SpacePolicyOnline.com Latest News

Leadership Change in the House S&T Committee Could Make NASA a Priority

Laura M. Delgado
Posted: 12-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

Joanne Padr n Carney, Director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's (AAAS's) Center for Science, Technology and Congress, said today that the results of the mid-term Congressional elections would bring a number of new faces to the House Science and Technology Committee. Congressman Ralph Hall (R-TX) and Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), have reportedly expressed interest in assuming the leadership spots in the Committee, a change that Padr n Carney said could mean NASA will become a "high priority" for Congress in the next session.

Her comments were made during a AAAS webinar Election 2010: What Do the U.S. Mid-term Elections Mean for Science?, which covered issues such as R&D funding, energy, and biomedical policy and research. Padr n Carney identified several issues impacting the legislative process, including increased oversight, which Representative Hall has said would be one of his priorities. This could have a direct impact on the future of NASA human spaceflight, she suggested.

On a related issue, Padr n Carney said that "the scientific community [will] lose a number of champions," including Representative Brian Baird (D-WA) and Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN). Gordon currently chairs the House S&T Committee and Baird chairs its Energy and Environment subcommittee. Both are retiring this year. Representative David Foster (D-IL), a physics PhD, is another loss. He lost his seat in the Illinois race.

With deficit reduction an important priority for the next Congress, budget cuts will probably begin next year, pointed out Patrick Clemins, Director of the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program. With funding questions still undecided, debate over the recently enacted 2010 NASA Authorization Act will continue "despite its passage," said Padr n Carney in response to a SpacePolicyOnline.com question. "We don't know yet whether there will be funding for another [Shuttle] flight," she added.

At the end of the day, while NASA may well be the focus of renewed debate in Congress, its status will still depend on how much money it receives to carry out its programs - whatever those may be. An archived version of the webinar will be available on the AAAS Member Central website (membership required).

The Space Show to Interview SpacePolicyOnline.com's Laura Delgado

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 11-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

The Space Show, hosted by Dr. David Livingston, will interview SpacePolicyOnline.com correspondent Laura Delgado on November 19, 2010 at 9:30 am PST (12:30 pm EST). The hour and a half show will focus on Ms. Delgado's recent paper for AIAA's Space2010 conference and an associated Space News blog on differing perceptions of space commercialization.

Her analysis points to a "gap" between the space policy community's generally accepted notion of a bright space future that combines government and commercial efforts (though not all agree on timing) and a very different perception the public may hold based on the depiction of corporations in science fiction movies.

As she says in her Space News blog post: "In several science fiction movies our commercialized future in space signals a point of self-destruction, with individual freedom, the role and influence of governments, and the values of life we hold dear as its casualties. In these movies space commercialization is part of the problem, not a solution."

Listen live to the show on the web and call in or email questions. The Space Show's website provides access to archived versions of all of its shows, too.

Senate Hearing Next Week On Implementing NASA Authorization Act

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 11-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) will chair a hearing next week to look at how NASA can pay for the program outlined in the newly enacted 2010 NASA Authorization Act if the agency does not get more funding. The hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's subcommittee on Science and Space is on November 18, 2010 at 10:00 in 253 Russell Senate Office Building.

Florida Today quotes Senator Nelson as saying that he wants to find out from NASA's Chief Financial Officer, Beth Robinson, what NASA will do if the agency is level-funded next year -- "'We want to know: Is she going to follow the law instead of them going off on their own making decisions that are contrary to the law?'" The newspaper reports that other witnesses will be Presidential science adviser John Holdren and someone from the Government Accountability Office. The committee's website does not list the witnesses as of yet.

SASC to Vote On Kehler USSTRATCOM Nomination Next Week

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 11-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) is scheduled to vote on Gen. C. Robert Kehler's nomination to be the new commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) on Thursday, November 18, at 9:30 am. Gen. Kehler has been serving as commander of Air Force Space Command (AFSC), and would replace Gen. Kevin Chilton, who is retiring. Kehler is following in Chilton's footsteps, who also moved up from commanding AFSC to leading USSTRATCOM.

JWST Independent Review Faults Management, not Technical Performance; Launch Date Slips to 2015

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 11-Nov-2010 (Updated: 03-Feb-2014 03:22 PM)

An independent review of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) demanded by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) has concluded that the program's cost has grown to $6.5 billion and the earliest it can launch is September 2015. This compares to the current projected cost of $5.1 billion and launch date of 2014. The report was released by NASA today (November 10, 2010). The head of the review team, John Casani, summarized the findings in a letter to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, faulting the project's "budgeting and program management, not technical performance."

In response, Mr. Bolden issued a statement that he is reorganizing the management of the program both at NASA headquarters and at Goddard Space Flight Center:

"No one is more concerned about the situation we find ourselves in than I am, and that is why I am reorganizing the JWST Project at Headquarters and the Goddard Space Flight Center, and assigning a new senior manager at Headquarters to lead this important effort. The new JWST program director will have a staff of technical and cost personnel provided by the Science Mission Directorate and report to the NASA associate administrator. This will ensure more direct reporting to me and increase the project's visibility within the agency's management structure. Additionally, the Goddard Space Flight Center's project office has been reorganized to report directly to the center director. That office is undergoing personnel changes to specifically address the issues identified in the report."

The overruns and schedule slips are problematic not only in and of themselves, but because NASA's Science Mission Directorate has made clear that there will be no new major astrophysics projects until this telescope is launched. The National Research Council recently issued its Decadal Survey for astronomy and astrophysics, recommending projects for the next decade based on the assumption that JWST would be launched in 2014 and that about $2 billion would be available for new projects in the next decade. The additional funds now needed to finish JWST could very well upset those plans.

Senator Mikulski represents Goddard Space Flight Center and chairs the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. She has been a strong supporter of JWST, but was alarmed by reports of new cost growth this year, which led to her insistence that NASA create the independent review team.

GAO Analyzes DOD's Space-Related Small Business Innovation Research Efforts

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 11-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The Department of Defense (DOD) has little insight into the effectiveness of its attempts to commercialize space-related technologies developed through its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Although DOD has invested "about 11 percent of its fiscal years 2005-2009 R&D funds through its SBIR program to address space-related technology needs," department officials could not tell GAO how many of the technologies resulting from the nearly 500 space-related contracts during that period had transitioned into acquisition programs or the commercial sector. GAO also stated that DOD officials acknowledge that the department does not have "overarching guidance" for the SBIR program.

GAO recommended that DOD collect data so the program's effectiveness can be determined, issue guidance, and review challenges identified by small businesses in the course of the GAO study on challenges they face in developing technologies for the space sector. DOD agreed with the first two, but not the third, according to the report.

Deficit Commission Targets Commercial Crew Funding

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 11-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

President Obama's bipartisan deficit commission released a draft of its report today. One of the areas of federal spending it recommends cutting is the government's proposed subsidy of commercial crew.

That recommendation is the only one out of 54 examples of "illustrative savings" the commission identified in its draft document that directly impacts space activities. The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is due to make its final recommendations on December 1.

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation issued a statement criticizing the draft recommendation. Federation President Brett Alexander said the cut would have "disastrous consequences for NASA and the nation."

Events of Interest: Week of November 7-12, 2010

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 06-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The following events may be of interest in the coming week. For more information, see our calendar on the right menu or click the links below.

Sunday, November 7

Monday-Wednesday, November 8-10

Discovery Will Wait Till Next Launch Window

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 06-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

Space Shuttle Discovery's last flight will wait until the next launch window, which opens on November 30. The current window closes on Monday and NASA needs more time to analyze the gas leak that scrubbed yesterday's launch attempt as well as a crack in the foam of the external tank that developed as the tank was being emptied after the scrub.

More Views on the Election's Impact on NASA

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 05-Nov-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

Here are links to other views about the impact of the election on NASA on various websites and other news sources.

Events of Interestl

Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »


 

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