Congress: April 2016 Archives

Why NASA Is Building An $18 Billion Rocket To Nowhere, Buzzfeed

"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."

Public Law 111-267 - NASA Authorization Act of 2010

"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."

House panel doubles authorized purchase of Russian rocket engines, The Hill

"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,

"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."

Draft House bill would scramble Air Force's rocket engine plan, SpaceNews

"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."

Why does the Air Force want to destroy the struggling U.S. space launch business?, Op Ed, Space News

"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."

- McCain Calls B.S. On USAF RD-180 Data, earlier post
- Earlier RD-180 posts

New NASA budget eats the seed corn of its Journey to Mars, Ars Technica

"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."

Markup: FY17 Appropriations Bills: Commerce, Justice, Science / Housing and Urban Development Bill

- 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

NASA Excerpts: FY2017 Commerce, Justice & Science Appropriations Bill Clears Senate Subcommittee

"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
- Webcast
- 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

SASC Chairman John McCain Urges Air Force Secretary to Address Russia's Role in National Security Space Program

"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."

Earlier RD-180 posts

Why Congress's newest space advocate says the U.S. faces a 'Sputnik moment', Washington Post

"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.



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