"The House Appropriations Committee announced the members who will chair its 12 subcommittees today. At the same time, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee announced the Republican members and chairs of its six subcommittees. There is no change for NASA and NOAA, but the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee will get a new chairwoman -- Kay Granger of Texas. She joins fellow Texans in chairing key space-related committees and subcommittees."
Recently in Congress Category
"[Rep. John] Culberson whose House of Representatives subcommittee oversees the budgets for NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has never been a fan of John Holdren, Obama's science adviser. And his latest comments are likely to further heighten anxiety among scientific leaders about how the U.S. research enterprise will fare under President-elect Donald Trump."
"Q: Some have suggested reviving the National Space Council. Would that be useful?
A: I'd have to see what the new administration proposes. But I think there are too many layers of government and advisory committees. A simplified and unified chain of command at NASA that is less political would help the agency immensely. And I will continue to try to make the NASA administrator more like the FBI director [in serving a 10-year term], so it can focus on its mission and worry less about changes in administration. The agency needs stability and certainty and adequate funding to accomplish everything on its plate.
Q: There's been talk of moving earth sciences out of NASA.
A: At this point that is very speculative. There's strong support in Congress for keeping a close eye on planet Earth and understanding our complex planet. And the future level of funding and who's responsible for earth science will be an ongoing debate with the new administration and the incoming Congress. I'm quite confident there will continue to be strong support for the earth sciences as well as planetary sciences and the human space flight program throughout Congress and in the new administration."
"Please join NASA's Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs in celebrating Seth's departure on a new journey. Thursday, January 12, 2017 4 - 7 p.m., Room 2E39, NASA Headquarters $15 suggested contribution RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org"
Keith's note: Best wishes, Seth, as you return to the real world ;-)
Short-Term Continuing Resolution to Maintain Government Operations Released House Appropriations Committee
"House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers today introduced a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) (H.R. 2028) to prevent a government shutdown and continue funding for federal programs and services until April 28, 2017. The legislation also contains funding for emergency disaster relief. ... The CR also includes provisions needed to prevent catastrophic, irreversible, or detrimental changes to government programs, to support our national security, and to ensure good government. Some of these provisions include: ... A provision allowing funds for NASA's Deep Space Exploration program to avoid delays that would increase long-term costs. ... A provision allowing funds for the Joint Polar Satellite System programs, ensuring the continuation of data for weather warnings, including forecasts of severe weather events."
"The White House science office hasn't been very productive under President Barack Obama, says the chairman of a key congressional research spending panel. And Representative John Culberson (R-TX) says he'd like to see it downsized. ... Since becoming CJS chairman in January 2015, Culberson has used his position as a "cardinal" to advocate for his scientific priorities, starting with a multi-billion-dollar NASA mission to a jovian moon that some scientists believe may harbor life."
Keith's note: Funny how a member of Congress with zero science training shoves Europa missions down NASA's throat and then complains about a congressionally-mandated position in the Executive Branch that overtly seeks to have actual scientific input - from actual scientists - so as to make informed decisions - about science.
Senate Floor Action on New NASA Authorization Act Could be Imminent, Space Policy Online
"Senate and House negotiators reportedly are close to agreement on a final version of a FY2017 NASA authorization act. Senate floor action on a draft compromise bill could come as early as tomorrow. A draft of a revised version of the bill reportedly reflecting compromise with the House is now circulating and rumors are that the Senate may take it up as early as tomorrow. SpacePolicyOnline.com obtained a copy of the new draft. A quick glance suggests that it is similar to what cleared the Senate committee, while incorporating elements of H.R, 810 and H.R. 2039 plus new provisions. These are a few highlights of the 114-page draft."
"As the incoming Administration evaluates ARM, it would benefit from clear guidance from both NASA and its advisory bodies. Similarly, it should be unencumbered by decisions made in the twilight of this Administration's term. Contrary to the assertions made in the press release, numerous advisory bodies have questioned the merits of the President's ARM mission. The NASA Advisory Council, the Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG), and the National Research Council have all raised concerns with the mission since its proposal by the Administration," the letter states."
- NASA Boulder Retrieval Briefings: Look But Don't Touch, earlier post (this congressional letter cites this NASAWatch post as one of its references).
- NASA's Boulder Retrieval Mission, earlier post
"Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) yesterday sent letters to four senior officials following up on requests for information about the current U.S. policy governing the export of U.S. commercial satellites for launch on Indian launch vehicles. On July 6 Chairmen Smith and Babin wrote Director of Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren, Secretary of State John Kerry, United States Trade Representative Michael Froman, and U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, seeking this information. Yesterday's letters reiterate requests for a briefing and documentation on the current U.S. policy."
"Here, CSF opposes any change to the current U.S. policy with respect to launch on Indian launch vehicle systems. For commercial as well as government launches, Indian launch vehicles are operated by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), a government entity that also funds the development and manufacture of these launch vehicles. Here, CSF has seen that pricing for commercial launch services on Indian rockets historically has not reflected the true costs associated with their initial development and on-going launch operations, putting U.S. commercial launchers at a disadvantage in competitions for these class of payloads. In effect, India is dumping these vehicles on the commercial market to the detriment of U.S. firms. We would encourage the U.S. Congress to support American firms offering legitimate pricing for launch services in this market."
Elliot Pulham, Space Foundation Testimony, April 2016
"The concern about using Indian boosters is not so much the transfer of sensitive technology to a nation that is a fellow democracy, but rather whether Indian launches are subsidized by the Indian government to the degree that other market actors, for example American launch companies or those of allies, would be priced out the market."
Keith's note: Why is India being singled out for special treatment? Who own's most, if not all, of China's launch infrastructure? Russia's? Europe's? Japan's? Who sets their launch prices? Why is it that every time the U.S. buys Soyuz seats the price goes up far more than it should?
- Will U.S. Companies Be Allowed To Launch on Indian Rockets?, earlier post
- America's Hypocritical Fear of Indian Rockets, earlier post
- Congress Asks Questions About U.S. Policy Regarding Indian Launch Vehicles, earlier post
- Hearing Discusses Using Old ICBMs As Satellite Launchers, earlier post
"The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has advanced a NASA authorization bill that focuses on space exploration and seeks to ensure stability at the space agency through the upcoming presidential transition. Unlike the House-passed NASA authorization bill, the Senate bill has only a few provisions specific to NASA's science divisions. Whereas the House backed a sweeping authorization bill that addresses all of NASA's major programs, including providing extensive guidance to NASA's Science Mission Directorate, the Senate bill focuses on big picture strategy and ensuring stability at the agency through the upcoming presidential transition. The Senate legislation emphasizes NASA's role in space exploration, and it would formalize in statute the horizon goal of sending humans to Mars as well as support steps for getting there."
"U.S. Representative Bill Flores (R-Texas) led a bipartisan letter, signed by 23 additional members of Congress, to the administrators at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Secretary of the United States Air Force supporting a robust, domestic commercial space launch industry. The bipartisan group of lawmakers expressed their support of the ongoing investigation into the recent mishap involving a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The letter states: "Accidents are unfortunate events, and accident investigations should not be politicized. We encourage you to reject calls for your organizations to abandon established, well considered, and long standing procedures."
"The letter, dated Thursday, also cited SpaceX's prior explosion in June 2015 while carrying cargo for NASA to the International Space Station. The Hawthorne space company led its own investigation for that launch failure. Under federal law, SpaceX is allowed to conduct its own investigation. SpaceX ... and other companies lobbied successfully to extend the law last year. The FAA oversees such investigations. The Congress members said the investigation responses raised "serious concerns about the authority provided to commercial providers and the protection of national space assets."
"Ten Republican Congress members led by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) have sent a letter to the heads of the Air Force, NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration questioning whether SpaceX should be allowed to lead its own investigation ... Coffman's congressional district includes United Launch Alliance's headquarters. Many of the congressmen represent states where ULA has operations."
Keith's note: But wait. ULA did their own internal review when the first stage of the Atlas V delivering OA-6 Cygnus shut down early. Oops. H/t to Tim B.
"Per standard processes when a flight data item such as this has been identified, the ULA engineering team, along with our engine supplier and several government customers, forms a robust review team. The review team assessed all flight and operational data to determine direct and root causes and implemented the appropriate corrective actions for future flights. .. "We would like to thank our customers and supplier partners for their outstanding collaboration in the detailed review of this anomaly."
Updated: Congress Hearing: Are We Losing the Space Race to China [Hearing video]
Subcommittee Examines China's Space Exploration Capabilities and Achievements, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
"Now, almost 50 years since that historic event, some are asking if we are again in a space race, but this time with China. Two weeks ago, China successfully placed in orbit its Tiangong-2 experimental orbiting space lab. And that accomplishment comes on the heels of China's landing a robotic rover on the Moon, with plans announced to do the same on Mars. So, should we be concerned that China is may be closing the gap in spaceflight capabilities?"
"China continues to make progress. We cannot resign ourselves to the remembrance of past achievements. It is time for the United States to reassert its leadership. For over fifty years, the United States has been committed to the peaceful use and exploration of outer space. Our philosophical principles of freedom, the rule of law, and transparency are evident in the actions we take. The United States shares scientific data and findings, promotes international cooperation, and maintains international peace and security in outer space. The world has benefited from U.S. space leadership."
Senate Commerce and House SS&T Committees Approve Space Bills, Space Policy Online
"The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee each held markups today of space-related legislation. The Senate committee approved the 2016 NASA Transition Authorization Act and the INSPIRE Women Act. The House committee approved the TREAT Astronauts Act. Congress is only scheduled to be in session for a few more weeks in 2016, but if all parties are sufficiently motivated to reach compromise, there is more than enough time to get the bills to the President's desk before the end of the 114th Congress."
"The bill authorizes $19.508 billion for NASA for FY2017. It does not address funding beyond that one year, which begins October 1. The total is the same as approved by the House Appropriations Committee in its version of the FY2017 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill, which has not been considered by the House yet. It is $202 million more than the Senate Appropriations Committee approved. The money is allocated to NASA's budget accounts in line with the Senate Appropriations CJS bill except that the extra $202 million is added to the Exploration account, which pays for SLS and Orion."
Marc's note: While Marcia almost sounds optimistic, there isn't much time left to get these bills passed. As usual, leaving bills to the last minute is par for the course. We'll see what jockeying occurs in the next few weeks.
- Commerce Approves NASA Transition Act, BOTS Act, and 3 Other Bills
- Chairman John Thune - Majority Statement - NASA Transition Act, 4 Other Bills
- Senator Bill Nelson - Minority Statement - NASA Transition Act, 4 Other Bills
- Bipartisan Astronaut Health Bill Passes Out of Committee
- The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Congratulates Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on Approval of NASA Transition Authorization Act
- CompTIA Supports NASA Authorization Bill
"U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) today announced the introduction of S. 3346, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Transition Authorization Act of 2016. The legislation provides stability for NASA to sustain and build upon existing national space investments designed to advance space exploration and science with an overall authorization level of $19.508 billion for fiscal year 2017."
US science agencies face budget limbo, Nature.com
"Another year, another round of budget roulette for US science agencies. When Congress returns from its summer break on 6 September, it will have just three weeks to pass a new government funding bill before the 2017 budget year begins on 1 October. ... Policy analysts predict that lawmakers will pass a stopgap funding measure that will keep agencies' budgets flat until the presidential election in November - and perhaps into next year. The House spending bill for NASA includes an extra $200 million for the agency's planetary-science programme compared with the current level, whereas the Senate has proposed cutting the programme's budget by about $300 million."
Van Hollen Vows To Continue Mikulski's Passion for Space, SpacePolicyOnline
"Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) vowed to continue the strong support for NASA and NOAA evidenced by Sen. Barbara Mikulski if he is elected as her successor in November. Mikulski is retiring and Van Hollen is widely considered to be the front runner to replace her. Overall, Van Hollen's message today at a luncheon sponsored by the Maryland Space Business Roundtable (MSBR) was one of reassurance. Mikulski's advocacy for NASA and NOAA, especially, but not only, earth science missions, is legendary. Many in the space community are apprehensive about what her departure will mean for NASA and NOAA space programs and budgets. Van Hollen is a relative unknown in space circles and today he clearly wanted to convey his enthusiasm and dedication to continue the fight."
"The Asteroid Redirect Mission Umbrella for Partnerships(ARM-UP) Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) will solicit concept studies for basic and applied research and technology demonstrations, and mission investigations through partnerships with the ARM. The full BAA Solicitation, with two appendices, is expected to be issued in early September."
"Earlier this year, NASA updated the target launch date for the robotic mission to December 2021 in order to incorporate acquisition of the industry robotic spacecraft development into the project schedule. To reflect this new target date, the project's cost cap was increased at KDP-B from $1.25 billion to $1.4 billion. This figure does not include the launch vehicle or the post-launch operations phase. The crewed segment, targeted for launch in 2026, remains in an early mission concept phase, or pre-formulation."
NASA's Boulder Retrieval Mission, earlier post (2015)
"And NASA can't even admit that the $1.25 billion cost (without launcher) would balloon to $3 billion or so when it uses the two SLS flights it wants to use. And oh yes: the OSIRIS-REx mission will already do nearly all of the sciencey stuff ARM is doing (as an afterthought) - at a fraction of the cost of ARM."
- House Appropriators Seek To Defund Asteroid Mission - Push NASA To The Moon & Mars, earlier post
- ARM Defenders Forecast Nasty Things If It Is Cancelled, earlier post
- Asteroid Boulder Retrieval Mission Needs a Precursor Mission, earlier post
Keith's note: It is somewhat strange that Gerstenmaier thinks that future budgets in the next administration and Congress are going to be any more predictable - or clear - than they have been for the past several decades. Had he been more specific about the whole #JourneyToMars thing years ago he might have found more support for what NASA is doing. Oddly when Congress is clear on things i.e. prohibiting ARM, Gerstenmaier still thinks he has options.
As for the influencing the transition teams, past experience should show NASA that transition teams easily see through the smoke and mirrors that NASA tries to distract them with - assuming that they even have any interest in NASA or influence upon what will actually become policy. One way to make a positive impression on these transition teams is for NASA explain why it does things, do things on time/on budget, and stop announcing delays and pushing the blame off on others.
Results speak for themselves.
"In February 2016, Congress asked GAO to examine what is known about other countries with launch capabilities and whether or not countries had fostered competition among launch providers, similar to what the United States is attempting to do in the EELV program. GAO responded to this request with a written briefing on the worldwide space launch capabilities and the status of the United States and global launch market."
"This is all rather odd and self-serving. Both Space Foundation and Commercial Spaceflight Federation depend on commercial space company membership dues. On one hand it is wrong to allow U.S. commercial payloads to be launched by India because their rockets have large government subsidies. Yet Space Foundation and CSF think that it is just fine to launch these same U.S. commercial payloads on Chinese, Russian, and European launch vehicles - all of which get substantial government subsidies. Meanwhile ULA has been getting billions a year for decades in U.S. government subsidies to keep both EELV fleets afloat (with no competition until recently) - and they will now get more money to wean themselves from RD-180 engines whose use was mandated by the U.S. government. Again, where you stand depends on where you sit."
"The hearing will focus on the importance of ensuring consistency in policy to best leverage investments made in human space exploration. The hearing will also explore questions facing the agency related to the upcoming presidential transition."
"GAO found in March 2016 that the Department of Defense (DOD), in conducting a requirements review and Analysis of Alternatives (AOA) from 2012 to 2014, generally performed a thorough review for identifying capability gaps in meteorological and oceanographic data also referred to as weather data that needed to be met and determining the operational benefit of satisfying these gaps."
"As highlighted in a May 2016 report, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) program has continued to make progress in developing the JPSS-1 satellite for a March 2017 launch. However, the program has experienced technical challenges which have resulted in delays in interim milestones. In addition, NOAA faces the potential for a near-term gap in satellite coverage of 8 months before the JPSS-1 satellite is launched and completes post-launch testing."
- Statement by Stephen Volz, NOAA, Hearing on Weather Satellite Programs
- Statement by Ralph Stoffler USAF Hearing on Weather Satellite Programs
- Statement by Rep. Lamar Smith Hearing on Weather Satellite Programs
-Statement by Rep. Jim Bridenstine Hearing on Weather Satellite Programs
Congress Asks Questions About U.S. Policy Regarding Indian Launch Vehicles, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee
"Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) today sent letters to four senior officials requesting information about the current U.S. policy governing the export of U.S. commercial satellites for launch on Indian launch vehicles. ... The letters request a written copy of the administration's policy governing access to Indian launch services, an explanation of when and how this policy was promulgated, and a copy of licenses authorizing the launch of U.S. origin space technology on Indian launch vehicles and records associated with them."
"Prohibiting access to foreign launch services, like India's, who do not allow their payloads to fly on U.S. vehicles, has opened another set of opportunities for U.S. commercial companies to develop their own systems to serve the global satellite launch market. Here, CSF opposes any change to the current U.S. policy with respect to launch on Indian launch vehicle systems. For commercial as well as government launches, Indian launch vehicles are operated by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), a government entity that also funds the development and manufacture of these launch vehicles. Here, CSF has seen that pricing for commercial launch services on Indian rockets historically has not reflected the true costs associated with their initial development and on-going launch operations, putting U.S. commercial launchers at a disadvantage in competitions for these class of payloads. In effect, India is dumping these vehicles on the commercial market to the detriment of U.S. firms. We would encourage the U.S. Congress to support American firms offering legitimate pricing for launch services in this market."
Commercial Launch: All Government Subsidies Are Not Created Equal, earlier post
"This is all rather odd and self-serving. Both Space Foundation and Commercial Spaceflight Federation depend on commercial space company membership dues. On one hand it is wrong to allow U.S. commercial payloads to be launched by India because their rockets have large government subsidies. Yet Space Foundation and CSF think that it is just fine to launch these same U.S. commercial payloads on Chinese, Russian, and European launch vehicles - all of which get substantial government subsidies. Meanwhile ULA has been getting billions a year for decades in U.S. government subsidies to keep both EELV fleets afloat (with no competition until recently) - and they will now get more money to wean themselves from RD-180 engines whose use was mandated by the U.S. government. Again, where you stand depends on where you sit."
America's Hypocritical Fear of Indian Rockets, earlier post
"GAO reported in 2015 that FAA's budget requests for its commercial space launch activities generally were based on the number of projected launches, but that in recent years the actual number of launches was much lower than FAA's projections. GAO also reported that, according to FAA officials, more detailed information was not provided in FAA's budget submissions because the agency lacked information on its workload overseeing commercial space launch activities. In addition, GAO reported that the Office of Commercial Space Transportation did not track the amount of time spent on various activities."
Senate Reaches Agreement on Russian RD-180 Engines, SpacePolicyOnline
"Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) brokered an agreement among Senators who have been at sharp odds over how to transition U.S. rocket launches away from reliance on Russian RD-180 engines to a new American-made engine. The Nelson amendment passed the Senate this morning by voice vote as part of the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA itself then passed the Senate by a vote of 85-13. In brief, the compromise sets December 31, 2022 as the end date for use of the RD-180 by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) for Atlas V launches of national security satellites. It also limits to 18 the number of RD-180s that can be used between the date that the FY2017 NDAA is signed into law (enacted) and that end date."
"If the President were presented with S. 2943, his senior advisors would recommend he veto the bill. ...
... Multiple Provisions Imposing Restrictions on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Program: The Administration strongly objects to sections 1036, 1037, 1038, and 1611. Section 1036 would restrict DOD's authority to use RD-180 engines, eliminate the Secretary's authority to waive restrictions to protect national security interests, and -- with section 1037 -- disqualify a domestic launch service provider from offering a competitive, certified launch service capability. Section 1038 would repeal the statutory requirement to allow all certified providers to compete for launch service procurements. Section 1611 would redirect funds away from the development of modern, cost-effective, domestic launch capabilities that will replace non-allied engines. The combined effect of these provisions would be to eliminate price-based competition of EELV launch service contracts starting in FY 2017, force the Department to allocate missions, inhibit DOD's ability to maintain assured access to space, delay the launch of national security satellites, delay the on-ramp of new domestic launch capabilities and services, and increase the cost of space launch to DOD, the Intelligence Community, and civil agencies. The authorization to use up to 18 RD-180 engines is necessary and prudent to expeditiously and affordably transition to the new domestic launch capabilities currently under development."
Use of Surplus Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Motors for Commercial Space Launches: Section 1607 would direct the Comptroller General to conduct an analysis of the costs and benefits of providing surplus ICBMs to the private sector for commercial space launch purposes. Both Federal law and the Administration's National Space Transportation Policy currently prohibit such transfers for commercial use. The Administration continues to support this long-standing policy, which seeks to avoid undermining investment, entrepreneurship, and innovation in the launch market."
There are other military space-related issues of concerns listed as well.
Keith's note: Dick Malow, a long-time staff member on the House VA-HUD Appropriations subcommittee, has died after a lengthy illness. Malow was known for his support of NASA which often required some tough love on his part. Over the years Malow managed to have a lot of influence upon the way that the International Space Station was designed, re-designed, and then redesigned again so as to make it easier to assemble and more useful to the people who would eventually do research on it. His influence on what eventually became the ISS was rather substantial and was not totally appreciated at the time. I can remember more than once sitting in a meeting with the engineering side of the Space Station Freedom program when a design or science utilization issue came up. Usually someone was trying to cut a corner or reduce some capability that the science users needed. More than once I said something to the effect of "well, if the science types tell Malow about this you know that there will be a directive from Congress telling you to stop doing it." Indeed, that actually happened more than once. Dick Malow helped keep the space station alive when others wanted to kill it and helped make it useful when others just wanted to launch hardware - any hardware - that simply kept the lights on.. Ad Astra Dick.
Obituary, Washington Post
Condolences to Dick's family. He did indeed keep NASA's feet to the fire on bldg a USEFUL space station; influential on so many other issues— Marcia Smith (@SpcPlcyOnline) June 2, 2016
Louie Gohmert: No Gay Space Colonies!, RightWing Watch (with video)
"[Rep. Louie Gohmert R-TX] said that if lawmakers had to decide "whether humanity would go forward or not" in case of an imminent asteroid collision by putting people in a "space ship that can go, as Matt Damon did in the movie, plant a colony somewhere, we can have humans survive this terrible disaster about to befall, if you could decide what 40 people you put on the spacecraft that would save humanity, how many of those would be same-sex couples? You're wanting to save humankind for posterity, basically a modern-day Noah, you have that ability to be a modern day Noah, you can preserve life. How many same-sex couples would you take from the animal kingdom and from humans to put on a spacecraft to perpetuate humanity and the wildlife kingdom?"
Keith's note: Yes, Congress is where smart people work in the
18th 21st Century to make life better for all some Americans.
Senate Schism on Russian Rocket Engines Continues, Space Policy Online
"The Senate Appropriations Committee's Defense Subcommittee approved its version of the FY2017 defense appropriations bill today. Few details have been released, but in at least one area -- Russian RD-180 rocket engines -- the schism between Senate appropriators and authorizers seems destined to continue. The full appropriations committee will mark up the bill on Thursday."
"To ULA's credit, the company has successfully launched over 100 rockets without incident. But they've also been given vast resources to do so. For example, McCain refers to ULA's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) launch capability contract as "$800 million to do nothing." That's not exactly fair since the contract gives the Air Force tremendous launch flexibility, but $800 million a year to effectively be ready to launch seems tremendously generous."
SpaceX is about to attempt another extremely difficult landing, Business Insider
"SpaceX will once again attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic. SpaceX's track record for launches has been nearly flawless this year, with four successful launches and three successful landings (and retrievals!) of the first stage of the rockets. One of those successes took place on land in December; two more happened in April and May at sea. SpaceX will once again attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic."
"Responding to questions Monday at an event hosted by the Mitchell Institute on Capitol Hill, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the U.S. should pursue such a relationship with China in human space exploration. "We were in an incredible Cold War with the Soviets at the time we flew Apollo-Soyuz; it was because leaders in both nations felt it was time," he said. "That represented a great use of soft power, if you will. Look where we are today. I think we will get there [with China]. And I think it is necessary." Current law prohibits NASA from engaging with its Chinese counterparts on such projects. But Bolden, who will travel to Beijing later this year, says Congress should consider revising the law."
Kilmer, Bridenstine Get Full Funding for FAA Space Office, Space Policy Online
"During markup of the FY2017 Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) appropriations bill today, the House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment to fully fund the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) at the requested level of $19.8 million. That is $1 million more than the T-HUD subcommittee recommended."
The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Applauds House NASA Funding Bill, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration
"The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (Coalition) applauds House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee (CJS) Chairman John Culberson, Ranking Member Mike Honda and the entire Appropriations Committee for its exceptional support for NASA's human and science exploration programs in its FY 2017 Appropriations bill, which boosts NASA funding to $19.5 billion. Like their counterparts in the Senate, the CJS Subcommittee has worked across the aisle to produce a bipartisan bill that ensures our space program receives the necessary funding to continue America's leadership in space."
NASA begins on Page 54. On page 61 the report says:
"Mission to Mars. While the Committee recognizes the benefits of some of the technology that is under development as part of the asteroid redirect and retrieval missions, namely advanced propulsion technology research, asteroid deflection, and grappling technologies, the Committee believes that neither a robotic nor a crewed mission to an asteroid appreciably contribute to the over-arching mission to Mars. Further, the long-term costs of launching a robotic craft to the asteroid, followed by a crewed mission, are unknown and will divert scarce resources away from developing technology and equipment necessary for missions to Mars, namely deep space habitats, accessing and utilizing space resources, and developing entry, descent, landing, and ascent technologies.
Toward that end, no funds are included in this bill for NASA to continue planning efforts to conduct either robotic or crewed missions to an asteroid. Instead, NASA is encouraged to develop plans to return to the Moon to test capabilities that will be needed for Mars, including habitation modules, lunar prospecting, and landing and ascent vehicles.
Further, the Committee is supportive of NASA's efforts to use the International Space Station (ISS) to conduct research necessary to enable long-term human spaceflight, or ''Earth-reliant'' technology development; cis-lunar space activities, or ''proving ground'' efforts such as Orion flights on SLS in the vicinity of the Moon, and deployment and testing of deep space habitation modules; and finally, NASA's ''Earth independent'' activities which include using cis-lunar space as a staging area, mapping potential human exploration zones and caching samples on Mars as part of the Mars Rover 2020 mission."
"Representative John Culberson (R-TX), a self-professed space fan who chairs the House appropriations subpanel that oversees NASA, included the call for the ambitious voyage in a committee report released today. The report accompanies a bill setting NASA's budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins 1 October; the full House appropriations panel is set to consider the bill on Tuesday. In the report, Culberson's panel "encourages NASA to study and develop propulsion concepts that could enable an interstellar scientific probe with the capability of achieving a cruise velocity of 0.1c [10% of the speed of light]." The report language doesn't mandate any additional funding, but calls on NASA to draw up a technology assessment report and conceptual road map within 1 year."
"As part of the mission to Europa, Culberson would also like to send a lander to the surface of the heaving, ice-encrusted world. This would allow scientists to better characterize the oceans below and, if the lander touches down near a fissure, possibly even sample the ocean. However, there has been some concern that having both an orbital spacecraft and a lander in a single mission would prove too challenging for a single rocket to deliver. So as part of the new House bill, the Europa mission is broken into two parts: an orbiter and, two years later, a lander."
Keith's note: This looks like it would be something like a dual "flagship" mission. Each spacecraft will be on the order of, oh $500 million each, and then, knowing Culberson's preferences, each would require its own SLS launch at $500 million to $1 billion each. Unless NASA's budget is going to get a big plus up on top of what it already needs to do other things that is going to eat into the whole #JourneyToMars thing - an effort that is already utterly underfunded.
"One of the requirements would be that the government develop a streamlined plan for its acquisitions. The bill would increase the power of existing Chief Information Officers (CIO) within federal agencies so that they could be more effective. Each agency would also be reduced to having only one CIO in the agency, who is then responsible for the success and failure of all IT projects in that agency. The bill would also require the federal government to make use of private sector best practices. The bill is intended to reduce IT procurement related waste."
Oversight Committee FITARA Scorecard (2016) [Note: NASA is the only agency to get an overall 'F' grade]
Hearing, Federal Information Technology Reform Act Scorecard 2.0, House Oversight Committee
"Admittedly, NASA's scores on the FITARA scorecard are unacceptable. We have work to do, and challenges to overcome. But at the same time, I believe it is also important to reflect on the major strides NASA has already taken in improving the management of and protection of the Agency's IT infrastructure. Thus, the remainder of my testimony today will provide a brief summary of our achievements to date, and other work in progress directed at becoming the best stewards of the Agency's IT resources."
Keith's note: I have to be completely honest: neither this hearing or the FITARA report/scorecard that was released were on my news radar. I need to thank NASA's AA for Legislative Affairs, Seth Statler, for pointing out the hearing - and NASA's 'F' grade. NASA has the distinction in 2016 for being the only agency to get an overall 'F', so congratulations are in order. Of course, in telling everyone about FITARA, it is quite obvious that Statler was doing a little blame shifting as he spoke for NASA CIO Renee Wynn - while throwing her under the bus. You'd expect the @NASACIO Twitter to say something too but they have not tweeted anything since 15 March 2015.
Nor is there any mention of the hearing, the CIO's testimony, the 2016 score card (or last year's), NASA's performance (or lack thereof) and what corrective actions NASA plans to make on the NASA CIO website. Searching for "FITARA" only yields 6 results across all of NASA's websites. This chatty 2016 newsletter from the CIO makes no mention of NASA's abysmal score in 2015 but does say "OCIO has made significant progress in the development of a solid implementation plan." So, as long as they are working on a plan, then everything must be OK.
There is a slightly goofy post at Open.NASA.gov (not findable on the NASA search engine) "NASA's Approach to Implementing FITARA" from 10 March 2016 that opens with "My husband and I are planning a vacation to Disneyworld, an awesome destination for our five year old dreamer. How do we budget for such an grandiose trip?" , and then goes on to spout happy talk - with added IT word salad - about how seriously NASA takes FITARA. If only.
"On Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. in Room 2318 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Subcommittee on Space will hold a hearing titled, "Next Steps to Mars: Deep Space Habitats." The hearing will examine Mars exploration, specifically efforts to develop deep space habitation capabilities."
"Yet despite the potentially more cost-effective alternative, taxpayers will be paying the price for ULA's contracts for years to come, POLITICO has found. Estimates show that, through 2030, the cost of the Pentagon's launch program will hit $70 billion - one of the most expensive programs within the Defense Department. And even if ULA is never awarded another government contract, it will continue to collect billions of dollars - including an $800 million annual retainer - as it completes launches that were awarded before Musk's company was allowed to compete. That includes a block buy of 36 launches awarded in 2013. Meanwhile, ULA is under investigation by the Pentagon for possible corrupt bidding practices and is preparing to lay off 25 percent of its workforce. Its long-term viability is in doubt. Even the Pentagon's acquisition chief grants that the creation of ULA - a monopoly criticized by the Federal Trade Commission when it was formed at the government's behest a decade ago - may have been a mistake. "With the benefit of hindsight, you could say that," Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told POLITICO."
A bridge too far: Why Delta rockets aren't the answer, op ed, Tory Bruno, The Hill
"If you believe that competition is good, and if you believe that affordability is paramount, an Atlas bridge is the only answer. The hardworking, innovative men and women of ULA are proud of their support to America's space launch capability. From GPS and missile warning to secure communications and weather prediction, we've launched the satellites the military intelligence community depends on for every mission -- and we've done so with reliability no one can match. We're ready to continue that mission. Please ask Congress to create the smooth transition from Atlas to Vulcan Centaur that will keep America's launch industry healthy for decades to come."
ULA Gets A Russian Christmas Gift From Sen. Shelby, earlier post
"ULA has ordered additional Atlas engines to serve our existing and potential civil and commercial launch customers until a new American-made engine can be developed and certified."
Senator Shelby protects Alabama's role in rocket production, op ed, Huntsville Times
"In Decatur, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) builds the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets which launch our nation's military, NASA, and commercial satellites into space. The ULA plant employs or directly contracts with close to 1,000 Alabamians across north Alabama."
Keith's note: First ULA gets Shelby to side with them over the whole RD-180 thing to save jobs (among other things). Now you have to wonder whether Shelby is going to feel betrayed by ULA now that they want to close down Delta production in Alabama - i.e. JOBS. Then again with the unwieldy legacy arrangements that ULA has in place with DoD that will eventually go away it is probably time for them to do a drastic overhaul of how they do business. ultimately they need to able to compete in an open market on cost and performance - without DoD's finger on the scale.
Senate Armed Services Committee Sticks to Its Guns on RD-180 Rocket Engines, Space Policy Online
"U.S. national space transportation policy requires that at least two independent launch systems be available for national security launches. If one suffers a failure, access to space is assured by the other. For more than a decade, those two have been Atlas V and Delta IV, both ULA rockets. SpaceX argues that now the two can be its Falcon plus ULA's Delta IV. ULA and its supporters insist, however, that the Delta IV is prohibitively expensive compared to Atlas V and the best choice for the taxpayers is to keep Atlas V available until the early 2020s when ULA's new Vulcan rocket -- with a U.S. engine -- will be able to compete with SpaceX on price. SASC insists that a new U.S. engine can be ready by 2019 and only nine more RD-180s are needed until that time. That is the number set by the FY2015 and FY2016 NDAAs. However, the Senate Appropriations Committee undermined that authorization language in the FY2016 appropriations bill, essentially removing all limits."
Keith's note: I have lived and worked in the Washington, DC metro area for 30 years. One thing I quickly noticed when I moved here was that big companies and organizations use a large canvas - literally - when they are pushing an issue at Congress. It is not uncommon to see Metro stations near the Pentagon or Capitol Hill transformed by a "take over" ad campaign with every possible surface covered with pictures and words. Then there's op eds like the one ULA's Tory Bruno managed to get placed in The Hill begging Congress to let him kill the Delta rocket. Funny thing: I can remember back in the day when Lockheed Martin and Boeing launched big ad campaigns begging Congress to allow them to form the ULA duopoly because it would save taxpayers money by combining EELV marketing. The appearance of the Internet has done little to dampen the use of traditional media such as newspaper ads.
When I opened up my Washington Post this morning page A5 glared back at me with a full page advertisement from Norwegian Air. Flipping the page, A7 glared at me with a full page counter advertisement from ALPA (larger image). The issue has to do with a certification battle over this airline. OK, it got my attention. I do have to wonder who did the advertisement strategy for Norwegian Air. Their ad trumpets "American crew. American jobs. American planes. That's Norwegian." Right: say "American" three times and it somehow equals "Norwegian". OK, if you say so. Now ULA wants Congress to let them kill one of the two rockets it was so desperate for Congress to let them sell - without competition - because there now is competition. Oh yes and they want to kill the one with American engines and keep the one with Russian engines. Rest assured some equally large advertisements with strange tag lines from Tory Bruno will soon start to stare back from the Washington Post stating that the best "American" rocket is one with "Russian" engines.
"Honeycutt said the SLS program is making progress on the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS), a more powerful upper stage planned for future SLS missions after EM-1. The EUS has also become a political issue, as Congress provided additional funding and direction for EUS work not requested by the agency in its recent budget requests. Congress directed NASA to spend at least $85 million on EUS in the fiscal year 2016 omnibus spending bill, and have it ready in time for the second SLS mission, EM-2. NASA, however, did not request enough funding in its fiscal year 2017 budget request to support development of the EUS in time for EM-2, even as it directed agency engineers to stop work on human rating the interim upper stage that will be flown on EM-1."
Keith's note: NASA did not ask for the money to build EUS and they have stopped working on ICPS. Right now SLS has no upper stage. And yet they claim that they are going to meet their launch dates. Yea, this sort of stuff really happens in Washington.
Keith's note: I sent the following email request to Glenn Delgado, AA for NASA's Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP): "I found this tweet to be very interesting. Can you provide me with a list of the specific 800+ small business companies that are contributing to SLS, where they are located, and what their products/services are in relation to SLS? People often do not appreciate just how pervasive NASA programs are in terms of procurement. Moreover it is often not appreciated how deeply these programs can reach into small communities a great distance from the cities/states where space activities are usually associated."
Keith's update: No response from Glenn Delgado or NASA PAO but this tweet from @NASA_OSBP just appeared. Impressive report (download). Too bad NASA PAO hasn't issued a press release about it. Oddly the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, a pro-SLS/Orion lobbying group, has made no mention at all about it.
"The economic vitality of the American space industry is best served with a clear and predictable oversight process that ensures access to space and imposes minimal burdens on the industry. The Administration supports a narrowly tailored authorization process for newly contemplated commercial space activities, with only such conditions as are necessary for compliance with the United States' international obligations, foreign policy and national security interests, and protection of United States Government uses of outer space. Through months of consultations among Federal departments and agencies and with the commercial space industry, this Office developed a legislative proposal for a "Mission Authorization" framework, which is appended to this report."
"It is more the politics of pork than the politics of progress," former NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver told BuzzFeed News. "There's a long-time pattern at NASA where money aimed at science and research ends up with builders and contractors instead." ... "The point is to spend money and create jobs the way the Soviet Union did on its rocket design bureaus," Keith Cowing of NASA Watch told BuzzFeed News. The SLS "a rocket to nowhere," as Cowing put it fits this pattern neatly because it provides thousands of jobs in space states. No one knows where it will go. Maybe to an asteroid (the Obama administration's unloved notion), or to circle the moon, or boost astronauts on their way to Mars."
NASA, We Have A (Funding) Problem, op ed, Mary Davis (staffer in Rep. Babib's Office), Houston Chronicle
"The SLS and Orion are strategic national assets and have to be sufficiently funded to lead the race back to the Moon and to Mars. As Chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee, Congressman Babin is leading this fight for adequate funding of these programs. This will have a direct effect on his district in terms of lowering unemployment rates, inspiring young children, and increases economic competitiveness. It would also affect the entire nation by expanding international relations and advances national security interests."
"SEC. 304. UTILIZATION OF EXISTING WORKFORCE AND ASSETS IN DEVELOPMENT OF SPACE LAUNCH SYSTEM AND MULTI- PURPOSE CREW VEHICLE. (a) IN GENERAL.In developing the Space Launch System pursuant to section 302 and the multi-purpose crew vehicle pursu- ant to section 303, the Administrator shall, to the extent practicable utilize (1) existing contracts, investments, workforce, industrial base, and capabilities from the Space Shuttle and Orion and Ares 1 projects, including ... (B) Space Shuttle-derived components and Ares 1 components that use existing United States propulsion systems, including liquid fuel engines, external tank or tank-related capability, and solid rocket motor engines; and (2) associated testing facilities, either in being or under construction as of the date of enactment of this Act."
"The House Armed Services Committee voted Thursday morning to double the allowed purchase of Russian-made rocket engines from nine to 18, despite a desire to develop an American-made alternative. The committee adopted the amendment, by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), by voice vote, after vigorous debate that did not fall along party lines. The Air Force relies on United Launch Alliance -- a Lockheed and Boeing joint venture -- for its sensitive national security space launches, which uses a launch vehicle reliant on the RD-180 engines."
ULA rival SpaceX awarded its 1st Air Force satellite launch contract, Bizjournals.com
"ULA has since tried to lower its launch costs, shedding workers and re-engineering its processes to be able offer launches below $100 million. The 3,700-employee company is offering early retirement and employee buyouts this year and in 2017 in an effort to trim down to about 3,000 employees at its five locations nationwide."
"The proposed restrictions essentially would forbid the Air Force from funding several recently announced co-investment deals with Orbital ATK, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance beyond this year. The Air Force doled out $317 million worth of contracts to help fund Orbital ATK's development of a new solid-fueled launcher, SpaceX's development a new upper-stage engine, and ULA's development of Vulcan, a potentially reusable successor to the RD-180 powered Atlas 5 rocket."
"Dan Gouré is vice president of the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Va-based think tank that receives money from Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. ... Let's tally up the Air Force's recent moves. First, it insists it must depend on Russian rocket engines for at least another six years. Then it wants to take the high risk approach of launching important national security payloads aboard either the SpaceX system that has never been tried in such a mode or a new launch vehicle using a novel propulsion system. Finally, it wants to devastate what little remains of the U.S. rocket motor industrial base by selling off its stash of surplus Minuteman boosters."
"In other words, Mikulski gets a nice Earth-observing project for her backyard, wholly unrelated to human spaceflight, and agrees to whatever budget increases for SLS that the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee over space, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), wants. Shelby looks out for SLS because it is managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama."
Alabama Political Donations Go National, earlier post (2010)
"Hmmm - have a look at this map. After Maryland, ($475,650) the next largest contributor to Mikulski's campaign in 2010 (so far) is Alabama. ($78,610). This places Huntsville as the 4th ranking metropolitan area after Baltimore, Washington, and New York - and ahead of Chicago."
Keith's note: In 2014 she got $68,010 from Huntsville - again, right after Baltimore, Washington, and New York. Coincidence?
Keith's update: Internet advertising is run by algorithms that work off of consumer behavior and website content. Some of the ads you see respond to your own browsing habits and the cookies left in your browser. Others respond to words that appear on a web page. I have seen some strange things pop up over the years but the irony of this juxtaposition of a complaint about congressional favoritism and a paid political ad congratulating Sen. Shelby for not doing what he actually does every day (corporate welfare) is rather ironic. And then when I posted this screen grab (below) and went back to view NASAWatch the ad appeared yet again (second screen grab).
Senate Appropriators Approve $19.3 Billion for NASA for FY2017, SpacePolicyOnline
"NASA displays its budget request as the combination of the three -- $19.025 billion -- and breaks down the request for individual accounts like science, aeronautics, and space technology accordingly. The $100 million from the oil company tax was designated entirely for aeronautics, for example, so NASA's budget chart shows the aeronautics request as $790.4 million, a sharp increase from the $640 million appropriated for the current year. Congress summarily rejected the Administration's notion of taxing the oil companies, however, and appropriations committees have no authority over mandatory spending. From the Senate Appropriations Committee's standpoint, therefore, the request was $18.262 billion. Throughout its report, the committee compares what it approved to that figure, not to the $19.025 billion that NASA displays. It therefore is very important to exercise care when reading the committee's report because it may say that it provided more or less than "the request," but that may not be obvious looking at NASA's budget presentation."
- Time: 10:30 AM
- Markup of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017
- Markup of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017
- NOTE: Webcast will be audio-only.
- Senate Appropriations Budget Action Starts, earlier post
"The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies today approved a $56.3 billion spending bill to support national security, law enforcement and American scientific innovation. ... National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - $19.3 billion for NASA, $21 million over the FY2016 enacted level and $1 billion above the FY2017 NASA budget request, to support the human and robotic exploration of space, fund science missions that enhance the understanding of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe, and support fundamental aeronautics research. This includes: ..."
Space companies feud over what to do with rockets in ICBM stockpile, Washington Post
"Orbital ATK wants to unearth the dormant missiles and repurpose them to launch commercial satellites into orbit. Russia has released its Soviet-era ICBMs into the commercial market, the company argues, so the Pentagon should be allowed to sell its unused ICBMs as well. But to do that, Congress would have to ease a 20-year-old restriction that prohibits the sale of the missile motors for commercial use. And that has touched off a rancorous battle that has extended from the Pentagon to Capitol Hill, where Congress is scheduled to hold a hearing on the issue Tuesday."
Subcommittee Examines Commercial Satellite Industry, Policy Challenges, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
"Those in favor of allowing excess ICBMs to be used for commercial launch services argue that many U.S. small satellites have launched on Russian DNEPR vehicles, derived from Russian ICBMs, and that by modifying existing U.S. policy, U.S. launch services could compete with Russia and bring this business back to America. Those in favor also argue that there is a cost to the taxpayer associated with storing excess ICBMs. By allowing the U.S. commercial launch industry to use excess ICBMs, you not only lower the tax burden, but also create potential revenue derived from the sale of these motors. However, those that oppose the policy change raise legitimate concerns that allowing excess ICBMs to be used for commercial launch purposes could distort the market in the United States, undermine future investment, and delay innovations that are on the horizon."
- Subcommittee Discusses Small Satellites, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
- Hearing Charter
- Hearing: Small Satellite Opportunities and Challenges
- Elliot Pulham, Space Foundation Testimony
- Eric Stallmer, Commercial Spaceflight Federation Testimony
- More Solid Rocket Food Fights, earlier post
- Why Not Use Old Missiles To Launch New Satellites?, earlier post
"Contrary to the estimates you provided to me in private, I am left to conclude that your decision to publicly cite a figure as high as $5 billion was done so to obfuscate efforts to responsibly transition off of the RD-180 before the end of the decade," writes Chairman McCain. "I invite you to clarify the record in the context of proposals actually being considered by the committee While you chose to selectively omit the [Department of Defense Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE)] assessment in your response, we have since been briefed by the CAPE and have been provided with compelling analysis demonstrating cost implications that are starkly different from what you stated in your testimony. In fact, according to CAPE, the cost of meeting assured access to space requirements without the use of Russian rocket engines could be similar to what we pay today."
"At a speech here Tuesday at the annual Space Symposium, [Rep. Bridenstine] unveiled what he called the American Space Renaissance Act, a sprawling piece of legislation that touches on virtually every aspect in space, including national security, NASA and the growing commercial space sector." At a speech here Tuesday at the annual Space Symposium, he unveiled what he called the American Space Renaissance Act, a sprawling piece of legislation that touches on virtually every aspect in space, including national security, NASA and the growing commercial space sector."
"NASA is an exceptional agency that has been burdened with constantly shifting and broadening priorities from Congress and the Executive Branch. Congress must provide NASA stability and accountability. NASA must not be a jack-of-all-trades, but committed to a space pioneering doctrine with a purpose to retire risk and commercialize programs. Landing humans on Mars is not possible with NASA's current priorities, strategies, and missions. Mars should be the horizon goal and NASA needs to develop an actionable plan."
Keith's note: Nothing called the "American Space Renaissance Act" has actually been introduced as a bill - yet. As for cutting away the things that Rep. Bridenstine does not think NASA should be doing, well, that involves cutting funding, and every one of those things has at least 2 senators and several members of the House who will have something to say about that. Then again we could end up with more things like CASIS.
"Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): "There are some areas of agreement between the Committee and the administration in NASA's Fiscal Year 2017 budget request. But this proposed budget continues to tie our astronauts' feet to the ground and makes a Mars mission all but impossible."
"Though generally supportive of the budget request, Democratic Members of the Subcommittee discussed a number of concerns, such as the need for funding stability for NASA; the proposed cuts in funding for the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft; the proposed reduction in spending on STEM education; potential risks of schedule pressure for Exploration-Mission 2; and the need for a roadmap for a manned mission to Mars."
"Surprisingly, NASA has not proposed a single dollar for the development of an upper stage engine that is absolutely necessary for a crewed mission that is only seven years away."
Keith's note: Of course Shelby forgets that $1.2 billion NASA spent on the J-2X for use on Ares V and SLS upper stages - much of it was spent in Alabama. That engine was subsequently mothballed because NASA had no idea what it was doing. But Shelby paid their bills anyway.
Overview: J-2X Engine, NASA
"J-2X is a highly efficient and versatile advanced rocket engine with the ideal thrust and performance characteristics to power the upper stage of NASA's Space Launch System, a new heavy-lift launch vehicle capable of missions beyond low-Earth orbit. Fueled by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, the J-2X builds on heritage designs but relies on nearly a half-century of NASA spaceflight experience and technological and manufacturing advances to deliver up to 294,000 pounds of thrust, powering exploration to new destinations in our solar system."
NASA Has No Clear Use for the J-2X That It Once Needed, earlier post
Houston, we have an opportunity, OpEd, Lamar Smith and Ed Perlmutter, Denver Post
"We need a detailed plan to put an end to the uncertainties that could delay a mission to Mars. NASA and American space companies must focus their engineering and scientific expertise on the great task before them. Americans will feel a renewed sense of pride and curiosity about their space program. And they will be able to celebrate another historic first as we plant the American flag on Mars. This could be a turning point in the history of our great space-faring nation. We can do this."
Keith's note: Last week a group of space-related organizations rented the National Press Club so they could announce a white paper on space policy. Why bother? Space is not going to be an issue in the 2016 campaign.
At the press event Elliot Pulham from The Space Foundation said "We thought it would be a good time to have a platform of information out there that all candidates could refer to, learn from and take to heart as they plan their campaigns" but moments later he also said "To some extent, the purpose of this is not to have space become a big presidential issue". Pulham added "Let's not undo anything." Sandy Magnus from the AIAA said that this coalition wanted to take the issue of space policy "off the table" but at the same time she said that this group wants to "stress the importance" of space.
Such is the problem with these sort of documents from the space community. On one hand the space groups want to have a say in the political decisions that affect their members (and donors). But on the other hand they'd rather not have the politicians pay too much attention to space such that the current status quo is not upset. In other words "write us the checks but don't rock the boat" - or more bluntly "look but don't touch". This is, at best, naive thinking on the part of the space community.
If you read the white paper it becomes immediately apparent that this coalition wants everything that they are doing to be supported and in some cases, they want even more money. They also want a stable funding environment (makes sense). The two main programs being supported by this coalition are SLS/Orion and Commercial Crew and Cargo with gratuitous mention of other projects that are important to the members of this coalition. Indeed that is all that this white paper is actually about: supporting specific big aerospace contracts. There is no similarly identified support for specific space, planetary, and earth science. Small wonder that the Planetary Society, American Astronomical Society, the American Geophysical Union, et al are not among the members of this coalition.
While a lot of prominent names are affixed to this white paper it is clearly being driven by the so-called "four amigos": Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Orbital ATK - the builders of SLS/Orion. Look at the organizations listed and ponder who the prime donors/members are. Its not that hard to fill in the blanks amidst the smoke and mirrors. No surprise folks - this is how these things always work.
"The coalition lays out several policy proposals, which, if adopted, will help sustain U.S. leadership in space. Among them are: committing to predictable budgets, funding robust investments, promoting innovative partnerships, and repealing the Budget Control Act of 2011; continuing global space engagement through programs like the International Space Station; fully funding the Space Launch System, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, and the Commercial Crew programs; providing increased resources for national security space and launch programs; promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education; retaining U.S.-educated workers; and further reducing barriers to international trade."
"Members of the coalition include the Aerospace Industries Association, Aerospace States Association, American Astronautical Society, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, Colorado Space Coalition, Commercial Spaceflight Federation, Satellite Industry Association, Silicon Valley Space Business Roundtable, Space Angels Network, Space Florida, Space Foundation, and the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space."
Marc's note: By creating this white paper this broad coalition is making a statement that will be read as it's shared among politicians and their staff of every stripe. However, during the press conference Elliot Pulham of the Space Foundation said that to some extent, he doesn't want space to be a campaign issue in case a candidate says something stupid. Considering what's already been said on the campaign trail, a candidate saying something stupid on any topic would be the norm. But, and more importantly, if the coalition wants traction, then making the case and speaking about the importance of the space economy should be discussed at every political level and by the candidates.
"Similarly, ending the use of Russian rocket engines remains a top priority for this committee. Department leaders have correctly drawn attention to Russia's growing development of military capabilities to threaten U.S. national security in space. And yet, the greatest risk in this regard is that Vladimir Putin continues to hold our national security space launch capability in the palm of his hand through the Department's continued dependence on Russian rocket engines. .. And yet, the Treasury Department remains unwilling to sanction Roscosmos, the Russian parent company of the manufacturer of the RD-180, which is controlled by two sanctioned cronies of Vladimir Putin."
McCain, James Trade Barbs Over RD-180 Engines, Space Policy Online
"[Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF) Deborah Lee] James insisted she does not know who makes money from RD-180 sales and the Treasury Department determined that purchasing them does not violate the sanctions. In her opening statement, she said the sooner an RD-180 prohibition comes into effect, the more disruptive it will be and the more it will cost -- $1.5 to $5 billion -- and none of those costs are included in the Air Force's FY2017 budget request."
Staying course on the Journey to Mars, Lou Friedman via SpaceReview
"NASA does not yet have a plan for its now generally agreed-upon space exploration goal, human missions to Mars. It would be a mistake if they did. A plan now, without a specified and approved program and with many options for mission design and technology development, would be premature and wasteful. It would force both a timetable and cost estimates that, by their very definition, would be unrealistic and unsustainable. A premature plan might foreclose some of the options cited above for reaching into the solar system, years before the requisite experience is gained to make the best choices."
Keith's note: It would be a "mistake" for NASA to have a plan for human missions to Mars? Really? How do you develop a budget unless you have a plan against which to derive costs and schedule? Indeed, how do you develop a plan if you do not have an overarching strategy with goals and objectives to guide the development of that plan? How do you know what you need to learn and develop if you have no idea where you are going? Lou Friedman is living in some alternate universe where he thinks that we should run that process in reverse.
If Friedman's cluelessness was not already established by this statement, it should be clear from his support for the Asteroid Redirect Mission, a one-off stunt promoted by the Planetary Society that has no strategic relevance to a human mission to Mars (or the Moon). Watch as it evaporates after the election - regardless of who wins. But wait, there's more. Undeterred from supporting one pointless mission, there's yet another that Friedman supports: the Humans Orbiting Mars mission. In this plan the Planetary Society expects NASA to spend billions and take longer than is currently envisioned in NASA plans to *almost* send humans to the surface of Mars.
Its these half-baked ideas that distract people from making the big decisions that need to be made with regard to America's future in space - decisions that need to be clearly stated, clearly described such that everyone understands where NASA wants to go (and why), and then clearly funded such that anyone can glance at a one page chart and see if everything is/is not going according to plan. Without clear goals, coherent strategy, and a solid plan, NASA will continue to stumble down a ever-changing and increasingly hard to support path on the #JourneyToNowhere
House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Reviews Bill to Bring Stability to NASA, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
"The Space Leadership Preservation Act will improve our space program and improve morale at NASA centers by ensuring that we take the politics out of science and provide NASA with clear direction and guidance that outlasts the political whims of any one presidential administration and the political whims of Congress."
"Democrats on the Committee expressed numerous concerns with the bill: that allowing Congress to use a party-based formula to appoint Board Members would inject partisan politics into that Board; having the Board prepare a NASA budget at the same time as NASA would create wasteful duplication, confusion, and instability; and that establishing a fixed, 10-year term for the Administrator would increase instability, not mitigate it, especially if a new President plans to pursue a different policy agenda from his or her predecessor and doesn't see that Administrator as being part of his or her "team"."
"Tomorrow, February 25 at 10:00 a.m. ET, the House Science Committee will hold a hearing on the need for stability at NASA through changing presidential administrations. The hearing will feature former astronaut and first female Space Shuttle pilot and commander, Colonel Eileen Collins, as well as former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. Rep. John Culberson, chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, will also testify. Culberson is the author of legislation the Science Committee will review on Thursday, the Space Leadership Preservation Act, which is intended to bring stability to NASA despite changing presidential administrations."
Keith's note: So ... would Mike Griffin entertain the notion of being Donald Trump's NASA Administrator?
"I believe program cancellation decisions that are made by bureaucracies, behind closed doors, and without input by the people, are divisive, damaging, cowardly, and many times more expensive in the long run. As a shuttle commander, I would never make a huge decision without input from all the experts, even the ones I do not agree with. So what will keep us from having surprises like this that set us back years? Answer: A continuity of purpose over many years, over political administrations, and over normal changes in leadership throughout the chain of command. I know there must be ways to do this through policy, organizational structure, and strong leadership."
"What might the "right path" look like? I have been clear in the past and hope to be clear now to me the most logical step beyond the ISS is an international partnership, led by the United States, to return to the Moon, this time to stay. In the course of so doing we will learn what is needed to go beyond, to go to Mars. And if, as I have long suspected, the Moon turns out to be quite an interesting and useful destination in its own right, well then, so much the better."
"Our ongoing work has also found that the Space Launch System and Orion, the two largest projects in this critical stage of development, face cost, schedule, and technical risks. For example, the Space Launch System program has expended significant amounts of schedule reserve over the past year to address delays with development of the core stage, which is the Space Launch System's propellant tank and structural backbone. The Orion program continues to face design challenges, including redesigning the heat shield following the determination that the previous design used in the first flight test in December 2014 would not meet requirements for the first uncrewed flight. The standing review boards for each program have raised concerns about the programs' ability to remain within their cost and schedule baselines. If cost overruns materialize on these programs, they could have a ripple effect on the portfolio and result in the potential postponement or even force the cancellation of projects in earlier stages of development. We have ongoing work on both of these programs and we plan to issue reports on them later this summer."
"NASA is stopping work, at the request of Congress, on human-rating the initial upper stage for the Space Launch System, even as the agency argues that its funding projections require it to use that upper stage on crewed missions. At issue is the future use of the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS), an upper stage derived from the Delta 4's upper stage. The ICPS is intended for use on at least the first SLS launch, which will not carry a crew. NASA confirmed Feb. 18 that it has instructed teams to stop work on efforts to human-rate the ICPS for later, crewed SLS missions, following instructions from Congress in the report accompanying the 2016 omnibus spending bill."
NASA moves to enforce early switch to EUS for SLS, NASASpaceflight.com
"The EUS recieved a specific reference from NASA Chief Financial Officer David Radzanowski in comments made to the media after the announcement, citing that the reduced funding could impact on implementing the EUS on the second flight of SLS."
Keith's note: On one hand NASA stops work on anything that would involve use of the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) for a crewed EM-2 mission but on the other hand its FY 2017 budget request is nowhere near enough to develop the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) such that crewed EM-2 can stay on its current schedule. In other words the White House, NASA, and Congress are all but ensuring that the first flight of SLS with humans will most certainly slip - possibly after the second term of the next person to be elected president. NASA started this big Ares-V/SLS effort back in the middle of the Bush presidency. This latest threat to SLS could mean that more than two, double-term presidencies will have passed before NASA can send its new big rocket with anyone on board.
I wonder how many Atlas, Delta, and Falcon rockets you could have bought with the money NASA has spent on Ares-V/SLS? How much sooner could we have begun to build and operate a real cis-lunar infrastructure had we gone with private sector rockets? Yes, it would take more launches, but given the chronic inability for NASA to field its new big rocket, we'd have been further along - for less money - if we'd taken the commercial approaches first envisioned when the Vision for Space Exploration was announced in January 2004. But no, NASA is on a #JourneyToNowhere instead.
- NASA Is Building A Rocket That It Can't Afford To Use, earlier post
- NASA Begins Its Journey To Nowhere, earlier post
"Europa isn't Mars, and studying and eventually getting humans to Mars is NASA's current overriding goal. Pure politics. Several of the Congressional leaders who are strongly backing the Europa mission and planetary exploration in general are highly conservative politically. While they favor spending more money on planetary missions, they also want to cut funding for missions for NASA to study the Earth, especially climate change. Essentially proposing to push out the launch of a Europa mission to forever may be part of a hardball negotiating tactic to trade more funding for the Europa mission for also fully funding the President's generous proposed budget for Earth science missions."
Keith's note: This is hilarious. The Planetary Society is using the "politics" dog whistle when in fact politics is all that they engage in when they lobby Congress for their referred projects - and against those they do not like. In this case, they are not getting their way, so, of course it is due to that horrible Washington scourge called "politics". What will be fun to watch is when the Planetary Society eventually realizes that the only way that they are going to get their preferred Europa mission ala Rep. Culberson, is to fly it on a SLS. That means that they will have to start lobbying for SLS - and against (or not in support of) Earth science and/or commercial crew (where their extra Europa money will come from). Of course SLS is at the heart of NASA's #JourneyToMars so the Planetary Society will have to start to support that effort (which is also eating Europa funds) and not their Almost-Mission to Mars concept.
"Although NASA is proceeding with development of the SLS, a number of outside panels have questioned whether NASA can afford to build, fly and, sustain the expensive program, especially with projections of low flight rates of one launch or fewer per year. The biggest concern is that the rocket is so expensive to fly it precludes a meaningful exploration program within NASA's existing budget."
Keith's note: With the cuts to both SLS and Orion in the Administration's FY 2017 budget you can expect the same food fight with Congress to pick up where it left off last time. And as was the case before, Congress will go after Commercial Crew and Cargo, Technology, and Earth Science to put SLS and Orion back at the level Congress wants. Of course, election time will soon skew everything and the chances that there will be a formal budget will drop. The net result is that NASA will not know for certain what its budget will be and this uncertainty will cause launch dates to slip to the right. With these slips the overall cost of the SLS and Orion programs will increase - and commercial crew will take longer to happen than might otherwise be the case.
Naturally, the next Administration will stall for time and eventually appoint a blue ribbon panel to write a report and the cycle will start all over again. Their conclusion will be that NASA has no plan (and that it needs to hurry up and develop one) and, by the way, NASA cannot do all of the things it has been tasked to do under a budget that does not grow. Considering that all of these arguments are set to occur under a NASA budget that is likely going to stay flat, nothing will change since no one will give up pushing for the things that they want NASA to do. The inevitable result will be that NASA will end up with a launch system that will have nothing to launch on the imaginary #JourneyToNowhere.
"... it's because of the work of our contractors and our partners in classrooms, boardrooms, laboratories and even garages across our country, that: The state of our NASA is as strong as it's ever been and when I say "our," I really mean it. Because of the work of you and your NASA colleagues to make aviation cleaner, greener, safer and quieter ... the state of our NASA is strong."
"The greatest challenge to these programs is not technical, but budget stability, plain and simple."
"Today we received another unrealistic budget from the president that spends money we don't have and increases taxes on Americans by $2.6 trillion over 10 years. This level of spending insults hardworking American families who don't want to be burdened with higher taxes and slower economic growth."
"Within the NASA portfolio, the request continues the bipartisan commitment to the United States achieving safe, reliable, and independent human access to the International Space Station (ISS) from American soil by 2017."
"Another panelist, Tom Young, the former director of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and former president and chief operating officer of the Martin Marietta Corporation, agreed that NASA does not currently have a clear pathway to Mars. "What we do not have is a plan, strategy, or architecture with sufficient detail that takes us from today to humans on the surface of Mars," he said. Young said he favored continuing with a mission to Mars but that following such a course required hard choices and narrowing NASA's focus. The agency cannot both have a flourishing program in low Earth orbit with the International Space Station while also trying to mount a Mars exploration program, he argued. Agency officials have said they are not ready to talk in detail about Mars plans because they are evolving."
Congress asks: Can NASA really get astronauts to Mars?, Christian Science Monitor
"We pretend that we are on a '#JourneytoMars,' but in fact, possess neither the technology nor the economic resources necessary to undertake a human Mars mission now or within the foreseeable future," testified Paul Spudis, senior scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, a Texas-based space research institution."
"[Tom] Young spoke about the desire to have fewer "tombstones" for cancelled projects and more "memorials" to successful ones. He reiterated the thesis of his opening remarks, that what NASA needs more than anything is a concrete plan for how it should proceed. "I am personally passionate about humans going to Mars, but I'm equally passionate about a good, disciplined plan that is not frivolous," he said. "A plan that does what is required, but also doesn't just do what's possible."
"The committee seemed most irritated about how the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) NASA's plan to send a robotic spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid, pick up a giant boulder, and bring it to lunar orbit for a crew to study fits into the overall Mars objective. .. [ARM] is a misguided mission without a mission, without a launch date, and without ties to exploration goals," said Representative Lamar Smith from Texas. "It's just a time-wasting distraction."
- ASAP: NASA Has No Plan or Firm Funding For Its #JourneyToMars
- Kicking The Can Down the Road to Mars, earlier post
- NASA Begins Its Journey To Nowhere, earlier post
- Yet Another NASA Mars "Plan" Without A Plan - or a Budget, earlier post
- NASA's Strategic Plan Isn't Strategic - or a Plan, earlier post
- Charlie Bolden's Meandering Strategic Plans, earlier post
"NASA is very publicly planning a mission to Europa in the 2020s, one that will soar over the intriguing moon dozens of times. Yet the reality is more thrilling. Quietly, the same engineers who masterminded the daring Curiosity landing on Mars in 2012 have been plotting how best to drop a lander onto the nightmare glacier. In early November, they presented their preliminary findings for a 230-kg lander to the one person in the world who can, and who dearly wants to, make that happen. "I told them to do whatever it takes," said Representative John Culberson after meeting with the NASA scientists. "All of humanity is going to want to know what's under the ice."
A Lander for NASA's Europa Mission, Planetary Society
"There's been almost no official information on the lander. What we know comes from a long article from Ars Technica's Eric Berger on the then possible addition of a lander and a dedicated plume flyby sub-satellite."
Keith's note: This is one of the more odd posts by the Planetary Society. My talented colleague Eric Berger committed some actual journalism and published a story on this. Then the Planetary Society (or one of their preferred bloggers, Van Kane) did a story - on Eric's story - with some passive insinuations about its veracity such as "Berger is a long time space reporter and has developed a good relationship with House Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX)." And then it goes on to use variations on "Berger says" a dozen times - as if Eric is the source of everything about this concept. No, he's a reporter - a rather industrious one at that. Kane then goes on to cast doubt on the notion that anything could - or should be landed on Europa. Oddly, the author never (apparently) spoke to Rep. Culberson. Or to Eric Berger. Or to NASA. The Planetary Society was all over the notion of sending a mission to Europa when it was fanning the flames over the recently approved budget. Now, well, not so much, it would seem. Its becoming difficult to figure out what Planetary Society is against - or what it was for - before it was against. There's no disclaimer on the article other than to note where it first appeared. How odd. A member of Congress totally 'gets' astrobiology and exploration - and yet this second guessing post is the best that Planetary Society can put forth?
NASA Gets Big Boost in Final FY2016 Appropriations Bill, Space Policy Online
"The Orion spacecraft will receive $1.270 billion, $174 million more than the request and $76 million more than FY2014. Within Advanced Exploration Systems funding, Congress also directs NASA to spend no less than $55 million on a habitation module, which will be needed to augment living space for astronauts on lengthy trips beyond low Earth orbit. Congress wants a prototype habitation module no later than 2018."
"For now, though, very little is known about the habitat, including its requirements and how it will be built. "It's much too early for that," Sam Scimemi, International Space Station director at NASA Headquarters, told SpaceNews. "As soon as I put a picture up there, somebody is going to assume what the configuration is."
Keith's note: Of course Sam Scimemi has no idea. No one does at NASA - even though the agency has played with innumerable Mars vehicles over the past 50 years. But ask them what the requirements are/were for those designs and they suddenly go silent. NASA creates this problem by virtue of not saying what they mean - or meaning what they say. When they want you to think that they are serious they show you all the pretty pictures. But when you try and nail them on specifics - well, their favorite word "notional" suddenly ends up in every sentence.
You can see lots of pictures of NASA's previous Mars mission concepts online here at NASA.
If NASA operates as it always does, the agency will not deliver the required report to Congress within 180 days of the signing of this bill into law. If/when they do deliver it to Congress it will be totally lacking in detail, will punt on the important issues, and will make sure that Congress knows that whatever NASA does it will cost a lot of extra money. Eventually Congress will get mad and ask the National Academy of Sciences to do yet another report. Then there will be an election and everything will get reset to zero again. But wait - we're on a #JourneyToMars - because @NASA says so on Twitter.
Washington's 'Star Wars', Politico
"A Washington brawl has broken out over the future of the U.S. military's ability to reach orbit, with the powerhouse combo of Boeing and Lockheed Martin jostling with the scrappy yet well-funded upstart of entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX for multibillion-dollar contracts for launching satellites. The competition is upending the norms of the defense contractor heavyweights, who are not used to dealing with relatively fresh rivals, and has released a flood of lobbying cash. SpaceX has spent more than $1.3 million on lobbying this year and while the Boeing-Lockheed joint effort, called United Launch Alliance, spent more than $900,000 both on pace to easily set new records for the companies once the final quarter of 2015 is reported."
"ULA has ordered additional Atlas engines to serve our existing and potential civil and commercial launch customers until a new American-made engine can be developed and certified. While ULA strongly believes now is the right time to move to an American engine solution for the future, it is also critical to ensure a smooth transition to that engine and to preserve healthy competition in the launch industry."
Rocket security for the Rocket City - thanks to Senator Shelby, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Huntsville Times
"We thank Senator Shelby for his leadership in the Senate, for securing our nation's defense, ensuring America stays on the technological forefront in space, and for keeping important, valuable jobs in North Alabama."
- Sen. Shelby: The King Of Political Cronyism and Hypocrisy, earlier post
- Congress Blinks on RD-180s, earlier post
- DoD Denies RD-180 Waiver For ULA, earlier post
- Rep. Rogers Hates Everything Russian - Except Russian Rocket Engines, earlier post
- Earlier RD-180 posts
"Sen. Richard Shelby loaded up the $1.1 trillion spending bill with pet provisions, including one measure worth hundreds of millions to a rocket manufacturer with operations in his home state. The cagey lawmaker also fought hard for language protecting red snapper fisheries on Alabama's Gulf Coast, even issuing a press release bragging about his efforts. "That is why I fought tirelessly for several provisions to be included in the omnibus appropriations bill that I believe will help respond to the serious challenges facing anyone who wants to fish for red snapper in the Gulf," Shelby said in the release. But in an only-in-Congress twist, Shelby, a very senior member on the appropriations committee, still plans to vote against the sprawling omnibus package. He's citing the lack of language to restrict Syrian refugees as the reason."
"The Arizona Republican is furious with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) for tucking a provision into the massive 2,000-page bill that allows defense contractor United Launch Alliance to keep buying Russian rocket engines reversing language McCain championed in the National Defense Authorization Act that limited ULA to purchasing nine rocket engines." ... But McCain has accused ULA of manufacturing a crisis to get the law changed by not bidding on the first military satellite launch. On the Senate floor Wednesday, he vowed to take up the issue again in next year's defense authorization bill threatening a "complete and indefinite" ban on Russian-made engines."
(Sen. Shelby) Top 5 Contributors, 2011 - 2016, Campaign Cmte, Open Secrets
"Boeing Co $47,500"
"A massive U.S. government spending bill, released by lawmakers Dec. 16, effectively lifts a ban on the Russian rocket engine that powers United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 rocket at least until Oct. 1, re-energizing competition for Defense Department launch contracts between ULA and SpaceX. The new language, included in the omnibus spending bill for 2016, says "that notwithstanding any other provision of law" the Air Force could award a launch contract to any certified company "regardless of the country of origin of the rocket engine that will be used on its launch vehicle, in order to ensure robust competition and continued assured access to space."
Congress: NASA must not only go to Europa, it must land, Ars Technica
"NASA's administrator, Charles Bolden, has accepted the Europa mission only grudgingly. When NASA didn't ask for Europa funding in its 2013 or 2014 budgets, Culberson gave it a total of more than $120 million. Finally, in its fiscal year 2015 budget request, NASA acquiesced and created a Europa program. The president's budget called for $15 million to begin preliminary studies. Culberson appropriated $100 million. For fiscal year 2016, NASA requested $30 million. It got nearly six times that. Now that NASA has accepted an orbital mission to Europa, the biggest point of contention has been a lander. During a November interview with Ars, Bolden explained why he didn't want to tackle such an ambitious mission. "My scientific community, the people who do mission planning, say we need to go and do a little research with the first mission to Europa to determine whether that's a place we want to send a lander," Bolden said. "That's the point of our big disagreement with Congressman Culberson right now. He wants a multibillion dollar Europa mission that has a lander on the first flight and everything. Our belief is that that is imprudent from a scientific perspective."
"These investments represent a strong commitment to America's human, robotic and science exploration programs," said Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, Executive Director of the Coalition. "The robust funding levels achieved in the omnibus will support the continuing development of America's new space exploration systems - leading to the launch of Exploration Mission-1 in 2018. The Space Launch System and the Orion crew vehicle will take humans deeper into space than ever before."
"NASA announced today that its schedule for the first crewed mission of SLS and Orion will slip to 2023; this represents a two year slip from previous plans for the first mission by 2021."
Keith's note: The SLS/Orion lobbying team is happy. Now if only the four amigos and their NASA managers can stop making negative progress on launch dates. You'll notice that the Coalition omits mention of the 2021 to 2023 launch slip for the first crewed mission in their press release. Why spoil the good news with facts, eh?
- NASA Delays First Crewed Orion Flight By Two Years, earlier post
- The Four Amigos and The Future of Competition in Space Commerce, earlier post
- NASA Employs Faith-Based Funding Approach For SLS, earlier post
- GAO Finds NASA SLS Costs Not Credible, earlier post
- NASA Can't Decide What SLS Engines It Does/Does Not Need, earlier post
- SLS CDR: Not As Smooth As Advertised, earlier post
"It's interesting that this is at the very time that in our culture here on earth, the movie that's hearkening back, "Star Wars," is coming out again and it's to be such a blockbuster at the box office. Well, what is fictional in "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" is now becoming factual. And in large part is what has been done in the nation's space program since the shutdown of the space shuttle back in 2011 and in the preparation, the new vehicles, the new rockets, the new spacecraft, the new satellites, the new exploratory missions that have gone on."
CSF Applauds FY 2016 Omnibus, Commercial Spaceflight Federation
"This bill funds NASA at $19.285 billion in FY 2016, an increase of $1.3 billion above FY 2015. Within the NASA portfolio, the bill fully funds the Commercial Crew Program to enable the United States to achieve safe, reliable, and independent human access to the International Space Station by 2017."
NASA Gets Big Boost in Final FY2016 Appropriations Bill, SpacePolicyOnline
"Congress reached agreement on a FY2016 appropriations bill overnight. NASA will get $19.285 billion, $785 million more than the President's request and $1.285 billion more than FY2015. Among the big winners are planetary science, the exploration program (including the Space Launch System and Orion), and commercial crew. The commercial crew program is funded at the requested level of $1.244 billion, a win for the Obama Administration."
"As I learned in the Marine Corps and Kathy learned in the reserves, we have core values," said NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr., who flew with her on two space missions, including one that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope. "They're not challenging a bureaucrat or a traditional political appointee," Bolden said of Republicans in Congress. "They're challenging a scientist. They just picked the wrong person." Just shy of two years into the job, Sullivan, 64, has been drawn into a lingering and passionate skepticism among some congressional Republicans of the mainstream scientific consensus that man-made pollution is behind the planet's recent warming."
- If This Can Happen to NOAA, It Can Happen to NASA, earlier post
"In a statement last month, ULA said "it wants nothing more to compete," but was prevented from doing so because of the lack of engines, and because it could not comply with the accounting structures required under the contract. It also said that the Air Force used a procurement process that would give a lot of weight to the prices companies bid and not their experience and past performance, which could have given ULA an edge. But McCain said the assertion that it's a "low-price" contract "is erroneous." Rather the contract is a "best value" source selection that calls for "a careful evaluation of performance, launch operations, schedule and price," he wrote."
Suddenly, SpaceX Is the Only Game in Town, Motley Fool
"Turns out Tory Bruno wasn't just whistling Dixie. At a hearing before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee in March, United Launch Alliance CEO Salvatore "Tory" Bruno issued an ultimatum: Congress must either lift its ban on the purchase of new RD-180 Russian rocket motors for use in America's space program or resign itself to letting one single space provider dictate prices to the government on all future satellite launches. Turns out, it's going to be Door No. 2."
John McCain wants ULA audited, blasts Colorado space company, Denver Business Journal
"McCain, whom President Barack Obama defeated in the 2008 presidential election, also called for a report on whether ULA's decision to use its dwindling supply of Russian-made rocket engines on non-military launches was an attempt to "subvert" the will of Congress."
- ULA Passes on GPS Launch - SpaceX Wins By Default, earlier post
- DoD Denies RD-180 Waiver For ULA, earlier post
- The Four Amigos and The Future of Competition in Space Commerce, earlier post
- LockMart Sort Of Threatens to Kill ULA Over RD-180 Imports, earlier post
"The money taken from Glenn would help pay for a different priority of some Senate members: a Maryland-based robotic mission to refuel and service long-orbiting satellites that otherwise might have to be shut off. Hundreds of satellites orbit the earth to provide observation and weather tracking but were not designed for servicing. If they could operate longer, they could save future replacement and launch costs, NASA says. The proposed $150 million taken from other NASA programs would focus first on keeping the Landsat 7 satellite, launched in 1999 to provide imaging of the earth for a variety of government and commercial purposes, going. Otherwise, the Landsat 7 could reach the end of its useful life in 2019. The robotic program to prolong the life of satellites has been dubbed "Restore-L Pathfinder," and is based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland."
International Perspectives on Space Resource Rights, op Ed, Space News
"If the U.S. space resources law were about claiming territory, or an assertion of sovereignty or appropriation of "celestial land," there would be a case for opponents to invoke Article II that prohibits such actions. But it isn't; the U.S. law is simply about confirming and codifying the rights for U.S. private citizens/companies to peacefully explore, extract and own resources extracted, just like the U.S. and Soviet governments did back in the 1960s and 1970s, and just like China, India and other countries intend to do in the coming years through government and private missions."
"Even some people within the U.S. government have raised questions about the law. "I'm not sure that the U.S. Congress can pass a law that authorizes American citizens to go do something" like claim rights to space resources, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at a Dec. 1 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council at the Johnson Space Center, when asked by a council member about the new law."
Keith's note: NASA is trying to un-spin Bolden's comments - but this is not a gaff. He has said this to others before. He does not understand/and or agree with the concepts involved, what Congress supported, and what his boss signed into law.
- Bolden Says ARM Is About Planetary Defense But Not Protecting Earth, earlier post
- Asteroid Retrieval Is Not The Prime Intent of NASA's Asteroid Retrieval Mission, earlier post
- Bolden's Confusing Asteroid Mission Rationale, earlier post
- Earlier posts on Bolden and asteroids
President Obama Signs Bill Recognizing Asteroid Resource Property Rights into Law, Planetary Resources
"Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company, applauds President Obama who signed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (H.R. 2262) into law. This law recognizes the right of U.S. citizens to own asteroid resources they obtain and encourages the commercial exploration and utilization of resources from asteroids."
"My view is that natural resources [in space] should not be allowed to be appropriated by anyone states, private companies, or international organizations," said Ram Jakhu, a professor at McGill University's institute of air and space law. He said the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, signed by the U.S. and other countries, including Canada, makes it clear that the surfaces and contents of asteroids and other celestial bodies are protected from commercial harvesting."
The commercial space race, Ottawa Citizen
"If asteroids cannot be appropriated by any state, they can also never be owned by a company, and that includes parts of an asteroid that might be extracted. Any notion of property law which would allow a person to possess, use or sell an object, depend upon the existence of a sovereign jurisdiction. The U.S. cannot give away what it does not own."
"It remains unknown whether the unilateral move by the U.S. to claim space ownership is valid. According to the Outer Space Treaty, signed by the U.S., Russia, and a number of other countries, nations can't own territory in space. "Outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States," the treaty says, adding that "outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means." The new law, however, does include a very important clause, as it clarifies that it does not grant "sovereignty or sovereign or exclusive rights or jurisdiction over, or the ownership of, any celestial body."
"Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, has subpoenaed scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and demanded that they turn over internal e-mails related to their research. Their findings contradicted earlier work showing that global warming had paused, and Smith, a climate change skeptic, has accused them of altering global temperature data and rushing to publish their research in the June issue of the journal Science."
"AAAS and a half-dozen other leading scientific organizations on Tuesday expressed "grave concern" about a Congressional inquiry that has unfoundedly called into question the integrity of federal scientists whose research, published in Science, seemed to debunk claims of a global-warming slowdown or "hiatus." In a letter to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, the group acknowledged the importance of appropriate congressional oversight of federally funded research, but emphasized that "scientists should not be subjected to fraud investigations or harassment simply for providing scientific results that some may see as politically controversial."
"I am writing to request information about the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) policy with respect to full and open competition in the acquisition process. NASA is in the midst of an up-to ten-year $1.3 billion dollar technology purchase known as the NASA Integrated Communications Service (NICS) contract. Such a large and important technology purchase should follow both the letter and spirit of full and open competition laws, regulations, and Office of Management and Budget guidelines to ensure that NASA, and the taxpayer, get the best value for their investment, as well as the best and most cost-effective solutions to meet mission requirements. ... It has come to my attention that, pursuant to NICS, there is an Approved Products List (APL) developed by the contractor. The APL governs which products can be purchased for NASA systems and networks, and likely will impact NASA acquisitions for years to come. Interestingly, every approved product listed on the NICS LAN wired and wireless network APL belongs to a single manufacturer. At the same time, alternate vendors that have supplied network equipment to NASA, and successfully met mission requirements, have not been evaluated for inclusion on the APL for current and future purchases, despite requesting an opportunity to be evaluated."
"As NOAA has endured a series of Congressional attacks this fall for its climate change research, the agency's administrator, Kathryn Sullivan, has largely remained silent. But the former astronaut's wingmate for two spaceflights, Charles Bolden, has not been so reticent. The NASA administrator this week continued to blister Congress for its tack on climate change science. After delivering a keynote speech on the commercialization of space at the SpaceCom conference in Houston Tuesday, Bolden talked to Ars about his own agency's Earth science research. He also addressed the efforts by Texas Congressman Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, to obtain the e-mails of NOAA climate scientists, in which Smith expects to find political influence and perhaps fraud."
"Smith wrote that "Despite Dr. Karl's apparent awareness of these concerns, the study was moved to publication without the underlying data having been subjected to the appropriate reviews. More troubling, it appears that NOAA employees raised concerns about the timing and readiness of the study's release through e-mails, including several communications just before its publication in April, May, and June of 2015. These allegations raise serious questions about the Karl study and NOAA's public statements about its conclusions."
"Unfortunately, the Chairman also used the hearing as a platform to continue his attack on NOAA's climate science. He said, "Another example of how this administration attempts to promote its suspicious climate agenda can be seen at NOAA. Its employees altered historical climate data to get politically correct results in an attempt to disprove the hiatus in global temperature increases."
Keith's note: Many people are pleased that the SPACE Act made it through the House yesterday. This legislation does a lot to support NASA's plans for going to Mars as well as various commercial efforts and things such as mining asteroids. There is something good in it for just about every space advocate. While a lot of individuals and organizations were quick to express their approval, others have been curiously silent. No statement seems to be available from the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration despite all of the things in it that directly support the organization's avowed interests in sending humans to Mars. Nothing from the Planetary Society either - yet their co-founder stated yesterday that "Humans will become a multi-planet species by making it to Mars, but no farther. That is, they will never travel beyond Mars." so ... maybe they are not as enthusiastic about this legislation. Curiously, the two Mars-oriented groups Mars Society and Explore Mars are silent too. Meanwhile on the Asteroid utilization front, the usually bubbly Space Frontier Foundation is silent as well. Why bother communicating to the public you purport to enlighten about space when important news like this happens, eh?
Space utilization and exploration happens in spite of space advocates - not because of them.
- Satellite Industry Association Applauds Congress for Passing Long-term Extension of Commercial Space Launch Indemnification
- National Space Society Urges Presidential Signing of the Final Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act
- CSF Applauds House Passage of Visionary, Comprehensive, and Bipartisan Commercial Space Legislation
"House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) today praised passage of crucial legislation that provides guidance and certainty for American commercial space partners. The bicameral, bipartisan agreement on H.R. 2262, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, consolidates language from the House-passed SPACE Act with provisions from the Senate's commercial space legislation. It is now headed to the president's desk to be signed into law."
- Rep. McCarthy's Remarks for SPACE Act Debate (prepared)
- House Takes Up Commercial Space Legislation Today
- SPACE Act Action Expected Today
- Virgin Galactic Applauds the Passage of Legislation for Commercial Space Endeavours
- Moon Express Commends House for Historic Vote Supporting Private Sector Lunar Resource Exploration and Utilization
- Sen. Cruz: Congress Carries Reagan's Torch Forward with New U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act
"U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee Chairman Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-Mich.) issued the following statements on the passage of H.R. 2262, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, a bicameral, bipartisan bill that encourages competitiveness, reflects the needs of a modern-day U.S. commercial space industry, and guarantees operation of the International Space Station until at least 2024. The bill builds on key elements in S. 1297 that the Commerce Committee approved earlier this year and passed the Senate on August 4, 2015."
- Planetary Resources Applauds U.S. Congress in Recognizing Asteroid Resource Property Rights, Planetary Resources
- McCarthy, Smith Praise Passage of Commercial Space Legislation
- CSF Applauds Senate Passage of Bipartisan Commercial Space Legislation, Commercial Spaceflight Federation
- New Law Enables Commercial Exploration and Use of Space Resources, Deep Space Industries
"NASA is currently spending money on its key exploration programs at a rate that assumes Congress will approve a budget increase in the next month, a move that could delay some efforts should the additional funds not materialize. Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development, told a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council's human exploration and operations committee here Nov. 4 that NASA was funding programs like the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft at a higher rate than specified in the continuing resolution (CR) currently funding the agency. "Today we're running hot. We're running based on what we saw in the draft House and Senate levels," Hill said. "But if we don't ultimately achieve those levels in an appropriations bill, then we'll have to power back and replan."
Keith's note: Of course the flip side of this is the equal expectation within NASA that its commercial crew and/or cargo efforts will be shortchanged in the budget thus delaying progress, reducing capability, and driving up eventual long-term costs. Punting on the CRS-2 decision gives NASA time to do a lot of things - including waiting until they see how much money they have. If the commercial crew budget gets cut too far there will be renewed pressure to downselect to one provider.
- GAO Finds NASA SLS Costs Not Credible, earlier post
- NASA Delays First Crewed Orion Flight By Two Years, earlier post
- SLS/Orion Gets a Lobbying Organization in Washington (Update), earlier post
- NASA Can't Decide What SLS Engines It Does/Does Not Need, earlier post
- SLS CDR: Not As Smooth As Advertised, earlier post
"Congress approved a major bipartisan budget agreement, negotiated with the White House, that increases discretionary spending by $80 billion total in FY 2016 and FY 2017, creating room for boosts to spending at federal science agencies and offices starting this year. Early this morning, the Senate passed and sent the "Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015" to President Obama, concluding a major bipartisan effort between the White House and congressional leaders in both political parties that brings budget stability to the federal government for the next two years. The agreement, which the President has clearly indicated he will sign into law, lifts the federal debt ceiling through March 2017 and dials back for two years the federal budget sequester that has been in place since the passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011."
House and Senate Reach Agreement on Commercial Space Legislation, SpacePolicyOnline
"House and Senate negotiators have reached agreement on a compromise version of commercial space legislation that passed the House and Senate earlier this year. Details of the compromise have not been made public, but the revised bill could be voted on soon. The Senate bill, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (S. 1297) passed in August. The House bill, Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act (H.R. 2262), passed in May. The House and Senate versions have many differences, but Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), the new chair of the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, recently characterized them as minor during an appearance before the FAA's Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC).."
"The Coalition for Space Exploration, an ad-hoc organization of space industry businesses and advocacy groups, today announced it is taking formal steps to provide a single, unified voice for the deep-space exploration industry. The organization is seeking 501 (c) 6 status, appointing an executive director and changing the name of the organization to the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration."
Keith's note: The Coalition for Space Exploration was originally created by many aerospace companies to promote all aspects of space exploration and they managed to do a good job at being balanced and enthusiastic. That effort has now been taken over by the so-called "Four Amigos": Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Aerojet, and Orbital ATK and will now be a de facto lobbying effort in Washington DC for SLS and Orion. It will be interesting to see how its new executive director Mary Lynne Dittmar deals with conflict of interest issues given that she also works for CASIS (which gets 99.9% of its funding from NASA) and is a member of the National Academies of Sciences Space Studies Board Executive Committee. Given the broad and overlapping aspects of all these jobs/positions, it is a little hard to see where government, private sector, and advisory aspects of her employment would not overlap at least once a day.
Keith's update: Congress has been moving ahead with a budget today. Does this new organization speak out against the cuts to NASA commercial crew (which affects the 4 Amigos) or stay silent and only praise funding for SLS/Orion (which benefits the 4 Amigos)? Stay tuned.
Culberson Will "Vigorously Enforce" Restrictions on NASA-China Relationship, SpacePolicyOnline
"Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) said today that NASA did not fully inform Congress about the recent State Department-led meeting in Beijing on bilateral U.S.-China civil space cooperation as required by law. He stressed that he plans to "vigorously enforce" the law, which requires NASA to notify Congress in advance of such meetings that technology transfer, for example, will not occur."
"Yesterday's indictment is further proof of widespread negligence at NASA and throughout the Obama Administration when it comes to protecting U.S. intellectual property and sensitive information. "I want to thank my predecessor Congressman Frank Wolf who understood the threat posed by the Chinese. His leadership on this issue exposed many of the problems that have led us to this point."
NASA Supervisors Charged in Chinese Spy Case, Daily Caller
"Two NASA supervisors were criminally indicted Tuesday under U.S. espionage laws for "willfully violating" national security regulations while allowing a visiting Chinese foreign national to gain "complete and unrestricted access" to the space agency's Langley Research Center, according to the U.S. Attorneys office for the Eastern District of Virginia. The indictments of NASA Langley supervisors Glenn A. Woodell and Daniel J. Jobson cap a federal investigation into the two supervisor's decision to permit Bo Jiang unrestricted access for two years at Langley. Bo Jiang was deported back to China in 2013."
Bolden Says Ban On China Space Interaction Is Temporary, Previous Post - October 2015
"The reason I think that where we are today is temporary is because of a practical statement that we will find ourselves on the outside looking in, because everybody ... who has any hope of a human spaceflight program ... will go to whoever will fly their people," Bolden said. His comments were echoed by China."
NASA finally talks Mars budget, and it's not enough, Houston Chronicle
"At the Capitol Hill luncheon, Lightfoot said a Mars program would have to be accomplished with a budget that is one-tenth of the budget that sent Apollo astronauts to the moon. "From a NASA perspective it'll be done for about one-tenth of the budget that we were doing back then," Lightfoot said, according to Space News. A NASA spokeswoman said after Lightfoot's speech that he was comparing the Apollo budget and the agency's current budget based on percentages of the overall federal budget. NASA received 4 percent of the total federal budget during the height of the Apollo Program, and today NASA has 0.4 percent. "We intend to carry out our current ambitious exploration plans within current budget levels, with modest increases aligned to economic growth," NASA's Lauren Worley said. The release of the "Journey to Mars" report that contained no specific budget for a Mars mission frustrated some members of Congress."
Keith's note: NASA's answer just confuses things further. No one with even a shred of fiscal accumen will tell you that a multi-decade program to send humans to Mars - as is typically done by NASA (delays, overruns, and PR hype) - is going to be done "within current budget levels, with modest increases aligned to economic growth." This is just back peddling NASA PR mumbo jumbo designed to try and make it seem that Lightfoot said something other than what he actually said. Oddly, as they berate NASA for its delays that are often due to wacky budget actions by Congress, Congress neglects to mention that between FY10-15 the White House has given $1.8 billion more to NASA than Congress wanted to give the agency while Congress simultaneously and consistently cuts the President's request for Commercial Crew every year.
No one has a plan or a budget. This is no way to send people to Mars.
"October 9, 2015 10:15 a.m. ET: The Subcommittee on Space will hold a hearing on the impact of the president's budget on programs being built for a trip to Mars and other deep space destinations. Witnesses will discuss NASA's plans for future major tests and milestones of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle, as well as how the administration's budget request affects these programs."
- Archived webcast
- Statement of Dan Dumbacher
- Statement by Doug Cooke
- Hearing Examines Impact of President's Budget on Deep Space Exploration
- Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space Discusses Deep Space Exploration
- Hearing charter
"On August 27, 2014, NASA announced a one year slip of EM-1, the first launch of SLS, from 2017 to 2018. This announcement was made despite numerous statements from NASA officials to Congress that the program was on schedule and that no additional funding was needed. Last month, NASA made a similar announcement about the Orion, pushing the launch readiness date for Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2) back two years to no later than 20237 from an original date of 2021."
"This hearing will review the scientific methods employed to search for life, examine recent scientific discoveries in the field of astrobiology (the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe), and assess the prospects of finding life beyond Earth over the next decade."
- Archived webcast
- Hearing information
- Prepared Statements by: Ellen Stofan, Jonathan Lunine, Jacob Bean, Andrew Siemion
- Science, Space, and Technology Committee Hearing Examines NASA's Astrobiology Portfolio
- House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Assesses Progress in the Search for Life beyond Earth
"The Administration continues to strongly believe that a lapse in funding should not occur. There is enough time for Congress to prevent a lapse in appropriations, and the Administration is willing to work with Congress to enact a short-term continuing resolution to fund critical Government operations and allow Congress more time to negotiate an agreement that invests in middle-class economic priorities and helps our entire economy grow. However, prudent management requires that we continue to prepare for all contingencies, including the possibility that a lapse could occur at the end of the month."
Is Space Mining Legal?, Popular Science
"In May, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would give asteroid mining companies property rights to the minerals they extract from space. Called the Space Act of 2015, the bill now awaits the Senate's decision. ... In an article in the journal Space Policy, Fabio Tronchetti, a lawyer at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, argues that the Space Act of 2015 would violate the Outer Space Treaty. He writes: States are forbidden from extending their territorial sovereignty over outer space or any parts of it. Despite arguments claiming otherwise this prohibition also extends to private entities. In essence, Tronchetti argues that if the U.S. passes this bill, it will confer rights to space companies that the U.S. doesn't have the power to give."
Keith's note: This is like the legislation declaring the Apollo landing sites and their artifacts as a "National Historic Park". How can the U.S. Congress make laws, impose regulations, and confer rights regarding activities - by anyone - on bodies in the solar system over which it has no jurisdiction?
Why would any company pour billions into a mining project if they cannot own anything that they dig up? A mining site is composed of stuff that a miner wants to take and eventually sell to someone else. You can't sell something that you do not own. And if no nation can claim territory in space (where those mining sites would be located) then how can any nation make laws that give someone the right to mine these places?
"Any asteroid resources obtained in outer space are the property of the entity that obtained them, which shall be entitled to all property rights to them, consistent with applicable federal law and existing international obligations."
"Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means."
- Protecting the Apollo Sites, earlier post
"NASA announced today that its schedule for the first crewed mission of SLS and Orion will slip to 2023; this represents a two year slip from previous plans for the first mission by 2021. The agency announced similar delays last fall. Smith has repeatedly criticized the Obama administration for failure to request adequate funding for Orion and the Space Launch System; the administration's FY16 budget request proposed cuts of more than $440 million for the programs."
OIG Report on SLS/Orion Ground Systems, earlier post
"NASA management noted a risk that the dates planned for SLS and Orion could slip and the GSDO review occur first. Accordingly, NASA should closely monitor the Programs to ensure any such risk is mitigated so as to avoid significant cost increases or schedule delays."
GAO Sees Through NASA's SLS/Orion Smoke and Mirrors, earlier post
"The Orion estimate does not include costs for production, operations, or sustainment of additional crew capsules, despite plans to use and possibly enhance this capsule after 2021. It also does not include $4.7 billion in prior costs incurred during the approximately 4 years when Orion was being developed as part of NASA's now-defunct Constellation program."
SLS Has Problems That Money Alone Will Not Fix, earlier post
"In addition, our ongoing work has found that the three human exploration programs are pursuing inconsistent and unrealistic schedule goals and that the Orion program is facing significant technical and funding issues that may affect NASA's overall schedule for its human exploration programs."
Congress and GAO Have Doubts About SLS Costs, earlier post
"According to the program's risk analysis, however, the agency's current funding plan for SLS may be $400 million short of what the program needs to launch by 2017. ... "Moreover, NASA's estimates do not capture the cost of the second flight of the 70-metric ton vehicle during EM-2, the costs of development work that will be necessary to fly the increased 105- and 130-metric ton SLS capabilities, and the costs associated with legacy hardware that will be used for the Orion program."
Empty Promises On NASA's Road to Mars, earlier post
"Now Charlie Bolden seems to derive a certain amount of happiness by saying "we are no longer 20 years away from Mars". What he is really saying is "Hooray - we now suck less at NASA".
Negative Progress Towards Putting Humans on Mars, earlier post
Mars, national infrastructure, and dispelling myths, OP Ed, Chris Carberry and Blake Ortner, The Hill
"In addition to inflated perceptions of cost, some believe that when budgets for space missions are proposed, this constitutes entirely new spending (on top of the current NASA budget projections). In reality, the majority of mission budgets come from funds already projected within the NASA budget - it's mostly a decision of how we decide to use these NASA funds. This fall presents an ideal opportunity to engage the candidates. Mars exploration will be a hot topic as a result of the upcoming film adaption of Andrew Weir's novel, The Martian, that will arrive in theaters and generate a lot of discussion on the real prospects of human missions to Mars. Later in October, NASA will be presenting a workshop to select ten potential landing sites for human missions to Mars. The workshop is an important milestone for advocates of human exploration of Mars and will help connect the science fiction film, The Martian, with a very real potential future."
Keith's note: Yawn, these space advocates still hope that a Hollywood movie will shift the political calculus when it comes to sending humans to Mars. I most fervently wish them good luck in this regard. I'd love to see it happen. Alas, over the course of the past half century of space exploration and space movies this has yet to happen.
They also repeat the perennial space advocate complaint that "the general public and many policymakers have a vastly inflated perspective of the cost of human space exploration." OK Chris Carberry and Blake Ortner, can you tell us what your Humans to Mars Mission would cost - total amount and yearly run out? Can you also summarize the processes whereby the taxpaying public can be assured that cost overruns ala SLS, ISS, Shuttle, Mars Curiosity, will not occur? Oh yes - please show me where I can find details of the NASA budget increases that resulted from the blockbusters "Gravity" and "Interstellar". You can post your details in the comments section. Sometimes the problem with the cost of sending humans to Mars is not a large scary number rather its that no one comes up with the same large scary number - nor the source of the money required for *any* humans to Mars scenario.
Space advocates never explain why the remaining 99.99999% of the people who will pay for the humans to Mars thing should want to do so - especially when there are things that people see as being more relevant/important to themselves and their families. As Alan Ladwig recently noted
NSF NIH gets budget increases - more than NASA - but no one makes movies about them.
- Space Movies Do Not Drive Space Policy, earlier post
- Space Advocacy By Space Advocates Is A Failure, earlier post
- Why Worry About Public Support For NASA If It Really Doesn't Matter?, earlier post
- Pioneering Space National Summit: So Far, Nothing But Crickets, earlier post
- Hollow Promises From Stealthy Inept Space Advocacy Organizations, earlier post
- Humans to Mars Summit: Wayne Hale Tells it Like it is, earlier post
Tight Timing: Congress Returns with Only a Few Days to Pass Funding for New Fiscal Year, American Institute of Physics
"There is both good and bad news about the twelve FY 2016 appropriations bills. Appropriators in the House and Senate have completed work, for the first time in six years, on their bills. Of note to the physics community, the House has passed measures providing funding for the Department of Defense's S&T programs, the DOE Office of Science, NASA, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Nuclear Security Administration, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, and U.S. Geological Survey. Despite this progress, work on the appropriations bills has largely stalled because of continued disagreements between congressional Republicans, and congressional Democrats and the White House, about overall spending limits."
"Calling the program "the most crucial in the agency's history," researchers at NASA announced Wednesday they have successfully deployed a Special Exploratory Rover to Congress as part of an open-ended mission to seek out any possible trace of funding on Capitol Hill. The rover, named Hope, is a remotely operated, semi-autonomous vehicle outfitted with ultra-sensitive equipment that can detect even the smallest amounts of program-sustaining revenue, NASA scientists confirmed."
Congress, Don't Make Us Hitch Rides With Russia. Love, NASA, Charlie Bolden via Wired
"Saturday will mark 1,500 days since the Space Shuttle touched down for the final time. Grounding human spaceflights was always supposed to be temporary as we made the necessary transition to a new generation of spacecraft, operated by American commercial carriers. Likewise, paying for seats on Russian spacecraft to send our astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) was always intended to be a stopgap. Had Congress adequately funded President Obama's Commercial Crew proposal, we could have been making final preparations this year to once again launch American astronauts to space from American soil aboard American spacecraft. Instead we are faced with uncertaintyand we will continue to be so long as Congress resists fully investing in Commercial Crew."
- Why Is Congress Stalling NASA's Commercial Crew Program?, earlier post
- NASA Buys More Soyuz Flights Since Congress Constantly Cuts Commercial Crew, earlier post
- Mikulski Tries Unsuccessfully To Prevent Commercial Crew Funding Decrease, earlier post
"Dear Chairman Smith: Thank you very much for your letter of August 4, 2015 regarding the recent space launch failures of June 28,2015 and October 28, 2014. I appreciate your sincere commitment to our Nation's leadership in space and NASA has always shared that commitment. I am pleased for the opportunity to address your concerns. I would also mention that on August 3, 2015, Vice Admiral Joe Dyer, Chairman of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) provided a written response related to concerns that we were treating SpaceX differently than Orbital ATK with respect to our oversight of the respective accident investigations to Mr. Chris Shank, Policy Director of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. I think you will find Vice Admiral Dyer's response is in basic agreement with the contents of my letter following."
"This week NASA Administrator Charles Bolden stepped up his war of words on Congress, saying the space agency had to extend a pricey contract with Russia through 2019 for crew transport due to under-funding of the commercial crew program. You may like Bolden, or dislike him. You may like his boss, President Obama, or you may hate him. You may like NASA's human exploration plan, or you may have questions about its viability. But you should know this for a fact: Commercial crew, a program allowing SpaceX and Boeing to develop spacecraft and rockets to put U.S. astronauts into orbit, deserves full funding. Here are three reasons why Congressional under-funding of commercial crew is especially duplicitous."
"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden sent a letter to Congress Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015 informing members that, due to continued reductions in the president's funding requests for the agency's Commercial Crew Program over the past several years, NASA was forced to extend its existing contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) to transport American astronauts to the International Space Station. This contract modification is valued at about $490 million dollars. The letter was delivered to the leadership of the congressional committees that oversee NASA. The full text of the letter follows:"
NASA signing $490M contract with Russia, The Hill
"The new contract extension is required because Congress has not fully funded the administration's budget requests since 2010. For fiscal year 2011, for example, Obama asked Congress for $500 million for NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Congress only gave it $321 million. The next year, Obama asked for $850 million and Congress only allocated $400 million. Due to those low funding levels for five consecutive years, NASA had to ask Congress for more than $1 billion for next year. A spokeswoman for NASA said if Obama's request is fully funded, and if NASA can fully pay its contracts, the U.S. commercial vehicles could still be ready by the 2017 date."
Senate Approves U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
"The U.S. Senate, today, unanimously approved S. 1297, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, introduced by Commerce Committee Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee chairman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), full committee ranking member Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee ranking member Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and subcommittee members Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). The legislation, which the full Commerce Committee approved by voice vote with an amendment on May 20, 2015, extends the operational use of the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024, a regulatory moratorium on commercial space activity through FY 2020, and ensures stability for the continued development and growth of the U.S. commercial space sector and other space initiatives."
For the first time Chinese research to fly on NASA's space station, Houston Chronicle
"A Houston company has negotiated a historic agreement to fly a Chinese experiment on the International Space Station, a small but symbolic maneuver around a law that bans any scientific cooperation between NASA and the communist country. Over a conference table adorned with an American and a Chinese flag, Jeff Manber last week agreed to take a DNA experiment into space next year. Manber's Houston-based company, NanoRacks, helps scientists do research on board the station. Because of decades of suspicion about Chinese motives and the country's regime, Congress prohibits NASA from working with the country in any capacity. But the new deal, which is apparently legal, could begin to change that. "It's symbolic, and it's meaningful," Manber said Monday, after returning from Beijing. "But let's not get ahead of ourselves."
Keith's note: According to a NanoRacks source, in crafting this agreement with Beijing Institute of Technology, NanoRacks worked to assure compliance with the 2011 spending bill Amendment offered by former Rep. Frank Wolf which places restrictions on formal NASA cooperation with China's space program. After consultation with NASA and the Obama Administration, NanoRacks approached Professor Feng of Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT) and invited him to continue his immune system research using NanoRacks' commercial hardware on the ISS.
NanoRacks notes that money flows from China to the U.S.; that no hardware or technology flows to China (just a return of data and experiment samples); that this experiment has intrinsic scientific value; and that the payload uses NanoRacks hardware and is a NanoRacks customer payload as part of their normal ISS payload allocation. This is NOT a NASA/Chinese research project. In addition, this project ("DNA Mismatching During PCR Reaction Exposed to Space Environment") reflies payload hardware that was flown on Shenzou 8. As such, the payload developer already has their own independent pathway to long-duration exposure in space. Lastly, The Beijing Institute of Technology Life Sciences Department publishes their scientific results in leading Western research publications thereby assuring a full dissemination of results in compliance with the spirit of ISS basic research.
NanoRacks was informed by the Obama Administration that it believes that this project is in compliance with the Wolf Amendment. Also, in accordance with ISS International Partners agreements, member nations of the ISS were informed of this project.
"The June 28 explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station has members of Congress asking NASA and the U.S. Air Force for assurance that SpaceX is qualified to carry military payloads to space. A bipartisan group of 14 U.S. representatives sent a letter saying they have "serious reservations" about SpaceX's internal investigation process and question whether the "engineering rigor applied will be sufficient to prevent future military launch mishaps." "We are committed to our nation's leadership in space, but equally believe we must be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars when it comes to achieving our priorities and goals for spaceflight," reads the letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden and Air Force secretary Deborah James. The panel asked Bolden and James to outline the oversight responsibilities of NASA and the Air Force, however, some questions raised in the letter have already been addressed in other arenas. On May 28, SpaceX was certified by the Air Force to carry military payloads to space, offering competition to Centennial-based United Launch Alliance for the first time in more than a decade."
Keith's note: Clearly none of these politicians understand the process they are questioning. Why aren't they questioning Orbital ATK's internal review process? FAA already has oversight over both mishap investigations. So ... are they wanting to create new regulations - or are they just ignorant of what regulations are already in place? In addition, SpaceX does its review in a much more rigorous fashion than might otherwise be the case because it is certified by the USAF - as would ULA if/when it loses a rocket. Let's see if @ToryBruno calls B.S. on this - unless (of course) ULA is behind the letter, that is ...
"Tuesday, July 28, 2015: The Science Committee's NASA Authorization Act for FY16 and FY17 restored funds the Obama administration proposed cutting from planetary science budgets. This would bring parity between NASA's science accounts and allow for development of missions like New Horizons to continue at the current pace."
Keith's note: The New Horizons team is now openly talking about a New Horizons-2 mission back to Pluto. It will be interesting to see if this topic is raised given that this committee is on the record about their interest in Europa - not Pluto. Also, given the NASA's budgetary issues, it will be interesting to see how the extra $1 billion-plus needed for New Horizons-2 would be squeezed out of an already constrained budgetary future - one that will inevitably stressed by SLS costs.
- Hearing charter
- Scientists Advocate for Planetary Funding in Wake of #PlutoFlyby, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Committee Discusses New Accomplishments in the Exploration of the Solar System, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
- Statement of Brian Babin
- Statement of Lamar Smith
- Statement of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson
- Statement of Rep. Donna Edwards
- Statement of Robert Pappalardo
- Statement of John Grunsfeld
- Statement of Robert Braun
- Statement of Chris Russell
- Alan Stern did not provide a prepared statement - just pictures and the New Horizons Press Kit
"But NASA is also one of the main purveyors of the satellite observations of Earth that are a basic necessity for many fields of Earth science. That's the part Cruz doesn't like: He wants to slash the agency's budget for Earth sciencesin particular, for climate change, a subject on which Cruz's theories are, in the words of one scientist, "a load of claptrap." It's not just Cruz. In the House, Republicans are forging ahead with a bill that would gut $90 million from NASA's Earth science budget. There are a couple major problems with that approach, and they make Cruz's lauding of the Pluto mission distinctly ironic and hypocritical. First, NASA is uniquely equipped among federal agencies to send satellites into space, so it would be hard to transfer its Earth research to some other outfit. (These are the very satellites, by the way, that produce the data Cruz likes to erroneously cite as evidence against global warming.)"
Keith's note: Comments are closed. People have gone totally off topic and are ranting and making personal attacks. Please do not try and post comments elsewhere since they will be deleted.
"The Subcommittee on Space will hold a hearing to examine the current status of the International Space Station (ISS). The Subcommittee will evaluate the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) plans for dealing with operational and maintenance challenges, the status of the ISS partnership, how NASA is utilizing the ISS to enable future deep space exploration, and the Administration's request to extend ISS operations to 2024."
- Hearing charter
- 9 am EDT Live webcast
- Brian Babin (R-Texas), House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Subcommittee Reviews Challenges to International Space Station
- Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA
- John Elbon, Vice President and General Manager, Space Exploration, The Boeing Company
- Paul K. Martin, Inspector General, NASA
- Shelby Oakley, Acting Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management, Government Accountability Office
- James A. Pawelczyk, Associate Professor of Physiology and Kinesiology, The Pennsylvania State University
Shelton Versus McCain on Import of SpaceX Failure, SpacePolicyOnline
"Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), and Gen. William Shelton (Ret.) view the June 28 SpaceX launch failure very differently. In a McCain statement and a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Shelton, the two take opposite positions on what should be learned from the failure in terms of national security space launches and how long Russian RD-180 engines are needed by the U.S. military to have assured access to space. The congressional push to end reliance on RD-180s began while Shelton was still on active duty and Commander of Air Force Space Command and he and McCain differed on these issues all along. At the last congressional hearing on the topic during Shelton's tenure, in July 2014, they were fully were on display. Apparently nothing has changed."
Keith's note: The House Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing Friday with quite a cast of characters - Tory Bruno, Rob Meyerson, Julie Van Kleeck, Frank Culbertson, Jeff Thornburg, Katrina McFarland, John Hyten, Samuel Greaves, and, to round out the fun, Mike Griffin. This hearing ought to be a classic example of the old Washington adage "where you stand depends on where you sit".
You can catch the live tweeting stream from this morning's hearing that was posted on Twitter by @NASAWatch by following tweets with the #RD180 hashtag
"Continued reliance by U.S. launch providers on risky foreign supply chains for major subsystemsincluding propulsionhas materially weakened the U.S. industrial base. Now, however, private industry is investing internal funds to restore America's leading edge in rocket technology. As a matter of industrial policy, it makes little sense to extend reliance on foreign sources of key subsystems when American technology can step in today."
"To end use of the RD-180 engine and make commercial investments in a new engine and system that will meet our national launch requirements, ULA needs the ability to compete into the next decade," said Bruno. "The House has correctly addressed concern over the RD-180 engine by allowing ULA to use engines already on contract while prohibiting additional purchases, which reflects the original intent of the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act."
"The amendment was defeated by a 14-16 party line vote. CJS subcommittee chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) opposed the amendment, but said that if a new budget deal is indeed negotiated, he will work with Mikulski on how to allocate any additional funding."
CSF Applauds Mikulski Amendment to Avoid Extending U.S. Reliance on the Russians
"Today the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill. The bill increases NASA's budget by $279 million above its FY 2015 budget, but underfunds NASA's Commercial Crew program by more than $300 million. Failing to fully fund the Commercial Crew program in FY 2016 would result in the United States human spaceflight gap being extended, again, and ensuring further payments to the Russians for launches of American astronauts to the ISS beyond 2017. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Vice-Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, offered an amendment that would have restored the $300 million to the Commercial Crew program, avoiding a further gap and reliance on the Russians. The Committee failed to adopt the amendment."
Coalition for Space Exploration Statement on CJS Appropriations Bill
"The Coalition for Space Exploration is grateful for the strong bipartisan leadership demonstrated by Chairman Shelby and Vice-Chairwoman Mikulski in support of our nation's space exploration program in the FY 2016 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill advanced by the committee today."
Get Putin Out of Our Rockets, Roll Call
"But ULA isn't happy with these restrictions and has been using its influence in Congress to push back. Indeed, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., whose district houses a major ULA factory has introduced a bill rolling back the limits on Russian engines. At the same time, ULA has decided to limit production of its American-made Delta IV launcher in an effort to strong arm the U.S. military into purchasing the RD-180 until at least 2020. This underhanded tactic might benefit ULA, but it'll endanger U.S. security while enriching Russia. ULA is able to execute such a ploy because of its long monopoly on rockets for national-security launches. America's interests would be far better served if we leveraged our existing, homegrown alternatives and encouraged U.S. technology and engineering companies to re-join the global space race."
Keith's note: Sen. John McCain raised the issue of continued purchase of Russian RD-180 engines on the Senate floor yesterday.
Transcript below (edited for typos)
"I am deeply disappointed that the Senate Appropriations subcommittee does not fully support NASA's plan to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil as soon as possible, and instead favors continuing to write checks to Russia. Remarkably, the Senate reduces funding for our Commercial Crew Program further than the House already does compared to the President's Budget. By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts to space and continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own."
Senate Bill Offers $18.3 Billion For NASA, Space News
"A spending bill approved by a Senate appropriations subcommittee June 10 would provide $18.3 billion for NASA in fiscal year 2016, a cut of more than $200 million from both the administration's original request and a companion House bill. ... Commercial crew, however, would receive $900 million in the bill, $344 million less than requested. Space technology is funded at $600 million, $125 million less than requested."
Senate Appropriations CJS Subcommittee Approves Less than Requested for NASA, Space Policy Online
"Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) voiced his objections to the $344 million cut to commercial crew on the Senate floor following the markup. He said if the cut is sustained, it will delay the ability to launch American astronauts on American rockets two more years, which means paying Russia for two more years, costing at least as much. "We need to wake up to what's happening," he implored, adding that Mikulski will offer an amendment tomorrow to restore the commercial crew funding and urging his fellow Senators to support it."
Nelson floor remarks, YouTube
House Debates and Passes FY2016 Funding Bill for NASA, NOAA, spacepolicyonline
"The House of Representatives passed the FY2016 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill (H.R. 2578) on June 3, 2015 after a marathon debate. The bill funds NASA and NOAA among other departments and agencies. No amendments were adopted affecting the House Appropriations Committee's recommendations for NASA or for NOAA's satellite programs, though several were considered."
"... It also cuts support for NASA's Commercial Crew Program that will help end our reliance on Russia for transporting astronauts, critical space technology investments that will help pave the path to reaching Mars, and earth science research that is helping us understand how our climate is changing and how to respond to earthquakes, droughts, and severe weather events."
"Yesterday the House of Representatives passed an amendment to H.R. 2577, the FY 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which would partially restore a requested increase in funding for the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST)."
"The House of Representatives approved an amendment to an appropriations bill June 3 that gives the Federal Aviation Administration's commercial space office part of a budget increase it requested to keep up with its growing workload. The House approved by voice vote an amendment to appropriations bill for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development that transfers $250,000 from an FAA account for financial and management activities to its Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). Rep. James Bridenstine (R-Okla.) introduced the amendment with Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Bill Posey (R-Fla.)"
McCarthy-Smith SPACE Act Passes with Broad Bipartisan Support, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
"House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today joined House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in praising passage of H.R. 2262, the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 or SPACE Act. Almost 50 Democrats joined Republicans to pass the bill with broad bipartisan support, 284-133."
"House Passes Commercial Space Industry Wish List - Misses Opportunity to Pass Bill that Could Become Law, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
"Today the House passed H.R. 2262, the SPACE Act of 2015. The bill takes a fundamentally unbalanced approach to the issues facing the commercial space launch industry. Moving far beyond addressing the legitimate needs of the industry, the bill is heavily skewed towards industry's desires. .. Congresswoman Edwards said, "Pursuing House passage of a bill that is going nowhere in the Senate seems to me to be the ultimate exercise in futility, and one that does a real disservice to the commercial space launch industry that we all are trying to help succeed. But we don't have to go down that path."
- Pro-Commercial Space Bills Approved in Committee, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Congress Can Help the Commercial Launch Industry This Week if We're All Willing to Work Together, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
- Hultgren: SPACE Act Facilitates Pro-Growth Environment for Commercial Space Sector (with video)
- The Facts Behind SPACE Act, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Chairman Smith Speaks in Support of SPACE Act (Remarks), House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Recent posts on Congress and NASA
"The Administration strongly supports the development of a commercial space sector that pushes the boundaries of space exploration while creating jobs and strengthening the American economy. The American commercial launch industry is the most competitive in the world. Over the past several years, the industry has rapidly increased its share of the global market for sending satellites and other payloads into space. The Administration agrees with the goal of H.R. 2262 to bring more stability and certainty to this growing market. While the Administration does not oppose House passage of the bill, it has serious concerns with certain provisions of the bill."
"The bill cuts support for NASA's Commercial Crew Program by $243 million, or 20 percent, relative to the President's Budget. The Commercial Crew Program will build a safe and costeffective U.S. capability to launch astronauts to the space station. The Subcommittee bill cuts will delay the program and force continued reliance on and payment for Russian capabilities for transporting U.S. astronauts. While directing an impractical level of funding toward the Jupiter Europa mission, the bill cuts important NASA Science programs by more than $200 million compared to the President's Budget, jeopardizing Earth Science missions that are helping us understand how our climate is changing and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and severe weather events. The bill also reduces investments in Space Technology by $100 million, or 14 percent, delaying development of a cutting-edge laser communication system and other space technology demonstrations, slowing progress on the journey to Mars, and impacting the international competitiveness of the U.S. commercial space industry."
The House Appropriations Cmte has released the report accompanying the CJS spending bill. Updated NASA budget table: pic.twitter.com/4ZHPg9UAvl— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) May 19, 2015
- Report No. 114-____] Making appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes. (NASA starts on Page 58).
- REPORT [To accompany _____] The Committee on Appropriations submits the following report in explanation of the accompanying bill making appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes.
"National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - NASA is funded at $18.5 billion in the bill, $519 million above the 2015 enacted level."
Keith's note: The bill passed out of the House Appropriations subcommittee to the full committee yesterday with ease. No date yet announced for further action. But, as you can see below, there was a lot of silliness at this mark-up. Many of the members wasted everyone's time spinning yarns about all those good times being a member of Congress. One member went off about "sea lions eating all of the salmon and getting fat" back home. NASA used to have to go up against the Veterans Administration in this subcommittee for funds. Now it has to compete with salmon.
"Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee Chairman Ted Cruz (R-Texas) released the following statement regarding S. 1297, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, that he filed with U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) that extends the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024, extends the regulatory moratorium through FY 2020, and ensures stability for the continued development and growth of the U.S. commercial space sector, among other initiatives."
"The House Appropriations Committee today released the draft FY2016 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that will be marked up at subcommittee level on Thursday. It recommends the same total budget level for NASA as the President requested, but allocates the funding differently. Among the changes is a big increase for a robotic mission to Jupiter's moon Europa, a favorite of subcommittee chairman Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) who has led successful efforts to add money for it in the past. The Space Launch System (SLS) also gets a boost, including funds for an "enhanced" upper stage, while the commercial crew program is funded below the request. ... The commercial crew program, by contrast, would get $1.00 billion compared to the $1.24 billion request. That is still a significant increase over the $805 million provided for FY2015, but NASA insists that anything less than the request could mean renegotiating the fixed price contracts with SpaceX and Boeing."
"Members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today introduced a package of four space bills intended to bring stability and certainty to the growing commercial space market."
- H.R. 2261, the "Commercial Remote Sensing Act of 2015" introduced by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.)
- H.R. 2263, the "Office of Space Commerce Act" introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.)
- H.R. 1508, the "Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act of 2015" introduced by Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.)
- H.R. 2262, the "Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015"
- Fact sheet
- Let A Thousand Space Policy Bills Bloom (Update), earlier post
- House Science Committee Markup
- House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Approves Pro-Commercial Space Bills
- Full Committee Markup of the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness
- Spaceport America Goes to Market Enabling Low-Cost Access to Space
"U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain on Wednesday rejected a request by U.S. officials for changes in federal law to let the two largest U.S. arms makers use more Russian rocket engines to compete for military satellite launches against privately held SpaceX. McCain's comments reflect frustration among some lawmakers about the Pentagon's failure to halt purchases of the RD-180 Russian engines after Russia's annexation of Crimea. As SpaceX becomes a potential competitor to current monopoly launch provider, United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, billions of dollars of orders are at stake and both sides are lobbying lawmakers hard."
"But even with the broader effort, the emphasis on NASA seems particularly pointed. How many people even know what the NSF stands for or what the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) does all day? But NASA is different. Every kid knows NASA. Every parent knows NASA. NASA is cool. NASA is Superman. So, when NASA tells us that Earth's climate is changing because of human activity, it carries a lot of weight. It's a weight climate denialists have a hard time bearing up under. Honestly, when it comes to getting the science of climate change right, who are you going to believe? A radio talk show host or NASA? The angry denialists in the comments section of this blog or NASA? The politician who says, "Well, I am not a scientist" or the scientists at NASA? The answer is pretty clear."
Republicans Vs NASA Earth Science, earlier post
Keith's note: There's more than NASA Authorization Acts being introduced in Congress. As always, it is Spring time, and all of the new space legislation is starting to bloom. Here's a selection. There will be more. Some will pass, others will merge, most will disappear - only to pop up again next year. Regardless, they will be mostly ignored - by NASA, future administrations - and Congress. And that is most unfortunate given what these bill might otherwise spark.
Keith's update: House Science Committee Markup
H.R. ____, the "Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015;"
H.R. 1508, the "Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act of 2015;"
H.R. ____, the "Commercial Remote Sensing Act of 2015;"
H.R. ____, the "Office of Space Commerce Act."
"The NASA authorization bill making its way through the House of Representatives guts our Earth science program and threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate, and our ability to prepare for and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and storm events. In addition, the bill underfunds the critical space technologies that the nation will need to lead in space, including on our journey to Mars."
House Science Committee Passes NASA Reauthorization by Party-line Vote
"Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said in her opening statement, "These cuts have absolutely nothing to do with making America safer or stronger. Nothing. They are simply the expression of the Majority's stick-your-head-in-the-sand ideology. This is especially disappointing because we had worked so hard just three months ago to make our NASA authorization a bipartisan bill which could be broadly supported by the aerospace and science community. It's a shame to be throwing all that work away in pursuit of a narrow ideological agenda."
- Letter from the American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Letter from the American Astronomical Society
- Letter from the Association of American Universities
- Letter from the American Geophysical Union
- Letter from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
- Letter from the Geological Society of America
- Letter from the Universities Space Research Association
"If enacted, the NASA authorization bill headed to the House floor later this month would do serious damage to the Nation's space program, as well as to Earth-observation and Earth-science programs essential for predicting, preparing for, and minimizing the damage from disasters both natural and human-induced. The bill's cuts to space-technology development would not only risk continued U.S leadership in the space industry, but would also impede progress on precisely those technologies - on-orbit refueling, advanced space propulsion, radiation protection in deep space, and more - needed to make crewed missions to deep space a reality."
Congress, we have a problem, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, The Hill
"Just a few months ago we marked up and passed out of the House a bipartisan NASA authorization. That bill was negotiated on a bipartisan basis, voice voted out of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and then passed by the full House in a similar fashion. Today, my committee, the Science, Space and Technology Committee, is marking up H.R. 2039 -- a NASA reauthorization act that the Democrats on the committee did not even know existed until late last Friday. Needless to say, there was no bipartisan negotiating. After we saw the bill, we understood why. In addition to other problems in the bill, it cuts earth science funding by more than $320 million. Earth science, of course, includes climate science."
Committee's NASA Bill Draws Space Community Support, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
"In a letter to Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Planetary Society Director of Advocacy Casey Dreier praised the Committee's "scientifically ambitious, affordable plan of solar system exploration" as well as the bill's "clear directives and support for [NASA's] future exploration." The Planetary Society, led by CEO Bill Nye, is considered one of the largest and most influential public space organizations in the world."
Keith's note: Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (The Science Guy®) got to fly on Air Force One and hang out with President Obama on Earth Day. According to the Planetary Society website "Last week, our CEO Bill Nye joined The President of the United States for an Earth Day visit to The Everglades, one of the country's renowned National Parks and a vital global ecosystem. The Washington Post covered the news, and we at The Planetary Society shared in the excitement."
Yet at the same time Bill Nye (The Science Guy®) was talking about the importance of Earth science and climate change with the President his organization was sending a letter of overt support to the Republican-led House Science Committee which is seeking to cut funding for the very same things that Bill Nye (The Science Guy®) and President Obama were openly supporting. No where in that letter (now trumpeted by the Committee) does the Planetary Society mention the value of NASA Earth and climate studies on this planet or express concern that this committee desires to cut that research by $320 million. These cuts are proposed against the budget submitted by the same President that Bill Nye (The Science Guy®) was hanging out with.
Yet curiously in this 29 April 2015 Planetary Society post Good Planetary Support in A Flawed NASA Bill the author says "Obviously, the cuts to Earth Science make this a hard bill to support, therefore The Planetary Society cannot support the full bill as written at this early stage. We want an Authorization bill for NASA that can pass Congress and be signed by the White House, we hope that the committee markup will find ways to preserve and grow all science as this moves forward." Yet the Planetary Society makes no mention of these concerns in their letter of support for the proposed National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017.
Which is it, Bill Nye (The Science Guy®)? Do you and/or the Planetary Society support the proposed cuts to Earth and climate science or do you oppose these cuts? Earth is a "planet" too.
- Showdown Over NASA Earth Science Budget Looms, earlier post
- Hollow Promises From Stealthy Inept Space Advocacy Organizations, earlier post
Keith's note: Dava Newman has been confirmed by the Senate as Deputy Administrator of NASA.
"I am delighted with the Senate confirmation of Dr. Dava Newman to be the Deputy Administrator of NASA. I am personally ecstatic to welcome her aboard at such a busy and exciting time as we continue to make extraordinary strides on our Journey to Mars."
"The battle lines are being drawn between Congress and the White House in regard to NASA's budget, and this year they're moving closer to home the planet Earth. In the newly released House of Representatives budget authorization mark-up for fiscal year 2016 one step before Congress actually appropriates the money lawmakers have cut funding for NASA's Earth science programs to $1.45 billion. In his budget request to Congress, shown below, the President sought $1.947 billion."
"THURSDAY, April 30 11:00 a.m. Full Committee Markup of: H.R. ____, the "National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017"
"Aspirational levels create a balanced portfolio between Exploration and Science ($4.95 billion each), and within the Science Mission Directorate ($1.45B for Earth Science, $1.5 billion for Planetary Science, and $2 billion for Astrophysics, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and Heliophysics combined). The bill fully funds the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle (Orion) under both the aspirational and constrained authorization levels, and accelerates the development of SLS and Orion in FY17 under the aspirational level. Similarly, the bill fully funds the Commercial Crew program under the aspirational level and increases funding under even the constrained level by $331 million."
Committee Plans to Restore Balance to NASA's Budget,
House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
"The Obama administration has consistently cut funding for these human space exploration programs, while increasing funding for the Earth Science Division by more than 63 percent. The bill provides authorization levels consistent with NASA's budget request, providing that current restraints within the Budget Control Act are satisfied."
There is a markup session tomorrow at 12:00 pm EDT with the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Markup. It certainly looks like Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) is trying to slip in language that would allow more Russian-built RD-180 engines to be purchased using tax dollars at the same time when Rogers is (otherwise) actively promoting policies that would punish the exact same sector of Russia's economy for actions in Ukraine and Iran, treaty violations, and other bad behavior.
- Hearing Charter
- Testimony by NASA Administrator Bolden NASA FY 2016 House Budget Hearing
- Statement of Chairman Lamar Smith Hearing on NASA's FY2016 Budget Request
-Statement of Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo Hearing on NASA's FY2016 Budget Request
- Subcommittee Reviews the NASA Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2016, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
- Committee Leaders: Space Exploration Must Be NASA's Priority, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
"Witness: Mr. Charles F. Bolden, Jr.Administrator National Aeronautics and Space Administration Date: Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 2:30pm"
Executive Session - Markup of five bills and three nominations, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
"7. Nomination of Dr. Dava J. Newman, of Massachusetts, to be Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration"
Keith's update: The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has reported favorably on the nomination of Dava Newman to be NASA Deputy Administrator.
"The project has done an excellent job of managing its budget reserves, and this ability to efficiently address problems as they come up has enabled Webb to remain on schedule for its 2018 launch."
"The proximity of all the elements and major subsystem schedules to the critical path means that a delay on any of the elements or major subsystems may reduce the overall project schedule reserve further, which could put the overall project schedule at risk. As a result, the project has less flexibility to choose which issues to mitigate. While the project has been able to reorganize work when necessary to mitigate schedule slips thus far, with further progression into subsequent integration and testing periods, flexibility will be diminished because work during integration and testing tends to be more serial, as the initiation of work is often dependent on the successful and timely completion of the prior work. This is particularly the case with JWST given its complexity."
"The two made a number of pointed comments about each other before Ms Shotwell responded sarcastically when asked why SpaceX thought it could provide launches to the US government for an average $100m. SpaceX claims ULA's launches cost US taxpayers an average of $400m each. Ms Shotwell was asked why the company claimed to be able to offer its services for 25 per cent of the ULA price. "It's hard for me to say," Ms Shotwell replied. "I don't know how to build a $400m rocket. The more difficult question would be to say that I don't understand how ULA are as expensive as they are."
"If [ULA] stops the Delta IV rocket launches," said Rogers, "is there anybody else that can compete with you for those missions?" Shotwell struggled to answer, referring vaguely to there being international launch providers. She then went back and conceded that the Pentagon probably wouldn't trust those international services with sensitive military payloads. That was precisely the point, said Rogers. "You would have a monopoly, is where I'm going on this," he said."
"During a subcommittee hearing on NASA's budget, Cruz asked Bolden to explain the agency's core mission. Our core mission from the very beginning has been to investigate, explore space and the Earth environment, and to help us make this place a better place," Bolden replied. Cruz, true to form, balked at the "Earth environment" part."
"Bolden defended spending more money on Earth science activities, saying he is "proud" of it since it's led to a greater understanding of the planet. "We can't go anywhere if the Kennedy Space Center goes underwater and we don't know it "We can't go anywhere if the Kennedy Space Center goes underwater and we don't know it -- and that's understanding our environment," Bolden said, in a clear reference to global warming-related sea level rise. "It is absolutely critical that we understand Earth's environment because this is the only place that we have to live."
Keith's note: Perhaps if Sen. Cruz were to take the time to read the public law that originated in Congress - the one that established NASA and provides its charter - he'd understand why NASA does what it does.
Chapter 201: National Aeronautics and Space Program: Congressional Declaration of Policy and Purpose: "(d) Objectives of Aeronautical and Space Activities.--The aeronautical and space activities of the United States shall be conducted so as to contribute materially to one or more of the following objectives: (1) The expansion of human knowledge of the Earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and space. ..."
Keith's update: And for all of you who seem to feel the need to comment using the word "socialist agenda" or "Obama leftists" with regard to the 2010 Amended version, have a look at the original 1958 text
"(c) The aeronautical and space activities of the United States shall be conducted so as to contribute materially to one or more of the following objectives: (1) The expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere and space;"
As for adding "Earth" to the NASA authorization act, contrary to what all the Obama haters have been trying to post, it was not added in 2010 but rather was added by the "National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act, 1985," Public Law 98-361, July 16, 1984, section 110(b) (98 Stat. 426). when Ronald Reagan was president with a Republican-controlled Senate.
"(d) The aeronautical and space activities of the United States shall be conducted so as to contribute materially to one or more of the following objectives: (1) The expansion of human knowledge of the Earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and space;"
"Administrator Bolden made it clear in his answers that the Obama Administration has no contingency plan in place to send U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station if Russia chooses to end the current agreement that allows our astronauts to travel to the space station on board its Soyuz capsules."
NASA's chief confirms it: Without Russia, space station lost, Houston Chronicle
'If Russia stops flying U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station, the U.S., lacking a backup plan, would have no choice but to abandon the multibillion dollar outpost to its own fate, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said Wednesday. "We would make an orderly evacuation," Bolden said during a U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee hearing."
Keith's note: Culberson is not exaggerating. When asked, Bolden could not give a 'yes' or 'no' answer to rather specific and repeated questions as to whether or not NASA has a post-Russia ISS contingency plan in place. Bolden stumbled for a bit before he started to talk about an orderly evacuation of the ISS. Culberson interrupted at one point and said "please tell me that you do". Bolden also seemed to suggest that the U.S. can operate the ISS without Russian permission/cooperation.
"Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss NASA's FY 2016 budget request. The President is proposing an FY 2016 budget of $18.5 billion for NASA, building on the significant investments the Administration has made in America's space program over the past six years, enabled through the strong and consistent support by this Committee and the Congress."
"Senator Mikulski has been a tireless champion for NASA, and has helped pave the way for future exploration and our journey to Mars."
"Today at Henderson's Wharf Inn in Fells Point, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) announced she has decided not to run for re-election. Senator Mikulski, who will complete her 5th term in office in January, 2017, says she wants to focus for the next two years on working for her constituents and for the nation."
Keith's note: Dava Newman was chosen as the nominee for NASA Deputy Administrator 4 months ago in October 2014. We have heard nothing since then. Dava Newman has yet to testify before the Senate (and get their approval) so it is unclear when she will be formally confirmed. With impending food fights in the Republican-led Congress, such routine things as nominations may be stalled - or (worse) may become opportunities to score partisan points agains the Administration - with the nominee taking the brunt of the negative energy. Stay Tuned.
Executive Session Scheduled for 2/26 - Markup of nine bills and nominations for six agencies, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
"The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold an executive session on Thursday, February 26, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. to consider legislation and nominations."
Keith's update: Six significant nominations are on the agenda. No mention of Dava Newman as Deputy Administrator of NASA.
White House Announces Dava Newman Nomination, earlier post
"There will be two important congressional hearings this week on Commercial Space.
First up on Tuesday, February 24th is the U.S. Human Exploration Goals and Commercial Space Competitiveness Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness hearing chaired by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Next up on Friday, February 27th is the House Subcommittee on Space Hearing; The Commercial Crew Program: Challenges and Opportunities chaired by Lamar Smith (R-Texas). The hearing will take place at 2318 Rayburn House Office Building at 9:00 a.m. EST."
Hearing: Weather Satellite Delays, Data Gap to Harm U.S. Forecasting (with testimony links)
"Today, the Subcommittees on Oversight and Environment held a joint hearing to examine schedule delays to our nation's next generation weather forecasting satellites and the implications of the impending gap in weather data. Witnesses provided an update on operations and development of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) polar-orbiting (JPSS) and geostationary (GOES) weather satellite programs and discussed recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports on the two programs."