Digital Tunisia 2020 Project



 Radical upgrade of Tunisia’s digital capability gets underway

 10 November 2017 – Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire – The African Development Bank has announced approval of a loan of €71.56 million to support the implementation of ‘Digital Tunisia 2020’ National Strategic Plan. The Tunisian government is contributing €63.4 million, bringing the total cost of the project to €134.96 million.

The project is national and all-encompassing.  The ‘Digital Tunisia 2020’ National Strategic Plan (PNS) will be executed between 2018 and 2021.  The project will strengthen public services through the use of digital platforms, on a grand scale and includes, notably, the implementation of online administrative services, sectoral information services, a digital ID system, and a data exchange platform.

An important feature of the project is its broad geographical coverage. It will radically cut the current regional disparities so that all the Tunisian people will have access to grassroots services online, whether they live in urban areas or rural communities, north or south of the country.

Apart from putting government services within the reach of the population, the project will create a two-way dialogue, letting citizens participate in the formulation and implementation of public policies through electronic feedback, creating a climate of open government.

The project also has great potential for the wider Tunisian economy.  It provides for substantial support to trigger a strong and performing digital economy in the country that will give much-needed job opportunities to the young graduate population.

This project will allow the strengthening of administrative services offered to users and people in business,” said Mohamed El Aziz, the AfDB’s regional director for North Africa, adding that “it will contribute to and improve access to public services across the country.”

The Task Manager for the project at AfDB, Samatar Omar Elmi, added: “The project really illustrates how the adoption of new technologies can enhance public services delivery, improving the government’s dialogue with citizens while fostering the development of the local digital environment.”

The African Development Bank (AfDB) is a regional multilateral development finance institution established in 1964 to mobilize resources towards the economic and social progress of its Regional Member Countries. Headquartered in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, the Bank promotes economic and social development in African states, providing financing for programs and projects across the continent.  For more information, visit www.adbg.org.

Source: African Development Bank


90 Percent of Syria’s Chemical Weapons Removed

25 April 2014 – Geneva, Switzerland – More than 90 per cent of Syria’s chemical weapons material has been removed and destroyed in country, the head of the Joint Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations today confirmed.
The S…

90 Percent of Syria’s Chemical Weapons Removed


25 April 2014 – Geneva, Switzerland – More than 90 per cent of Syria’s chemical weapons material has been removed and destroyed in country, the head of the Joint Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations today confirmed.

The Special Coordinator of the Joint Mission, Sigrid Kaag, welcomed in a statement “significant progress” over the last three weeks and thanked States for their “steadfast support” in pushing operations to 92.5 per cent.

140425-pmwj22-syrian-IMAGE“I strongly encourage the Syrian authorities to conclude the removal operations as part of their efforts to achieve the 30 June 2014 deadline,” she said.

Photo: Special Coordinator of the Joint Mission of the OPCW and the UN Sigrid Kaag (second left) inspecting preparations for the elemination of chemical weapons at the Syrian Port of Latakia in December 2013. Photo: OPCW-UN Joint Mission

The removal of the most critical material for destruction began in early January, in line with an agreement brokered by Russia and the United States under which Syria renounced its chemical weapons material and joined 1992 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons.

In addition to the removal operations, the Syrian authorities have destroyed buildings, equipment and empty mustard gas containers, and decontaminated other containers in a number of chemical weapons storage and production sites.

“A majority of these sites are now closed,” Ms. Kaag confirmed.

For more information, go to http://opcw.unmissions.org/.

The United Nations (UN) is an international organization established in 1945 to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and world peace. Currently with 193 members states, the UN and its specialized agencies meet regularly throughout the year. The UN Headquarters is in New York City, with other main offices in Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna. More information at http://www.un.org/en/

Source: United Nations

Italian Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity Project expands Youth Gardening Program to provide jobs in Africa


21 February 2014 – Milan, Italy and New York, USA – Family farming is an important path for inclusion for millions of poor rural communities, and is of special importance for women and for youth, the head of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has said, hailing the expansion of a youth gardening project in Africa as a vital way to promote nutrition and sustainability, as well as inclusivity.

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva made these observations in Milan where on 17 February the Italy-based Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity project outlined its plans to help African youths plant 10,000 food gardens. The project, backed by FAO, has led to the planting of one-thousand gardens so far, in more than 350 communities in 38 countries.

140221-pmwj20-slow-food-IMAGELauding the project as a paradigm shift in farming, Mr. Graziano da Silva said that food gardens produce far more than simply food, “they promote inclusion, teach sustainability, and offer a space where the youth of today can meet, learn, share and build social capital.”

Bolstered local food gardens could involve entire families handing down traditional know-how and food culture through generations. They could also help transform the youth of today into tomorrow’s leaders – protagonists of local, national and international food security and sustainable development policy- and decision-making, says FAO.

By transferring traditional knowledge from one generation to the next, the Director-General asserted that the project opens the door to “opportunities to decent jobs and a dignified life.”

According to FAO, roughly one-quarter of an estimated 842 million people who are chronically hungry in the world live in Africa. While poor farmers were once seen as a problem, through people and Governments that better understand their needs and offer support, family farmers have become part of the solution – with promising results.

“Family farming is an important path for inclusion for millions of poor rural families and communities, and are of special importance for women and for youth,” Mr. Graziano da Silva explained, pointing out that two-thirds of the population of Africa is rural and 3 out of every 4 Africans were 25 years of age or younger.

“Projects such as the one that is being presented today show that it is possible to achieve sustainable food and agricultural systems if we are all committed – farmers, researchers, schools, students, nutritionists, consumers and chefs,” maintained the Director-General.

Increasing food gardening among youth in Africa is especially fitting for 2014, which is being observed as the UN International Year of Family Farming. In 2013, FAO and the International Slow Food organization agreed to develop joint actions to improve the livelihoods of smallholders and others working in rural areas.

Under a three-year Memorandum of Agreement signed in Milan, the two organizations will join forces to promote more inclusive food and agriculture systems at local, national and international levels. The Slow Food organization has already planted one-thousand gardens in more than 350 communities in 38 countries… and with the UN, the number continues to grow.  More about the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity can be found at http://www.slowfoodfoundation.com/.

Established in 1945 and headquartered in Rome, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is an intergovernmental affiliation of 191 member nations, two associate members and one member organization, the European Union.  An arm of the United Nations, FAO is present in over 130 countries, with five regional offices, 11 sub-regional offices, two multidisciplinary teams, and 74 fully fledged country offices.  FAO’s mandate is to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy.  FAO implements programmes and projects around the world each year with total funding of approximately $1 billion.  For more information, visit www.fao.org.

Source: United Nations

EU Project to provide clean water for Arges County in Romania


18 February 2014 – London, UK – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has announced that it is joining forces with the EU Cohesion Fund to modernise and upgrade the water and wastewater services in Argeș County in Romania.  The EBRD is providing a €11.8 million loan to S.C. Apa Canal 2000 S.A., co-financing a regional investment programme for water supply and wastewater facilities and networks under EU Cohesion Fund financing for Romania

140218-pmwj20-arges-IMAGEA Municipal Support Deed was signed on 14 February 2014 at the EBRD in London, in the presence of his Excellency Ion Jinga, the Romanian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Romanian delegation was led by the Mayor of Pitesti, Tudor Pendiuc.

Technical cooperation support for the project will be provided by the EBRD Shareholder Special Fund, to assist the regional operating companies through a Framework-wide benchmarking programme for water operators in Romania as well as through procurement benchmarking.

The EBRD loan will be used to finance infrastructure for drinking water treatment and distribution as well as wastewater collection and treatment, for the populations of the towns of Costești, Pitești, Ştefăneşti and Topoloveni, and the surrounding areas, in the central part of Argeș County. The investments are expected increase access to and quality of water and wastewater services in the service area, where over 250,000 people will benefit from improved water and wastewater services, in accordance with EU directives.

Thomas Maier, the EBRD’s Managing Director for Infrastructure, said: “We are proud today to be able to announce the first signing in municipal and environmental infrastructure in 2014. It shows our commitment to continuing the efforts to improve urban infrastructure, particularly water services, in Romania, and in helping the country to absorb EU cohesion funds.”

The EBRD’s loan is the 21st investment under the Bank’s Romania EU Cohesion Funds Water Co-Financing Framework, launched in 2010. The facility was originally approved in November 2010, with a volume of €200 million, and further increased by €130 million in September 2012, following strong local demand. To date, the EBRD has mobilised approximately €2 billion of EU funding in Romania’s water and wastewater facilities.

Since the start of its operations in the country the EBRD has invested approximately €6.4 billion across over 343 projects in Romania, and has further mobilised over €14 billion for these ventures from other sources of financing. For more information about EBRD projects in Romania, go to http://www.ebrd.com/pages/country/romania.shtml

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was established in 1991 to nurture the private sector in central and eastern Europe and ex-soviet countries. Today the EBRD uses investment to help build market economies and democracies in countries from central Europe to central Asia. The EBRD is the largest single investor in the region and mobilizes significant foreign direct investment beyond its own financing. Owned by 61 countries and two intergovernmental institutions, the EBRD provides project financing for banks, industries and businesses.  The EBRD invested €8.7 billion in 388 individual projects in 2012.  For more information about the bank, visit http://www.ebrd.com/index.htm 

Source: EBRD

AfDB Project to reduce Deforestation in Ghana


16 February 2014 – Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire – The African Development Bank (AfDB) has announced the approval of $14.55 million for a project in Ghana to help the country reduce deforestation and forest degradation as well as  protect carbon reservoirs for local communities in the Western and Brong Ahafo regions.

The project, called Engaging Local Communities in Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) /Enhancement of Carbon Stocks, benefits from the support from the Climate Investment Funds’ (CIF) Forest Investment Program (FIP).  It will directly benefit 12,000 people, half of them women, by providing capacity building, seeds and equipment, and financial incentives through benefit-sharing agreements to develop forestry, agroforestry and alternative livelihoods. The project will also indirectly benefit 175,000 people in the two regions.

140216-pmwj20-ghana-IMAGEThe support will make a major contribution to the Ghanaian forestry sector by helping mitigate effects of agricultural expansion, especially cocoa.  The project will also support sustainable supplies of timber to meet export and domestic demand, and clarify tree tenure and rights regimes.

“With the Board’s approval of this project for Ghana, we are helping advance empowerment of the local forest communities, at the bottom line the most significant people engaged in sustainably managing forests. We welcome the opportunity to work with Ghana and with the Forest Investment Program to ensure the success of this innovative project,” said Mafalda Duarte, AfDB’s CIF manager.

Key project components are:

  • Community restoration of degraded off-reserve forests and agricultural landscapes:  surveying, mapping and registration of 3,000 hectares (ha) of degraded plots and the conservation and management of 1,008 ha of dedicated forests and sacred groves; 
  • Promoting climate-smart and environmentally responsible cocoa and agroforestry systems: supporting implementation of tested technologies in shade trees and integration of trees into 16,000 ha of cocoa landscapes; and 
  • Community alternative livelihoods and capacity building:  supporting the establishment of 1,200 hectares of woodlots for fuel wood and charcoal production and enhancing the efficiency of charcoal production. 

Success of the project will be determined through a results-based framework which considers a set of performance indicators, risk and mitigation measures, as well as and a set of defined verification measures. The project is in line with the AfDB’s commitment to green growth as a key cornerstone of African nations’ path to economic and social prosperity.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) is a regional multilateral development finance institution established in 1964 to mobilize resources towards the economic and social progress of its Regional Member Countries. Headquartered in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, the Bank promotes economic and social development in African states, providing financing for programs and projects across the continent.  For more information, visit www.adbg.org.

For more information about AfDB projects in Ghana, navigate to http://www.afdb.org/en/countries/west-africa/ghana/.

Source: African Development Bank

NASA and French Space Agency Sign Agreement for Mars Mission


French space agency joins international research team on InSight Program

12 February 2014 – Washington, DC, USA – NASA has announced the signing of an implementing agreement for cooperation with the National Center of Space Studies of France (CNES) on a future NASA Mars lander program called the Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport (InSight) mission.  NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Jean-Yves Le Gall, CNES president, signed the agreement in Washington, DC on 10 February 2014.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, right, and Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of the National Center of Space Studies of France (CNES), sign an implementing agreement for cooperation on a future NASA Mars lander called the Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport (InSight) mission on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 at the Mandarin Hotel in Washington. The InSight mission currently is planned for launch in March 2016 and is scheduled to land on Mars six months later.  Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)“This new agreement strengthens the partnership between NASA and CNES in planetary science research, and builds on more than 20 years of cooperation with CNES on Mars exploration,” said Bolden. “The research generated by this collaborative mission will give our agencies more information about the early formation of Mars, which will help us understand more about how Earth evolved.”

Photo: NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, right, and Jean-Yves Le Gall, CNES president, at the Mandarin Hotel in Washington. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The InSight mission currently is planned for launch in March 2016 and is scheduled to land on Mars six months later. Designed to study the planet’s deep interior, the lander seeks to understand the evolutionary formation of rocky planets, including Earth, by investigating Mars’ deep interior. InSight also will investigate the dynamics of Martian tectonic activity and meteorite impacts using CNES’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure instrument (SEIS).


SEIS will measure seismic waves travelling through the interior of Mars to determine its interior structure and composition, which will provide clues about the processes that shaped the planet during its earliest stages of formation.

Other partners working with CNES on the SEIS instrument include: the German Aerospace Center, United Kingdom Space Agency, Swiss Space Office (through the European Space Agency) and NASA. InSight’s international science team is made up of researchers from Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

For more information about SEIS, visit: http://smsc.cnes.fr/INSIGHT/

For more about InSight, visit: http://insight.jpl.nasa.gov

Created in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is America’s focal point for research, development and exploration of outer space.  For over 50 years, NASA has been leading the world in the development and usage of advanced program and project management.  Additional information about NASA and planetary exploration programs can be found at www.nasa.gov.

Source: NASA 

Image: courtesy of NASA

World Bank Project supports critical Hillside Farming in Rwanda


6 February 2014 – Washington, DC, USA – The World Bank has approved funds to improve sustainable farming practices and irrigation infrastructure for hillside agriculture, and increase the production of maize, beans and Irish potatoes while boosting the income of rural households in Rwanda.  The announcement was made in Washington, DC in mid-December.

Photographer: Gwendolyn Stansbury/ IFPRIAgriculture drives the expansion of the Rwandan economy, and at least 73 percent of the country’s households work in farming. Driven by increased investments and agricultural land use consolidation, agricultural productivity has helped to reduce poverty in Rwanda over the last decade.

The Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation project (LWH) supports a key element of the Government of Rwanda’s Second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy. The project activities have already helped to increase agricultural yields in project intervention areas, and rural incomes have seen a boost for some 21,180 households, according to the project document.

The US$35 million from the International Development Association (IDA)* will provide additional financing to expand LWH’s activities into poor hillside communities, and is expected to benefit at least an additional 15,000 farming households.

“Rwanda has the highest population density in sub-Saharan Africa with 416 persons per square kilometer,” said Carolyn Turk, World Bank Country Manager for Rwanda. “Taking steps to increase agricultural productivity and to protect environmentally fragile areas is key to achieving higher growth, reduced poverty and economic transformation.”

The LWH uses a modified watershed approach to introduce sustainable land husbandry measures for hillside agriculture on project sites and the approach builds on the Government’s land consolidation system. The project introduces groups of hillside farmers to new sustainable farming techniques including soil conservations, soil reinvigoration measure and land-use practices that improve soil health. These activities will be scaled up and expanded on an additional 7,000 hectares in the poorest regions of the country.

Rwanda’s uneven rainfall, and poor agricultural water management resulting from a lack of irrigation infrastructure, contributes to limited agricultural productivity. This project will support new water-harvesting infrastructure, such as valley dams and reservoirs, and 500 ha of new hillside irrigation works in areas where there is significant poverty and where crop production potential is high.

Project beneficiaries will also receive training in how to maintain the irrigation and erosion control infrastructure, as well as skills in good agricultural practices, rural finance, marketing, social organization, and leadership.

“The scaling-up of the LWH project will continue to raise agricultural productivity and will help Rwanda achieve its vision for its transformation from subsistence agriculture to a knowledge-based economy,” said Mark A. Austin, World Bank Task Team Leader for this project.

“We expect that today’s project will benefit farmers and their household members, as well as community members who either work in land-husbandry activities or receive other forms of training, and both groups will get increased incomes because of the project interventions,” said Valens Mwumvaneza World Bank Co-Task Team Leader.

* The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing loans (called “credits”) and grants for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 81 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change for 2.5 billion people living on less than $2 a day. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 108 countries. Annual commitments have increased steadily and averaged about $15 billion over the last three years, with about 50 percent of commitments going to Africa.

The World Bank Group is one of the world’s largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries. It comprises five closely associated institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA), which together form the World Bank; the International Finance Corporation (IFC); the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Each institution plays a distinct role in the mission to fight poverty and improve living standards for people in the developing world. For more information, please visit www.ifc.org, www.worldbank.org, and www.miga.org.

Since 1947, the World Bank has provided financing for more than 11,000 projects in over 100 countries.  To learn more about past and current IBRD projects, visit http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/PROJECTS/0,,contentMDK:21790401~menuPK:5119395~pagePK:41367~piPK:51533~theSitePK:40941,00.html

Source: The World Bank

Editor’s note: we published this article partially in support of Mark Austin, World Bank Task Leader for this project.  Mark is a strong supporter of professional project management, served on the PMI Board of Directors for six years, and is a personal friend of the PMWJ editor.  We wish Mark and his team good luck on this and future projects in service to the world’s poor and developing economies.

€35 million project financing for pig farmer in Ukraine


Project to improve operational efficiency, biological security, animal welfare and develop new biogas facilities 

8 February 2014 – London – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has announced that it is stepping up its investments into the Ukrainian agribusiness sector, which received over €160 million from the Bank in 2013 alone. The Bank is extending a €35 million loan to a major Ukrainian pig farming company Danosha, well established in Ukraine since 2004. The proceeds will be used to expand Danosha’s operations, improve its waste disposal and restructure its balance sheet. (photo courtesy of Danosha website)


With the help of the EBRD support, the company will improve its biological security and animal welfare standards in line with EU regulations. The loan will also support the construction of two biogas plants at the existing farms in Ivano-Frankivsk region (western Ukraine), which, once completed, will jointly generate over 15,000MWh electricity and heat per year. It is also expected that the biogas plants will help significantly reduce GHG emissions at the sites.

In the context of the project and its activity in the sector, the EBRD jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has commissioned two specialised studies, which will look at the state of the pig sector as well as the animal welfare in the region.

Danosha, a Ukrainian pig farming company belonging to Danish investors, was established in June 2004 in Kopanky village in the suburbs of Kalush city (Ivano-Frankivsk region). Danosha is a sister company to Poldanor in Poland. The company owners have many years of experience in developing and managing modern, efficient agricultural enterprises in Denmark, Poland and other Northern European countries. More about the company can be found at http://www.danosha.com.ua/en

The EBRD is the largest financial investor in Ukraine. As of 1 January 2014 the Bank had committed €8.7 billion (US$ 11.9 billion) through 321 projects in Ukraine. For more information about EBRD projects in Ukraine, go to http://www.ebrd.com/pages/country/ukraine.shtml

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was established in 1991 to nurture the private sector in central and eastern Europe and ex-soviet countries. The EBRD is the largest single investor in the region. Owned by 61 countries and two intergovernmental institutions, the EBRD provides project financing for banks, industries and businesses.  The EBRD invested €8.7 billion in 388 individual projects in 2012.  For more information about the bank, visit http://www.ebrd.com/index.htm

Based on EBRD news story by Anton Usov

Source: EBRD

Wind Project off US West Coast gets Green Light


First Offshore Wind Project Proposed for US West Coast; Builds on Momentum from Successful Lease Sales for Projects in Atlantic

6 February 2014 – Portland, Oregon, USA – On the heels of President Obama’s State of the Union address where he laid out actions to move the economy toward clean energy sources, reduce carbon pollution and create jobs, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced on 5 February an important step forward for the first offshore wind project proposed for federal waters off the West Coast of the United States.

140206-pmwj20-offshore-IMAGEOregon Governor John Kitzhaber and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy P. Beaudreau joined Jewell to announce that BOEM has given the green light for Principle Power, Inc. to submit a formal plan to build a 30- megawatt pilot project using floating wind turbine technology offshore Coos Bay, Oregon.

“Today’s announcement is consistent with President Obama’s commitment to take actions that will create jobs and develop clean, domestic energy that powers our economy,” said Jewell. “This pioneering project would demonstrate floating wind turbine technology capable of tapping the rich wind energy resources in deep waters offshore Oregon. As we look to broaden our nation’s energy portfolio, the innovative technology and its future application hold great promise along the West Coast and Hawaii.”

The West Coast holds an offshore capability of more than 800 gigawatts of wind energy potential, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is equivalent to more than three quarters of the nation’s entire power generation capacity. Total U.S. deepwater wind energy resource potential is estimated to be nearly 2,000 gigawatts.

“Today marks a milestone in ocean renewable energy, and also the next big leap for cutting-edge innovation necessary to meet our energy and carbon reduction goals,” said Governor Kitzhaber. “These critical partnerships with our federal, regional, tribal, and local partners are advancing an energy future that supports a healthy economy and good jobs while strengthening Oregon’s legacy of environmental stewardship.”

Jewell, Kitzhaber and Beaudreau held a roundtable meeting with stakeholders in Oregon, underscoring the federal and state’s commitment to work collaboratively with interested parties – including commercial fisheries – to evaluate the project and its potential impacts. The meeting built upon dialogues held through the BOEM-Oregon Renewable Energy Task Force, a group of federal, state, local and tribal governmental partners that has been working since 2011 to promote strong consultation on Outer Continental Shelf renewable energy development projects.

“The Task Force has been key in providing meaningful input on what makes sense for Oregon when it comes to renewable energy offshore, and we look forward to continuing to partner with the community to support promising clean energy technology,” said Beaudreau. “The WindFloat Pacific project is the latest in a series of lease initiatives BOEM has undertaken to move forward offshore wind energy development. On the Atlantic Coast, the five commercial project leases we’ve issued, if fully developed, could generate enough renewable energy to power 1.4 million homes.”

BOEM has issued two non-competitive leases (Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound and an area off Delaware) and three competitive leases (two offshore Massachusetts-Rhode Island and another offshore Virginia). The competitive lease sales generated about $5.4 million in high bids for about 277,550 acres on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. Additional competitive auctions for wind energy areas offshore Maryland, New Jersey and Massachusetts are expected in 2014.

Principle Power, Inc. will seek to site its project within a 15 square mile proposed lease area. The project is designed to generate electricity from five floating “WindFloat” units, each equipped with a 6-megawatt offshore wind turbine. The turbines would be connected by electrical cables and have a single power cable transmitting the electricity to the mainland. The facility, sited in about 1,400 feet of water, would be the first offshore wind project proposed in federal waters off the West Coast and the first in the United States to use a floating structure to support offshore wind generation in the Outer Continental Shelf.

Principle Power, Inc., which received $4 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding for its advanced technology demonstration project, submitted an unsolicited request to BOEM for a commercial wind energy lease in May, 2013. As an initial step in the leasing process, in September, BOEM issued a Request for Interest (RFI) in the Federal Register to determine whether there were other developers interested in constructing wind facilities in the same area proposed by Principle Power, Inc. The RFI was also the first opportunity for public comment on site conditions and multiple uses within the proposed lease area. The public comment period closed on October 30, 2013.

BOEM received 18 responses to the RFI, none of which expressed a competitive interest in the area proposed by Principle Power, Inc. Accordingly, BOEM published a Determination of No Competitive Interest in the Federal Register. The majority of the comments submitted to BOEM discussed potential effects on commercial fisheries, which BOEM will consider during the course of evaluating the project.

Under the noncompetitive process for which Principle Power qualified, the company may now submit a plan for the proposed lease area to BOEM. BOEM will then complete a National Environmental Policy Act analysis, which includes opportunity for public comment, before making any final decision on lease issuance and plan approval.

For more information about renewable energy efforts offshore Oregon, click here.

Established in 1849, the United States  Department of the Interior (DOI) is the federal executive department of the U.S. government responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to Native Americans, territorial affairs, and insular areas of the United States. Operating units include the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Office of Surface Mining, Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Geological Survey and several other project-oriented organizations. The Department is administered by the US Secretary of the Interior, who is a member of the Cabinet of the President. For more information, visit http://www.doi.gov.

Source: US Department of the Interior                                                                                                            


NASA Set for a Big Year in Earth Science with Five New Missions


22 January 2014 – Washington, DC, USA – NASA has announced that for the first time in more than a decade, five NASA Earth science missions will be launched into space in the same year, opening new and improved remote eyes to monitor our changing planet.

The five launches, including two to the International Space Station (ISS), are part of an active year for NASA Earth science researchers, who also will conduct airborne campaigns to the poles and hurricanes, develop advanced sensor technologies, and use satellite data and analytical tools to improve natural hazard and climate change preparedness.

140122-pmwj19-five-earth-IMAGE1The first new NASA Earth science mission of 2014 is the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory, a joint international project with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Launch is scheduled for Feb. 27 from Japan.

Image Credit: NASA

NASA satellites, aircraft, and research help scientists and policy makers find answers to critical challenges facing our planet, including climate change, sea level rise, decreasing availability of fresh water, and extreme weather events.

“As NASA prepares for future missions to an asteroid and Mars, we’re focused on Earth right now,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “With five new missions set to launch in 2014, this really is shaping up to be the year of the Earth, and this focus on our home planet will make a significant difference in people’s lives around the world.”

The GPM Core Observatory mission inaugurates an unprecedented international satellite constellation that will produce the first nearly global observations of rainfall and snowfall. This new information will help answer questions about our planet’s life-sustaining water cycle, and improve water resource management and weather forecasting. The GPM Core Observatory is scheduled to launch on Feb. 27 from JAXA’s Tanegashima Space Center on a Japanese H-IIA rocket. The spacecraft was built at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

In July, NASA will launch a mission to advance our understanding of carbon dioxide’s role in climate change. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2, a replacement for a mission lost after a launch vehicle failure in 2009, will make precise, global measurements of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is the largest human-generated contributor to global warming. OCO-2 observations will be used to improve understanding of the natural and human-induced sources of carbon dioxide and how these emissions cycle through Earth’s oceans, land and atmosphere. OCO-2, managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on a Delta II rocket.

140122-pmwj19-five-earth-IMAGE2NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission will track Earth’s water into one of its last hiding places: the soil. SMAP soil moisture data will aid in predictions of agricultural productivity, weather and climate. SMAP is scheduled to launch in November.  Image Credit: NASA

With the November launch of NASA’s SMAP mission, NASA will track Earth’s water into one of its last hiding places: the soil. SMAP will map Earth’s soil moisture, and provide precise indications of the soil’s freeze-thaw state, to improve understanding of the cycling of water, energy, and carbon. High-resolution global maps of soil moisture produced from SMAP data will inform water resource management decisions on water availability around our planet. SMAP data also will aid in predictions of plant growth and agricultural productivity, weather and climate forecasts, and monitoring floods and droughts. SMAP will launch from Vandenberg onboard a Delta II rocket. JPL manages the mission.

“On our home planet Earth, water is an essential requirement for life and for most human activities. We must understand the details of how water moves within and between the atmosphere, the oceans, and the land if we are to predict changes to our climate and the availability of water resources,” said Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington. “Coupled with data from other ongoing NASA missions that measure sea-surface salinity and that detect changes in underground aquifer levels, with GPM and SMAP we will have unprecedented measurements of our planet’s vital water cycle.”

Two Earth science missions will be sent to the International Space Station this year to measure ocean winds, clouds, and aerosols, marking NASA’s first use of the orbiting laboratory as a 24/7 Earth-observing platform. The new instruments are the first of a series that will observe Earth routinely from the orbiting laboratory.

The space station has served as a unique platform advancing scientific research and technological discovery for more than 13 years. Its mid-inclination orbit allows for observations at all local times over nearly 85 percent of Earth’s surface. NASA plans to launch five Earth-observing instruments to the ISS through 2017. These missions are developed and operated jointly by the International Space Station Program and the Earth Science Division.

ISS-RapidScat, scheduled to launch to the station June 6, will extend the data record of ocean winds around the globe. These data are a key factor in climate research, weather and marine forecasting, and tracking of storms and hurricanes. Using inherited, repurposed hardware, ISS-RapidScat will provide high-value science at a fraction of the typical cost of developing a free-flying satellite. ISS-Rapidscat will fly to the station aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on a commercial resupply flight for the ISS.

NASA’s Global Hawk and a fleet of aircraft equipped with sophisticated sensors will fly 12 NASA campaigns around the world in 2014. From Antarctica to the Arctic, airborne scientists will study polar ice sheets, urban air pollution, hurricanes and more.

The Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) is scheduled to launch in September on a SpaceX ISS commercial resupply flight. The CATS is a technology demonstration mission using three-wavelength lasers to extend satellite observations of small particles in the atmosphere from volcanoes, air pollution, dust, and smoke. These aerosol particles pose human health risks at ground level and influence global climate through their impact on cloud cover and solar radiation in Earth’s atmosphere. CATS is scheduled to launch Sept. 12 on another SpaceX ISS commercial resupply flight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

“With these two instruments launching to the space station, ISS will come into its own as an important platform for studying the Earth system and global change,” said Julie Robinson, space station chief scientist at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “This is just the beginning of the space station becoming a part of the global Earth-observing network.”

NASA also uses a wide array of research aircraft equipped with sophisticated sensors to advance Earth science research. This year, NASA is sponsoring 12 flight campaigns that will study the polar ice sheets, urban air pollution, hurricanes, ecosystem health and more over the United States, Central and South America, Antarctica, and the Arctic Circle.

Putting satellite data to work meeting local and regional needs around the world is another part of NASA’s Earth science mission. In 2014, projects sponsored by the NASA Applied Sciences Program will tackle ecosystem issues in the Gulf of Mexico, water scarcity in the U.S. Southwest, and flood management in the Mekong River delta.

NASA continues to push the boundaries of current technologies to find new ways to see our complex planet in more detail and with greater accuracy. This year, NASA’s Earth Science Technology Office will test new sensors to improve measurements of water levels in lakes and reservoirs, carbon dioxide, terrestrial ecosystems, and natural hazards such as earthquakes and tsunamis.

NASA monitors Earth’s vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities in 2014, visit:


For information on the latest NASA Earth science findings, visit:


Created in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is America’s focal point for research, development and exploration of outer space.  For over 50 years, NASA has been leading the world in the development and usage of advanced program and project management.  Additional information about NASA can be found at www.nasa.gov.

Source: NASA 

Images: courtesy of NASA

Tiny Bee Sensors take flight in Australian Program to help Farmers


16 January 2014 – According to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), thousands of honey bees in Australia are being fitted with tiny sensors as part of a world-first research program to monitor the insects and their environment using a technique known as ‘swarm sensing’. The research is being led by CSIRO and aims to improve honey bee pollination and productivity on farms as well as help understand the drivers of bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a condition decimating honey bee populations worldwide.

Up to 5,000 sensors, measuring 2.5mm x2.5mm are being fitted to the backs of the bees in Hobart, Tasmania, before being released into the wild. It’s the first time such large numbers of insects have been used for environmental monitoring.

140116-pmwj19-bee-IMAGE“Honey bees play a vital role in the landscape through a free pollination service for agriculture, which various crops rely on to increase yields. A recent CSIRO study showed bee pollination in Faba beans can lead to a productivity increase of 17%,” CSIRO science leader Dr Paulo de Souza, who leads the swarm sensing project, said.

“Around one third of the food we eat relies on pollination, but honey bee populations around the world are crashing because of the dreaded Varroa mite and Colony Collapse Disorder. Thankfully, Australia is currently free from both of those threats. “Using this technology, we aim to understand the bee’s relationship with its environment. This should help us understand optimal productivity conditions as well as further our knowledge of the cause of colony collapse disorder,” Dr de Souza said.

The research will also look at the impacts of agricultural pesticides on honey bees by monitoring insects that feed at sites with trace amounts of commonly used chemicals.

The sensors are tiny Radio Frequency Identification sensors that work in a similar way to a vehicle’s e-tag, recording when the insect passes a particular checkpoint. The information is then sent remotely to a central location where researchers can use the signals from the 5,000 sensors to build a comprehensive three dimensional model and visualise how these insects move through the landscape.

“Bees are social insects that return to the same point and operate on a very predictable schedule. Any change in their behaviour indicates a change in their environment. If we can model their movements, we’ll be able to recognise very quickly when their activity shows variation and identify the cause. This will help us understand how to maximise their productivity as well as monitor for any biosecurity risks,” Dr de Souza said.

Understanding bee behaviour will give farmers and fruit growers improved management knowledge enabling them to increase the benefit received from this free pollination service. It will also help them to gain and maintain access to markets through improving the way we monitor for pests.

“We’re working with the University of Tasmania, Tasmanian Beekeepers Association, local beekeepers in Hobart and fruit growers around the state to trial the technology. Many growers rely on wild bees or the beekeepers to provide them with pollinators so they can improve their crops each year. Understanding optimal conditions for these insects will improve this process,” Dr de Souza said.

To attach the sensors, the bees are refrigerated for a short period, which puts them into a rest state long enough for the tiny sensors to be secured to their backs with an adhesive. After a few minutes, the bees awaken and are ready to return to their hive and start gathering valuable information.

“This is a non-destructive process and the sensors appear to have no impact on the bee’s ability to fly and carry out its normal duties,” Dr de Souza said.

The next stage of the project is to reduce the size of the sensors to only 1mm so they can be attached to smaller insects such as mosquitoes and fruit flies.

Varroa mites are external parasites of bees. The mites, which are about the size of a pinhead, use specialised mouthparts to attack developing bee larvae or adult bees, resulting in deformed bees, reduced lifespan and ultimately the destruction of the colony or hive. These mites are the most important pest of honeybees around the world.

Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or European honey bee colony abruptly disappear.  Colony collapse is significant economically because many agricultural crops worldwide are pollinated by European honey bees.

Further images, audio files and B-Roll are available to download: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/at6uowrknigz17q/fJtucE66lh

CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.  Visit their website at  http://www.csiro.au/en.aspx

Source:  CSIRO

Chemical Weapons material begin to leave Syria


7 January 2014 – Geneva, Switzerland and New York, USA – The process of removing Syria’s most critical chemical weapons material outside of the country for destruction began today, the head of the Joint Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations confirmed. Maritime security is being provided by naval escorts from China, Denmark, Norway and Russia.

“A first quantity of priority chemical materials was moved from two sites to the port of Latakia for verification and was then loaded onto a Danish commercial vessel today,” OPCW-UN Special Coordinator Sigrid Kaag said in a statement from the Joint Mission.

140117-pmwj19-first-chemical-IMAGEAccompanied by naval escorts from Denmark, Norway and Syria, the ship has now sailed for international waters where it will remain “awaiting the arrival of additional priority chemical materials at the port”, Ms. Kaag (pictured right) added. “This movement initiates the process of transfer of chemical materials from the Syrian Arab Republic to locations outside its territory for destruction,” she said in the statement.

OPCW-UN encourages Syria “to continue its efforts to complete the removal of chemical materials as soon as possible in a safe and timely manner”, said Ms. Kaag, who is due to report tomorrow to the UN Security Council in New York. The OPCW Executive Council is due to meet at The Hague that same day.

The confirmation was welcomed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who called it an “achievement” in “the continuing progress in the international effort to eliminate the chemical weapons programme”, according to a statement issued by his spokesperson in New York.

The removal of the chemical agents out of the country involves transporting them from Latakia onto commercial vessels provided by some Member States. They will then be loaded onto a United States ship and destroyed at sea using hydrolysis.

In accordance with the decisions of the Security Council and OPCW Executive Council, Syria’s chemical weapons will be transported outside its territory to ensure their destruction in the “safest and soonest manner,” and no later than 30 June 2014. That deadline set will not be met owing to technical difficulties, the Joint Mission announced late last month. It stressed, however, that it would continue to assist Syria as specified under Security Council resolution 2118 and the decisions of the OPCW.

The Joint Mission continues to coordinate with Syria and the other Member States, Ms. Kaag said, to mobilize resources and undertake all the necessary steps towards the complete removal and elimination of the chemical weapons programme.

The United Nations (UN) is an international organization established in 1945 to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and world peace. Currently with 193 members states, the UN and its specialized agencies meet regularly throughout the year. The UN Headquarters is in New York City, with other main offices in Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna. More information at http://www.un.org/en/

Source: United Nations

Project to develop Modular Nuclear Power receives DOE funding in USA


12 January 2014 – Fluor Corporation announced in December that NuScale Power, for which Fluor is the majority investor, was named a recipient of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funding for a project to develop, license and commercialize the company’s nuclear small modular reactor (SMR) technology.  The funding is expected to be up to $226 million over five years.

This project represents a significant investment in first-of-a-kind engineering and design certification for small modular reactors in the United States. Through a five-year cost-share agreement, the DOE will invest up to half of the total project cost with the project’s industry partners matching this investment by at least one-to-one. The specific total will be negotiated between the DOE and NuScale and will be derived from the total $452 million identified for the Department’s Small Modular Reactor Licensing Technical Support program.

Fluor and NuScale continue to be approached by numerous entities, and are evaluating potential investors, manufacturers and other supply chain partners for future potential SMR development efforts.

140112-pmwj19-nuscale-IMAGE“Fluor is extremely pleased by the DOE’s funding decision in favor of NuScale’s innovative SMR technology,” said Dave Dunning, Fluor’s group president, Global Business Development & Strategy (pictured). “The determination by a panel of independent experts that NuScale’s SMR technology offers tremendous potential to produce safe, reliable, scalable power validates the same conclusion reached by Fluor when we initially decided to invest and support NuScale’s commercialization efforts.”

Fluor made its investment in NuScale Power in October 2011 prior to the announcement of the DOE cost-sharing program.

With growing long-term energy needs in the U.S. and abroad, Fluor’s investment complements the company’s EPC new-build and project management strengths together with our clients’ demand for diverse fuel technology capabilities. Fluor has been actively involved in the engineering, procurement, construction and maintenance of nuclear power plants for more than 60 years at more than 20 nuclear power units.

NuScale Power, LLC is developing an inherently safe, modular, scalable commercial nuclear power technology. Fluor Corporation (NYSE: FLR), a global engineering, procurement and construction company with a 60-year history in commercial nuclear power, is the majority investor in NuScale. NuScale’s design offers the benefits of carbon-free nuclear power but takes away the issues presented by the cost of installing large capacity. A nuclear power plant using NuScale’s technology is comprised of individual nuclear power modules; each produces 45 megawatts of electricity with its own combined containment vessel and reactor system, and its own designated turbine-generator set. A power plant can include as many as 12 NuScale integral PWR modules to produce as much as 540 megawatts. The reactors are cooled by the natural circulation of water and can be shut down safely with no operator action, no AC or DC power, and no external water. NuScale power plants are scalable – additional modules are added as customer demand for electricity increases. NuScale’s technology also is ideally suited to supply energy for district heating, desalination and other applications. For more information visit: www.nuscalepower.com.

Fluor Corporation (NYSE: FLR) designs, builds and maintains many of the world’s most challenging and complex projects. Through its global network of offices on six continents, the company provides comprehensive capabilities and world-class expertise in engineering, procurement, construction, commissioning, operations, and maintenance and project management. Founded in 1912 and headquartered in Irving, Texas, USA, Fluor had revenues of $27.6 billion in 2012.  For more information, visit www.fluor.com

Source: Fluor Corporation and NuScale Power

New Cargo and Science Experiments Launched to Space Station on NASA commercial space partner Orbital-1 Mission


10 January 2014 – Washington, DC, USA – Another NASA commercial space partner officially began contracted cargo flights to the International Space Station with the launch of Orbital Science Corporation’s Cygnus spacecraft from NASA’s Wallop’s Flight Facility in Virginia on Thursday, 9 January 2014.  Dozens of new NASA investigations and other science experiments from across the US headed to the station on the flight as part of NASA’s commercial partnerships with U.S. aerospace companies.

140110-pmwj19-orbital1-IMAGEThe Orbital-1 mission began the company’s first contracted cargo delivery flight to the station through a $1.9 billion NASA Commercial Resupply Services contract. Orbital will fly at least eight cargo missions to the space station through 2016.

“Today’s launch demonstrates how our strategic investments in the American commercial spaceflight industry are helping create new jobs here at home and keep the United States the world leader in space exploration,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “American astronauts have been living and working continuously in space for the past 13 years on board the International Space Station, and we’re once again sending them supplies launched from U.S. soil. In addition to the supplies, the passion and hard work of many researchers and students are being carried by Cygnus today. I congratulate Orbital and the NASA teams that made this resupply mission possible.”

The pressurized Cygnus can accommodate a variety of scientific payloads. The Orbital-1 mission is carrying 2,780 pounds of supplies to the station, not including the weight of packaging materials. This cargo includes vital science experiments, crew provisions, spare parts and other hardware. More than 10,000 students will be involved with 23 experiments they designed. One NASA experiment will study the decreased effectiveness of antibiotics during spaceflight. Another will examine how different fuel samples burn in microgravity, which could inform future design for spacecraft materials.

A portion of the space station had been designated a U.S. National Laboratory, managed by the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). CASIS selects and funds new research to use the national lab’s unique microgravity environment to conduct experiments not possible on Earth. In one educational experiment selected by CASIS, students will compare how ants’ behavior differs in space and on Earth.

Small, relatively inexpensive satellites collectively referred to as CubeSats will provide a variety of technology demonstrations. They will be launched using the NanoRacks Smallsat Deployment Program from the station’s Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) airlock. The NanoRacks CubeSats will be deployed with the JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer.  ArduSat-2 is a CubeSat built and operated by NanoSatisfi of San Francisco, which will help determine potential commercial applications for CubeSat data collection and commercial off-the-shelf electronics. Testing sensors through this mini-satellite format may help lower the cost of applications that use low-Earth observation techniques.

Cygnus will be grappled at 6:02 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 12, by Expedition 38 Flight Engineer Michael Hopkins of NASA, who will use the station’s robotic arm to take hold of the spacecraft. Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will support Hopkins in a backup position. Wakata will serve as the primary crew member to berth the spacecraft to the  station. NASA’s Rick Mastracchio will support him in a backup position. The capsule is scheduled to depart the station in February and burn up during reentry in Earth’s atmosphere.

Orbital Sciences is one of two companies that built and tested new cargo spacecraft under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. COTS was completed late last year with an Orbital Sciences demonstration mission to the space station. Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), the other company that partnered with NASA under COTS, also is providing commercial resupply services for the agency.

In addition to cargo flights, NASA’s commercial space partners are making progress toward a launch of astronauts from U.S. soil within the next three years.

The International Space Station is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that demonstrates new technologies and makes research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. The space station has been continuously occupied since November 2000. In that time, it has been visited by more than 200 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft. The space station remains the springboard to NASA’s next great leap in exploration, including future missions to an asteroid and Mars.

For more information about the Orbital-1 mission and the International Space Station, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station

Created in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is America’s focal point for research, development and exploration of outer space.  For over 50 years, NASA has been leading the world in the development and usage of advanced program and project management.  Additional information about NASA can be found at www.nasa.gov.

Source: NASA 

Image: courtesy of NASA

NASA announces top Program Accomplishments of 2013


31 December 2013 – Washington, DC – NASA has announced what the agency considers to be their top mission accomplishments and stories of the past year. In 2013, NASA helped U.S. commercial companies transform access to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station even as one of the agency’s venerable spacecraft was confirmed to have reached interstellar space, and engineers moved ahead on technologies that will help carry out the first astronaut mission to an asteroid and eventually Mars.

Portrait, Charles F. Bolden, Jr., Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Washington, DC, July 29, 2009.  Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)“Even in a time of great change and transition, NASA employees stayed focused on what it takes to get the job done — returning space station resupply launches and the jobs they support back to the United States, developing cutting-edge technologies that will help us send American astronauts to an asteroid and Mars, uncovering new knowledge about our home planet and the universe and helping develop cleaner and quieter airplanes,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “It’s all the hard work and dedication from the NASA folks on the frontlines that keep the United States the world’s leader in space exploration.”

The following are some of NASA’s top stories this year:

Commercial Space Progress

A little more than two years after the end of the Space Shuttle Program, NASA has returned the International Space Station resupply missions to the United States in a powerful partnership with U.S. companies SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, who are investing here and creating good-paying jobs for American workers.

NASA remains committed to launching American astronauts from U.S. soil within the next four years. Recent progress includes key milestones in commercial crew development met by three American companies: Boeing, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corporation; a Nov. 19 request for proposals on the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract (CCtCap), designed to ensure commercial companies meet NASA’s safety requirements for transporting NASA and international partner crews to the International Space Station; unfunded Space Act Agreements with other potential commercial providers; and creation of a Space Technology Program focused on breakthrough innovations that will change future transportation options.

These accomplishments have been bolstered by the extension of International Space Station operations to 2020, enabling expanded commercial and research opportunities. More at http://www.nasa.gov/commercial 

Enabling Deep Space Exploration

The primary destination of these commercial launches, the International Space Station, celebrated 15 years in orbit in November, and crew members have lived and worked aboard the station non-stop since October 2000.

Interest in human spaceflight remains extremely high, and this year NASA welcomed new astronaut candidates from a near-record applicant pool of more than 6,000. Half of the class is women, which is the highest percentage in any class to date. These astronaut candidates are the explorers who will first fly on commercial rockets to low-Earth orbit and help us execute missions to an asteroid and Mars.

2013 was a year of progress toward new capabilities as the agency’s new Space Launch System (SLS) heavy lift rocket completed its preliminary design review and the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle reached many milestones on its path to undertake its first flight test in 2014. The heat shield that will protect Orion on that mission’s re-entry next year was delivered to the Kennedy Space Center for installation; NASA reached an agreement with the European Space Agency (ESA) to partner on the spacecraft’s service module; and Orion itself underwent loads testing, a water recovery test, and full power-up.

NASA and 12 of its international partners released a Global Exploration Roadmap, sending a clear signal that the global community is committed to a unified strategy of deep space exploration, with robotic and human missions to destinations that include near-Earth asteroids, the moon and Mars.  More at http://www.nasa.gov/exploration

Asteroid Mission

The public imagination has been captured by the mission NASA announced in April to redirect an asteroid into a stable retrograde orbit in the vicinity of the moon using cutting-edge space technology, such as solar electric propulsion. This will allow astronauts to visit the asteroid, study its characteristics and bring samples home. In November, NASA held a workshop to discuss about 100 of the best ideas the agency has received from around the world about both identifying asteroids and figuring out what to do about those that are a threat, as well as how to best carry out the asteroid redirect mission. The mission formulation review has been completed, and NASA will move into mission baseline discussions in 2014.

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft, having completed its original mission, was reactivated this year to hunt for asteroids. OSIRIS-REx, NASA’s robotic mission to return samples from an asteroid, moved from formulation to the development phase in 2013.

NASA also announced an Asteroid Grand Challenge to find and characterize asteroid threats and gather ideas for capturing and redirecting an asteroid for human exploration. The public is incredibly interested in asteroids, and the agency expects strong participation in this initiative. More at http://www.nasa.gov/asteroidinitiative

Amazing Science

NASA science this year uncovered new knowledge about our home planet and the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Analysis showed the Voyager 1 spacecraft has entered interstellar space and, at 12 billion miles away, is the most distant man-made object ever created.

The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) launched in September to study lunar dust and help us better understand other planetary bodies and their formation. It also carried the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) — breakthrough new technology to improve communication with deep space missions that the agency will continue to refine and advance.

In June, NASA launched the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) spacecraft to study how solar material moves, gathers energy and heats up.

In February, NASA’s Van Allen Probes discovered a third Van Allen Radiation Belt around the Earth.

The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) was launched in February for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to maintain one of the longest-term imagery data sets about our Earth ever — more than 40 years.

Earth Science continues to be a high priority, and our amazing fleet of Earth-observing satellites helped us see how an amplified greenhouse effect is shifting the northern latitudes’ growing season. A study this year of Landsat data yielded the best view to date of global forest losses and gains during this century.

One of the International Space Station’s most prominent scientific experiments produced its first results in April. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) is a state-of-the-art cosmic ray particle physics detector located on the exterior of the orbiting laboratory. Scientists hope that by measuring cosmic rays, AMS will provide new data about the formation of the universe, antimatter, and evidence of the mysterious dark matter believed to make up most of the universe.

The Kepler mission awed scientists and the public with new exoplanet findings, including discovery of numerous planets in the habitable zone. NASA will be evaluating Kepler data for years to come, as well as exploring the possibility of doing new science investigations with the spacecraft.

The James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, continued to move toward its 2018 launch. In November, the telescope’s primary mirror backplane support structure, essentially the spine of the massive telescope, completed a rigorous testing regime. The final three of Webb’s 18 primary mirrors arrived at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., this month for integration. Once in orbit, the 18 hexagonal mirror segments will work together as one 21.3-foot (6.5-meter) primary mirror, the largest ever flown and the first to deploy in space.

Elsewhere in astrophysics, scientists saw one of the brightest gamma-ray bursts ever with the Fermi, Swift and NuSTAR telescopes and learned more about the black hole at the center of the Milky Way using the agency’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. Fermi celebrated five years in orbit and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope celebrated 10 years of incredible science. More at http:www.nasa.gov/missions


Mars is the centerpiece of NASA’s planetary exploration. The Curiosity rover continues to explore the planet, and in its first year already has accomplished its primary goal of determining that Mars could indeed have supported life in the past, possibly much later than originally thought. Curiosity’s Radiation Assessment Detector instrument is helping scientists assess round-trip radiation doses for a human mission to Mars.

NASA also launched in November its next mission to the Red Planet, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft, which will study the Martian upper atmosphere from orbit. NASA’s 2016 InSight mission narrowed its landing sites for Mars while the Mars 2020 team outlined its goals for our next rover to the planet. More at http://www.nasa.gov/mars

Aeronautics – the First ‘A’ in NASA

Here on Earth, NASA continued to mark progress in developing the next generation of air transportation systems (NextGen). A new computer software tool developed by NASA’s aeronautical innovators — the Precision Departure Release Capability (PDRC) — allows commercial aircraft to be sequenced for takeoff so that they are able to climb directly to their enroute travel altitudes instead of being required to make multiple intermediate level-offs as in the past. NASA officially presented this innovative software to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during a ceremony at the FAA’s headquarters in Washington on Aug. 6. With PDRC, controllers will be able to improve the overall efficiency of air traffic management by reducing missed or delayed departures and allowing more aircraft to depart within a given timeframe.

NASA announced a new aeronautics strategy with six areas of focus to help address upcoming challenges in global air transportation. The agency also tested alternate jet fuel in its DC-8 flying laboratory; selected eight large scale technology demonstrations to advance concepts for reducing aviation impact on the environment; chose six companies to partner on advanced composite materials research to enable a significant reduction in development to certification time; and flew the X-48C hybrid-wing body subscale aircraft to demonstrate concepts for cleaner and quieter air travel. More at http://www.aeronautics.nasa.gov 


Developing Technologies for the Future
This year, NASA created a Space Technology Mission Directorate to help advance the cutting-edge technologies it will need for future missions. The agency completed testing on a prototype composite cryogenic propellant tank with a 25 percent reduction in cost and 30 percent reduction in weight, resulting in increased payload capacity.

NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne hot-fire tested a 3-D printed rocket engine injector, marking a first step in using additive manufacturing to support space travel.

The agency began the next chapter in NASA’s improved entry, descent and landing capabilities through the completion of a test of a full-scale supersonic inflatable decelerator. The test successfully demonstrated the ability to deploy and pull a large parachute through the dynamic loads it would experience at Mars, using a helicopter to drop the ringsail parachute and a rocket sled to pull the parachute with 90,000 pounds of force. This technology will increase the current capability to land heavy payloads on Mars by as much as 25 percent.

In April and November, NASA sent three Cubesats — two early designs and one more mature — to space as part of the agency’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program. The first three PhoneSats successfully orbited Earth for a week, sending back pictures and demonstrating that an off-the-shelf commercial smart phone can serve as a spacecraft operating computer. The fourth PhoneSat launched in November and is expected to be in space for a year, proving the longevity of a smart phone cubesat in space, powered by solar panels.

NASA strengthened its early stage pipeline with the nation’s brightest and best by engaging in more than 400 activities with 75 accredited U.S. universities to enable future missions and our continued leadership in space. For the third consecutive year, NASA awarded competitive technology fellowships for graduate research on the agency’s most difficult space technology challenges. Sixty-five new fellowships were awarded this year, bringing to 193 the total number of graduate student space technology development efforts funded to-date. Several fellowship graduates already are making an impact in the nation’s aerospace and innovation workforce. More at http://www.nasa.gov/spacetech

Public Engagement, Economic and Societal Benefits

NASA also continued to transfer the benefits of exploration to improving life on Earth. NASA and Homeland Security, for instance, collaborated on the Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER) prototype to detect life signs in piles of rubble after a disaster. The portable device is based on radar technology NASA uses for planetary exploration.

NASA continues to effectively engage the public, and this year, the International Space Apps Challenge drew more than 9,000 hackers, designers and explorers in 83 cities around the world to contribute their ideas to space exploration missions. The agency’s Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP) funded 148 interns and continued to help draw minority students into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

NASA launched the Exploration Design Challenge (EDC) to teach students about radiation and the challenges it presents for human space exploration. A cooperative effort with Lockheed Martin, the EDC allows students to become virtual crew members on the maiden Exploration Test Flight of the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle, currently scheduled for September 2014. More than 112,000 students are current participants in the EDC, which aligns with the agency’s STEM education priorities.

NASA’s Twitter account, with 5.5 million followers, is the most followed in government while millions also engage with the space program through Facebook, Google+ and other platforms, and the agency’s new Instagram profile drew more than 400,000 followers. NASA’s website had its second-busiest year on record with 115 million visits.

NASA will build on the achievements of 2013 as it looks ahead to a busy new year where the agency is already preparing for more milestones in commercial space, the first flight test of the Orion spacecraft, five Earth Science launches, and many more accomplishments.

Created in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is America’s focal point for research, development and exploration of outer space.  For over 50 years, NASA has been leading the world in the development and usage of advanced program and project management.  Additional information about NASA can be found at www.nasa.gov.

Source: NASA 

Image: courtesy of NASA

Project to expand Caracol Industrial Park in Haiti gets financial boost


2 January 2014 – Port-au-Prince, Haiti – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has announced a $40.5 million grant to expand the Caracol Industrial Park, a modern manufacturing facility in northern Haiti. The resources will bolster the Haitian government’s efforts to attract more job-generating investments in an economically disadvantaged but potentially productive region.

140102-pmwj19-caracol-IMAGEThe new grant for the state-owned industrial park will finance the construction of more factory shells, canteens, administrative buildings and other service facilities, roads and utility networks. The IDB provided $105 million for the first two phases of the project, launched in 2011, while the U.S. government donated the electricity generation plant that powers the factories and nearby communities.

Since it opened its doors, on April 1st, 2012, the Caracol Industrial Park has signed on four tenants, creating nearly 3,000 jobs in a region where there were few formal employment opportunities, particularly for women. The manufacturing facility complements other projects backed by the Haitian government and the donor community to boost development in the country’s northern departments.

The new grant includes resources for small infrastructure projects in communities close to the industrial park, such as improving roads or building bicycle lanes and bus stops. Additional studies will be carried out to monitor and evaluate the economic, social, and environmental impact of the industrial park.

As Haiti’s leading multilateral donor, the IDB is currently financing projects totaling around $1.4 billion in agriculture, education, energy, transport, water and sanitation, and private sector development. All IDB grants are executed by Haitian government agencies and include capacity building resources.

For more about this project, go to http://www.iadb.org/en/projects/project-description-title,1303.html?id=HA-L1081

For more about IDB projects in Haiti, visit http://www.iadb.org/en/countries/haiti/haiti-and-the-idb,1008.html

Established in 1959, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is a source of multilateral financing for sustainable economic, social and institutional development programs and projects throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.  More information about the IDB is at www.iadb.org.  For more about IDB projects, visit http://www.iadb.org/en/projects/projects,1229.html.

Source: Inter-American Development Bank

Pawlowo wind farm project in Poland receives €72 million


19 December 2013 – London, UK and Warsaw, Poland – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has announced that it is supporting phase I of the construction and operation of a wind farm in North West Poland with a loan of up to PLN 301 million (€72 million equivalent). The investment will support Poland’s efforts to increase its generation of renewable energy.

Phase I covers the installation of 79.5MW capacity generated by a wind farm located in the municipality of Gołańcz and supported by the EBRD. It is expected to reduce CO2 emissions in Poland by approximately 100,000 tonnes per annum.

131219-pmwj18-poland-IMAGEThe wind farm will be developed, constructed and operated by Relax Wind Park III Sp. z o.o., a subsidiary of EDP Renováveis SA (EDPR), the renewable arm of EDP Group, a leading wind energy producer in the world. The EBRD has built a strong relationship with the company and invested alongside EDPR in Poland and Romania.

Strengthening and expanding the use of wind power is an important contributor to lessening Poland’s dependency on coal- and lignite-fired power generation which represents approximately 88 per cent of the country’s electricity generation. Regulatory uncertainty has recently impeded the further development of the renewables sector despite promising prospects.

The EBRD has played a major role in the development of the renewables sector in Poland and provided finance for several investments. Among them is the 120MW Margonin wind farm, the first renewables investment by EDPR in Poland in 2010. The new Pawlowo wind park is located in the vicinity and a direct follow-on project.

Riccardo Puliti, EBRD Managing Director Energy, said: “The EBRD is pleased to support the expansion of renewable energy in Poland which is crucial to a re-balancing of the country’s energy mix. We are also proud to deepen our successful cooperation with EDPR and are confident that this will set an example for other investors.”

“The new long-term financing agreement with the EBRD confirms the soundness of EDPR’s strategy based on the development of quality projects. It is also important to support the evolution of the Polish wind energy market,” said Rui Teixeira, CFO of EDPR.

To date the EBRD has invested more than €6.3 billion in all sectors of the Polish economy with a combined project value exceeding €33 billion. The Bank continues to support the renewable energy sector with over €1.1 billion invested in nearly 50 projects across its region.  For more information about EBRD projects in Poland, go to http://www.ebrd.com/pages/country/poland.shtml.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), established in 1991 to nurture the private sector in Central and Eastern Europe and throughout Central Asia, uses investment to help build market economies and democracies. The EBRD is the largest single investor in the region and mobilizes significant foreign direct investment beyond its own financing. Owned by 61 countries and two intergovernmental institutions, the EBRD provides project financing for banks, industries and businesses.  The EBRD invested €8.7 billion in 388 individual projects in 2012.  For more information about the bank, visit http://www.ebrd.com/index.htm

Based on EBRD news story by Axel Reiserer

Source: EBRD

AsyaPort Project to create new container terminal for Mega-vessels in Turkey receives EBRD backing


EBRD invests in Turkey’s first trans-shipment hub just West of Istanbul 

17 December 2013 – London, UK and Istanbul, Turkey – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has announced that it is providing a $92 million loan for Turkey’s first trans-shipment container terminal AsyaPort, as the country continues to improve its infrastructure to create the conditions for sustaining its strong economic growth.  The Bank’s financing will be used to design, build, operate and maintain a new container terminal in the town of Barbaros, Tekirdag province, some 130 km west of Istanbul. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Turkiye Is Bankasi will also contribute parallel loans of $69 million and $106.6 million, respectively.

Equipped to handle 1.9 million TEUs – twenty-foot equivalent unit, the standard industry measure for containers – AsyaPort is set to become a major trans-shipment hub for cargo bound for Black Sea ports. It will also provide additional, much-needed capacity for domestic shipping traffic.

131218-pmwj18-AsyaPort-IMAGEAt present, large vessels cannot pass the Bosporus as the Strait can only accommodate ships with container carrying capacities of up to 6,500 TEUs. AsyaPort is located on the Sea of Marmara side of the Bosporus, and will be able to handle mega-vessels with capacities up to 18,000 TEUs. The port will receive cargo which will then be transported by smaller vessels to the major Black Sea ports. This will not only reduce transportation costs and increase efficiency, but it will also improve the safety of operations on the congested Bosporus.

Sue Barrett, Director for Transport at the EBRD, said: “With Turkey’s international trade mostly seaborne, investing in maritime infrastructure is crucial in boosting growth. We are pleased to finance what will become the country’s first trans-shipment hub and one of its largest container terminals. AsyaPort will promote more efficient logistics and trans-shipment operations in Turkey and the entire region.”

AsyaPort will set very high standards in environmental and energy management. The terminal will use the latest energy efficiency technologies, such as electric rubber tyred gantry (RTG) cranes, which reduce fuel consumption at the terminal by an estimated 95 per cent. It will also be the first terminal to receive the energy management certificate ISO 50001, and is expected to receive ISO 14000 certification on environmental management.

AsyaPort will be built and operated by the special purpose company. AsyaPort Liman A.S., which is a joint venture between Global Terminal Ltd (GTL) – which is part of the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) group, the world’s second-largest shipping line in terms of container vessel capacity – and the Soyuer family.

The EBRD regards strengthening regional transport infrastructure as one of the key priorities in Turkey. To date, the Bank has invested more than €500 million in the country’s infrastructure sector, including Mersin International Port, Eurasia Tunnel and the new domestic terminal at Izmir Airport.

Since the beginning of its operations in Turkey in 2009, the EBRD has invested more than €3.5 billion in the country, both in direct deals and through credit lines.  Last year Turkey became the EBRD’s second-largest country of operations, with €1 billion in new investments in 2012 alone.  For more information about EBRD projects in Turkey, go to http://www.ebrd.com/pages/country/turkey.shtml.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), established in 1991 to nurture the private sector in central and eastern Europe and throughout Central Asia, uses investment to help build market economies and democracies. The EBRD is the largest single investor in the region and mobilizes significant foreign direct investment beyond its own financing. Owned by 61 countries and two intergovernmental institutions, the EBRD provides project financing for banks, industries and businesses.  The EBRD invested €8.7 billion in 388 individual projects in 2012.  For more information about the bank, visit http://www.ebrd.com/index.htm

Based on EBRD news story by Olga Rosca

Source: EBRD

Trans-Sahara Highway Project receives major Financial Injection


14 December 2013 – The African Development Bank (AfDB) has announced the approval of US$ 184.79 (UA120.37)* for the construction of a 9,022-kilometre strategic Trans-Sahara Highway (TSH) linking several African countries.  The decision was announced on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 in Tunis.

131214-pmwj18-trans-sahara-IMAGEThe project involves construction and asphalting of 565 kilometres of roads linking the main axis and the Chadian branch of the TSH; construction of a 543-meter-long bridge on the River Niger at Farié, with 3 kilometers of access roads, and the construction of infrastructure to ease transport and transit at the Algeria/Niger and Niger/Chad borders.

The project aims to facilitate overland trade and regional integration between the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), Economic communities of West African States (ECOWAS), Economic community of Central African States (ECCAS), in general, and Algeria, Niger and Chad, in particular. The project’s specific objective is to improve the TSH’s overall level of service and the living conditions of the inhabitants of the project impact area.

Designed to put infrastructure at the centre of economic, social, political and security stakes of the continent, the highway is located on the Algiers-Lagos and Dakar-Djibouti trans-African corridors identified by the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) as priority projects for achieving New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) objectives by 2020.

The project is expected to: (i) improve TSH service level and increase traffic and trade between North Africa, West Africa and Central Africa; (ii) reduce the cost of transport and logistics; (iii) improve the living conditions of residents of the project area and their access to basic social services (drinking water, schools, health units, etc.); and (iv) contribute to the overall improvement of security in the Sahara region.

THS is part of PIDA’s priority projects to connect African capitals and major cities. It fits with the transport sector policies and vision of ECOWAS, ECCAS, WAEMU and CEMAC. The project is in line with the AfDB’s strategy papers for the countries concerned. It is also consistent with pillar 2 of the AfDB’s Ten-Year Strategy, 2013-2022 which aims, among others, to provide affordable access to reliable electricity and transport infrastructure, as part of inclusive growth. The TSH is one of the major trans-African corridors promoted by the African Union Commission as the backbone of the continent’s NEPAD-led development in which the AfDB plays a leading role.

Target beneficiaries of the project include users of the TSH, and in particular, residents of the project impact area which spans 4.4 million km², with a population of 60 million inhabitants in Algeria, Tunisia, Mali, Niger, Chad and Nigeria.

The Bank’s support comprises (1) ADF loans amounting to UA 20.90 million for Chad and UA 58.98 million for Niger, (ii) ADF grants amounting to UA 20.40 million for Chad and UA 20.09 million for Niger. In Algeria, the project will be financed entirely by the Government, through the public investment budget, for an estimated UA 12.76 million, to be raised in 2014.

The project will be implemented over a period of 60 months at a total cost of US$ 585.53 million (UA 381.4 million). The Bank Group’s contribution stands at UA 120.37 million, or 31.56% of the total project cost. Other donors are the Islamic Development Bank, Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), Development Bank of Central African States (BDEAC), The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED), Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and the Governments of Algeria, Niger and Chad.

*UA 1 = US$1.53521 as of 12 December 2013

For more information about transport-related projects supported by the AfDB, go to http://www.afdb.org/en/news-and-events/transport/.

For more about the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa, visit http://www.afdb.org/en/news-and-events/programme-for-infrastructure-development-in-africa-pida/

A summary of the project can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-Sahara_Highway.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) is a regional multilateral development finance institution established in 1964 to mobilize resources towards the economic and social progress of its Regional Member Countries. Headquartered in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, the Bank promotes economic and social development in African states, providing financing for programs and projects across the continent.  For more information, visit www.adbg.org.

Source: African Development Bank