billion NASA Support Contract

ITT Corp.’s Herndon, Va.-based Advanced Engineering and Sciences division unseated Honeywell Technology Solutions of Columbia, Md., to take home a NASA space communications network services contract worth up to $1.26 billion.

Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies, Greenbelt, Md., also bid for the contract.

The core portion of the five-year contract announced Oct. 8 is a cost-plus-award-fee deal covering the operation and maintenance of NASA’s Space Network, which consists of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellites, and ground systems primarily located at White Sands, N.M., and Guam. NASA uses the Space Network to communicate with the international space station, the Hubble Space Telescope and Earth-orbiting science satellites.

ITT’s contract also includes an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity portion covering the operation and maintenance of NASA’s Near Earth Network, with most of that work to be performed at White Sands; Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s eastern shore; the Merritt Island Launch Annex in Florida; and McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

“The ITT team is pleased to apply our broad range of engineering and management experience to provide NASA with comprehensive support for this cornerstone program,” ITT spokeswoman Leah Lackey said Oct. 10. “This win is very important to ITT because it allows us to draw from the integrated capabilities of two of our businesses to unlock tremendous value in support of NASA’s near-Earth missions.”

Lackey said ITT is actively recruiting to help fill the approximately 750 positions the contract could require, depending on the volume of orders under the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity portion of the contract.

A Honeywell spokeswoman said the company was disappointed that NASA Goddard Space Flight Center of Greenbelt awarded the contract to ITT.

“Honeywell performance delivered under the existing contract has been exemplary, including a 99.9 percent success rate without any error for downloads from satellites,” Honeywell spokeswoman Cathy Gedvilas said in an Oct. 9 e-mail. “Honeywell believes its team offered the very best capability and value for the Space Communications Networks Services program.”

Honeywell was selected to run the Space Network and Near Earth Network in 2003.

Jason-3 is OffEumetsat’s December Meeting Agenda

The 22-nation Eumetsat meteorological satellite organization has removed the Jason-3 ocean-altimetry project proposal from the agenda for its December council meeting, according to European government officials.

In the latest development in the long-running debate about Jason-3 funding in Europe, Eumetsat has decided not to commit itself before learning whether the funding gap that remains in Jason-3 will be filled by others.

Jason-3 appeared to have cleared one hurdle recently when the German space agency, DLR, dropped its opposition to having the European Space Agency (ESA) contribute to the program even though it consists of a mainly French satellite to be launched aboard a U.S. rocket financed by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Jason-3 would succeed the Jason-2, Jason-1 and Topex-Poseidon satellites launched by France and the United States since 1992.

Germany previously had refused to permit ESA participation in Jason-3 because of its French-American heritage, arguing that ESA funds should go toward European projects. The French space agency, CNES, is not contributing cash to Jason-3 but has agreed to donate a satellite platform and project engineering teams to the effort.

DLR Chairman Johann-Dietrich Woerner said recently that DLR is now ready “to show flexibility” and permit an ESA role in Jason-3 in the interest of finding a compromise on a wide range of ESA program proposals.

The commission of the 27-nation European Union has agreed tentatively to contribute to Jason-3, but the commission’s decision has yet to be confirmed.

Because of the funding uncertainties, Jason-3 backers had hoped Eumetsat would make a clear endorsement of the project at its December meeting. The agency had put Jason-3 on the agenda, but the mission since has been removed in the face of the continuing uncertainty.

U.S. Air Force Shelves Plan for Cyber Command

The U.S. Air Force leadership has decided to place responsibility for cyberspace operations under Air Force Space Command rather than stand up a new command for that activity, an Oct. 7 Air Force press release said.

An Air Force Cyber Command previously was to be established Oct. 1 and initially led by Maj. Gen. William Lord, but Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and his chief of staff now are focused on shoring up the service’s nuclear responsibilities, the release said. A nuclear command will be created to handle those responsibilities.

U.S. Senate Confirms New Director of DISA

The U.S. Senate on Oct. 2 confirmed U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Carroll Pollett as the new director of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), according to U.S Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Butterbaugh, a Pentagon spokesman.

Pollett
currently serves as chief of staff of U.S. Strategic Command. At DISA, he succeeds Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Croom, who retired July 22 and was replaced on an interim basis by his deputy, U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Elizabeth Hight.

Pollett
also will serve as the commander of the Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations, responsible for the operation and defense of the military’s Global Information Grid.

Space Adventures Books Training for an Investor

Space Adventures of Vienna, Va., which arranges rides aboard Russian Soyuz capsules for private citizens, announced Oct. 7 that one of its investors, entrepreneur Esther Dyson, will undergo training as a backup Soyuz crew member along with repeat customer Charles Simonyi.

Upon completion of the program at the Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, Dyson, will be certified as a cosmonaut. The program, for which Space Adventures charges $3 million, does not include an actual flight, but Dyson, in a prepared statement, said she fully expects to travel to space “sometime in the future.”

SES Sirius AB To Procure New Satellite from Loral

Space Systems/Loral will build the C- and Ku-band Sirius 5 satellite for satellite-fleet operator SES of Luxembourg under a contract SES and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Loral announced Oct. 9.

Sirius 5, scheduled to be ready for launch in late 2011, will be operated at 5 degrees west, the prime orbital slot used by SES Sirius AB of . The company’s Sirius 4 satellite, launched in November 2007, has been operational at that slot since January.

Sirius Loral 1300 satellite design, will feature two Ku-band beams, one for the Nordic and Baltic regions of , and the other for sub-Saharan . The two beams will have a combined 36 Ku-band transponders.

The satellite also will have two C- band beams with a total of 24 transponders. The C- and Ku-band capacity will be directed mainly at direct-to-home television customers in the target regions.

SES and its Nordic competitor, Telenor Satellite Broadcasting of Norway, both have said Central and Eastern Europe have become thriving markets for satellite television and are no longer a dumping ground for excess capacity held by West European-focused satellite- fleet operators.

NASA Solicits Input From Industry on Altair Lander

NASA is seeking industry input on its plan to award multiple study contracts in early 2009 for its proposed Altair lunar lander.

A request for information released by NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston Oct. 6 said the agency seeks feedback to help shape its acquisition approach for study contracts intended to keep multiple industry teams engaged in the Altair concept until NASA begins to nail down requirements for the crewed lander in 2012 or 2013.

Responses to the request for information were due Oct. 10.

SpectraTime

To Design Precise Clock for ESA

Atomic clock manufacturer SpectraTime of Switzerland, which is all but certain to be awarded a contract to build clocks for Europe’s full Galileo navigation satellite constellation and is also building clocks for India’s satellite navigation system, will design a high-precision maser clock experiment for the European Space Agency (ESA) under a contract announced Oct. 8.

Under the 18-month contract, valued at 2.5 million euros ($3.44 million), SpectraTime will design a space active maser clock as part of ESA’s Atomic Clocks Ensemble in Space (ACES) scientific experiment.

The ACES mission, run by ESA’s human spaceflight directorate, is being conducted with the French space agency, CNES, which will provide a laser-cooled cesium atomic clock called Pharao. Both clocks are designed to be mounted as a single external payload on the international space station. Their results then will be compared.

SpectraTime
said that if the 18-month contract is judged a success by ESA, a follow-on contract “estimated at several million euros” should result.

SpectraTime
is providing clocks for the first Galileo demonstration satellites and is a likely supplier of similar gear for the 28 future Galileo satellites now being designed. A contract award is expected by mid-2009.

The company recently won a contract valued at 4 million euros to provide rubidium atomic clocks for India’s seven-satellite regional navigation satellite system, being developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation.

“A worldwide satellite navigation constellation consists of 20 to 30 satellites, each carrying three or four atomic clocks,” SpectraTime Chief Executive Pascal Rochat said in a statement. “Within five years, we expected to have more spaceborne atomic clocks than any other company.”

Northrop Grumman Nabs Missile Defense Contract

Northrop Grumman Corp. of Los Angeles has been awarded a $15 million contract from the U.S. Army for the first phase of an integrated air and missile defense command and control system, according to a Sept. 30 Northrop Grumman press release.

Northrop Grumman was chosen to do preliminary design work for the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System being managed by the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Project Office in Huntsville, Ala. The effort is intended to create a unified solution that integrates the Army’s sensors, shooters and battle management command and control systems, the release said.

The contract runs 11 months, after which a full development contract could be awarded, the release said. The Army aims to field the system by 2014.

NOAA Expands GPS-Based National Geodetic Survey

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has added 43 GPS tracking stations to its National Geodetic Survey to improve both geographic coverage and accuracy for users who need to position landmarks such as buildings, transportation arteries and property boundaries, an Oct. 8 NOAA press release said.

Thirteen of the new tracking stations were deployed by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as part of its Wide Area Augmentation System, which enhances GPS signals to help pilots determine the location of their aircraft with an accuracy of a few meters, the press release said. The FAA sites are located in Alaska, Canada and Mexico.

The National Geodetic Survey is a standardized system for precise geolocation of land-surface features and is used in various applications related to civil engineering, transportation, scientific research, surveying and mapmaking.

The 43 new tracking stations bring NOAA’s network to more than 1,200 sites in the United States and several other countries. The expanded coverage also will help in monitoring the distribution of water vapor in the atmosphere, which can alert weather forecasters to the possibility of severe storms, and the distribution of free electrons in the ionosphere, which can disrupt satellite communications services.

Northrop Grumman Buys Geospatial Services Firm

Northrop Grumman Corp. of Los Angeles announced Oct. 3 it had closed on its acquisition of 3001 International Inc. of Fairfax, Va., a geospatial data analysis and production company whose customers include civil, military and intelligence agencies both in the United States and abroad.

3001 International, previously owned by its management and CM Equity Partners, will be integrated into Northrop Grumman’s Information Technology Sector, based in McLean, Va. Terms of the acquisition, first announced Sept. 10, were not disclosed, Northrop Grumman said.

QinetiQ

Selected for Spawar Support Work

QinetiQ
North America’s Systems Engineering Group will provide support services in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to the U.S. Space and Naval Warfare (Spawar) Systems Center in San Diego under an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract, Qinetiq announced in an Oct. 7 press release.

The eight-year contract, with a potential value of $206 million, involves support that runs the gamut from concept development to end of life for systems and equipment. The work, including logistics planning, post-development assembly and testing, system maintenance and training, will take place at the Spawar programs office in Philadelphia, the press release said.

Two New Teams Join Lunar X Prize Contest

The X Prize Foundation of Playa Vista, Calif., has added two more teams to its $30 million robotic race to land a privately funded spacecraft on the Moon, an Oct. 7 X Prize press release said.

Independence-X Aerospace of Malaysia, led by MohdIzmirYamin, and Omega Envoy of Florida, led by University of Central Florida students Ruben Nunez, Jason Dunn, and Justin Karl will compete along with 12 other teams for the Google Lunar X Prize. The object is to land a robot on the Moon that can roam the lunar surface for at least 500 meters and send video, images and data back to Earth.

Teams must be registered by Dec. 31, 2010, and the top prize of $20 million will be awarded to the first successful mission completed before Dec. 31, 2012. Second place will win $5 million and another $5 million in bonus prizes will be awarded.

The X Prize Foundation also gained a new preferred partner, Analytical Graphics Inc. of Exton, Pa., which will provide each team with nearly $200,000 worth of software and engineering services, the press release said.

Intelsat, OPI Ink Deal for IS-18 Satellite Capacity

The telecommunications authority of French Polynesia has signed a pre-launch contract with Intelsat for access to multiple transponders aboard Intelsat’s IS-18 spacecraft over its projected 15-year lifespan, the satellite-fleet operator said in an Oct. 9 press release.

The deal represents an expansion of services provided to the Office des Posteset Telecommunications of French Polynesia (OPT) via Intelsat’s IS-701 satellite. IS-18 features a Ku-band beam specially designed to cover all of French Polynesia, where the OPT is seeing rising demand for direct-to-home television and very small aperture terminal services, Intelsat of Bermuda and Washington said.

“Intelsat was the only provider who worked with us and was able to customize a Ku-band solution that addressed our requirements,” MoanaTatarata, OPT’s chairman of the board, said in a prepared statement. “With this long-term capacity agreement, we will be able to execute our business objectives of introducing enhanced coding techniques that will allow us to deliver additional channels and technologically-advanced network services for our customers. The high-power capacity of the IS-18 also provides us the possibility of introducing HD channels into our programming suite in the future.”

Under construction by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., IS-18 is scheduled to launch in 2011 to replace IS-701, launched in October 1993, at the 180 degrees east longitude orbital slot. From that location, the satellite will cover not only French Polynesia but also parts of the United States, Australia, New Zealand eastern Asia and various Pacific islands, Intelsat said.

USRA Seeking Proposals for Observations To Validate LCROSS Measurements

The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is seeking proposals for observations that would validate measurements to be taken by NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), a Sept. 30 USRA press release said.

The measurements would be taken as part of a USRA-NASA Observation Campaign and the competition is open to all qualified bidders, the press release said. NASA centers may not participate as primary bidders but NASA employees may join a team.

LCROSS will piggyback on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter tentatively scheduled for a February launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard an Atlas 5 rocket. Once it delivers its payloads to lunar orbit, the Atlas 5’s Centaur upper-stage booster will crash itself into a crater at one of the Moon’s poles, creating a debris plume that will be observed by the LCROSS satellite.

LCROSS will search for buried ice and the presence of water in the plume and relay data back to Earth. It then will impact the lunar surface and create a second debris plume that scientists hope will be visible from Earth.

USRA is working with NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., to coordinate the observation campaign. The request for proposals is posted on USRA’s Web site at www.usra.edu. The deadline for proposal submission is Oct. 30.

Thaicom

Stays Optimistic Despite Decline in Revenue

Satellite-fleet operator Thaicom Public Co. Ltd. of Thailand, which reported an 11.9 percent drop in total revenue for the six months ending June 30, said it recently has seen a pickup in demand for satellite capacity from regional television broadcasters.

The company, which operates four telecommunications satellites, said in an Oct. 6 announcement that it had signed 11 new contracts since July 1, bringing to 25 the total new-contract bookings it has signed since the start of the year.

Thaicom
said the new contracts, which include 11 new regional television channels, carry an aggregate value of $47 million, or 1.6 billion Thai baht.

Komson
Seripapong, Thaicom’s head of conventional satellite capacity sales – which do not include Thaicom’sIpstar Internet business – said Thaicom satellites carry more than 250 television channels. “The more varieties of channels, the more satellite dishes will tune to Thaicom,” Komson said in a statement.

NASA Chief Credits Obama for Getting Soyuz Waiver Moving

NASA Administrator Mike Griffin credited Democratic presidential candidate BarackObama for spurring Congress to action on legislation allowing the U.S. space agency to buy the Russian Soyuz flights its needs to send astronauts to the international space station beyond 2011.

“I am deeply grateful to you, personally, for your leadership in supporting the difficult, but important, decision to extend NASA’s waiver to the Iran, Syria, North Korea Non-proliferation Act to allow the U.S. purchase of Russian Soyuz spacecraft after 2011,” Griffin said in an Oct. 2 letter to Obama. “This authority will allow the United States to continue transporting our astronauts to the international space station (ISS), honoring America’s commitment to provide transportation for crewmembers from Europe, Canada, and Japan and to ensure that ‘lifeboats’ are available at ISS in case of emergencies. The availability of this critical service from our Russian partners is vital to the United States as we retire the Space Shuttle and complete the development of the new generation of U.S. human space flight capabilities.

“Without your leadership this would not have happened. Thank you,” Griffin concluded the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Space News.

NASA currently buys Russian Soyuz capsules and Progress cargo vehicles under a waiver to the nonproliferation law cited by Griffin, which bars the space agency from buying Russian space station hardware unless Russia does more to contain the spread of weapons technology. That waiver is set to expire at the end of 2011, and its chances of renewal were thrown into doubt after Russia invaded neighboring Georgia in August.

Obama
, a senator from Illinois, wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) Sept. 22 urging approval of NASA’s request to extend the waiver. The next day the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the International Space Station Payment Act of 2008 (S.3103), granting NASA permission to keep buying Soyuz beyond 2011.

Several days later, Congress added the Soyuz waiver provision to the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance and Continuing Appropriations Act for 2009, which U.S. President George W. Bush signed into law Sept. 30.

NASA Selects Teams for Astrobiology Research

NASA awarded $70 million worth of astrobiology research grants to 10 interdisciplinary research teams from across the United States to study the origins, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe, the U.S. space agency announced Oct. 2.

Along with the five-year grants the teams become new members of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, located at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.

The teams come from Ames, the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, Arizona State University in Tempe, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Pennsylvania State University in University Park, the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which had two teams selected.

“The research of these new teams reflects the increasing maturity of astrobiology,” NASA Astrobiology Institute Director Carl Pilcher said in a press release. “They are focused on fundamental questions of life in the universe, but their work has implications for all of science. The research of these teams, together with that of the four continuing institute teams, will bridge the basic science of astrobiology to NASA’s current and planned space exploration missions.”

The four continuing teams are led by Montana State University in Bozeman, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, the University of Washington in Seattle, and the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Avanti

Chief is Bullish on Satellite Broadband Market

Avanti
Communications Group plc of Britain said the market for broadband satellite services to consumers and businesses in Europe continues to grow, strengthening the business prospects of the company’s Hylas Ka-band satellite, scheduled for launch in late 2009.

London-based Avanti has booked a launch on Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon 9 rocket, which is expected to fly at least once before the Hylas launch, tentatively set to occur between March and December 2009.

Avanti
officials said they are scouting possible backup launch options in the event Falcon 9 is not ready in time.

Avanti’s
satellite is being built by a joint venture of Astrium Satellites of Europe and Antrix Corp., the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation.

In an Oct. 1 financial statement, Avanti Chairman John Brackenbury said the 32 million pounds ($56.7 million) in debt financing Avanti raised this year is “the first time a European satellite operator has raised non-recourse debt for the construction phase of its first satellite and, given capital market circumstances, a real vote of confidence in our business.”

Avanti
has secured a launch insurance package valued at 89 million pounds.

CapRock

Communications Launches Tracking Service

CapRock
Communications has launched a map-based tracking service using Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs) on maritime vessels, an Oct. 1 CapRock press release said.

The service, called AssetTrax, is geared toward managers of oil rigs and other fleets, allowing them to view from any computer with an Internet connection the locations and historical paths of their assets such as drilling rigs and ships.

Customers of Houston-based CapRock Communications can look at each vessel’s latitude and longitude coordinates, heading data and date and time of the last recorded position, the press release said.

PCI Software Selected for Satellite-based Soil Survey

Manitoba [Canada] Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI) has selected PCI Geomatics computer software to process satellite imagery for soil survey projects, an Oct. 1 PCI Geometrics press release said.

MAFRI, a department within the Manitoba government, helps agricultural producers and other entrepreneurs in rural and northern communities by providing leadership and a range of information, programs and services. It will use Ontario, Canada-based PCI Geometrics’ flagship software Geomatica for processing satellite data while maintaining interoperability with infrastructure already in place, the press release said.

RNC Hits Obama Space Plan; Democrats, Workers Fire Back

NASA Kennedy Space Center workers worried about their jobs held a press conference in Cocoa, Fla., Oct. 8 to draw attention to Republican National Committee (RNC) criticism of Democratic presidential candidate BarackObama’s plan to spend an additional $2 billion on the space agency over an unspecified period of time.

The RNC highlighted the pledge on a Web site detailing what it characterized as “Obama’s Liberal Fiscal Agenda.”

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) held a teleconference with reporters Oct. 6 to lambaste the RNC as out of touch with voters. Two days later, at a press conference organized by the Florida Democratic Party and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, two recently laid off workers, Rick Rinaldi and Kelvin Davis, praised Obama and criticized Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s pledge to freeze most non-defense spending.

McCain, meanwhile, issued a statement Oct. 9 commemorating World Space Week and pledging to do his part to “ensure that continues its leadership in space.” Obama released a World Space Week statement four days earlier saying McCain’s spending freeze “would assure the loss of thousands of jobs in , and seriously threaten ‘s leadership in space.”

Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), made a similar claim during an Oct. 8 interview with an television station. “[L]ook at what John wants to do with the space program. He wants to essentially put it on ice,” Biden told CBS affiliate Local 6.

The Obama campaign released a space- themed television ad to air in Florida and other battleground states featuring Apollo footage and Obama talking about what the space program meant to him as a child.

McCain and Obama are competing hard for votes in , which has the fourth most electoral votes of any state.