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NASA's update today on the reentry of the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) confirms that it will reenter on Friday, September 23. NASA no longer includes the plus or minus one day caveat -- Friday is it.
The date is in United States time, but NASA stresses that does not mean it will reenter over the United States. "It is simply a time reference," according to the agency's UARS website.
Knowing the day it will reenter still does not provide a specific time and therefore specific location as to where the debris will fall. NASA will continue to update its website as the event nears.
In a surprise result, the Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government after October 1 failed in the House.
Politico reports that the CR failed on a 195-230 vote as some Republicans joined "an overwhelming majority of Democrats."
The CR, intended to keep the government operating after October 1, is controversial because it halves the amount of money voted by the Senate to deal with recent natural disasters and requires an "offset" -- a reduction in federal spending to take account of the disaster relief efforts.
UPDATE: It was a short strike -- one day. The Ariane successfully launched the two satellites on September 21.
ORIGINAL STORY: The launch of two communications satellites on an Ariane V launch vehicle scheduled for tonight is being postponed because of a labor strike.
Arianespace, the European company that launches from Kourou, French Guiana, announced that the Trade Union of French Guiana Workers had declared a strike within the Telespazio company. Consequently, "means of measurement" necessary for the launch are unavailable.
A new launch date for the SES-2 and ARABSAT 5C satellites will be announced as soon as possible, Arianespace said.
Today's update on NASA's website about the impending reentry of the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) retains the prediction that it will come back to Earth on Friday, plus or minus a day. The prediction has been the same for the past several days.
Exactly when it will reenter remains uncertain. NASA says predictions will become more refined in the next two days. Where it reenters depends on when it reenters, so stay tuned.
The Weather Channel's space weather twitter channel (@twcspacewx) tweeted some interesting statistics about the chances of a particular individual being hit by the debris. NASA's assessment that there is a one in 3,200 chance of "a" human casualty does not mean that a particular individual -- you -- will be hit. TWC calculates that any single individual on Earth has about a one in 20 million chance. Check out their math on Twitter!
Anyone who thought Capitol Hill would be chastened by public dismay over the brinksmanship that characterized the debt limit debate may have to think again.
One may cast blame on whichever party one chooses, but the two sides are again at odds, this time using a possible government shutdown on October 1 as hostage.
Republicans, who castigated Democrats during the election last year for being unable to pass the appropriations bills that fund the government in a timely manner, have not been able to achieve that goal either. Fiscal Year 2012 begins on October 1 and none of the 12 appropriations bills has cleared Congress (six have passed the House; one has passed the Senate).
Washington finds itself once more in need of a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government operating until action can be completed on those bills. Both the House and Senate plan to be in recess next week as some members observe Rosh Hashanah, which means a CR must be passed this week.
The House Appropriations Committee proposed a CR last week that would fund the government through November 18, with a 1.5 percent cut in spending during that period.
That part is not controversial. But the two parties and two chambers are at odds over funds for disaster relief for recovering from tornados, floods, Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, the east coast earthquake, wildfires in Texas and other natural disasters that have afflicted the United States this year.
The Senate passed legislation last week providing $6.9 billion for disaster relief (H. J. Res 66, as amended). Historically, disaster relief funds are treated as emergency spending for which budget offsets are not immediately required.
House Republicans instead want to include the disaster relief funds in the CR, are proposing only half that amount ($3.5 billion), and are demanding a $1.5 billion spending cut to clean-energy loans in return. According to The Washington Post blog, that is a program created by the Bush Administration for "loans to auto companies for developing electric cars and other fuel efficiency innovations."
House and Senate Democrats are opposed to the Republican proposal both generally because disaster funds should not require offsets and specifically because cutting the loans would put tens of thousands of jobs at risk, they say.
The House is expected to pass its bill, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has vowed to amend the bill with the legislation that already passed the Senate providing $6.9 billion in disaster relief and no offset. If that passes the Senate, the two sides would have to reach a compromise before the CR could be enacted.
Republican leaders are saying there will be no government shutdown, but Reid said today that "I'm not so sure" and "We're not going to cave on this," according to The Hill. Reid indicated that the Senate could change its schedule to be in session next week if necessary.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report today that reviews the current state of the fixed communications satellite marketplace and how the government acquires commercial communications satellite services. The landscape has changed significantly over the decade since Congress passed the ORBIT Act in 2000. GAO focuses on how today's environment affects how much the government, and the Department of Defense (DOD) in particular, pay for such services.
DOD has a sizeable communications satellite fleet of its own, but its communications appetite is voracious. A significant amount of unclassified DOD traffic is routed over commercial communications satellites, especially in support of Central Command operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In its report, GAO cites DOD statistics that its use of commercial communications satellite bandwidth grew by more than 180 percent in the Middle East and Africa between 2003 and 2009.
Until recently, three satellite service providers held a three-year contract with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) to resell commercial communications capacity to DOD through a contract dubbed DSTS-G. GAO said the contract was "a total set-aside for competition restricted to small business concerns." Other government agencies acquired these services through a separate contract administered by the General Services Administration (GSA).
DISA and GSA now have joined forces to create the Federal Commercial Satellite Communications Services Acquisition (FCSA) program. FCSA allows satellite operators as well as satellite service providers to supply capacity directly to DOD. GAO reported that federal contracting officials expect the increased competition to lower costs. Vendors may continually be added to the list of qualified contractors.
The GAO report did make any recommendations. It does provide an interesting review of the commercial communications satellites sector and how it has changed since the ORBIT Act, which forced the privatization of Intelsat and Inmarsat and led to the demise of COMSAT.
NASA today released a draft request for proposals (RFP) for commercial crew transportation to the International Space Station (ISS).
A number of companies are working with NASA today through the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program to develop launch vehicles and spacecraft to take astronauts to and from ISS. NASA has been working on its acquisition strategy for procuring services on those systems. The draft RFP released today "outlines a contract that will be awarded to multiple companies that provide a complete end-to-end design, including spacecraft, launch vehicles, launch services, ground and mission operations and recovery," according to the space agency.
Called the Integrated Design Contract (IDC), it has a value of up to $1.61 billion for the period July 2012 to April 2014.
Simultaneously, NASA announced the addition of "optional milestones" for Boeing and Sierra Nevada's Space Act Agreements under the CCDev2 awards announced earlier this year.
The following events may be of interest in the coming week. For more information, check our calendar on the right menu or click the links below. All times are EDT unless otherwise specified. Times, dates and witnesses for congressional hearings or other actions are subject to change; check the relevant committee's website for up to date information.
During the Week
FY2011 ends in two weeks, which means that Congress should pass the 12 appropriations bills to fund the government for FY2012 before then. Not likely, especially considering that the House and Senate will be in recess the last week of September as some members observe Rosh Hashanah. To date, six of the 12 appropriations bills have passed the House and one has passed the Senate.
Thus, Congress needs to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) this week to fund the government after October 1. The House Appropriations Committee introduced a CR that would last until November 18 and calls for a 1.5 percent cut in spending during that time. This is "must pass" legislation for Congress this week unless they change their schedule to be in session next week.
Monday-Wednesday, September 19-21
Tuesday, September 20
- Senate Appropriations Committee markup of the Transportation-HUD bill (including the FAA's space office), 124 Dirksen Senate Office Building, 10:30 am EDT (listed in National Journal's Daybook, but not yet on the committee's website)
- NASA media teleconference on Development of Composite Cryogenic Propellant Tanks, 1:00 pm EDT, virtual (listen at http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio)
Wednesday, September 21
Thursday, September 22
- HSS&T hearing on human spaceflight, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building, 10:00 am EDT
Friday, September 23
- HSS&T hearing on NOAA's Joint Polar Satellite System, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building, 10:00 AM EDT
The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which builds and operates the nation's spy satellites, celebrated its 50th anniversary yesterday with an event at the Smithsonian Institution's Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA. As part of the celebration, the super secret agency, whose name was not even known outside classified circles until 1992, opened the door into its world a bit wider. Two reconnaissance satellite programs from the 1960s were declassified -- Gambit (KH-7 and KH-8) and Hexagon (KH-9).
Keith Cowing of NASAWatch posted video he shot while visiting the Udvar Hazy Center on YouTube showing the KH-9 satellite that NRO displayed.
NRO has a website with considerable information about both programs.
The nation's first reconnaissance satellite program, Corona, was declassified years ago. A book about it, Eye in the Sky: The Story of the Corona Spy Satellites, was written by Dwayne Day, John Logsdon, and Brian Latell in 1999 and is available from Amazon.com (and undoubtedly other vendors).
The Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS) wasn't the only military space program of concern to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The appropriators also singled out the need for more competition in the space launch arena for comment, and zeroed a $416 million request for the ASSIST program. The latter is intended to reduce the Department of Defense's (DOD's) costs of leasing commercial communications satellite capacity.
The committee approved its version of the FY2012 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 2219) on Thursday and released the accompanying report (S.Rept. 112-77) yesterday.
The committee said it supports DOD's plan to buy eight core Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELVs) per year for the next five years in order to "stabilize production capacity and control costs," but stressed that DOD's goal really should be to significantly reduce the cost of launch. Competition is the solution, it said. "The Committee intends to examine future budget requests to balance the need to stabilize the EELV industrial base with the need to promote competition. Therefore, [DOD] is urged to retain flexibility with its block-buy acquisition strategy as opportunities for competition by new launch entrants become available."
SpaceX has made no secret of its desire to offer space launch services to DOD with its existing Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle it plans to develop. On its website, the company asserts that "If allowed to compete, SpaceX can help [DOD] save at least one billion dollars annually in space launch services."
The committee zeroed DOD's $416 million request for the Assured SATCOM Services in Single Theater (ASSIST) program (called SATCOM Services Enhancements in the DOD budget request documents). As explained in the committee's report, under ASSIST, DOD would lease a single commercial communications satellite operating in both the Ka- and Ku-bands instead of leasing capacity on multiple commercial communications satellites as it does now. The Senate appropriators reported that DOD estimated the cost of leasing a new satellite would be paid back in two and a half years "if satellite communications were to continue to be purchased in the same method and volume as they are today." The committee is skeptical about those assumptions, however. Saying that it had "learned of a number of innovative proposals from commercial providers," it zeroed the request, which is part of the Defense-Wide Procurement account. Instead, it recommended that DOD conduct an Analysis of Alternatives of how best to meet its satellite communications needs.
Events of Interest
- NASA Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG), February 22-23, 2017, Atlanta, GA
- NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel,
February 23, 2017, Kennedy Space Center, FL, 2:15-3:45 pm ET (audio available remotely) CORRECT DIAL IN PHONE NUMBER IS 844-467-6272 PASSCODE 612448
- Progress MS-05 Cargo Ship Arrival at ISS,
February 24, 2017, Earth orbit, 3:34 am ET (NASA TV coverage begins 2:45 am ET)
- Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC) telecon, February 24, 2017, virtual, 12:00-4:00 pm ET
- Senate Vote on Wilbur Ross Nomination to be Sec of Commerce,
February 27, 2017, U.S. Senate, Washington, DC, 7:00 pm ET (Watch on C-SPAN)
- NASA Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop, February 27-March 1, 2017, NASA HQ, Washington, DC (webcast)
- House Approps CJS Sbcmt "Member's Day" Hearing,
February 28, 2017, location TBA, 10:30 am ET
- President Trump Addresses Joint Session of Congress, February 28, 2017, The Capitol, Washington, DC, 9:00 pm ET (watch on major news networks)
- Satellite 2017, March 6-9, 2017, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC
- NASA Adv Council Task Force on Big Data, March 6-7, 2017, NASA HQ, Washington, DC
- Natl Academies Earth Science Decadal Survey Steering Cmte, March 6-8, 2017, location TBA, Washington, DC
- WSBR Luncheon (in conjunction with Satellite 2017) Featuring Mark Danberg, ViaSat, March 7, 2017, Washington Convention Center, Washington DC, 11:00 am - 1:30 pm ET
- AAS Goddard Memorial Symposium, March 7-9, 2017, Greenbelt Marriott, Greenbelt, MD
Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »
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