ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

Orbital Sciences Will Change Antares Rocket Engines By 2016.

NBC Nightly News (11/5, story 9, 0:25, Williams) broadcast that Orbital Sciences announced that t will remove the “refurbished secondhand Russian engines” that are on rockets like the one that failed during a launch last week. Utilizing a “contingency plan,” the company reportedly plans to “honor its contract with NASA to get supplies to the space station by 2016.”

The CBS Evening News (11/5, story 10, 0:20, Pelley) similarly broadcasts that Orbital will place a different engine in the rocket.

The AP  (11/5) notes that Orbital had already planned to upgrade its Antares rocket with a new engine, but will now do so in 2016.

The Wall Street Journal  (11/5, Pasztor, Subscription Publication) reports that in order to fulfill its contract with NASA, Orbital will pay another company to launch its Cygnus cargo spacecraft aboard their rockets. CEO David Thompson told analysts in a conference call that the damage to the rocket’s Wallops launch pad likely means there will be no launches from there until 2016, despite earlier speculation from NASA and Orbital that repairs might be done sooner than that. Thompson stressed that the contingency plan will not adds costs for NASA.

According to the New York Times  (11/5, Chang, Subscription Publication), Orbital is “substantiating suspicions” that the Antares’ engines are to blame for the launch failure.

Florida Today  (11/5, Dean) notes that the Cygnus could launch from Florida now aboard SpaceX or United launch Alliance rockets, although those companies were not mentioned by name by Thompson.

The Los Angeles Times  (11/5, Petersen) reports that Thompson told analysts specifically that while the evidence “strongly suggests” the engines are to blame, that finding has to be confirmed by more analysis.

The Newport News (VA) Daily Press  (11/6, Dietrich) reports that Orbital spokesman Barron Beneski said that while he could not state who would launch the Cygnus or where the launches would take place under the contingency plans, Orbital “strongly” prefers to launch from the Wallops Flight Facility. Meanwhile, Wallops spokesman Keith Koehler said that officials are still “conducting damage assessments of their facilities on the south end of Wallops Island where the rocket fell.” Koehler added that suborbital rocket launches, like the one scheduled to take place today, are continuing at the center.

Reuters  (11/5, Klotz) reports that RBC Capital Markets analyst Steve Cahall said that Orbital’s announcement does indicate that the company’s merger with Alliant Techsystems will continue.

According to Bloomberg News  (11/5, Johnsson, Kaplan), Orbital could even see “unexpected benefits” from the failure by saving $100 million in costs under the plan, according to Howard Rubel, an aerospace analyst with Jefferies LLC.

FAA’s Oversight Of Commercial Space Flights Discussed. The Washington Post  (11/5, Halsey) reports that NASA’s departure from “hands-on space flight” has created a regulation void. It adds that “into that void, Congress thrust” the FAA, “charging it with setting the guidelines” for commercial space flights. FAA spokeswoman Laura J. Brown is quoted as saying, “It’s a little bit different than the rest of the aviation oversight that we do, because the industry is kind of where the Wright brothers were in aviation.” Later, the Post also notes that the FAA will assist the NTSB in its investigation of the SpaceShipTwo crash.

Higher Education

Center For American Progress Panel Addresses Impact Of Gainful Employment Regulation.

Diverse Education  (11/6, Morris) reports that a panel of higher education experts gathered at the Center for American Progress on Wednesday to explore the impact that ED’s new gainful employment regulations will have on the for-profit college sector. The article notes that White House Domestic Policy Council Deputy Director James Kvaal delivered keynote remarks at the event, quoting him saying, “We see that some of these programs are leaving students with debts that they cannot afford to repay, and, in fact, about a quarter of graduates of gainful employment programs earn less than a full-time minimum wage worker.”

New Rules Will Bring Added Costs To Colleges.

An analysis in Campus Technology  (11/4, Farmer) explores the financial costs that colleges will bear under ED’s newly-released gainful employment rules. The piece notes there was some mention of these projected costs in the version of the rules published last week, and that ED projected that the rules would cost $51.55 per student per year.

Many Colleges Aim To Curb Student Costs Via Three-Year Bachelor’s Degrees.

The Wall Street Journal  (11/6, Korn, Subscription Publication) reports that a number of leading colleges around the country are offering a three-year bachelor-s degree program in an effort to address rising costs of college. The piece notes that such accelerated programs have proven unpopular, since they require students to curb social activities and summers off.

Article Examines How Individual Elections Will Impact Higher Education.

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (11/6, Basken, Field, Read) reports on how the change to a Republican-controlled Congress will impact higher education. The article looks at several winners and losers from the elections Tuesday and speculates what their entry or exit from Congress will mean for funding, regulation, and research. The article also examines several state elections and evaluates what the impact on education will be for states that saw changes in the governor’s office.

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Workforce

Tech Firms Aim To Fill Cybersecurity Skills Gap By Hiring “Below College Level.”

Bloomberg BusinessWeek  (11/5) reports that a recent “spate of high-profile hacks” has highlighted the difficulty that tech firms are facing in trying to find qualified network security workers. The piece notes that colleges have responded by establishing cybersecurity degree programs, but that they “can’t produce enough bodies to fill the expanding need, so some companies suggest looking below college level.” As an example, the piece cites Semantec, which “is putting $2 million into a pilot project to train urban youth for entry-level jobs in cybersecurity.”

Global Developments

SpaceShipTwo Flights Could Resume In Summer 2015.

The AP  (11/5, Bryan) reports that following last week’s catastrophic breakup, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said that SpaceShipTwo test flights could resume in the summer of 2015 “if it can finish building a replacement craft.” The FAA has given spacecraft developer Scaled Composites “an experimental permit” for rocket-powered flights. However, according to the article, there will be “a more extensive review” of the project by the FAA to make sure there is not a repeat of the accident. The article notes that there is still “speculation” about just how long it will be before Virgin Galactic can start launching customers after this setback.

Also covering the story in a similar manner as the sources above are NBC News  (11/6, Jasper), Reuters  (11/6, Klotz), and the Albuquerque (NM) Journal  (11/6, Robinson-Avila).

Some Amazed Siebold Was Able To Survive. The Los Angeles Times  (11/5, Vartabedian, Petersen) reports that veteran test pilot Paul Tackabury said it was “amazing” that SpaceShipTwo pilot Peter Siebold was able to survive the breakup with only “a parachute but no spacesuit to protect him from the lethal environment.” NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss added, “We don’t know how he got out.” According to the article, this was just another example of the “long history of extraordinary feats of survival by test pilots who have defied the odds through skill, faith or luck.”

The Christian Science Monitor  (11/5, Knickerbocker) also covers the story, citing the LA Times.

Accident Could End Life Insurance Loophole For Passengers. Reuters  (11/5, Scott) reports that the Virgin Galactic accident is likely to end an insurance loophole where passengers did not have to take out take out extra life insurance to cover the risk. Private pilots and skydivers currently do have to take out the insurance. According to the article, insurance companies are now evaluating what steps they should take.

Virgin Group’s Direction Now In Question. Bloomberg News  (11/5, Jasper) reports that the direction for Richard Branson’s whole Virgin brand is currently “less clear than at any time” in its history because of the Virgin Galactic crash. According to the article, his plans for Virgin Galactic and its spring first launch are now in “tatters.”

More Commentary. New Scientist  (11/5) editorializes that while ultimately the Virgin Galactic disaster is “an industrial accident,” the space tourism industry will have to see whether passengers are still willing to pay for a venture that is “an end in itself” and not “a means to an end” like air travel is. Compared to the knowledge gained from unmanned missions, space tourism may just be “an enviable indulgence,” but that will not be certain until more people access space.

Industry News

ICL Dover Discusses Design Of High Altitude Skydiver Suit.

The Dover (DE) Post  (11/5, Brown) reports on ICL Dover’s design of a “manned vessel without the vessel,” what the company’s senior design engineer Ryan Lee called the suit design for skydiver Alan Eustace’s drop from 26 miles above the Earth. The suit was a “cross between those worn by deep sea divers and those worn by astronauts during space” designed to protect the wearer from changes in atmospheric pressures while still allowing for movement. More recently, ICL Dover is working with healthcare workers on “air-purifying respirator system,” demand for which has seen a spike since the Ebola crisis.

Engineering and Public Policy

New ONR Website Tracks Renewable Energy Programs In Hawaii.

The Pacific Business News  (11/5, Subscription Publication) reports that the Office of Naval Research has set up a new “website to track renewable energy efforts in” Hawaii through its Asia-Pacific Technology and Education Partnership. The piece quotes Richard Carlin, head of ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department, saying, “Everyone is focused on Hawaii right now. The studies we’re conducting there and technologies we’re developing will not only help the Navy reduce its need for fossil fuels, but also move the country closer to energy independence.”

Hogan’s Election Casts Doubt On Mass Transit Project.

The Washington Post  (11/5, Shaver) reports Larry Hogan’s (R) victory in Maryland’s gubernatorial race caused “alarm” in supporters of the Purple Line transit rail, who fear Hogan will “devote money to improving roads rather than expanding mass transit.” Montgomery County Council members called a move to halt the Purple Line development “catastrophic,” saying traffic is the primary economic barrier for their constituents. The state has already devoted “$169.3 million on planning and engineering” to the $2.45 billion project and is “scheduled to award a contract…next spring to design, build, operate and help finance it.” The Obama Administration already made a $100 million budget request for the project and “the Federal Transit Administration has recommended it for highly competitive federal construction aid.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Early Education Programs Can Teach Science And Math To Three-Year-Olds.

The Atlantic  (11/6) reports that some pre-kindergarten programs are structuring themselves to focus on effective science and math education at an early age. The article notes that the programs try to draw on a child’s natural curiosity and penchant for exploring the world around them and that adults can step in to guide and foster these interests into math and science learning.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

 

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