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The House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) will meet tomorrow to markup the draft FY2014 Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) appropriations bill. As drafted, the bill would reduce AST from its requested level of $16.01 million to $14.16 million.
The T-HUD subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is scheduled to meet at 10:00 am ET tomorrow in 2358-A Rayburn House Office Building. In total, the bill provides $44.1 billion in discretionary spending, $13.9 billion below the request. House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said the bill exemplifies the difficult choices that need to be made. The bill focuses on funding "transportation infrastructure critical to our economy and maintaining housing options for our most vulnerable citizens," he said, while "reducing or eliminating funding for lower-priority programs."
One of those lower priority programs apparently is AST. AST facilitates and regulates the commercial space transportation industry. AST was funded at $16.27 million for FY2012, $15.4 million in FY2013 (after adjusting for the sequester), and the FY2014 request is $16.01 million.
The draft bill would cut AST to $14.16 million, $1.85 million (about 12 percent) less than the request or $1.24 million (about 8 percent) less than its current level. An AST spokesman said the office does not comment on pending legislation, so he could not characterize the impact of such a cut if it survives the appropriations process.
Mike Gold, Director of D.C. Operations & Business Growth for Bigelow Aerospace, said "These cuts are ill-advised to say the least. At a time when we're depending so heavily on commercial space transportation to do this to the FAA-AST will have serious consequences, causing delays throughout the industry and even potentially putting lives in danger. It's certainly my hope that all of the AST's funding can be restored."
George M. Levin, who spent 35 years at NASA before joining the National Research Council (NRC) as Director of the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB), died yesterday after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 72.
From 1962-1981, he worked at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center on programs including the Nimbus weather satellite, Pioneer-Venus, and the Hubble Space Telescope, for which he managed development of its first five scientific instruments. He then moved to NASA Headquarters where he managed the development of 17 successful flight demonstrations launched on either the space shuttle or Delta II. In 1991, he took over responsibility for managing NASA's orbital debris program and led the U.S. delegation to the Interagency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC).
Levin retired from NASA in 1997 and became Director of the ASEB, a position he held until his NRC retirement in 2007.
A memorial service will be held at 1:00 pm ET on June 20 at Fairfax Memorial Funeral Home, 9902 Braddock Road, Fairfax, VA.
At this morning's public forum on the proposed asteroid return mission, the White House and NASA will call upon the public to help search for asteroids.
The forum begins at 9:15 am ET, but the news is already out via an article in this morning's Washington Post. Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver will unveil this new "Grand Challenge."
The event will be streamed at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-hq .
Draft House NASA Authorization Bill Would Create 6-Year Term for NASA Administrator, No Funds for ARM
The draft NASA Authorization Act of 2013 penned by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee would make the NASA Administrator a 6-year term appointment and authorize no funds for the proposed Asteroid Return Mission (ARM). A hearing on the draft bill is scheduled for Wednesday.
According to a one-page summary of the draft bill obtained by SpacePolicyOnline.com, its provisions include the following:
Wednesday's hearing, at 10:00 am in 2318 Rayburn, features NAC chairman Steve Squyres and retired industry executive Tom Young.
NASA is holding a half-day public forum tomorrow to talk about its proposed Asteroid Return Mission. It is from 9:15 am - 12:00 pm in the auditorium at NASA Headquarters and will be streamed online; viewing options will be posted at www.nasa.gov/asteroid.
NASA will discuss the selection of its latest class of astronaut candidates via a Google+ hangout social media event this afternoon at 3:00 pm Central Daylight Time (4:00 pm Eastern).
NASA says that for the first time, half of the new class is female. There are only eight new astronaut candidates so the absolute number -- four -- is not large, but it does look good as a percentage. Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the first flight of a woman in space -- Valentina Tereshkova aboard Vostok 6 in 1963. Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of the first flight of an American women into space -- Sally Ride on STS-7 in 1983.
To join the hangout, visit http://go.nasa.gov/126mOLK.
The list of new astronaut candidates is as follows:
Josh A. Cassada, Ph.D., 39, is originally from White Bear Lake, Minn.
The following space policy events may be of interest in the week ahead. The House and Senate are in session this week.
During the Week
Among the highlights this week is a tribute to Sally Ride on Tuesday at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Tuesday is the 30th anniversary of Ride becoming the first American woman in space. Today (Sunday, June 16) is the 50th anniversary of Valentina Tereshkova becoming the first woman in space, and though the Soviets put a woman in space 20 years before the United States, they have launched only two other women since that time while female U.S. astronauts have become so commonplace that few take notice. Ride died last year, but she and other countries' first women in space, including Tereshkova, are being highlighted in events and the media in a celebration of 50 years of women in space.
Separately on June 18, NASA will hold a half-day forum on its proposed Asteroid Return Mission (ARM) where White House and NASA officials will explain what they plan to do. On Wednesday, June 19, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hear from NAC Chairman Steve Squyres and veteran industry expert Tom Young on the NASA Authorization Act of 2013, which may decide whether the ARM is approved by Congress or not.
Monday, June 17
Monday, June 17 - Sunday, June 23
Tuesday, June 18
Tuesday-Thursday, June 18-20
Wednesday, June 19
Thursday, June 20
Friday, June 21
At a June 13 event at the National Archives, space policy expert John Logsdon described how President Nixon’s policy toward space exploration was rooted in framing it as a “normal” part of national life, not something special – a legacy that has influenced the U.S. space program for the last 40 years.
Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University, joined NASA Chief Historian Bill Barry and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Roger Launius in an event that considered the space program under the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
Logsdon recounted how when Nixon arrived at the White House, there was a “clear need for decisions” when it came to the space program: what to do in the post-Apollo era. To inform this decision, Nixon created the Space Task Group in 1969, chaired by Vice President Spiro Agnew, that recommended a variety of timelines for an aggressive effort that included development of a space shuttle, a space station, and human spaceflight missions to Mars by 1986, at the latest.
Yet despite having “wrapped himself up” in the euphoria of the Apollo 11 mission, Nixon was not interested in spending money at the pace required to achieve such an ambitious program, Logsdon said. Instead, he assumed a policy that turned space from being something special to a part of normal life – a policy that Logsdon argues has guided the space program for the last 40 years.
Nixon’s attitude is best captured in a statement he made in March 1970: "we must think of [space activities] as part of a continuing process…and not as a series of separate leaps…what we do in space from here on in must become a normal and regular part of our national life and must therefore be planned in conjunction with all of the other undertakings which are important to us."
When the time came to decide on the post-Apollo space program, this attitude had a definite influence. According to Logsdon, Nixon had been “traumatized” by the near-tragic accident of Apollo 13, which turned him away from the idea of return trips to the Moon. As the 1972 elections loomed, Nixon made the decision to approve the Space Shuttle, a decision that resulted from his belief that the United States should strive for something new in space as well as wanting to avoid the electoral risk of post-Apollo aerospace unemployment.
"Nixon was certainly not going to be the person that took the United States out of the human spaceflight business," said Logsdon. His decision to move forward with the Shuttle – the sole element that survived from the ambitious program contained in the Space Task Group’s recommendations, and which was integral to what became the International Space Station -- would come to define the direction of the U.S. human spaceflight program.
Before the Shuttle made its first flight in 1981, however, a hallmark event of international cooperation took place: the July 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP). Barry focused on the developments on the Soviet side that explained the shift from competition to cooperation following the race to the moon. ASTP took place during the Ford administration, but was a Nixon initiative, and represented the end of an era, rather than a beginning, Barry said. The next cooperative flight would not happen until after the end of the Cold War in the 1990s. Interestingly, Barry noted that the cooperative practices developed for ASTP were resurrected 20 years later.
Considering the legacies of the Nixon-Ford years is more than just an interesting historical exercise. According to Launius, who spoke about the role that space has had in U.S. culture, there is now a need to revisit and move on from the decisions made 40 years ago. With the last Shuttle flight already two years in the past and the debate over what to do next still open, Launius argued that the core question facing this generation is why to go into space. With fiscal constraints looming far into the future and a U.S. general public that has never been supportive of expensive human spaceflight missions – even during the Apollo era, as Launius demonstrated based on his research of public opinion polls over the decades -- perhaps a related and important question is just how special space will be in the next several decades.
The event was part of the National Archives’ celebration of the centennials of both Nixon and Ford. An exhibit on “Nixon and the U.S. Space Program” will be on display at its main building in Washington, D.C. through the end of June.
Today the House passed its version of the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Among its provisions, the House rejected DOD's request to terminate the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) office and provided direction or requested reports on a number of other national security space issues.
The bill, H.R. 1960, passed 317-107. Among the many amendments adopted during floor debate, and the only one directly related to national security space, was a Lamborn (R-CO) amendment that restricts funding for the SBIRS space modernization initiative wide-field-of-view-testbed until DOD certifies that it is carrying out the ORS program as directed in last year's NDAA. DOD wanted to terminate ORS last year. Congress rejected the request and directed DOD to provide a strategic plan for how it would implement the mission of ORS. Instead, DOD is again proposed terminating ORS this year. This bill rejects that request as well. In its report (H. Rept. 103-102), the House Armed Services Committee said it was "disappointed with the Department's de facto proposal to terminate ORS, and is concerned that there is no enduring plan to address urgent military operational requirements for space support and reconstitution." It "notes" that the strategic plan has not been submitted and rejects the proposal to terminate ORS.
Other national security space-related provisions include the following:
NASA Advisory Council (NAC) Chairman Steve Squyres and retired industry executive Tom Young will testify to the House Science, Space and Technology (SS&T) Committee next week. The topic of the hearing is the NASA Authorization Act of 2013.
Congress passed the most recent NASA authorization act in 2010 (P.L. 111-267). The funding provisions expire at the end of this fiscal year, though the policy provisions remain law until and unless Congress changes them. Both the House committee and its Senate counterpart have indicated that they want to pass a new authorization bill for NASA this year. This hearing is part of that process.
The hearing is on Wednesday, June 19, at 10:00 am in 2318 Rayburn House Office Building. Squyres is the Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University and is best known as the Principal Investigator of the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Young is a former Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin.
GenCorp announced today that it has completed acquisition of "substantially all operations" of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne from United Technologies. It will be combined with GenCorp's Aerojet subsidiary and called Aerojet Rocketdyne.
Rocketdyne has gone through several corporate mergers and acquisitions. It has been part of North American Aviation; North American Rockwell; Rockwell International; Boeing; and Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of United Technologies.
United Technologies agreed to sell Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne to GenCorp in July 2012 for $550 million. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved the sale on Monday despite concerns that it would create a "monopoly in the market for a type of advanced missile defense interceptor propulsion system." The FTC said that it was approving the sale "primarily because the Department of Defense wishes to see the transaction go forward for national security reasons."
GenCorp President and CEO Scott Seymour said that the addition of Rocketdyne "almost doubles the size of our company and provides additional growth opportunities as we build upon the complementary capabilities of each legacy company, including their talented people and innovative technologies."
Events of Interest