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Military / National Security News

SASC OKs FY2015 NDAA - Adds Money for ORS, New Rocket Engine; Wants More Launch Competition - UPDATE

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 23-May-2014 (Updated: 05-Jun-2014 09:57 PM)

UPDATE:  The text of the bill and report are now available (see links in last paragraph).

ORIGINAL STORY:  The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) approved its version of the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) late yesterday (May 22).  It contains a number of space-related provisions, especially affecting launches of U.S. national security satellites and also continues funding for the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) office that the Obama Administration has been trying to close for several years.

The future of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program -- both use of Russian RD-180 rocket engines for the Atlas V rocket and competition between the United Launch Alliance (ULA) and "new entrants" like SpaceX -- features heavily in the space-related actions listed in the committee's summary press release.

The deteriorating geopolitical relationship between the United States and Russia over Ukraine is shining a spotlight on U.S dependence on Russian space hardware and thrown the RD-180 engines into the middle of the controversy.  At the same time, SpaceX is suing the U.S. government because it awarded a block-buy contract for 36 EELV cores -- including some for the Atlas V -- on a sole source rather than competitive basis in December.  SpaceX already launches spacecraft for NASA and the commercial space sector and wants to compete for national security space launches.  That aspiration has the support of key Senators like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). 

McCain issued his own press release yesterday announcing that SASC had adopted his amendment to prohibit future contracts to purchase Russian rocket engines for U.S. national security space launches.  McCain's press release did not provide the full text of the amendment.  The committee's press release does not either, but it elaborates on what it involves.   While the use of RD-180s after the end of the current block-buy contract would be prohibited, that prohibition can be waived for national security reasons or if "space launch and services cannot be obtained at a fair and reasonable price."  McCain said SASC also adopted amendments he sponsored that require full and open competition for two launches "they tried to sole source" and for an investigation of "undue reliance" on foreign suppliers and parts. 

In total, the provisions related to the EELV program and competition for national security space launches approved by SASC are --

  • Requires competition for launching the payload from mission five of the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) program
  • Prohibits the use of Russian rocket engines on EELVs at the end of the current block-buy contract and requires DOD to pursue domestic development of a new "world class liquid rocket engine with a waiver for national security and if space launch and services cannot be obtained at a fair and reasonable price"
  • Requires the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) to develop a program plan to competitively produce by 2019 a new U.S. EELV-class liquid rocket engine
    • the plan must be submitted to Congress by September 30, 2014
    • $100 million is added for FY2015, and $20 million of already appropriated FY2014 funds is designated, to begin engineering design
  • Requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine the EELV program's reliance and risk on foreign sources
  • Requires GAO to examine the cost and pricing accounting methods of the EELV program, and
  • Requires the Air Force to increase competition in the EELV program by at least one in FY2015 "without breaking the terms of the existing block buy" and allows for an additional competition between FY2016 and FY2017 subject to a SecDef waiver that it will not break the block-buy contract

The House passed its version of the NDAA (H.R. 4435) yesterday and it also contains a number of provisions on these topics.   The House and Senate agree on the need for a new U.S. liquid rocket engine.  The House adds more money than the Senate for it in FY2015 -- about $200 million ($220 million is added to the Aerospace Propulsion account, but then $23 million is subtracted from "liquid rocket engine combustion technologies and advanced liquid engine technologies" in the same account, so the net addition is $197 million).  Both the House and Senate seem supportive of the December 2013 block buy contract that SpaceX is disputing, though the House more strongly than the Senate.  Both call on the Air Force to provide more opportunities for competition, while the Senate is more proscriptive.

The future of the ORS office itself is a long running debate between Congress and the Obama Administration.  Once again DOD submitted a FY2015 budget plan to zero funding for the ORS office and once again Congress is rejecting that proposal.  The Senate bill adds $20 million for ORS for FY2015 to "enable the program to continue designing a low cost space based situational awareness satellite."  The House bill adds $30 million.

The Senate bill includes the following other space-related provisions according to the press release:

  • Requires the Defense Science Board to review the long term systems architecture of the space situational awareness sensor system
  • Requires an update of the space control and space superiority strategy pursuant to the Space Posture Review
  • Prohibits funding to store the last Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) weather satellite unless the SecDef certifies to Congress that he intends to launch that satellite and will have sufficient funding to do so in the Future Years Defense Program (that projects future defense spending)
  • Requires a "preponderance" of funds within the Space Security and Defense Program to be allocated to offensive space control and active defense strategies

The House bill also would require DOD to launch the final DMSP satellite.   That and other House space-related provisions are summarized in two previous articles on April 29 and on May 5.

The text of the Senate bill (S. 2410) as approved by SASC and accompanying explanatory report (S. Rept. 113-176) are now posted on the Library of Congress THOMAS website.

SASC Adopts McCain Amendment Prohibiting New Contracts for Russian Rocket Engines

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 23-May-2014 (Updated: 23-May-2014 08:14 AM)

While one part of official Washington worries that Russia will follow through on a recent threat to prohibit use of RD-180 engines for U.S. national security space launches, another part is working to ensure exactly that outcome.   The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) yesterday adopted a McCain amendment that prohibits future contracts to purchase Russian rocket engines to launch national security satellites.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) issued a press release yesterday (May 22) announcing 11 amendments adopted by SASC during markup of the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  SASC has been working on the bill since Wednesday and was expected to complete its work late yesterday or today (May 23).  No announcement had been made by the committee as of 6:30 am EDT this morning as this article went to press.  (Sen. Carl Levin's website has a press release about a different aspect of the bill that says markup was completed on Thursday, but the committee has not released an announcement or a summary of the action it took.  Levin chairs the committee.)

McCain's press release did not include the exact wording of the amendment, but it would "prohibit future contracts to buy Russian rocket engines to launch our national security satellites." 

The amendment also requires the Air Force to "have a full and open competition on two satellites that they tried to sole-source" and for an investigation on "undue reliance by the U.S. space industry on foreign suppliers and parts such as engines."

McCain sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on May 6 asking a series of questions about DOD's use of Russian rocket engines and plans by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) to accelerate delivery of those engines in case the geopolitical situation between the United States and Russia over the Ukraine situation worsens.  HIs questions focused on whether the purchases violate U.S. sanctions in Executive Order 13661 and the impact of increased costs if deliveries are accelerated.   That followed letters he sent on April 25 to Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and, separately, to DOD Inspector General Jon Rymer, asking questions about the Air Force's decision to award a contract to ULA for 36 Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) cores in December 2013 on a sole-source rather than competitive basis,

SpaceX founder and Chief Designer Elon Musk is suing the Air Force over the award of that contract.  Musk wants to be able to compete with ULA for launches of U.S. national security satellites.  One thrust of his argument is that one of the two EELVs, Atlas V, relies on Russian RD-180 engines and using his Falcon rockets with U.S.-built engines would be better.  McCain apparently agrees.   However, an Air Force review panel recently concluded that there are no easy answers to launching U.S. national security  satellites if the RD-180s no longer are available.   Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin recently threatened to prohibit use of RD-180 engines for such launches because of sanctions the Obama Administration imposed against him and other Russian officials because of Russia's actions in Ukraine.  Rogozin oversees Russia's aerospace sector.

Another Shoe Drops in SpaceX-Air Force/ULA Dispute

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 22-May-2014 (Updated: 22-May-2014 10:55 PM)

SpaceX's already heated debate with the Air Force (AF) and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) over the sole-source contract awarded to ULA in December 2013 ratcheted up another notch today.  SpaceX founder and Chief Designer Elon Musk implied in a series of tweets that the recent employment of an Air Force procurement official by Aerojet Rocketdyne was in exchange for that official awarding the contract to ULA.

The National Legal and Policy Center reported on May 18 that Roger "Scott" Correll, a recently retired Air Force procurement official involved in the ULA contract, has taken a job with Aerojet Rocketdyne, which provides rocket engines for one of ULA's two Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELVs), the Delta IV.   (The other EELV, Atlas V, is under scrutiny for unrelated reasons associated with the fact that its RD-180 engines are supplied by Russia.)

SpaceX filed suit against the U.S. Government earlier this month on the basis that the contract should have been competed rather than awarded on a sole source basis.  Musk said via Twitter (@elonmusk) this evening that it was "V likely AF official Correll was told by ULA/Rocketdyne that a rich VP job was his if he gave them a sole source contract."  In a separate tweet, Musk says "Reason I believe this is likely is that Correll first tried to work at SpaceX, but we turned him down.  Our competitor, it seems, did not."  In a third tweet, Musk says that the issue deserves examination by the DOD Inspector General as part of an investigation already requested by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Musk is trying to break into the national security space launch market.  SpaceX already conducts launches of its Falcon 9 rocket for NASA and for the commercial satellite industry.  The first step in getting Falcon 9 certified by the Air Force to compete as a "new entrant" in the national security space launch services business is to successfully complete three launches of the same version of the Falcon 9 rocket it intends to use for the Air Force. 

Those launches have been completed, but SpaceX and the Air Force disagree on how promptly the certification process is proceeding.   Air Force Space Command Commander Gen. William Shelton said at the Space Foundation's Space Symposium in Colorado earlier this week that the Air Force has accepted the first launch, but is still analyzing the other two and in any case the three launches are "just openers."  The Air Force also wants to make sure that SpaceX's manufacturing and engineering processes "are right" and that it has "an auditable financial system."  Overall, he argued, it takes time, money and people to complete the certification process and the Air Force is spending $60 million and has 100 people working on it, but SpaceX "cannot compete, will not compete, until they are certified."

Air Force RD-180 Alternatives Study Finds No Easy Answers

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 22-May-2014 (Updated: 22-May-2014 09:36 PM)

A quick turnaround Air Force review panel assessing the impact on U.S. space launches if Russia's RD-180 rocket engines no longer are available has found there are no easy remedies.

According to briefing charts obtained by, between now and FY2017 the impacts of losing use of RD-180 engines are "significant" and "options to mitigate them are limited."  The panel was chaired by Maj. Gen. (ret.) Mitch Mitchell.  Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin was deputy chair and Gen. (Ret.) Tom Moorman was a senior advisor to the group.

One of the more interesting slides in the package is the "how did we get here" slide 8.  U.S. use of Russian rocket engines for a workhorse U,S. launch system was originally predicated on establishment of a U.S.-based co-production capability so that the engines could be produced here rather than relying on delivery from Russia. 

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) uses RD-180 engines to power the Atlas V rocket, one of the two U.S. "Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles" or EELVs.  Delta IV is the other.  The two EELVs are used for most launches of national security satellites, as well as NASA and NOAA spacecraft.

As demonstrated in slide 8, DOD delayed the co-production requirement for the RD-180 engines for the Atlas rocket -- originally built by General Dynamics, which was later bought by Lockheed Martin -- throughout the late 1990s and 2000s.   The requirement never went into effect, so RD-180s continue to be manufactured in Russia and imported to the United States.  That is why Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin's threat to prohibit using RD-180 engines to launch U.S. national security satellites is creating such concern.

ULA says it has a 2-year supply of the RD-180 engines already in the United States, but the Mitchell study points out that 56 percent of the EELV launches between now and 2020 are planned for the Atlas V.  While ULA has said satellites could be shifted to the Delta IV instead, the Mitchell study concludes that Delta IV production cannot be accelerated sufficiently to avoid launch delays.  It also concludes that "New Entrants" like SpaceX will not be ready in time to avoid delays.

In a worst case scenario where the last launch of an Atlas V with an RD-180 engine was today's launch of a National Reconnaissance Office satellite (NROL-33), the study concludes that 31 launches could be delayed with a cost impact of $5 billion.  If all the RD-180 engines currently in the United States can be used, there would be 9 launch delays costing $2.5 billion.

The Mitchell study does not recommend reinstituting the co-production requirement, saying it is "doable but does not improve the current situation."  Instead, it calls for U.S. production of a domestic liquid rocket engine and other mitigation actions.  The study calls for issuance of a DOD Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) to develop a new liquid oxygen/hydrocarbon (LOx/HC) engine as well as a new generation launch vehicle.  It recommends creation of a joint DOD/NASA program office to manage "investment in a LOx/HC engine risk reduction phase ($141M)" and to provide "options for engines and new launch vehicles in support of Phase 3 EELV acquisition strategy."  Phase 3 of the EELV acquisition strategy is for the years FY2023-2030.

The bottom line of the study is that actions are needed now, in FY2014, to "mitigate current risk and preserve future options."

Today, the House passed the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, H.R. 4355), which includes about $200 million for development of a new liquid rocket engine.  The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) is expected to complete markup of its version of the NDAA tomorrow, but what it will say about a new rocket engine has not been made public.  Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced today, however, that the committee adopted one of his amendments that would prohibit future purchases of Russian rocket engines to launch national security satellites.  The appropriations committees in the House and Senate have not yet acted on the FY2015 defense appropriations bill.

Space Foundation: Space Economy Grew by 4 Percent in 2013

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 19-May-2014 (Updated: 19-May-2014 09:36 PM)

The Space Foundation released its annual report on the state of the space economy today.   It asserts that the global space economy grew by 4 percent in 2013 reaching a new record of $314.17 billion.

Government spending around the world accounts for less than a quarter of that amount, and was less in 2013 compared to 2012 "as significant cuts in the U.S. space budget were only partly offset by growth in the space budgets of other countries." 

The reduction in U.S. Government space spending was both in civil and national security space primarily because of the sequester.  

NASA's spending dropped from $17.77 billion in FY2012 to $16.85 billion in FY2013, for example.   (It rebounded to $17.65 billion for the current fiscal year, FY2014.)   Calculating how much the United States spends on national security space is a challenge since so much information is classified and space activities are not grouped together into a single account in the DOD budget.   The Space Foundation estimates that it was $21.72 billion in FY2013.   Adding in funding for other agencies like NOAA and NSF, it uses $41.257 billion as the total for U.S. government space spending in 2013, 9.4 percent less than 2012.

Even with that reduction, the U.S. space program overall still accounted for 55.7 percent of total government spending around the globe in 2013 according to the report.

The growth in the space economy was in the commercial sector.  The report concludes that of the $314.17 billion space economy in 2013:

  • 24 percent was government spending
    • 13 percent U.S.;
    • 11 percent non-U.S
  • 76 percent was commercial
    • 37 percent for commercial infrastructure and support industries;
    • 39 percent commercial space products and services

Commercial space infrastructure includes satellite manufacturing, launch services, space stations, ground stations, and associated equipment.    Commercial space products and services includes revenues from satellite broadcasting (television and radio), communications, and Earth observation.

In terms of the satellite launch industry, there were 81 orbital launch attempts in 2013, of which 78 were successful in placing their primary payloads into orbit.  The Space Foundation counts 23 of those as commercial launches, of which Russia conducted 12, the United States 6, Europe 4, and the multinational Sea Launch consortium 1. 

A brief summary of the report and information on how to purchase the full report is on the Space Foundation's website.

What's Happening in Space Policy May 19-25, 2014

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 18-May-2014 (Updated: 19-May-2014 08:26 AM)

Here is our list of upcoming space policy events for the week of May 19-25, 2014 and any insight we can offer about them.   The House and Senate are in the session this week.

During the Week

As the country gets ready to celebrate Memorial Day and honor those who gave their lives defending our country, Congress will be acting on the authorization bill for the Department of Defense (DOD).   The FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will go before the House Rules Committee on Monday and Tuesday, with floor action expected later in the week.  Meanwhile the Senate Armed Services Committee (and its subcommittees) will be busy marking up its version of the bill. The DOD authorization bill is the only authorization bill that reliably gets passed year after year despite the many controversies therein.  A big issue this year, of course, is what to do about Russia's threat to stop providing RD-180 engines for the Atlas V rocket.  The House wants to add about $200 million to start a U.S. program to build a new liquid rocket engine to replace it.  The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) will be debating it during markups this week.

Also on tap in the House this week is the FY2015 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill, which cleared committee on May 8.  It includes funding for NASA and NOAA.  NASA is slated to get a significant increase ($435 million) compared to the President's request.   Appropriations being a zero sum game, that means other agencies in the CJS bill got less than the President requested.   Time will tell whether champions of the activities that were cut offer amendments to take money from what is recommended for NASA and restore it to the other programs.  NOAA's satellite programs did comparatively well, though not its strategy for launching three sensors that do not fit on the JPSS spacecraft.  Last year Congress zeroed the "Polar Free Flyer" program and told NOAA to try again.  This year, it is the SIDAR program and House Appropriations zeroed it, too.

Other big events are -- in the United States -- the Space Foundation's annual Space Symposium (formerly the National Space Symposium) in Colorado Springs, CO, and -- In Europe -- the Berlin Air Show in Berlin, Germany.

Lots of other interesting activities as well.  Here is the list of what we know about as of Sunday afternoon.

Monday, May 19

Monday-Tuesday, May 19-20

Monday-Thursday, May 19-22

Tuesday-Wednesday, May 20-21

Tuesday-Sunday, May 20-25

Wednesday, May 21

Wednesday-Friday, May 21-23

Nelson: SASC Will Deal with RD-180 Issue Next Week

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 15-May-2014 (Updated: 15-May-2014 06:35 AM)

In a speech on the Senate floor yesterday (May 14), Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) said that the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) will take up the issue of how to respond to Russia's declaration that its RD-180 rocket engines cannot be used for launching U.S. military spacecraft when it marks up the FY2015 defense authorization bill next week.

SASC's Strategic Forces subcommittee will markup its portion of the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on May 20 and the full committee will markup the bill over the subsequent three days (May 21-23).  All sessions of the markup are closed to the public.

Nelson took to the floor to provide a brief history of cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia in response to what he said were multiple questions by colleagues and the media.  Nelson has considerable expertise on space matters as chair of the Science and Space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.  He also flew into space on a 1985 space shuttle mission when he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. 

What action SASC is contemplating was not mentioned.  Nelson laid out the issues and rued the fact that U.S.-Russian space cooperation is being impacted by geopolitical events since even during the Cold War the two countries managed to work together in space.  Citing the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) in particular, he noted that the leaders of the American and Russian crews, Gen. Tom Stafford (Ret.) and Gen. Alexei Leonov (Ret.), remain close friends today and are representative of the close ties between other American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts.  

Emphasizing the complexity of the issues posed if Russia bans sales of the RD-180 engines, he went on to explain that two of NASA's commercial crew contenders, Boeing and Sierra Nevada, plan to use the Atlas V rocket for their CST-100 and Dream Chaser spacecraft. It is that rocket that uses Russia's RD-180 engines and would be affected if Russia goes through with a threat issued by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin earlier this week to prohibit use of Russian rocket engines to launch U.S. military satellites.  While those are not military satellites, Nelson is worried that the ban could affect civilian launches, too. 

Rogozin's threat was not only about the RD-180 engines for the Atlas V, but also Russia's NK-33 engines used by Orbital Sciences Corporation for its Antares rockets.   Orbital has a large supply of those engines already in the United States that are refurbished by Aerojet Rocketdyne and redesignated AJ-26.  Antares currently is used only for NASA missions and since Orbital already has the engines here, it is not clear that Rozogin's threats would disrupt those activities.

The Air Force has a study underway to examine options in case the RD-180s no longer are available. The United Launch Alliance (ULA), which produces and launches Atlas V, says that it has a two-year supply of those engines and could, if necessary, shift satellites to the more expensive Delta IV, which has American-made engines.  Nelson said that the topic "will be an issue" when SASC marks up the NDAA next week and if Rogozin follows through with the threat "we're going to have to swing into action pretty quick."

The House Armed Services Committee added about $200 million to the FY2015 Air Force budget to begin development of a new U.S. liquid rocket engine to replace the RD-180 when it marked up its version of the bill.   (The HASC Strategic Forces subcommittee added $220 million, which the full committee approved, but it also reduced that subaccount, Aerospace Propulsion, by $23 million for "liquid rocket engine combustion technologies and advanced liquid engine technologies.")

Rogozin made his comments in response to sanctions imposed on him and other Russian government officials because of Russia's actions in Ukraine.  He also said that Russia will have to think about whether to agree with NASA's plans to extend operations of the International Space Station (ISS) beyond 2020.  He did say, however, that Russia needs the ISS until 2020, suggesting that there are no plans to impact ISS operations before then.   Indeed, three ISS crew members returned to Earth on Tuesday and three more are scheduled for launch on May 28.  Russia is the only country currently capable of transporting crews to and from the ISS since the United States terminated the space shuttle program in 2011.

NASA, ULA Respond to Rogozin Remarks

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-May-2014 (Updated: 13-May-2014 10:11 PM)

NASA and the United Launch Alliance  (ULA) responded today to statements by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin that would affect ULA's use of Russian RD-180 rocket engines and could affect Russia's participation in the International Space Station (ISS) after 2020.

As part of the ongoing tense relationship between the United States and Russia because of the Ukraine situation, Rogozin said today via tweets and a story in the Russian media that Russian rocket engines no longer may be used for launching U.S. military satellites; Russia will conduct a cost-benefit analysis of its use of the ISS before deciding whether to continue operations past 2020 (NASA announced in January that it will continue operations through 2024 and clearly had been expecting Russia, at least, to agree); and it will consider terminating the operations of 11 ground stations located in Russia for the U.S. GPS navigation satellite system if the United States does not reciprocate by allowing GLONASS ground stations on U.S. soil.

NASA and ULA each issued statements saying they had received no official notification from the Russian government affecting their activities.  

NASA's statement in full is as follows:

"Space cooperation has been a hallmark of US-Russia relations, including during the height of the Cold War, and most notably, in the past 13 consecutive years of continuous human presence on board the International Space Station. Ongoing operations on the ISS continue on a normal basis with a planned return of crew tonight (at 9:58 p.m. EDT) and expected launch of a new crew in the next few weeks. We have not received any official notification from the Government of Russia on any changes in our space cooperation at this point."

ULA's statement in full is as follows:

“ULA and our NPO Energomash supplier in Russia are not aware of any restrictions.  However, if recent news reports are accurate, it affirms that SpaceX’s irresponsible actions have created unnecessary distractions, threatened U.S. military satellite operations, and undermined our future relationship with the International Space Station.

“We are hopeful that our two nations will engage in productive conversations over the coming months that will resolve the matter quickly.

“ULA and our Department of Defense customers have always prepared contingency plans in the event of a supply disruption.  ULA has two launch vehicles that can support all of customers’ needs.  We also maintain a two-year inventory of engines to enable a smooth transition to our other rocket, Delta, which has all U.S.-produced rocket engines.”

ULA's complaint about SpaceX is a reference to a lawsuit filed by SpaceX against the U.S. government for awarding a contract to ULA on a sole source basis rather than competing it.  As part of the lawsuit, SpaceX discussed the fact that Rogozin oversees Russia's space sector and is subject to U.S. sanctions, leading a judge in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to issue an injunction against payments to Russia for RD-180 engines used by ULA for the Atlas V rocket, an injunction that was lifted last week.


Revisions to Satellite Export Regulations Released

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-May-2014 (Updated: 14-May-2014 06:52 AM)

The State Department and Commerce Department issued interim final rules revising satellite export controls yesterday (May 13, 2014).   The long-awaited revisions to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) will allow easier export of commercial satellites to most countries.

The reforms are part of a broader Obama Administration-led Export Control Reform Initiative intended to make American companies more competitive in international markets.

Draft rules were released last year, allowing interested parties to comment on the planned changes.  The rules released yesterday reflect the input that was received and will remain "interim final rules" for the next six months to allow additional comments.  The State Department's interim final rule and the Commerce Department's companion revisions are published in the May 13, 2014 Federal Register.   The two departments share responsibility for export controls. The State Department oversees exports of ITAR-controlled items on the U.S. Munitions List (USML).  The Commerce Department regulates "dual-use" items under the Export Administration Regulations (EAR).   Items on the USML are much more closely guarded than those on the EAR because of their greater potential military applications.

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) praised the export control reforms, but expressed concern that "almost all commercial human spacecraft" remain on the USML.  CSF President Michael Lopez-Alegria said that while yesterday's actions should be applauded, "there is still much progress to be made on commercial spacecraft. ... We thank the Administration for their work on this critical issue and look forward to continued revisions to ensure the U.S. remains a leader in spaceflight."  CSF advocates for commercial human spaceflight.

The Satellite Industry Association (SIA), a trade association of commercial satellite operators, service providers, manufacturers, launch service providers, and ground equipment suppliers, hailed the reforms.  SIA President Patricia Cooper said that "With a more modern regulatory environment for exports in place, we look forward to unleashing the full force of American ingenuity and innovation at work in the international market."

Similarly, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) congratulated the government for the reforms.  AIA, which represents the U.S. aerospace industry, estimated in 2012 that U.S. manufacturers lost $21 billion in revenue between 1999 and 2009 because of the strict limits placed on exports of commercial satellites in 1999.

Congress imposed the limits in 1999 after a congressional investigation (the Cox Committee) determined that China had gained militarily-important information by launching U.S.-manufactured commercial communications satellites.  Such satellites had been moved from State Department to Commerce Department control under the George H.W. Bush and Clinton Administrations.  In 1999, Congress moved them back to the State Department's Munitions List and removed the presidential authority to determine which department had control over them -- only Congress could make that determination.   The satellite industry immediately began its attempts to return the satellites to Commerce Department control, which now have finally reached fruition after Congress changed the law in 2012.  Exports to China, however, remain prohibited.

Rogozin Says No to Russian Rocket Engines for Military Launches, Not Sure About ISS to 2024

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-May-2014 (Updated: 13-May-2014 05:41 PM)

In a sign of the strained relationships between the United States and Russia over Ukraine, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said today that Russia would not permit the use of its rocket engines for U.S. military launches, questioned whether Russia would support NASA's desire to extend International Space Station (ISS) operations to 2024, and may stop hosting U.S. GPS stations on Russia soil if there is no reciprocity from the United States.

Rogozin is in charge of Russia's space sector and was one of the first Russians sanctioned by the Obama Administration in March because of Russia's activities in Ukraine.  He featured prominently is U.S. news articles about the space program over the past week because a judge at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims enjoined payments by the Air Force or United Launch Alliance for Russia's RD-180 engines until the government assured the court that such payments did not violate those sanctions.   The government provided those assurances and the injunction was lifted on May 8.

Now the shoe is on the other foot.  Rogozin told Interfax that Russia will not permit the use of Russia engines for U.S. military launches.  RD-180s are used to power ULA's Atlas V rocket, which is used for many national security space missions.   Russian NK-33 rocket engines, redesignated as AJ-26 engines by Aerojet Rocketdyne, which refurbishes them, are used for Orbital Sciences Corporation's Antares rocket and the ban may also apply to those engines, although Orbital currently uses Antares only for cargo launches to the ISS for NASA.

Rogozin made his remarks In a series of tweets and to Russia's Interfax news agency that is cited by Russia Today.  In addition to the comments about Russian rocket engines, he said that Russia will think about whether to continue operating the ISS past 2020.  NASA announced in January that it is extending operations to 2024, although it had not yet reached agreement with the other ISS partners.   In many discussions, NASA officials have indicated that Russia is in agreement with the extension, and it is a matter of getting Europe, Canada and Japan to agree as well.   Rogozin's statements call that into doubt.  He said Russia currently projects that it needs ISS until 2020 and "We need to understand how much profit we're making by using the station, calculate all the expenses and depending on the results decide what to do next."

As for GPS, Rogozin said Russia is considering halting the operations of 11 U.S. GPS stations in Russia beginning on June 1 if the United States does not reciprocate and allow Russian GLONASS stations on U.S. territory.  "We're starting negotiations, which will last for three months. We hope that by the end of summer these talks will bring a solution that will allow our cooperation to be restored on the basis of parity and proportionality."

Russia's request to place GLONASS stations on U.S. territory became controversial late last year, well before the Ukraine situation developed.

Update:  A transcript, in Russian, of the press conference at which Rogozin made these remarks and that included Russian space agency head Oleg Ostapensko is available at this website.