Latest News

Paul Dembling, Noted Space Lawyer, Passes Away

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 17-May-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

Paul Dembling, a highly respected lawyer renowned for his role in helping to craft the 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act (NASA Act), passed away on May 16 according to NASA.

Mr. Dembling was the general counsel to NASA's predecessor agency, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and along with other experts, including Eilene Galloway at Congress's Legislative Reference Service (now the Congressional Research Service), drafted the law that created NASA. He served in several capacities at NASA -- as general counsel, head of Legislative Affairs, and Deputy Associate Administrator.

He retired from NASA in 1969. Later he was the general counsel of the General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office) and after that was in private practice.

He recounted his role in drafting the NASA Act in an interview for NASA's 50th anniversary magazine as well as in a 2001 oral interview for his alma mater, George Washington University (GWU). At that time he donated his professional papers to GWU's law library.

House Subcommittee to Look Into Commercial Cargo Status

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 17-May-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

Next week, a House subcommittee will hold a hearing on whether the companies that intend to provide commercial cargo services for the International Space Station will be ready to fulfill that role.

On May 26, the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hear from NASA, GAO, and the two companies that plan to offer commercial cargo services, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences. The topic is "NASA's Commercial Cargo Providers: Are They Ready to Supply the Space Station in the Post-Shuttle Era?" Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Flight, will represent the agency. Gwynne Shotwell and Frank Culbertson will be there on behalf of SpaceX and Orbital, respectively. Cristina Chaplain will testify for the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The hearing starts at 10:00 am EDT in 2318 Rayburn House Office Building.

U.S. Reaches Debt Ceiling, No Immediate Impact

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-May-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner announced this morning that the United States has reached the legal limit of how much debt it can incur. Just weeks ago, the imminent breach of the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling was the source of political angst in Washington, but Geithner is keeping the government solvent until August 2 by not contributing the government's share to certain government retirement accounts.

In a letter to Congress, Geithner notified the congressional leadership that Treasury will not "invest fully" in the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund or the Government Securities Investment Fund (the "G" Fund) of the Federal Employees' Retirement System. He said those accounts would be "made whole once the debt limit is increased."

He stated that, as required by law, he has determined that a "debt issuance suspension period" begins today and will run until August 2, by which time he hopes Congress will have raised the debt limit.

Democrats and Republicans are far apart, or close to agreement, on how to deal with the deficit depending on who is speaking at any particular moment in time.

Events of Interest: Week of May 16-20, 2011

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-May-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The following events may be of interest in the week ahead. For more information, check our calendar on the right menu or click the links below. Times, dates and witnesses for congressional hearings are subject to change; check the committee's website for up to date information. The House is in recess this week; the Senate is in session.

Monday, May 16

Tuesday, May 17

Wednesday, May 18

  • Senate Commerce Committee Hearing on Contributions of Space to National Imperatives, 253 Russell Senate Office Building, 10:30 am EDT (as listed in the National Journal's Daybook)
  • CSIS meeting on GPS and Lightsquared, 1800 K Street, N.W., Washington, DC, 2:00-3:30 pm EDT

Wednesday-Friday, May 18-20

Wednesday-Sunday, May 18-22

Friday, May 20

Endeavour Reaches Orbit

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-May-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The STS-134 mission is underway. Space Shuttle Endeavour lifted off on schedule at 8:56 am EDT and is now in orbit. A post-launch press conference is scheduled for no earlier than 10:00 am EDT. It can be watched on NASA TV.

Endeavour Post-Launch Press Conference Beginning

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-May-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

NASA's press conference about the Endeavour launch is just starting. Watch on NASA TV.

Endeavour Still on Schedule for Launch Monday Morning

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 15-May-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

Space Shuttle Endeavour remains on schedule for launch at 8:56 am EDT tomorrow, Monday, May 16. The STS-134 mission is Endeavour's last. Its April 29 scheduled launch was delayed because of technical problems that have been resolved.

The 16-day mission will take the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer science instrument and other equipment and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

Only one space shuttle mission remains after this one, the launch of Atlantis (STS-135). A tentative launch date for Atlantis has been June 28, but because of the delay to STS-134, STS-135 is expected to slip as well.

House Passes Intelligence Authorization Bill

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-May-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

The House passed the FY2011 intelligence authorization bill (H.R. 754) today by a vote of 392-15.

House approval came despite objections by the White House in a Statement of Administraiton Policy (SAP) issued Wednesday. Among other complaints, the SAP states that the bill includes a "signification reduction of funds below the current funding level ... from a technical collection program [that] will negatively impact an acquisition that is successfully achieving acquisition milestones. This action comes at a time when the [Intelligence Community] is conducting a Congressionally-requested assessment of an alternative to the Administration's program. Until that assessment is complete, a significant reduction or redirection of funds is unwarranted and will likely jeopardize the scheduled operational capability of this critical national security collection system."

The reference to a "technical collection program" is assumed by many to refer to a satellite intelligence collection system. The disagreement between Congress and the White House seems to continue a long-running dispute about whether building a few, large, "exquisite" electro-optical imagery collection satellites is better than building a constellation of more, but smaller satellites. This dispute is one of the reasons it was so difficult for Congress to pass the last intelligence authorization bill.

In April 2009, the Obama administration chose a policy of updating the exquisite capabilities on which the nation has long relied instead of pursuing the alternative of buiding a constellation of smaller satellites. Boeing's Future Imagery Archiecture (FIA) program, cancelled because of significant cost overruns and schedule delayes, was emblematic of the latter approach and was going to be replaced by the Broad Area Satellite Imagery Collection (BASIC) program. Lockheed Martin builds the traditional "exquisite" systems.

The National Journal (subscription required) reports that the Administration's objections to H.R. 754 took lawmakers by surprise. The chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), issued a statement after the vote praising the bipartisan support of his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD).

Action now moves to the Senate. The Senate Intelligence Committee has reported a bill (S. 719) that seems very similar to what the House passed. Senator Dianne Feinsten (D-CA), chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has been a strong proponent of the BASIC approach. Critics assert that the requisite technology is not yet available for such a system.

The Administration had other objections to H.R. 754, but they do not appear to be directly related to satellite capabilities.

Rep. Wolf Reaffirms Opposition to Space Cooperation with China

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

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the House appropriations subcomittee that funds NASA, restated his well known opposition to U.S. space cooperation with China at a hearing of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission today.

The commission was created by Congress in 2000 to report on the national security implications of the trade and economic relationships between the two countries. It held a hearing today about the implications of China's military and civil space activities. Witnesses included DOD's Greg Schulte and Rep. Wolf as well as two panels of experts. Rep. Wolf's statement was circulated by his staff. He began by expressing disappointment that NASA declined to participate in the hearing and that it was "reflective of this administration's abysmal record on American leadership in space."

He went on to restate his well known views about why the United States should not cooperate with China because of human rights abuses and Chinese arms sales to countries like Iran, for example. He asserted that Presidential Science Adviser John Holdren told his subcommitee at a hearing last week that the Obama Administration does not intend to comply with a provision Wolf included in the Continuing Resolution that prohibits spending funds to work with China in any manner to plan or execute space cooperation. "I take this blatant disregard for the law very seriously and the committee is currently reviewing its options," he said.

NASA Sets May 16 for Endeavour Launch

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 10-May-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

May 16 it is! NASA has announced that space shuttle Endeavour will launch on May 16 at 8:56 am EDT. This is the final launch of Endeavour on its STS-124 mission.

Events of Interest


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