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Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves $19.5 Billion for NASA

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 25-Jul-2017 (Updated: 25-Jul-2017 05:06 PM)

The Senate Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee approved $19.5 billion for NASA in FY2018 according to a committee press release.  The figure was rounded, but the press release also said it is $437 million more than President Trump requested and $124 million less than FY2017.  That would make $19.529 billion a more precise figure.

The request was $19.092 billion. NASA's FY2017 funding level is $19.653 billion.

The House Appropriations Committee was more generous, approving $19.872 billion. The bill has not gone to the House floor for debate yet.

Only a few details were released by the Senate committee following the markup today.  More information will be available after the full committee marks up the bill on Thursday. 

The press release highlighted these programs:

  • Space Launch System (SLS):  $2.15 billion, $212 million above the request.  Includes $300 million for the Exploration Upper Stage.  The House committee approved the same amounts.
  • Orion:  $1.3 billion, $164 million above the request.  The House committee approved $1.35 billion.
  • Science:  $5.6 billion, $140 million below the request.  The House committee approved $5.859 billion.
  • Commercial crew:  $732 million, the same as the request.  The House committee did not specify funding for this program.
  • Space Technology:  $700 million, $21 million above the request.  The House committee approved $686.5 million.
  • Education:  $100 million, including $18 million for EPSCoR, $40 million for Space Grant, $32 million for MUREP, and $10 million for STEM Education and Accountability Project (SEAP).   The House committee approved $90 million for the first three programs, divided the same as the Senate, but none for SEAP.   The request was for $37 million to close out all these programs and eliminate the Office of Education. 

What's Happening in Space Policy July 24-28, 2017

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 23-Jul-2017 (Updated: 23-Jul-2017 12:57 PM)

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of July 24-28, 2017 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

FY2018 appropriations and the new Russia/Iran/North Korea sanctions bill top the space-related congressional agenda this week.  At the moment, the House remains scheduled to recess on Friday for 5 weeks as planned at the beginning of the year while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided to keep the Senate in session for an extra two weeks at the urging of the President.  Whether the schedule changes again may depend on what happens this week on other issues.

Although the House has not yet passed a Budget Resolution that is supposed to set spending limits, it is moving forward with a bundle of four of the 12 regular appropriations bills that it considers to be related to national security:  Defense, Energy & Water (the Department of Energy oversees the nation's nuclear stockpile), Military Construction/Veterans Affairs (MilCon/VA), and Legislative Branch (which funds congressional operations).  Some might quibble over whether Leg Branch counts as national security, but it does pay the salaries of the Members of Congress and their staffs who write the laws that set policy and authorize and pay for those programs, so there is logic to it. The bundle is called the "Make America Secure" bill and uses the Defense Appropriations bill number, H.R. 3219.   The House Rules Committee meets tomorrow (Monday) and Tuesday to write the rule and decide which amendments will be in order for floor debate.  House action could begin late Tuesday.

Speaking of the Budget Resolution, the House Budget Committee did finally release its version.  One of the proposals to save money is by reorganizing the Department of Commerce and moving NOAA to the Department of the Interior, something the Obama Administration recommended several times. Penny Pritzker, Obama's last Secretary of Commerce, endorsed it again in her exit memo.

Across Capitol Hill, the Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up two bills that fund space activities:  Transportation-HUD (T-HUD, including the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation) and Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS, including NASA and NOAA).  The two subcommittees will mark up their bills on Tuesday; full committee markup is on Thursday.   Audio of all three meetings will be webcast.  The House Appropriations Committee has already reported out its versions of T-HUD and CJS.

Separately, the House and Senate have agreed on a compromise measure to impose additional sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea.  The Senate passed its bill last month 98-2 after adopting an amendment that exempts NASA and the commercial sector from provisions that could have prevented them from launching satellites on rockets that use Russian components or using companies that do business with the Russian defense sector.  The compromise version is scheduled for a vote in the House on Tuesday.  The House is expected to vote as strongly in favor of the bill as did the Senate.  That would create a dilemma for the White House, which opposes it because it would prevent a President from acting alone to waive sanctions.  Congress would have to agree.  Pundits are debating whether the President will sign it anyway to avoid adding more fuel to the fire over his relationship with Russia or veto it.  Congress can override a veto with a two-thirds vote of each chamber.

The NASA Advisory Council (NAC) and its committees are meeting this week in Hampton, VA, near NASA's Langley Research Center.   Committee meetings are tomorrow and Tuesday, while the full NAC meets Thursday-Friday.  The meetings are available remotely by WebEx/telecon.  On Tuesday, the Human Exploration and Operations Committee and the Science Committee meet together.

Three new crew members launch to and dock with the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday.  The American-Italian-Russian crew (Bresnik-Nespoli-Ryazansky) will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 11:41 am Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) and dock with ISS at 6:00 pm EDT joining the American-Russian crew members already aboard (Whitson-Fischer-Yurchikhin).

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning are shown below.  Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Events of Interest list.

Monday-Tuesday, July 24-25

Tuesday, July 25

Thursday, July 27

Thursday-Friday, July 27-28

Friday, July 28

  • Soyuz MS-05 Launch/Docking
    • launch, 11:41 am EDT (9:41 pm local time at launch site), NASA TV coverage begins 10:45 am EDT
    • docking, Earth orbit, 6:00 pm EDT,  NASA TV coverage begins 5:15 pm EDT

Sen. McCain Diagnosed with Brain Tumor

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 19-Jul-2017 (Updated: 19-Jul-2017 11:11 PM)

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), he has a profound influence on national security space programs.  He had already delayed his return to Washington to recover from a medical procedure over the weekend to remove a blood clot. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is substituting for him at SASC hearings this week.

As chairman of SASC, McCain is in charge of drafting the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that sets policy and recommends funding for the Department of Defense (DOD). SASC also recommends to the Senate whether to approve or disapprove presidential nominees for civilian and military DOD positions including those who oversee DOD space programs and operations such as the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Air Force, Air Force Chief of Staff, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command and Commander of Air Force Space Command. It is difficult to overstate his influence on the national security space sector.

Senator John McCain.  Photo credit:  McCain website.

McCain is a harsh critic of Russia and in recent years has become particularly well known in the space community for his opposition to the use of Russia's RD-180 engines for the United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Atlas V rocket.  Initially he tried to limit their use for national security launches by prohibiting additional engine purchases and insisting on development of a U.S. launch vehicle using U.S. engines by 2019.  He finally relented on the timeline last year, agreeing to push it out to 2022 as requested by the Air Force.  Just last month during debate over a Russia sanctions bill, however, he broadened his efforts to limit the use of any Russian rocket engines for civil or commercial launches, too.  His amendment failed.

SASC already has completed markup of the FY2018 NDAA.  It is awaiting floor action in the Senate.  The House version passed last week.  Once the Senate passes its bill, a compromise will have to be negotiated, a process in which the chairmen of the two Armed Services committees play a crucial role.  Both bills direct DOD to reorganize how it deals with space programs, but the two approaches are dramatically different.  The issue will be one of the many difficult topics they will have to thrash out. SASC wants a new DOD Chief Information Warfare Officer with broad authority over space programs. The House wants a Space Corps within the Air Force and a U.S. Space Command as a subunit of U.S. Strategic Command. 

At McCain's request, the Mayo Clinic, which is treating him, released a statement explaining that "tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot" that was removed.  The statement is posted on McCain's website.  McCain himself conveyed optimism and confidence that "any future treatment will be effective" and a decision on when he will return to the Senate will be made after further consultations with his medical team.

Advice for the National Space Council from Policy Insiders

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 17-Jul-2017 (Updated: 18-Jul-2017 04:20 PM)

Now that President Trump has announced his intent to appoint Scott Pace as Executive Director of the newly reconstituted National Space Council, advice is pouring in on what issues it should tackle and the challenges ahead.

At a seminar Friday sponsored by the Aerospace Corporation and George Washington University's Space Policy Institute -- which Pace currently heads -- Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) and two panels of experts offered their views on the Space Council and other topics.  The White House announcement came the evening before the seminar began.  While Pace was widely rumored to be the top choice, the timing caught many by surprise. The seminar's topic, however, Ensuring U.S. Space Leadership, lent itself to the breaking development.

The National Space Council has existed in law since the FY1989 NASA Authorization Act. (A predecessor National Aeronautics and Space Council was created in the 1958 law that established NASA, but was disbanded by President Nixon in 1973).  President George H.W. Bush issued an Executive Order standing up the organization in April 1989 with Vice President Dan Quayle as its chair.  After his term ended in 1993, however, no President has chosen to fund or staff the office until now.  President Trump signed an Executive Order on June 30 reestablishing the Council within the Executive Office of the President (EOP) with Vice President Mike Pence as its chairman.

In the Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama Administrations, space policy was developed in the EOP through interagency processes led by the National Security Council (NSC) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which formulates the President's budget request to Congress and oversees how agencies spend money appropriated by Congress, is also part of the EOP.

The two panels at Friday's seminar encompassed six EOP space policy veterans.  From the NSC: Gil Kilnger (George W. Bush), Peter Marquez (George W. Bush and Obama), and Chirag Parikh (Obama).  From OSTP:  Richard DalBello (Clinton, Obama), Damon Wells (George W. Bush, Obama), and Ben Roberts (Obama). All but Roberts continue to work on space in industry or government -- Harris, Planetary Resources, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), Virgin Galactic, and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), respectively -- though all were speaking in their private capacities. The group is very collegial and offered good-natured advice and ribbing about the challenges Pace will confront, while seriously addressing both structural and policy issues that need to be solved.

Joining them were former Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and former Commander of U.S. Strategic Command Gen. C. Robert Kehler (Ret) who also offered their views on the proposal to form a Space Corps within the Air Force, an idea they oppose.  Babin chairs the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and gave a comprehensive keynote address that included the key issues he thinks the Space Council should address.

Many of the comments from the White House policy veterans focused on the inner workings of the EOP and the challenges of dealing with complex policy issues with just one person at the NSC assigned to work on space issues and perhaps one or two at OSTP.  The prevailing view was that reestablishing the Space Council would help because it presumably will have a few more staff than that and, with the Vice President as chairman, raising these issues to higher levels in the White House will be easier.

Roberts, who left OSTP in March after nine years in the EOP (the first seven at OMB) conceded that he was skeptical when he first heard that the Space Council would be reestablished because the OSTP/NSC model was working quite well.   He has changed his mind because it is not clear how President Trump will staff or utilize OSTP.  No science advisor has been nominated and most of the staff has departed with no replacements in sight.  Obama's OSTP Director and Science Adviser John Holdren had "a lot of clout" with the President on civil and commercial space issues, Roberts said. With that model now in doubt, he views the Space Council, reporting directly to the Vice President, as a positive development.

Parikh pointed out that one missing element of the Executive Order reestabllshing the Council, however, is that no line is drawn among OSTP, NSC and OMB.  The NSC and OSTP staff can write policies, "but it you're not linked with the budget officials" the policies may not be executable.  For example, when Obama's National Space Policy was issued in 2010 the policy community recognized the need for more investment in space security, but funding was not made available until 6 years later.  He lamented that too much time is spent worrying about where to place a comma while forgetting about the budgetary spreadsheets.

Wells and DalBello agreed the challenge is implementation.  "Policy is aspirational goals," said Wells. but it is only after the policy is released "that the fun begins" in obtaining budgetary resources and harmonizng policy and regulatory frameworks.  Calling the space policy process "self congratulatory," DalBello said it falls short in getting the necessary interagency commitments to translate policy into workable budgets as well as in reaching out to Congress.  Congress needs to appropriate the money and in some cases set policy in law. 

More broadly, Klinger stressed that the single most critical issue is whether the rate at which the United States is adapting and changing its space policy and capabilities matches the rate of change in threats and opportunities.  "If yes, we're in the game.  If not, we are at risk of looking like the dinosaurs in the Gary Larson cartoon."

Klinger, Parikh and DalBello all mentioned the soft power value of the space program on the global stage.  DalBello urged that whatever human spaceflight goals are chosen be "articulated in an international context."  Whether in human spaceflight or space traffic management or other areas, the United States needs to "align our interests with other nations."

One benefit that many see to a Space Council is that it can deal with issues on a cross-cutting basis rather than stovepiped into the civil, commercial, and national security sectors.  Babin discussed five issues he believes would benefit from a "holistic" review by the Space Council:  space transportation, satellite servicing, weather, space weather, and space situational awareness. He offered his own views and solutions, some of which are reflected in the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act that was approved by the committee last month, but also believes an "appropriately constituted" Space Council "can provide a leadership role in synergizing" many of these issues.  He cautioned, however, that if the Space Council does not get "buy-in" from the NSC, OMB and OSTP, "it could simply become another layer of bureaucracy."

For his own part, Pace noted that he was the Department of Commerce's representative to the George H.W. Bush Administration's National Space Council and remarked on how much has changed in aerospace in the intervening decades.  The Council is being "reincarnated" in an era of "democratization and globalization" where the private sector "is changing the rules of the game." 

Although it dealt with a wide variety of issues, the earlier Space Council is probably best remembered for the tense relationship it had with NASA, which eventually led to the firing of NASA Administrator Richard Truly and his replacement by Dan Goldin.  

Pace stressed in an op-ed published in the March 14, 2017 issue of The Hill that the Space Council's purpose is not to supervise NASA.  Pace was NASA's Associate Administrator for Program Analysis and Evaluation when Mike Griffin was Administrator in the second George W. Bush term, so has seen the process from that side.   The "White House does not, and never has, needed a space council to supervise NASA, but it does need a way to combine the separate strands of national security space programs, diplomatic engagement, commercial competition and civil space cooperation with a unity of national purpose and effort."

That opinion was shared by participants in the seminar.  As Marquez said, it is "not a NASA council" but is "about national priorities, needs, and strategic imperatives."

Application Deadline Extended for Academies' US-China Young Scientists Forum

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 17-Jul-2017 (Updated: 17-Jul-2017 08:42 PM)

The Space Studies Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine is inviting young (under 40) space science researchers to apply to participate in its 2018 U.S-China Forum for New Leaders in Space Science.  Astrophysics and heliophysics are the focus this time.  Applications are due July 28.

Initiated in 2014, the forum allows a small group of researchers from both countries to meet in China and in the United States to discuss their research activities.  This pair of forums are on January 23-24, 2018 in Guangzhou, China and July 12-13, 2018 in Pasadena, CA.  Travel and subsidence expenses for U.S. scientists will be paid by the National Academies using non-government funds.   Applicants must be available to participate in both meetings.

This set of forums is focused on astronomy and astrophysics and solar and space physics.  The original application deadline of July 14 has been extended to July 28.  Participants will be selected by an International Program Committee.

More information, eligibility criteria, and application instructions are on the SSB website.

Donley, Kehler Join Anti-Space Corps Chorus While House Moves Ahead

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-Jul-2017 (Updated: 17-Jul-2017 06:49 AM)

On Friday, the House passed legislation that would create a Space Corps within the Air Force while a former Secretary of the Air Force and former Commander of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) argued against it at a seminar across town.

Michael Donley served as Secretary of the Air Force from 2008-2013 as part of his 39 years of government service. Gen. C. Robert Kehler (Ret.) served of Commander of STRATCOM from 2011-2013 and Commander of Air Force Space Command from 2007-2011.  At a meeting sponsored by George Washington University's Space Policy Institute and the Aerospace Corporation, they echoed comments by current Air Force officials that now is not the right time to separate space from the rest of the warfighting force.  Instead, integrating space into the other warfighting domains -- land, sea, air and cyber -- is what's needed.

The bipartisan leadership of the House Armed Services Committee's (HASC's) Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), included the provision to create a U.S. Space Corps within the Air Force analogous to the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy in the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, H.R. 2810),   It would also create a U.S. Space Command as a subunit of STRATCOM.  They are ardent advocates for this reorganization as is HASC chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX). 

The White House, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein oppose it, as did other members of HASC during markup of the bill on June 28.  Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), a former chairman of the Strategic Forces subcommittee, introduced an amendment to remove the provision, but it was defeated by voice vote.  He attempted to bring the issue to the floor of the House for debate, but the House Rules Committee did not approve his amendment.  The bill passed the House on Friday with the provision intact.

Kehler said the proposed solution does not fit the problem, which is acquisition.  "That's why people are frustrated," not because of how DOD is organized.  "Most organizational change doesn't fix the problem and is a distraction," costs more than expected and soon changes again.  "The space enterprise is filled with examples of the wreckage of some of the other things we've tried."

The problem that needs to be solved is how to "posture ourselves to be prepared for conflict that extends into space" the same way we think about conflict extending into air or sea. "We know how to do this," Kehler insisted.  It is a matter of "the grunt work of joint warfighting" and the military services providing combatant commanders with "forces that can operate and accomplish their missions in the face of a contested domain."  Reorganization is not the answer.  "We have a warfighting organization in place today with all the authority and responsibility necessary.  It's called STRATCOM."

Donley agreed. "I don't favor this proposal.  It is the opposite of the trends we're trying to achieve" of integrating space into airspace and cyberspace.  The result will be more bureaucracy, "exactly what Congress has been telling the Department not to do."

Kehler summed it up by repeating that the problem is acquisition. "That's what we need to fix" and it's not magic. Many studies have been done.  "We know what's broken. Fix it."

What's Happening in Space Policy July 17-21, 2017

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-Jul-2017 (Updated: 16-Jul-2017 02:58 PM)

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of July 17-21, 2017 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate will be in session this week.

During the Week

The big event this week is the annual International Space Station Research and Development (ISS R&D) conference organized by the American Astronautical Society.  This year it's in Washington, DC at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.  Pre-conference events take place tomorrow (Monday).  Among the events is a session on the role of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in the evolution of ISS research and a joint NASA-JAXA workshop on maximizing the outcome of the ISS and the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), which is named Kibo. The workshop includes NASA's Marybeth Edeen and Bill Gerstenmaier (head of NASA"s human spaceflight program), and JAXA Vice President and Director General of Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate Takashi Hamazaki and JAXA's manager and director of the JEM utilization center, Kunihiro Matsumoto and Kazuyuki Tasaki, respectively.

Tuesday-Thursday are the main sessions of the conference, which will be livestreamed.  Among the keynote speakers are Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot, Bigelow Aerospace's Robert Bigelow, SpaceX's Elon Musk, and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoferretti.  NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is a featured speaker on a panel Tuesday morning.  A space policy panel will take place on Wednesday morning.

On exactly the same days (Monday-Thursday), NOAA will hold a conference at the City College of New York in New York City on "A New Era for NOAA Environmental Satellites" with its own who's who of experts from the U.S., other countries (including China, Japan, South Korea and Brazil) and international organizations (e.g. EUMETSAT and the World Meteorological Organization).  NBC's Al Roker is the luncheon keynote speaker on Monday.  Sessions focus on GOES-R, JPSS, Big Data, and spectrum issues.  The conference website does not indicate if any of it will be webcast.  If we find out, we will add the information to our calendar item.

And on three of those four days (Tuesday-Thursday), NASA will hold its annual Exploration Forum at Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA.  Sponsored by the Solar System Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) it, too, has a jam-packed agenda with fascinating panels and speakers.

This week definitely has an embarrassment of riches for anyone interested in space science, technology and policy and we haven't even gotten to Congress yet.

The House Appropriations Committee will mark up the bill (T-HUD) that funds FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation on Monday evening; the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee's Space Subcommittee will hold a hearing on planetary flagship missions, including Mars 2020 and Europa Clipper, on Tuesday morning; and the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) has a nomination hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon that includes the nominations of Ellen Lord to be USD/ATL and Matthew Donovan to be Under Secretary of the Air Force (SASC Chairman Sen. McCain's decision to remain in Arizona this week recovering from eye surgery could change that schedule, though).

Those events and others we know about as of Sunday morning are shown below.  Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Events of Interest list.

Monday (July 17)

Monday-Thursday (July 17-20)

Tuesday (July 18)

Tuesday-Thursday (July 18-20)

Wednesday, July 19

Wednesday-Thursday, July 19-20

Thursday, July 20


House Adopts Johnson Amendment to Create Memorial to Apollo 1 Crew

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 15-Jul-2017 (Updated: 15-Jul-2017 12:03 PM)

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson's (D-TX) effort to create a memorial to the Apollo 1 crew at Arlington National Cemetery took a step forward yesterday.  The crews of the space shuttle Challenger and Columbia are honored there, but not Apollo 1.  Her amendment to the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) directing the Secretary of the Army to establish an Apollo 1 memorial there was adopted by the House.  The bill itself passed later in the day.

Fifty years ago, Virgil "Gus" Grisson, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee died when fire erupted in their Apollo command module during a pre-launch test.  The test on January 27, 1967 was in advance of a planned February 21 launch of the first Apollo mission.  The cause of the fire is thought to have been a spark from an electrical wire in the 100 percent oxygen atmosphere inside the capsule, although the investigation could not conclusively identify the ignition source.  The capsule was pressurized at 16.7 pounds per square inch (psi), greater than that outside the capsule.  The hatch swung inward and the crew could not open it quickly enough to escape.

Apollo 1 crew members Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.  Photo credit:  NASA

During a tribute to the crew in January on the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, Chaffee's daughter, Sheryl, movingly recounted what it was like as an 8-year-old to learn of her father's death and how it led to her own 33-year career at NASA.  She said, however, that it seems as though few remember it.

Johnson introduced a bill last year to honor the Apollo 1 crew at Arlington Cemetery in the same manner as the Challenger and Columbia crews, but it did not pass.  She reintroduced it this year.  This week, however, she proposed a slightly different version as an amendment to the NDAA (H.R. 2810).  The House approved it as part of en bloc amendment 4.

In a press statement, Johnson expressed her gratitude to the House for supporting the amendment and hope that the Senate will follow suit.  "Each of these individuals made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of a noble and inspiring goal -- the peaceful exploration of outer space.  I am grateful to all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for supporting this amendment, and I hope the Senate will join us in making the Apollo 1 memorial a reality."

Memorial to the space shuttle Challenger crew at Arlington National Cemetery.  Photo credit:  Arlington National Cemetery.

Memorial to the space shuttle Columbia crew at Arlington National Cemetery.  Photo credit: Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington National Cemetery is overseen by the Department of the Army.  Johnson's amendment requires the Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the NASA Administrator, to construct the memorial at "an appropriate place" in the cemetery and authorizes $50,000 for that purpose.

The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) has been supporting Johnson's effort.  In an emailed statement, AIA thanked Johnson, House Armed Services Committee (HASC) chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA).   "AIA has supported Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson's ... effort along with our partners at the Challenger Center. ... AIA applauds these three representatives for their leadership in moving forward the noble idea of authorizing a memorial marker honoring these American heroes."

As Johnson said, the next step is getting the Senate to agree.  The Senate's version of the FY2018 NDAA is awaiting floor action.  As reported from the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), it does not address this issue.

House Appropriators Approve FY2018 CJS Bill--Good News for NASA, Mixed for NOAA Satellites

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-Jul-2017 (Updated: 13-Jul-2017 11:05 PM)

The House Appropriations Committee approved the FY2018 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill this evening.  The final version makes no changes to the subcommittee-approved recommendations for NASA or NOAA. NASA would get a significant increase above President Trump's request and above current spending.  NOAA's near-term satellite programs, JPSS and GOES-R, are fully funded, but future programs did not fare well.

The committee's lengthy markup dealt with a wide variety of issues, reflecting the bill's broad jurisdiction -- NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and all of the Departments of Justice and Commerce (NOAA is part of Commerce).  Especially tense debates took place on Department of Justice issues such as the investigation into whether Russia interfered in the U.S. election.  Although the NASA and NOAA portions were not controversial, in the end, the bill was approved on a largely partisan basis 31-21 (the committee has 30 Republicans and 22 Democrats).

The only NASA-related amendment was offered by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). She sought to add money for NASA's aeronautics program, but withdrew the amendment after making the point that more funding is needed.  House Appropriations CJS subcommittee chairman John Culberson (R-TX) agreed about the need for more money.  As he said during subcommittee markup, he is optimistic that once Congress agrees on a Budget Resolution, his subcommittee will have more money to spend and NASA's aeronautics program is "at the top of the list."  He made similar comments in reaction to amendments seeking more money for NSF and for the Legal Services Corporation.

The bill approves $19.872 billion for NASA in FY2018, $217 million more than its current (FY2017) spending and $780 million more than the Trump Administration's request.  Among the highlights, the bill approves:

  • $5,858.5 million for Science
    • $1,704.0 million for earth science ($50 million less than the request). Includes $175.8 million to keep Landsat-9 on track for 2020 launch.
    • $2,120.9 million for planetary science ($191.4 million more than the request). Includes $475 million for "Europa Clipper and Lander".
    • $822 million for astrophysics ($5.3 million more than the request).  Requires NASA to ensure WFIRST is Starshade compatible.
    • $533.7 million for James Webb Space Telescope (same as request).
    • $677.9 million for heliophysics (same as request).
  • $660.0 million for Aeronautics
  • $686.5 million for Space Technology
  • $4,550.0 million for Exploration
    • $1,350.0 million for Orion
    • $2,150.0 million for SLS
    • $600.0 million for exploration ground systems
    • $450.0 million for exploration R&D
  • $4,676.6 million for Space Operations (ISS, commercial crew and cargo, space and flight support)
  • $90.0 million for Education ($18 million for EPSCoR, $40 million for Space Grant, $32 million for MUREP)
  • $2,826.2 million for Safety, Security and Mission Support
  • $486.1 million for Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration
  • $37.9 million for Inspector General

For more information and a table comparing FY2017 funding, the Trump request, and the committee's actions, see's fact sheet on NASA's budget request.

The total amount approved for acquisition of NOAA's satellite systems in $1,469.6 million.  NOAA's two major weather satellites programs -- JPSS and GOES-R -- are fully funded. 

The JPSS program pays for only the first two of these new polar orbiting weather satellites, however.  The second pair, JPSS-3 and -4, are funded in a separate Polar Follow On (PFO) program.  The Trump Administration proposed a deep cut to PFO saying it will re-plan the program ($180 million instead of the $586 million NOAA said last year it would need for FY2018). The committee went even further, approving only $50 million, but added it would reconsider if NOAA provides a better explanation of how it is restructuring the program.  NOAA's plans for new space weather satellites also fell far short of what the agency planned last year, although the committee provided more ($8.5 million) than the Trump Administration requested ($500,000).

The House Appropriations Committee is approving appropriations bills even though the House has not adopted a Budget Resolution establishing how much money there is to spend.  Strictly speaking that step is supposed to happen prior to action by the Appropriations Committee. Whether any such Resolution provides more money for the CJS bill, as Culberson hopes, is far from assured.

The path forward for any of these appropriations bills is unclear.  Congress has failed to pass Budget Resolutions in previous years, but nevertheless kept the government operating. So it is possible, but adds another layer of complication.

Scott Pace to Be National Space Council's Executive Secretary

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-Jul-2017 (Updated: 13-Jul-2017 08:55 PM)

The White House announced today that President Trump intends to appoint Scott Pace to be Executive Secretary of the National Space Council.  Pace is currently Director of the Space Policy Institute and Professor of Practice of International Affairs at George Washington University (GWU).

Pace has a long career in space policy and is very well known and highly respected in the community.  Ever since the Trump Administration indicated that it would reestablish the Space Council, his is virtually the only name rumored to be in the running to serve as the head of its staff.  The Council was officially reestablished on June 30 and is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence.  Pace was spotted at Kennedy Space Center last week where Pence addressed the KSC workforce, further fueling speculation that he would be appointed as head of the Space Council.

In its announcement, the White House said Pace has "honed his expertise in the areas of science, space, and technology" citing his career at GWU, NASA, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the RAND Corporation's Science and Technology Policy Institute.

Scott Pace.  Photo credit:  GWU website.

Pace received a B.S. in physics from Harvey Mudd College, a master's in Aeronautics and Astronautics and Technology and Policy from MIT, and a Ph.D. in policy analysis from the RAND Graduate School.

During the George W. Bush Administration's second term, Pace was NASA's Associate Administrator for Program Analysis and Evaluation under then-NASA Administrator Mike Griffin.  He was closely involved in formulating the Constellation program to return humans to the surface of the Moon and then going on to Mars. 

His expertise is much broader, however.  He was Deputy Director and Acting Director of the Office of Space Commerce at the Department of Commerce from 1990-1993 when that office reported to the Deputy Secretary of Commerce (instead of being part of NOAA as it is today).   He has been very active on GPS issues for many years, including protecting GPS spectrum at World Radiocommunications Conferences (WRCs) organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).  He was a member of the U.S. delegation to the WRCs in 1997, 2000, 2003 and 2007.  He also has served as a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (2009 and 2011-2015). Today he is vice-chair of NOAA's Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing, of which he has been a member for several years.

John Logsdon, who founded GWU's Space Policy Institute and is Professor Emeritus there, said via email that he could think of "no one more qualified" to take on the "essential task of crafting a strategic approach to using U.S. space capabilities to advance this country's geopolitical interests and to forge productive collaboration among all government space actors and the private sector." 

Mary Lynne Dittmar, President and CEO of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (CDSE), also praised the announcement.  "Dr. Pace's unique combination of experience in government, the private sector, and academia, and his internationally-recognized expertise in space policy, make him an exemplary selection" for the position.  She added that CDSE looks forward to working with "the Council, its staff, and the Vice President's office to support U.S. leadership and strategic interests in space."  CDSE is an alliance of space industry businesses and advocacy groups that support deep space human exploration and science.


Update:  this article has been updated with reaction to the announcement.

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