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June Conference to Spotlight ISS Research Results, Opportunities

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-May-2012 (Updated: 13-May-2012 01:28 PM)

A conference scheduled for June 26-28, 2012 in Denver, CO will spotlight the results of experiments already conducted aboard the International Space Station and discuss opportunities for the future.

The conference is being organized by the American Astronautical Society (AAS) and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) in cooperation with NASA.  In addition to keynotes and plenaries, the conference features parallel technical sessions on specific science and technology disciplines.  They include

  • human research,
  • communications & navigation technologies,
  • space science,
  • plant biology,
  • biotechnology,
  • materials science & combustion science,
  • spacecraft systems and technology,
  • technical earth imaging,
  • fundamental physics,
  • technologies for exploration applications,
  • earth science,
  • cell biology & tissue engineering,
  • human exploration, and
  • education

The European Space Agency (ESA) recently held a similar conference in Berlin and Japan held one in December.  The United States, Europe, Japan, Canada and Russia spent between $60-100 billion (depending on who is doing the math) on building the ISS.   Construction was completed in 2010 and attention is now focused on making the best use of it.  The ISS partners have agreed to operate the ISS at least until 2020.  In the 2005 NASA Authorization Act, Congress designated the U.S. segment of the ISS as a National Laboratory with the expectation that U.S. entities other than NASA would be interested in utilizing it.   CASIS was created last year to manage the ISS National Laboratory and promote its potential to prospective users.

For more information on the June conference, visit the AAS website.

ESA, Japan Remain Committed to Space Cooperation with U.S.

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-May-2012 (Updated: 13-May-2012 09:42 AM)

Despite concerns that NASA's withdrawal from two joint Mars missions with the European Space Agency (ESA) would chill the waters for future space cooperation agreements, both ESA and Japan have recently made clear that they remain committed to working with the United States.

At ESA's request, NASA recently sent a letter expressing its interest in participating in ESA's newly-selected Jupiter Icy moons Explorer (JUICE) program.  NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green told the NASA Advisory Council's Planetary Science Subcommittee last week that NASA told ESA it would like to be a "minor partner" in JUICE with a payload contribution totalling $100 million over the life of the project.   ESA announced its selection of JUICE as its next large science mission on May 2. 

Green particularly thanked Tammy Dickinson at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) for helping NASA reply to ESA's request expeditiously.   NASA's Joan Salute later said ESA is planning to issue the Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for JUICE in June in preparation for instrument selection in January 2013.  Launch is planned for 2022 and it will take eight years to reach Jupiter.   Green said NASA plans to provide "a significant portion" of the payload, although negotiations on precisely what it will provide have not yet begun. 

Separately, as part of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's meeting with President Obama on April 30, the two countries announced a number of cooperative initiatives including space cooperation.  Recognizing 42 years of joint space activities, the statement said the two countries "have committed to deepen civil space cooperation through early conclusion of a Framework Agreement on the peaceful exploration and use of outer space" and by pursuing specific activities that include:

  • cooperation between the U.S. GPS system and Japan's Quasi-Zenith Satellite System;
  • collaboration on earth observation missions; and
  • continuation of International Space Station operations beyond 2016.

The two countries also agreed to deepen their "security partnership in space" through transparency and confidence building measures (TCBMs) including an International Code of Conduct and a framework for space situational awareness.

NASA has a long history of international cooperation in space dating back to its founding in 1958.   Europe and Japan have partnered with NASA on many space science and applications projects over many decades.   A Japanese satellite, GCOM-W1 (or Shikuzu), for example, is scheduled for launch from Tanegashima this Thursday, May 17, Eastern Daylight Time (May 18 in Japan) as part of the NASA-led "A-Train" earth observing satellite constellation.   Europe and Japan also are partners with the United States, Russia, and Canada in the International Space Station program.

Updated Fact Sheets from

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-May-2012 (Updated: 13-May-2012 03:45 PM)

Two free fact sheets about congressional action on  FY2013 budget requests for space activities at NASA, NOAA, the Department of Defense (DOD) and other government agencies were updated on May 13, 2012.

Copies of these fact sheets can be downloaded by clicking on these links:

Other free fact sheets are also available.   Look on the left menu at under "Our Fact Sheets and Reports."

Next ISS Crew Ready for Launch on Monday

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 11-May-2012 (Updated: 11-May-2012 06:19 PM)

Three new crew members for the International Space Station (ISS) are readying for launch on Russia's Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft late Monday evening Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).

The launch is scheduled for 11:01 pm EDT on May 14, which will be 10:01 am May 15 in Kazakhstan where the Baikonur Cosmodrome is located.  NASA will carry the launch live on NASA TV beginning at 10:00 pm EDT.

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin will dock with the ISS two days later, joining the three crew members who are there already:  Russian Commander Oleg Kononenko, NASA's Don Pettit and Europe's Andre Kuipers.

If all goes according to plan, one of the first tasks for the 6-person crew will be berthing SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft with the ISS.  The Dragon launch is currently scheduled for May 19.

SpaceX On Track for Early Morning Launch on May 19

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 11-May-2012 (Updated: 11-May-2012 05:23 PM)

SpaceX and NASA continue to plan for SpaceX's test launch to the International Space Station on May 19.

The launch has been postponed several times and SpaceX has reserved May 22 as a backup date in case anything goes awry on May 19, but for now the launch of Falcon 9 with its Dragon spacecraft is set to blast off from Cape Canaveral, FL at 4:55 am ET a week from tomorrow.

NASA will carry the launch live on NASA TV, with coverage beginning at 3:30 am.  Media events associated with the launch were outlined in a NASA press release today.  SpaceX also released a press kit today. 

SpaceX refers to the launch as COTS 2, the second in its demonstration flights for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.  NASA calls it C2+ since the mission is combining objectives planned not only for the SpaceX COTS 2 mission, but also the third and last test launch that was planned in this series.

House Passes FY2013 CJS Bill, Replaces Sequester for DOD with Other Cuts

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 10-May-2012 (Updated: 10-May-2012 06:23 PM)

The House of Representatives passed the FY2013 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill that funds NASA and NOAA this afternoon as expected.   Separately, the House also passed legislation to replace deep budget cuts for the Department of Defense that will take effect on January 1, 2013 under the sequester provisions of last year's Budget Control Act (BCA) with deep cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.

The House has been debating the CJS bill, H.R. 5326, since Tuesday.   In the end, only one amendment was adopted that affects NASA -- a $126 million cut to NASA's Cross Agency Support budget.  The money instead was allocated to a Department of Justice community policing program.  The bill passed on a vote of 247-163.  President Obama earlier threatened to veto the bill.

The other bill passed today would cut $243 billion from food stamps and other mandatory spending programs over the next five years instead of making cuts to the defense budget as required by the BCA.   The Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act, H.R. 5652, passed 218-199 on a mostly party-line vote.  Only 16 Republicans opposed it, and no Democrats supported it according to The Hill newspaper.

The bill is not expected to pass the Senate. 

At a press conference today, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey defended the Obama Administration's FY2013 budget request for DOD.  That request was crafted after they conducted a strategic assessment of DOD's future needs.  Responding to the House Armed Services Committee's (HASC's) action on the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act yesterday, Panetta said that "[m]y concern is that if Congress now tries to reverse many of the tough decisions we reached by adding several billion dollars to the president's budget request, then they risk not only potential gridlock [but]...they could force the kind of trade-offs that could jeopardize our national defense."   He also insisted that "defense should not be exempt from doing its share to reduce the deficit."

HASC completed full committee markup of the FY2013 authorization act yesterday, approving $554 billion for national defense plus $88.5 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.   The funding is $4 billion more than requested by the President.  HASC Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon said that it nonetheless is less than FY2012 and it "begins to restore sanity to the defense budget."   He stated that military spending represents "only 20% of the federal budget" but "has absorbed 50% of deficit reductions to date."   He hailed today's passage of the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act, criticizing Democrats for seeing the sequester as a balanced approach to deficit reduction and saying the bill "reforms the real drivers of our debt and honors the defenders of our freedom."

Regarding space programs, HASC restored funding for two programs DOD wanted to cancel -- Operationally Responsive Space and the Space Test Program -- and sharply cut a Missile Defense Agency program called Precision Tracking Space Sensor.

HASC Restores ORS and STP Funding, Sharply Cuts PTSS

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 10-May-2012 (Updated: 10-May-2012 06:50 PM)

The full House Armed Services Committee (HASC) marked up the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310) yesterday.  Most space programs were funded at their requested level, but the committee added money for two programs the Obama Administration seeks to eliminate and substantially cut a program it wanted.

The committee added $25 million for the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) program that the Administration wants to eliminate and for which it requested no funds.  The committee also added $35 million to the $10 million requested for the Space Test Program, another activity the Adminstration wants to end.  HASC's Strategic Forces subcommittee already had made clear its support for those programs during a March hearing.

HASC made a major reduction to the Precision Tracking Space Sensor (PTSS) in the Missile Defense Agency's request.  It provides only $50 million of the $297.4 million requested.   The Strategic Forces subcommittee called for an analysis of alternatives (AoA) to the PTSS in its markup of the bill two weeks ago.  It specifies that the AoA be conducted by a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) that is not involved in the program, which would leave out the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL), which is the technical lead of the PTSS development team.    PTSS also was controversial last year.

HASC made small reductions to other DOD space programs:  $2 million from the $446.6 million requested for the Space Based InfraRed System (SBIRS)-High; $2 million from the $25 million requested for space control technology; and $1.5 million from the $229 million requested for Advanced EHF communications satellite program. 

SpaceX and Bigelow Join Forces

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 10-May-2012 (Updated: 10-May-2012 11:56 AM)

SpaceX announced today that it is joining forces with Bigelow Aerospace to market opportunities for people to fly into space on SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Dragon crew space transportation system to inflatable space stations built by Bigelow Aerospace.

Bigelow Aerospace already has launched two small inflatable space station demonstrators, Genesis I and Genesis II, using Russian rockets in 2006 and 2007 respectively.   It is now working on the BA 330 module that it says could accommodate six people.

Key to its space station operations is a transportation system to get people up and back.   Bigelow has been working with Boeing, which is developing the CST-100 spacecraft that would be launched on a U.S. Atlas V rocket.  

Boeing and SpaceX are two of the four companies NASA is funding through Space Act Agreements to develop a commercial crew capability that NASA would use to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS).  The other two are Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin.   Congress is pressuring NASA to pick either one or two of those companies for future funding rather than spreading the money over four companies.   NASA is resisting because it wants several options in case some of the companies' projects do not succeed.

NASA also is funding SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. through Space Act Agreements to develop commercial cargo space transportation systems.  SpaceX plans to use the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft for both cargo and crew.   Its second test launch as part of the commercial cargo program is currently scheduled for May 19, 2012 although it has been postponed a number of times.  Orbital has not yet conducted any tests of its system.

The announcement emailed by SpaceX today about its crew transportation system stresses that the agreement with Bigelow is for the non-U.S. market.   They will first start their marketing efforts in Asia.   Robert Bigelow said "We're very excited about working with our colleagues at SpaceX to present the unique services that our two companies can offer to international clientele. We're eager to join them overseas to discuss the substantial benefits that BA 330 leasing can offer in combination with SpaceX transportation capabilities."  SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said "Together we will provide unique opportunities to entities -- whether nations or corporations -- wishing to have crewed access to the space environment for extended periods." 

SpaceX was founded by Internet billionaire Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, who serves as SpaceX's Chief Financial Officer and Chief Technical Officer.   Robert Bigelow similarly is a billionaire who owns the hotel chain Budget Suites of America and is President of Bigelow Aerospace.


House Expected to Pass CJS Bill Today

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 10-May-2012 (Updated: 10-May-2012 06:24 PM)

The House of Representatives worked until just after midnight completing consideration of amendments to the FY2013 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill.  Only one step remains -- passage of the amended bill -- which is expected to occur early this afternoon.

The House adjourned at two minutes after midnight following lengthy debate on amendments to the bill as reported from the appropriations committee.   Only one amendment debated Wednesday-Thursday would have affected NASA and it was defeated.  The amendment, by Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), would have taken $10 million from the Mars Next Decade account and used it for a program in the Department of Justice (the John R. Justice Prosecutors and Defenders program, part of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act).   It was defeated 160-260.

The only amendment that succeeded in changing the amount allocated for NASA during floor debate was agreed to on Tuesday.   It takes $126 million from NASA's Cross Agency Support account to use for a community policing program in the Department of Justice.

No changes were made to the appropriations commitee's recommendations for NOAA's satellite programs.

House passage of the bill will complete House action on its version of the CJS bill, H.R. 5326, but the Senate still must pass its bill and the two must then reconcile their differences before sending it to the President for signature.   The White House indicated before debate on the bill began that it would veto the bill as it was reported from committee.  One of its objections was the reduction in funding for commercial crew compared to the President's request; that was not changed during floor debate.


House Cuts NASA Cross Agency Support, Defeats Other Amendments

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 09-May-2012 (Updated: 09-May-2012 07:45 AM)

The House of Representatives began debate on the FY2013 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill yesterday.   Several amendments that would have cut NASA funding in order to pay for non-NASA programs were defeated, but one was adopted that cuts $126 million from the Cross Agency Support account.   The House also defeated amendments that would have made across the board cuts.  The House is expected to resume consideration of the bill, H.R. 5326, today.

By a narrow margin, Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), succeeded in cutting NASA's Cross Agency Support budget by $126 million in order to add money to the COPS community policing program in the Department of Justice budget.  The vote was 206-204. 

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), however, did not succeed with her amendment to cut NASA's aeronautics budget by $44 million and space operations by $38 million in order to add funding for enforcement of financial fraud laws.  It was defeated by voice vote.

Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI) also failed in his proposal to reduce NASA's Cross Agency Support budget by $17 million and using that money instead for the International Trade Administration and the U.S. Trade Representative.   That amendment initially was adopted by voice vote, but a recorded vote was demanded and it lost 141-261.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) proposed taking $26 million from NASA's Cross Agency Support budget and allocating $7.1 million of that instead to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  The amendment failed 96-314.

A 12.2 percent across the board cut to all spending in the bill was proposed by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), although it would have exempted NASA, the U.S. Marshall Service, and the FBI.   The amendment was defeated 105-307.  A separate amendment by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) for a 1 percent across the board cut, with no exceptions, also was rejected.  That vote was 160-251.

A list of all the amendments considered yesterday and their disposition is on the House Republican Cloakroom's website.  Debate on the bill is scheduled to resume today along with other legislative business. 



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