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NASA cleverly designed the Stardust-NExT mission to have its encounter with comet Tempel 1 on Valentine's Day, but that was when the President's budget request for FY2012 was to be released a week earlier. Now, the two coincide. For those on the East Coast who are still awake near midnight on Monday and need relief from analyzing the budget request, the Tempel 1 encounter will be televised on NASA TV beginning at 8:37 pm PST (11:37 pm EST).
A press conference will be held the next day at 10:00 am PST (1:00 pm EST) at which Science Mission Directorate head Ed Weiler and three Stardust-NExT scientists -- Joe Veverka of Cornell, Tim Larson of JPL, and Don Brownlee of the University of Washington-Seattle -- will speak.
A group of Republican lawmakers have written to the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and its Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee recommending that funds for NASA's climate change research satellites be shifted to human spaceflight, reports Space News today.
The letter to Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) reportedly was signed by Reps. Pete Olson (R-TX), Bill Posey (R-FL), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Sandy Adams (R-FL), Rob Bishop (R-UT), and Mo Brooks (R-AL). All have districts with interests in the human spaceflight program.
Many Republican Members of Congress are skeptical that climate change is human-induced and in the past have not been particularly supportive of NASA programs focused on climate change research. Recommendations to cut those programs thus are not surprising, whether the money is reallocated to other space activities or to deficit reduction.
The House Republican leadership is expected to introduce the latest Continuing Resolution (CR) later this week, perhaps Thursday, with a vote anticipated next week. The CR would cover the rest of FY2011. Overall spending for domestic discretionary spending is slated to drop by $74 billion compared to the President's FY2011 budget request (or $32 billion compared to FY2010 spending) in whatever is introduced, but various news sources indicate that Tea Party Republicans plan to offer amendments to cut more deeply. The Republican Study Committee, for example, wants to cut $100 billion to fulfill a Republican campaign promise. Others argue that a cut of that magnitude, which would have to be absorbed with only seven months remaining in the fiscal year, is too precipitous.
The impending House cuts have received a tepid response in the Senate so far.
ATK and Europe's Astrium have announced that they will team to build a new commercial rocket to compete for the commercial crew launch business. Called "Liberty," the rocket will build on the work ATK has been doing for NASA's Ares I.
Ares I is part of NASA's Constellation program that is on its way to being cancelled as soon as Congress passes an appropriations bill that lifts an existing congressional prohibition on terminating the program or beginning a new one. Liberty will use the solid rocket motors ATK was developing for Ares I paired with the first stage of Europe's Ariane rocket, which is built by Astrium. The rocket would be able to lift 44,500 pounds to low Earth orbit with a first launch at the end of 2013, a second test flight in 2015, and operational status is 2015, according to the press release.
The following events may of interest in the coming week. For further information, check our calendar on the right menu or click the links below.
Monday-Tuesday, February 7-8
Tuesday, February 8
- NAC Space Operations Committee, NASA Headquarters, room 7C61, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm EST
- NAC Education and Outreach Committee, NASA Headquarters, room 1Q39, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm EST
- NAC Commercial Space Committee, NASA Headquarters, room 1Q39, 2:00 - 3:30 pm EST (apparently this is joint with the Education and Outreach Committee, which lists an agenda item of "joint recommendation with the NAC Commercial Space Committee")
Wednesday-Thursday, February 9-10
Thursday, February 10
- Space Enterprise Council/Marshall Institute, OUTSOURCED: The Role of Commercial and International Space Capabilities in America's National Security Space Portfolio, TechAmerica, 601 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Suite 600-North Building, 9:00 - 11:00 am EST
- House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee hearing, oversight of NASA and NSF (witnesses are the Inspectors General of the two agencies), 10:00 am, H-309 Capitol. (This hearing is not yet posted on the committee's website, but is listed in the National Journal's Daybook. Note that the NASA legislative affairs website lists a March 3 hearing before this subcommittee at which NASA Administrator Bolden will testify on the FY2012 budget request.)
- House Science, Space and Technology Committee organizational meeting, 2:00 pm EST, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building
Thursday-Friday, February 10-11
- NAC, NASA Headquarters, room 9H40
- Thursday, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm EST
- Friday, 8:00 am - 12:00 pm EST
The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) was doomed to failure according to a set of lessons learned identified by the Aerospace Corporation. Its December 2010 report to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was posted on NOAA's website today.
Historically, NOAA and DOD operated separate civil and military polar-orbiting weather satellite systems; NOAA also operates a geostationary weather satellite system. The decision to pursue a "converged" polar-orbiting system to meet both NOAA and DOD requirements was made in 1994 by the Clinton Administration. The Powerpoint briefing by the Aerospace Corporation cites Vice President Al Gore and then-NOAA Administrator James Baker as the architects of the "convergence" plan that became NPOESS. It was a tri-agency partnership among NOAA, DOD and NASA, with NASA serving in a technoiogy development capacity.
The Obama White House dissolved the NPOESS partnership in February 2010 after years of cost growth and schedule slippage. The program was restructured and DOD and NOAA now are returning to building separate systems. NASA is the acquisition agent for NOAA's satellites and its NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) spacecraft, originally designed as a technology testbed for NPOESS sensors, will be repurposed as an operational satellite for NOAA when it is launched later this year. Congress is still debating funding the new NOAA Joint Polar Satellite System and DOD's Defense Weather Satellite System as part of the FY2011 budget process.
The Aerospace Corporation pulled no punches in its findings about what went wrong. The findings state --
- Chronic unrealistic cost estimation tainted the budget process, dictated the acquisition strategy, distorted management decisions, and set the program up for overruns
- Incomplete, inaccurate assertions of heritage contributed to cost estimation problems and led to significantly optimistic assessments of technical and programmatic risk
- The Government and the prime contractor failed to establish clear, detailed supplier performance expectations and appropriate incentives
- Multiple factors constrained and eventually eliminated the SPD's authority to make performance trades
- From the start, the mission priorities of the key Convergence stakeholders were divergent. The formulation of the NPP mission created a "nested", interagency partnership with conflicting risk reduction and climate monitoring mission objectives. The lack of synergy in these partnerships created significant tension in program cost, schedule and performance.
- The acquisition strategy contained two major flaws, including assumption of the future use of the capability trade space to maintain cost and schedule baselines, and an ill-conceived interagency risk reduction mission that co-mingled the DoD and NASA acquisition paradigms
- Lack of a sufficent number of talented, sufficiently experienced staff appropriate to the complexity and scope of the acquisition plagued the program and were [sic] a root cause of program execution problems
- Outside events and pressures impinged on the NPOESS program as it co-evolved with its context, complicating an already difficult program management environment with significant consequences
- Program management decisions were ill-informed and/or distorted by a combination of factors that worked to divert attention from the core, priority mission requirements. The factors included:
- politically pressured baseline cost constraints
- a flawed acquisition strategy
- cost estimation pathologies
- dysfunction in the governance structure
- weak staff support
- subjective and inaccurate assessment of, and credit for, instrument heritage
- lack of agility in adapting to the changing program context
- weak/ineffective oversight of contractor efforts
- constraints on the capability trade space along with the authority to utilize it
Three former Bush Administration officials, one of whom stayed on in the Obama Administration to help craft the current National Space Policy (NSP), agreed today that the United States should indicate support for the European Union (EU) Draft Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities, but not officially sign on to it yet. They spoke at a meeting sponsored by the Marshall Institute on Capitol Hill.
Recent stories in the Washington Times, including one this morning, report that the United States is about to sign up to the draft document, which was adopted by the Council of the European Union on September 27, 2010.
Paula DeSutter, former Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation, Scott Pace, former NASA Associate Administrator for Policy Analysis and Evaluation, and Peter Marquez, former Director of Space Policy at the White House National Security Council under both President George W. Bush and President Obama, support the EU draft as an alternative to a draft treaty China and Russia are promoting through the United Nations Conference on Disarmament (CD).
The EU code of conduct is a set of voluntary guidelines with no enforcement or verification mechanisms. Instead it spells out what constitutes good behavior that space-faring nations should follow. One question was why the United States or any other country should bother signing a document that cannot be enforced. The answer from the speakers involved aphorisms such as "idle minds are the devil's playground" or "nature abhors a vacuum" to indicate the document's ability to divert other countries from promoting less welcome approaches. The prime example cited is the Chinese-Russian Draft Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects (PPWT). DeSutter went so far as to say that the EU code would "undermine" the PPWT and possibly lead to the end of the CD, both positive developments in her view.
All three speakers stopped short of endorsing a formal U.S. adoption of the EU code, noting that the European Union is consulting with many countries and others might insist on changes. They recommend that the United States wait until the end of the process or risk losing its own leverage over the final wording. The draft code was adopted as an internal EU document that is not subject to negotiation with third countries, but it "invites the [EU] High Representative to pursue consultations with third countries" and "All States will be invited to adhere on a voluntary basis to the Code...."
Another question was, if the United States does agree to it, whether it should be sent to the Senate for advice and consent as is required for treaties. DeSutter said that strictly speaking that is a question for lawyers, but in general she thinks it would be a good idea to put it through though those "tests" to see if the country really supports it. Pace and Marquez agreed.
Each of the speakers offered several tweaks in wording, but overall thought the document was solid. DeSutter and Marquez agreed that it was better than anything the United States could have drafted, although Marquez asserted that we already have expressed our own code of conduct in the principles section of the Obama National Space Policy. He finds the overlap between those principles and the EU code of conduct to be quite close, making it fairly straightforward for the United States to agree with the European document.
Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told the National Journal (subscription required) today that he expects a need for another short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) instead of a CR to cover the remaining seven months of FY2011. The Senator made his comments after the chairmen of the House Budget and Appropriations committees revealed the level of cuts they are proposing for the rest of the current fiscal year.
Senator Inouye pointed out that the Senate will have to carefully consider the House proposals, but will not be in session the week of February 21. The House is not in session this week, but will return next week and is expected to vote on a 7-month CR during the week of Feb. 14. With the Senate in recess the following week, however, it would not have time to consider and vote on it in time to avoid a government shutdown on March 4 when the current CR expires, Inouye explained. The top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Thad Cochran (R-MS), told the publication that he needs to study the House proposal more, too.
Other Democratic and Republican Senators quoted by the publication were skeptical about the House cuts being able to pass the Senate or said they needed to see the specifics before making any judgments. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), ranking Republican on the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs appropriations subcommittee, was quoted, for example, as supporting "exploring" the budget for cuts, while adding that it was necessary to "look carefully at where we can cut right now."
The Department of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence just released the long-awaited National Security Space Strategy. An unclassified summary is available at this website.
Astronaut Mark Kelly, commander of STS-134 and husband of wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), will hold a press conference tomorrow to discuss his plans regarding the mission. A backup commander, Rick Sturckow, was named on January 13 in case Kelly is unable to fly the mission. Final word on which astronaut will be commander has been anxiously awaited. The press conference is at 2:00 pm CST (3:00 pm EST) and will be carried on NASA TV.
Astronaut office chief Peggy Whitson and Brent Jett, chief of the Flight Crew Operations Directorate, will also participate in the briefing. Kelly tweeted yesterday that his wife's rehabilitation from a gunshot wound to the head on January 8 is going well "Today was a huge day for GG. Lots of progress." Rep. Giffords was shot while she was holding a constituent event in Tucson, AZ. Six people were killed and 12 others were wounded.
Mark Kelly's twin brother, Scott Kelly, is currently one of the crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS). STS-134 is currently slated for launch in April.
No need to wait for the press conference this afternoon to find out if astronaut Mark Kelly will command STS-134 or not. NASA released a press statement this morning announcing that he is resuming training as commander of the mission.
Kelly is married to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) who is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head suffered on January 8 during a constituent event in Tucson. She is in rehabilitation at a Houston facility. Kelly has been spending almost full time with her since the shooting and there was a question as to whether she would be sufficiently recovered in time for him to return to his astronaut duties.
Events of Interest
- IAA Humans in Space Symposium, June 29-July 3, 2015, Prague, Czech Republic
- Progress M-28M Launch, July 3, 2015, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, 12:55 am ET
- International Space Station R&D Conference, July 7-9, 2015, Boston, MA (portions will be webcast)
- IAA Symposium on Future of Space Exploration, July 7-9, 2015, Turin, Italy
- House SS&T Space Sbcmte Hrg on ISS: Addressing Operational Challenges, July 10, 2015, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building, 9:00 am ET
- New Horizons Flyby of Pluto, July 14, 2015
- ISU-DC Space Cafe Featuring DOD's Audrey Schaffer, July 14, 2015, The Science Club, Washington, DC, 7:00 pm ET
- Future Space 2015, July 16, 2015, 106 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC, 7:30 am -2:00 pm ET
- NASA Advisory Council Ad Hoc Task Force on STEM Education, July 16, 2015, virtual, 2:30-4:00 pm ET
- NewSpace 2015, July 16-18, 2015, San Jose, CA
Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »
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