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As reported earlier, cold weather in Florida has delayed processing of the Discovery orbiter for the STS-131 mission. NASA announced today that the launch date will slip from March 18 to April 5. Only four more shuttle launches remain. All are supposed to be completed by September 30, the end of fiscal year 2010, but the NASA FY2011 budget request includes funding for three more months of shuttle operations if needed. The current schedule is:
The House Science and Technology Committee has rescheduled the hearing with Presidential Science Adviser John Holdren that was postponed last week by the snowstorms in Washington. The new date is Wednesday, February 24. The hearing is on the federal R&D budget overall, but it would be surprising if NASA's change of course on human space flight and request for substantially increased funding for technology development didn't come up. The next day, the committee will hold a hearing specifically on NASA's FY2011 budget request with NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. Check the committee's website or our calendar on the right menu for more details.
A seminar on "Enhancing Space Security: Expert Recommendations" is scheduled for February 23, 2010 from 3:00-4:30 pm in Washington, DC. Sponsored by the Secure World Foundation (SWF), speakers include SWF's executive director, Ray Williamson, as well as Laurence Nardon from France's Institut Francais de Relations Internationales (IFRI) and Bruce McDonald from the U.S. Institute of Peace. The event is free, but an RSVP is required. See SWF's website for the agenda and RSVP instructions.
The International Institute of Space Law (IISL) is accepting abstracts until March 5, 2010 for papers to be presented at its annual Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space. The colloquium will be held in Prague, Czech Republic, as part of the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) from September 27-October 1, 2010. The IAC is a joint conference of the IISL, International Astronautical Federation (IAF) and International Academy of Astronautics (IAA). For instructions on how to submit an abstract for the IISL colloquium and other IAC sessions, visit this website. The IISL sessions are on the following topics:
The following events may be of interest this week. The House and Senate are both in recess for the President's Day district work period. Both will meet next on February 22. The meeting of the NRC's Decadal Survey on Biological and Physical Sciences shown on our calendar for Feb. 15-17 is closed in its entirety and therefore is not listed below. For further information, see our calendar on the right menu or click the links below.
Thursday-Saturday, February 18-20, Boulder, CO
The Tranquility Module and its "bay window" -- or Cupola -- have been successfully attached to the International Space Station (ISS) by space shuttle Endeavour (STS-130) and ISS crews. Repositioning of the Cupola to its final location was achieved in the early hours (EST) of February 15. It now points down towards Earth, providing an impressive window on the world. Endeavour is scheduled to return to Earth on February 21. Meanwhile, the next shuttle launch may be delayed.
Currently scheduled for March 18, Discovery's STS-131 launch may slip to early April according to NASASpaceflight.com. It remains unusually chilly in the Kennedy Space Center area, slowing the move of Discovery into the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) because the temperatures in the VAB are too cold for some shuttle systems. That means a slip to the launch date, which must be interleaved with the next Soyuz launch to ISS. Hence the shuttle may slip to the first week of April, according to the website.
Several media outlets and websites have reported on the letter sent to NASA Administrator Bolden by 27 Members of Congress that has been characterized as alleging that NASA is not complying with the law. The letter actually stops a bit short of that, but does state that NASA's decision to cancel a solicitation for a contract related to the Constellation program and other actions the agency is taking to begin terminating the program may violate the Impoundment Control Act and the FY2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 3288, P.L. 111-119). The latter includes language prohibiting NASA from spending any funds to terminate any aspect of Constellation or initiate a new program. Whether or not NASA is violating the law will have to be settled by lawyers. However, while any letter from Members of Congress is important, what may be most notable about this letter is who did NOT sign it.
The signatures are from 20 Republicans and seven Democrats, largely from Alabama, Florida and Texas where much of the work on Constellation was planned or is ongoing. Some of the signers are members of the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee who would have been involved in writing the NASA portion of the appropriations bill. However, the chairman and ranking member of that subcommittee, Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) are not among the signers. Nor are the chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), and the chairwoman of that committee's Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). Their Republican counterparts (Rep. Ralph Hall and Rep. Pete Olson, both from Texas) did sign it.
The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) released February 1 by the Department of Defense (DOD) is pretty light on its discussion of national security space policy, but provides a glimpse of DOD's current thinking on a few broad space issues. Meanwhile, DOD officially acknowledged that the congressionally-required Space Posture Review (SPR) will be delayed by several months.
Michele Flournoy, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, said that DOD decided to wait until the overall review of U.S. space policy being led by the National Security Council is done before wrapping up the SPR -
Finding the DOD and NASA budget requests is relatively easy, but not so much for space programs in other government agencies like NOAA, DOE, USGS and DOT. FY2011 Budget Documentation: Where to Find Agency Budgets is a SpacePolicyOnline.com fact sheet that provides links to the right spot on those agencies' websites.
Yesterday we posted an article pointing out two op-ed pieces by Republican or Republican-leaning commentators opposing President Obama's new plan for NASA. Two other Republicans -- former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former chairman of the House Science Committee, Bob Walker -- published a joint op-ed in the Washington Times supporting the plan. Considering how rarely Republicans praise anything the Democrats do these days, the op-ed is especially noteworthy.
Mr. Walker, who chaired the 2002 Commision on the Future of the Aerospace Industry, cited that commision, a 2004 commission chaired by former Secretary of the Air Force Pete Aldridge, and the 2009 Augustine committee as all recommending greater reliance on the private sector for space activities and criticized NASA for ignoring that advice until now. Mr. Gingrich is identified in the op-ed as being a member of the Board of Governors of the National Space Society (NSS). The NSS came out in opposition to President Obama's plan to terminate the Constellation program last week, although what it wants is restoration of NASA's plans to send humans beyond low Earth orbit (LEO). As for whether human transportation to and from LEO should be turned over to the private sector, the main theme of the Gingrich/Walker op-ed, NSS said it makes sense once the commercial services "have been demonstrated to be safe."
Events of Interest