Space Law News
The Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee (SS&T) this morning approved a revised version of a new NASA authorization bill, H.R. 4412. The text adopted today contains significant differences from what was posted on the committee's website yesterday. Among the changes for NASA's human spaceflight program: this version does not prohibit spending on development of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and a requirement is added for an independent analysis of the Mars 2021 flyby mission championed by House SS&T committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX).
The version adopted today is called an "amendment in the nature of a substitute" or a "manager's amendment" that replaces the previous text. Subcommittee Chairman Steve Palazzo (R-MS) and ranking member Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) lauded each other for their ability to reach "true bipartisan agreement" on the text, but both agreed that more work needs to be done to "strengthen" the bill before it takes the next step -- markup before the full committee. No date was announced for full committee markup. (Not sure what a "markup" is? See our fact sheet: What's a Markup? -- Answer's to That and Other Legislative Mysteries.)
Two sections Palazzo specifically mentioned as in need of more work concern Space Act Agreements and Advanced Booster Competition. Edwards noted that she wants a bill that covers more years; the funding recommendations in this bill are only for one year (FY2014, already underway). She also wants more discussion about NASA's education and Earth science activities "and a range of other topics."
The tone of the markup today was completely different from last year, which took place amid intense partisan discord throughout Capitol Hill. At that time Palazzo and Edwards had completely different bills. Edwards' bill was rejected on a party-line vote and Palazzo's bill was approved on a party-line vote. The bill never moved out of committee, however. Instead, the process is starting anew this year and bipartisanship is the watchword. Only one dissenting voice was heard at the subcommittee markup today, that of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who objects to the bill's focus on the goal of landing humans on Mars. The bill was approved by voice vote, and it did not appear that any "nays" were spoken, so his objections apparently were not sufficient to cause him to vote against the bill.
In their remarks, Palazzo and Edwards highlighted the human spaceflight sections of the bill which require NASA to submit to Congress an "exploration roadmap" that clearly states that the goal of the human spaceflight program is landing people on Mars and outlining the steps to achieve that goal. Palazzo said the bill "makes absolutely clear that NASA's goal for the human space flight program should be to send humans to Mars. It is also the Committee's intent to be clear that proposals that cannot be proven essential to a Mars mission be removed from this portfolio."
That probably is a reference to ARM, which committee Republicans opposed as recently as yesterday's version of this bill. However, the revised version approved today omits the section that would have prohibited NASA from spending money on developing ARM. Instead it requires NASA to submit more details about the mission. Whether or not ARM is essential to sending people to Mars is a matter of opinion. NASA asserts that ARM is essential to that goal because it will take place in cis-lunar space (between the Earth and Moon), a "proving ground" that is close enough to Earth for astronauts to return in an emergency.
Edwards agreed that Mars is the goal, but her take on the legislation is that it gives NASA the responsibility for "deciding the pathway forward" to get there. The common denominator is that both Palazzo and Edwards want the exploration roadmap that will define specific capabilities and technologies needed to land people on Mars. NASA is required to submit the plan within 180 days of when the bill become law.
Rohrabacher disagreed with the goal of landing humans on Mars, at least as it is envisioned in the bill. He objected to tying the U.S. government space program so closely to such a goal. He said the odds are that resources will be wasted: "When you try to cross a bridge too far, someone will get soaked" and it will be "the U.S. taxpayer."
Other differences from yesterday's version include the following:
Palazzo says in his statement that the bill seeks to limit U.S. dependence on Russia and "allows NASA to better focus its efforts on once more launching American astronauts on American rockers from American soil." He also said it makes clear that SLS and Orion "are top priorities for Congress and the American people" as is the James Webb Space Telescope.
A copy of the 2014 NASA authorization bill, H.R. 4412, that will be marked up by the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee tomorrow is posted on the committee's website. From a policy perspective, there seem to be only minor changes from the version approved by the committee last year, but a major sticking point -- funding levels -- seems to be resolved.
Last year's bill was approved by the committee on a party line vote (11-9) on July 10, 2013. The most contentious issue was the funding level in the bill -- $16.865 billion for FY2014 compared to the $18.1 billion recommended in a Democratic alternative introduced by Rep. Donna Edwards. NASA's earth science program was particularly targeted for cuts -- about one-third of its request. The committee's recommendations by budget line item are summarized in our fact sheet on NASA's FY2014 budget request.
Funding recommendations are not likely to be an issue In the new bill. It recommends funding for only one year, FY2014, which is already in progress and the funding levels are identical to appropriated amounts. The only difference is that the authorization bill specifies how much of the funding in the Space Operations account is for the International Space Station (ISS) program -- $2.984 billion. The Consolidated Appropriations Act that includes NASA's FY2014 funding did not break down how the $3.778 billion for Space Operations should be allocated.
This is not a comprehensive analysis, but a quick glance reveals only minor differences from a policy perspective.
UPDATE: The room for Tuesday's House Appropriations CJS subcommittee hearing on NASA has changed. Now in 2359 Rayburn.
The following events may be of interest in the week ahead. The House and Senate are in session.
During the Week
It's a busy week in Congress as they try to make progress on a number of legislative issues before going on their Passover/Easter break next week. Not only are there a number of interesting congressional hearings on tap, but the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will mark up a new NASA authorization bill on Wednesday, April 9. The bill doesn't have a number yet and the draft text is not posted on the committee's website so far, but the true test will come during the markup to see what amendments are offered. The markup begins at 9:00 am ET and only one hour is scheduled (there's a hearing on a different topic in the same room that begins at 10:00 am), suggesting that little debate is expected. Later that day, across Capitol Hill, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will mark up H.R. 2140 (Heinrich) at 2:30 pm ET. Its purpose is to improve the transition between experimental permits and commercial licenses for commercial reusable vehicles.
As for hearings, of special note are the House Appropriations CJS hearing on NASA's FY2015 budget request on Tuesday morning, which will also hear from former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh who chaired a study that looked at security (as in access by foreign nationals) at NASA's centers. The next day it has a hearing on the budget request for the Department of Commerce, which includes NOAA. Also on Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee's Science and Space subcommittee will hold a hearing on From Here to Mars that includes Susan Eisenhower among the witnesses. On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations CJS subcommittee will hear from the Department of Commerce, and the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold its annual posture hearing on the Air Force, which probably will include more discussion of U.S. reliance on Russian rocket engines for the Atlas 5.
All of that is happening on Capitol Hill, but tomorrow (Monday, April 7), the action will be out at the University of Maryland conference center where Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) will speak to the Maryland Space Business Roundtable. One of NASA's biggest supporters in Congress, she is also one of the most powerful Senators as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee in addition to chairing the appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA and NOAA.
Here are the events we know about as of Sunday afternoon.
Monday, April 7
Tuesday, April 8
Wednesday, April 9
Thursday, April 10
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, White House science and technology policy official Richard DalBello, and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden all sought to clarify today whether or not NASA is still cooperating with Russia other than in operating the International Space Station (ISS). At the end of the day, the best answer seems to be that it’s an evolving situation with no clear guidance other than that the ISS is not affected.
Yesterday, a memo from NASA’s Associate Administrator for International and Interagency Relations became public that instructs NASA personnel to suspend contacts with their Russian government counterparts except for activities related to operation of the ISS because of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The memo did not explain what stimulated the decision or offer many specifics about how it would impact NASA-Russia cooperation. Hours later NASA issued an “official” statement that was announced via Twitter with a link to a Google+ webpage that was not helpful in explaining the situation.
The bottom line of the comments today is that the directive applies to all government agencies, not just NASA; that each agency will determine what activities are exempted or not on a case-by-case basis; and it is an evolving situation. The unambiguous message is that operations of the ISS are not impacted.
Bolden spoke at a long-scheduled joint meeting of the National Research Council’s Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) and Space Studies Board (SSB) this morning. He opened his remarks by addressing this issue and saying there was a “firestorm in Moscow,” which he blamed on the media and politics.
He said he spoke with his Russian counterpart, Roscosmos Director Oleg Ostapenko, this morning and both agreed that the ISS should be kept out of the political realm. That ISS is not included in this directive has been made clear since the beginning. The question concerns other NASA activities with Russia.
NASA has not provided a list of non-ISS cooperation, but, for example, NASA uses Russian wind tunnels for aeronautics experiments and a Russian instrument – the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) – is on the Mars Curiosity rover. The memo states that NASA personnel can attend multilateral meetings involving Russians as long as they take place outside of Russia, but two major international conferences – the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) and the International Council of the Aeronautical Sciences (ICAS) – both are scheduled to take place in Russia this year. Whether NASA employees will be able to participate is unclear.
Bolden said this morning that his message to his employees is to keep doing whatever they are doing with Russia unless told to stop, including plans to participate in COSPAR (he did not address ICAS).
DalBello spoke to the ASEB/SSB meeting later in the day. In response to a question, he stressed three points: this is an evolving situation, it applies across the government, and the ISS is excluded. He deferred to White House press spokesman Jay Carney as providing the official Administration guidance on the matter.
At his daily White House press briefing, Carney said the following, putting it in context of other U.S. actions with regard to Russia’s annexation of Crimea:
Given Russia’s ongoing violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, the U.S. government has taken a number of actions, to include curtailing official government-to-government contacts and meetings with the Russian Federation on a case-by-case basis consistent with U.S. national interests. We’ve talked about this previously and as we’ve already said we’ve suspended bilateral discussions with Russia on trade and investment, we’ve suspended other bilateral meetings on a case-by-case basis, and put on hold U.S.- Russia military-to-military engagement including exercises, bilateral meetings, port visits and planning conferences. We also will not meet with sanctioned individuals. We have informed the Russian government of those meetings that have been suspended, as you know. In terms of specific case-by-case decisions that are made in response to this broader directive, I would have to refer you to each agency. In the case of NASA there are some actions being taken, but obviously with the space station, in particular, that program, and engagement with Russia on that program, continues.
The directive that created this guidance to NASA and other government agencies reportedly was issued by the White House National Security Council and is classified and therefore not in the public domain.
Bolden said that relations with Roscosmos are “good” and “healthy.” As for the Russian government reaction more broadly, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin oversees Russia’s space sector. He is one of the Russian individuals sanctioned by the Obama Administration on March 17, 2014 because of his role in the Ukrainian situation. An English-language Twitter account purportedly belonging to him (@drogozin) carried this rather sarcastic message:
NASA suspends cooperation with Roscosmos (Rus Fed Space Agency) apart from work on the ISS http://t.co/IJ0Td5PjEe Yet, apart from over the ISS we didn't cooperate with NASA anyway)
That account had a separate tweet about U.S. reliance on Russia’s RD-180 rocket engines:
A Russian broom for an American witch. Still, our engines are better) http://t.co/Xf4gM8bR7w
Indeed, the United Launch Alliance sent DOD’s 19th Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) weather satellite into orbit today aboard an Atlas V, which uses the RD-180 engines. DOD officials testified to a House Armed Services Committee (HASC) subcommittee this afternoon that they are conducting a 45-day study on what it would take to build a U.S. designed and produced alternative to the RD-180. (Check back later for our summary of the hearing; meanwhile, the webcast is posted on the committee’s website.)
The following events may be of interest in the week ahead. The House and Senate are in session.
During the Week
On Tuesday, the House will take up H.R. 2413, the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act. Its broad focus is on improved weather forecasting and telling NOAA to focus on weather rather than climate (though it does not preclude climate activities), but there are a couple of satellite-related provisions in it. The bill is being brought up on the suspension calendar, which is usually reserved for bills that are not very controversial and are expected easily to garner a two-thirds vote in favor. There were early concerns that the bill was too anti-climate, but those were largely resolved during full committee markup of the bill in December when a revised version ("amendment in the nature of the substitute") was approved by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. It was adopted by voice vote, which indicates it was acceptable to both sides (or opponents would have insisted on a recorded vote). There were no major changes to the satellite-related provisions.
Speaking of the weather, while we'd like to be able to report that the chance of wintry weather interfering with Washington, DC events is over for the year, it's actually snowing right now. Not to whine, but first they said there'd be a few "conversational" snowflakes and nothing would stick, then they promised it wouldn't stick to the roads but would on the grass, but now there's a winter weather advisory with a forecast of 1-3 inches across the area. We definitely need improved weather forecasting! Fortunately we don't have any Washington, DC based space policy events on our list for tomorrow that might be disrupted. (But seriously! When will this winter be over?)
Just as the weather gets nice mid-week (they say), we'll all be sitting in congressional hearings (or at our desks watching them on the Internet) or over at the Keck Center on Fifth Street attending meetings of the NRC's Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) and Space Studies Board (SSB). ASEB meets on Wednesday, SSB on Friday, and in between they meet jointly on Thursday. The meetings are free to attend, but advance online registration is HIGHLY recommended to ease passing through security to get to the meeting room. Some sessions will be available by webcast; check the agendas for more information and instructions on how to listen in.
Several congressional hearings will be held on U.S. Strategic Command, the Air Force budget request, and national security space programs. Issues concerning the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program and the use of Russian RD-180 engines for the Atlas 5 rocket have come up in similar hearings for the past several weeks and could well come up again this week.
The list below shows all the hearings and meetings we know about as of Sunday afternoon.
Tuesday-Thursday, April 1-3
Wednesday, April 2
Thursday, April 3
Friday, April 4
The following events may be of interest in the week ahead. The House and Senate are in session and, yes, there's another chance for wintry weather here in the DC area on Tuesday, so check to be sure that any events you're interested in on Tuesday or Wednesday are still on track. (It's not supposed to be too bad this time, though.)
During the Week
With the tense U.S.-Russian relationships resulting from the situation in Ukraine commanding attention, perhaps the most interesting event this week will be the launch of two Russians and an American to the International Space Station (ISS) from Kazakhstan on Tuesday. There is no outward sign of cracks in the ISS partnership, so the expectation is that this will be as routine as a launch ever can be. Launch is at 5:17 pm EDT; docking is just under 6 hours later at 11:04 pm EDT.
Meanwhile, back here in the States, congressional hearings on the budget for science agencies in general and NASA specifically kick off before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. NASA's hearing will come a day after a forum at NASA Headquarters with an update on its Asteroid Initiative -- the "initiative" is the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) plus the Asteroid Grand Challenge plus the extra money in NASA's Science Mission Directorate to augment the search for asteroids -- on Wednesday afternoon. NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg who recently was aboard the ISS will speak there. She and Luca Parmitano -- the ESA astronaut whose helmet filled with water during that EVA last year -- will speak at the University of Maryland, College Park, MD, later that day about their recent tour of duty aboard ISS.
Lots of other interesting events are on tap, too. The list below has everything we know about as of Sunday afternoon.
Monday, March 24
Tuesday, March 25
Wednesday, March 26
Wednesday-Thursday, March 26-27
Thursday, March 27
The following events may of interest in the week ahead. The House and Senate are in session. As hard as it is to believe, Washington, DC may get another (thankfully brief) taste of winter Wednesday night into Thursday. If the forecast holds, be sure to check to see if any Thursday events in DC are still on track.
During the Week
Of geopolitical as well as space interest, two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut are due to land in Kazakhstan tomorrow night (Monday) Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). U.S. officials insist that International Space Station (ISS) operations are not being affected by the tensions over Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. This landing, of Soyuz TMA-10M carrying Russians Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy and NASA's Mike Hopkins, could help prove that point. Landing is scheduled for 11:24 pm EDT (9:24 am Tuesday local time at the landing site).
Fortuitously, noted Russian space authority Anatoly Zak will be speaking at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) earlier that day as part of the NASM/Applied Physics Lab Space Policy & History Forum series. Zak runs the RussianSpaceWeb.com website and is author of the superb book Russia in Space published last year. His talk is at 4:00 pm ET. There is no charge, but RSVPs are REQUIRED in order to enter the part of the museum where the talk will be held. See the entry for Monday below for instructions.
Lots of other interesting hearings, meetings and conferences are on tap. Here's what we know about as of early Sunday afternoon.
Monday, March 10
Monday-Thursday, March 10-13
Tuesday, March 11
Wednesday, March 12
Thursday, March 13
Friday, March 14
UPDATE, March 3, 2014, 9:30 pm ET: NASA has decided to hold its FY2015 budget briefing as a telecom rather than an event at Goddard Space Flight Center tomorrow (Tuesday) because of the weather. It will be streamed on NASA's news audio website. Still at 2:00 pm ET.
UPDATE, MARCH 3, 2014: Federal government offices in the Washington, DC area are, indeed, closed today, Monday, March 3. However, the Space Studies Board's (SSB's) Space Science Week will go on according to a tweet from the SSB (@SSB_ASEB). A limited number of WebEx connections are available to LISTEN to the plenary session this afternoon. See the meeting agenda (link below) for instructions.
ORIGINAL STORY, MARCH 2, 2014: The following space policy events may be of interest in the week ahead, but be forewarned that Washington D.C. is forecast to get a MAJOR winter storm beginning tonight (Sunday) and lasting throughout the day Monday. If the forecast holds, the government is very likely to be closed tomorrow with disruptions to government and non-government activities alike. Be sure to check with the host organization before heading out to any Washington-area meetings on Monday and perhaps even Tuesday. The House and Senate are scheduled to be in session, but no space-related hearings are scheduled Monday.
During the Week
This is it! Budget week. It's a month late, but President Obama is scheduled to submit his FY2015 budget request to Congress on Tuesday. Many agencies, including NASA, as well as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) typically hold press briefings the day the budget is released to explain the key issues they foresee. NASA's is scheduled at 2:00 pm ET Tuesday. Curiously, it will be held at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center instead of NASA Headquarters. It will be broadcast on NASA TV. Some NASA center directors are holding their own briefings later in the afternoon.
The submittal of the budget kicks off budget season in Washington and all the congressional hearings that go with it. Hearings on the Pentagon's budget begin this week including a posture hearing on U.S. Strategic Command.
Apart from the budget, this week has other notable events, including the National Research Council's Space Studies Board's (SSB's) Space Science Week. Over three days (Monday-Wednesday), the SSB's four standing committees -- Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics, Committee on Solar and Space Physics, Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space, and Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science -- will meet separately as well as in a particularly interesting plenary session tomorrow (Monday) afternoon. For the first time, a public lecture on Tuesday night is also planned. The meetings are at the National Academy of Sciences building on Constitution Avenue (NOT the Keck Center on 5th Street). The plenary session on Monday includes a panel discussion with representatives from NASA and its counterparts in Japan, Europe and China. Hopefully that event will be able to take place despite the ice and snow -- be sure to check the SSB's website for up to date information. A limited number of listen-only WebEx connections will be available for this session and for Sara Seager's public lecture on Tuesday night. Instructions for how to listen in are on the agenda, which is posted on the SSB's website.
Also of great interest, the American Astronautical Society (AAS) will hold its annual Goddard Memorial Symposium Tuesday-Thursday at the Greenbelt Marriott in Greenbelt, MD near Goddard Space Flight Center (Tuesday is an evening reception; sessions are Wed-Thurs). This perfectly-timed meeting includes talks by NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and the four NASA Mission Directorate Associate Administrators -- Bill Gerstenmaier (Human Exploration and Operations), John Grunsfeld (Science), Jaiwon Shin (Aeronautics) and Mike Gazarik (Space Technology) -- who should be able to shed more light on NASA's FY2015 budget request as well as the status of ongoing activities. Lots of other interesting speakers are scheduled for the two days as well.
And last, but certainly not least, the annual "space prom" will be held Friday night -- the National Space Club's Goddard Dinner at the Washington Hilton (as usual).
Here's the complete list of events that we know about as of Sunday morning. As we said, for events scheduled in Washington, DC on Monday and Tuesday, check with the organization to see if they are still on track. This storm is supposed to be whopper -- lots of ice overnight and then 8-12 inches of snow on top of it falling throughout the day.
Sunday-Saturday, March 2-8
Monday-Wednesday, March 3-5
Tuesday, March 4
Tuesday-Thursday, March 4-6
Wednesday, March 5
Thursday, March 6
Friday, March 7
The following events may be of interest in the week ahead. The House and Senate both are in session.
During the Week
It's another comparatively slow week as everyone eagerly awaits the release of the FY2015 budget request a week from now (March 4). In the meantime, perhaps the most interesting event this week is the House Science, Space and Technology Committee's hearing on "Mars Flyby 2021: The First Deep Space Mission for the Orion and Space Launch System?" on Thursday. As far as we know, there is no launch opportunity to Mars in 2021 -- they occur only every 26 months and there's one in 2020 and another in 2022, so we will see what someone has in mind for 2021. There is an interesting group of very knowledgable witnesses.
That and other events we know of at the moment are listed below.
Monday, February 24
Tuesday, February 25
Wednesday, February 26
Thursday, February 27
The following events may be of interest in the week ahead. The House and Senate are in recess this week: Monday is a federal holiday -- Presidents' Day -- commemorating the birthdays of Presidents Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) and George Washington (Feb. 22).
During the Week
It's a quiet week from a space policy perspective, but the departure of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus spacecraft from the International Space Station (ISS) early Tuesday morning Eastern Standard Time (EST) and the launch of an Air Force GPS satellite from Cape Canaveral on Thursday should be of interest more generally. Cygnus will be unberthed on Tuesday, ending the Orb-1 mission, Orbital's first operational Commercial Resupply Services mission for NASA. The spacecraft is being loaded with trash and will burn up on reentry Wednesday. The launch of the 5th GPS Block IIF satellite (GPSIIF5) aboard an Atlas V is scheduled for Thursday at 8:40 pm EST with a 19 minute launch window. Weather is 80% go at the moment.
While not directly space-related, CSIS is having a meeting on Tuesday morning about National Security and Economic Issues in Spectrum Allocation that also could prove interesting. Government (DOD, FCC, NTIA) and industry (AT&T, T-Mobile) will discuss the thorny issues of how to allocate spectrum to satisfy the insatiable demand for this limited natural resource.
Here's a list of the events we know about as of Sunday afternoon.
Tuesday, February 18
Wednesday, February 19
Thursday, February 20