Congress: December 2015 Archives

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."

Congress Pushes NASA To Build Deep Space Habitat For Mars Mission By 2018, HuffPost

"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 Orders RD-180 Engines to Serve Civil, Commercial Contracts, ULA

"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

Shelby to oppose spending bill he loaded with goodies, Politico

"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."

McCain furious over Russian rocket engine provision, Politico

"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"

Congress Blinks on RD-180s

Spending Bill Lifts RD-180 Ban, Puts ULA Back in Competitive Game, SpaceNews

"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."

- DoD Denies RD-180 Waiver For ULA, earlier post
- Earlier RD-180 posts

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."

Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Commends Congress on Commitment to Deep Space Exploration

"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."

Smith Condemns Administration's Space Exploration Delays

"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

Good Budget News For NASA

NASA Gets Boost in Congressional Budget Deal (Video of Comments by Sen. Nelson)

"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."

- H.R. 2029
- Division B (go to page 26)

She's braved rough seas and space walks. Can she weather climate change skeptics?, Washington Post

"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

Sen. McCain blasts Lockheed Martin-Boeing joint venture for dropping out of launch competition, Washington 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

Earlier posts

Congress might cut tens of millions of dollars from NASA Glenn budget,

"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."

New Law Unlikely To Settle Debate on Space Resource Rights, Space News

"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



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This page is an archive of entries in the Congress category from December 2015.

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