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General Lew Allen, Jr., who was Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) from 1982-1990, passed away on Monday, according to a JPL news release. He was 84. A nuclear physicist, Allen came to JPL from a distinguished career in the military, including stints as head of the National Security Agency and as Chief of Staff of the Air Force. JPL is a federally funded research and development center operated for NASA by the California Institute of Technology. It is best known for the many planetary exploration spacecraft it has developed and operated.
UPDATE: Gen. Bolden's written speech is now available on NASA's website and his actual presentation is on YouTube. Here is the paragraph that promises not to rob science to pay human space flight:
"I'm sure all of you would like to know what direction President Obama will choose for the future of our space program. All I can say for now is that NASA is working closely with the Executive Office of the President in helping him determine the best path forward. What I know, however, is that science is important to the President, important to NASA, and crucial to whatever way forward we are to follow. I can make you this commitment: the future of human spaceflight will not be paid for out of the hide of our science budget."
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden told the American Astronomical Society (AAS) today that NASA's human space flight program-- whatever it turns out to be -- will not be paid for by cutting NASA's science programs according to Science magazine's blog, ScienceInsider. Bolden spoke at the AAS annual meeting being held this week in Washington, D.C. While he reportedly provided no specifics about the ongoing debate about the future of the human space flight program, ScienceInsider quoted him as saying that "I don't think this president wants to be the president who presided over the end of (American) space flight." As he has in most of his speeches, Bolden also highlighted the need to focus on science education.
India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) wants to develop antisatellite (ASAT) capabilities. Domain-b.com, an Indian online business magazine, quotes DRDO director general V.K. Saraswat today as saying that "We have the building blocks...What is needed is technology to track the movements of enemy satellites, for instance before making a kinetic kill." But he added that what India needs is a deterrent capability and "many of these technologies may never be used."
Saraswat's comments reportedly were made at the ongoing Indian Science Congress (ISC 2010) in Thiruvananthapuram.
Saraswat's comments are somewhat surprising, especially since kinetic kill ASATs are out of vogue because of the debris created when the interceptor impacts the target. China has been extensively criticized by the world's spacefaring countries for the kinetic kill ASAT test it conducted in 2007. In his October statement to the U.N. First Committee, Garold Larson said that the debris from the Chinese ASAT test represents 25% of all catalogued objects in low Earth orbit.
The United States is seeking new bilateral space transparency and confidence building measures (TCBMs) with Russia and China that could lead to multilateral space TCBMs. Garold Larson, Alternative Representative to the United Nations First Committee, laid out these U.S. goals in a statement to the U.N. First Committee in October.
Larson noted that the U.S. and Russia met to discuss bilateral TCBMs in the wake of the collision between a U.S. Iridium satellite and a defunct Russian satellite in February 2009 and welcomed "Russia's willingness to view this as a 'teachable moment.'" Later, criticizing China for the debris created by its 2007 antisatellite (ASAT) test, he called on China to provide "greater transparency regarding its intentions for the development, testing, and deployment of direct-ascent ASAT weapons and other elements of its multi-dimensional counter-space program." He warned that any future Chinese ASAT tests would "undermine the credibility of the PRC's declaratory statements" condemning the weaponization of space and stressed the importance of Chinese assurances in 2008 that "China will not conduct future ASAT tests in space."
Bilateral TCBMs with Russia and China could lead to multilateral TCBMs, Larson said, that can increase transparency, reduce uncertainty, and decrease the risk of misinterpretation or miscalculation. He added that the United States would work with the European Union and "other like-minded nations in efforts to advance a set of voluntary TCBMs...."
Larson then stated that the United States will --
- uphold the principles of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty
- continue to support the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense, as reflected in the U.N. charter
- reject limitations on the fundamental right of the United States to operate in, and acquire data from, space
- conduct U.S. space activities in accordance with international law
- highlight the responsibility of states to avoid harmful interference to other nations' peaceful exploration and use of outer space, and
- take a leadership role in international fora to promote policies and practices aimed at debris minimization and preservation of the space environment.
Highlights of Larson's statement were outlined by Dick Buenneke, Deputy Director, Space Policy at the State Department's Office of Missile Defense and Space Policy in a November speech at George Washington University's Space Policy Institute as previously reported on SpacePolicyOnline.com.
The U.N. First Committee is one of six "main committees" of the United Nations General Assembly. It deals with disarmament and international security.
UPDATE: This article is updated to note that the House and Senate both are scheduled to meet at noon on January 5 to begin the second session of the 111th Congress. No legislative business is currently scheduled, however.
The following events may be of interest in the coming week. See our calendar on the right menu for further details or click on the links below.
January 3-7, Washington, DC
- American Astronomical Society meeting, Washington Marriott Wardman Park, 2660 Woodley Road, N.W. Sessions of particular interest to the space policy community include:
- January 4, NSF Town Hall Meeting, 12:45 pm-1:45 pm
- January 5, James Webb Space Telescope Town Hall Meeting, 11:30 am-12:30 pm
- January 5, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, 12:30 pm-1:45 pm
- January 6, NASA Astronaut John Grunsfeld (Hubble Repair Mission), 8:30 am-9:20 am
- January 6, NASA Town Hall Meeting, 12:45 pm-1:45 pm
January 4-7, Orlando, FL
- AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting, Orlando World Center Marriott. The National Research Council's Decadal Survey on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space will hold a Town Hall meeting on January 6 from 9:00 am to noon in Grand Ballroom 13.
The National Research Council's (NRC's) three "Decadal Surveys" appear to be on track for release this year or next. Astro2010 is expected to be released this summer, Biological and Physical Sciences in Space at the end of the year, and Planetary Sciences in spring 2011.
NRC Decadal Surveys prioritize scientific research in specific disciplines and recommend missions and related activities to be conducted within a budget envelope provided by the agencies that sponsor the studies. The studies are conducted by committees of experts appointed by the NRC who work over a period of about two years to reach consensus on the most compelling areas of science to pursue. The recommendations are followed pretty faithfully by the agencies requesting the studies. For more information on the history and purpose of Decadal Surveys, see "National Research Council" on our left menu.
- Astro2010 (astronomy and astrophysics). Chaired by Roger Blandford (Stanford), this study appears to be on track for release this summer. It is sponsored by NASA, NSF, and the Department of Energy's Office of High Energy Physics. All of the committee's panels have completed their meetings. Two closed meetings of the overarching "survey committee" - which writes the report - are scheduled for January 25-27 and February 28-March 2 at the NRC's Beckman Center in Irvine, CA. As Dr. Blandford said in what he predicted would be his last "bulletin" to the community in September 2009:
... the deliberations of the panels and the survey committee remain confidential under the usual operational procedures of the NRC. With that in mind it seems unlikely further community bulletins will be necessary until the survey reports are published -- scheduled for next summer. Once again, I must ask for your forbearance to be patient and respect this process. While I am sure many of us serving on various committees would like to tell you more about what is going on behind the scenes, the NRC process precludes us from doing so.
- Biological and Physical Sciences in Space. Co-chaired by Betsy Cantwell (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) and Wendy Kohrt (University of Colorado, Denver), the "microgravity" decadal appears to be on track for release at the end of the year. Sponsored by NASA, it is looking at research that needs to be conducted in microgravity (e.g., on the International Space Station) as well as partial gravity (e.g., on the lunar surface).
In addition to meetings of the steering committee and seven panels, the committee has been holding "town hall" meetings to obtain input from a broad spectrum of researchers in these fields. The fourth and last will be held on January 6, 2010 in conjunction with the AIAA's Aerospace Sciences meeting in Orlando, FL. Most of the panels will meet in person or via teleconference during January (see our calendar on the right menu for more details). The steering committee will meet from February 15-17 and March 31-April 2 at the NRC's Beckman Center in Irvine, CA, probably in closed session.
- Planetary Sciences. Steve Squyres (Cornell) is chair of this third Decadal Survey, which is expected to be released in spring 2011. Dr. Squyres provides updates to the planetary sciences community, most recently on December 1 where he announced that the Aerospace Corporation had been selected to perform the Independent Cost Estimates (ICEs) now required for Decadal Surveys that recommend spacecraft missions. (Aerospace also is conducting the ICEs for Astro2010.)
Representatives of each of the five panels provided updates on their activities at the December 2009 American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco. The Powerpoint slides from three of the five panels are available at SpacePolicyOnline.com (the others will be added when they become available). The panels will continue to meet through the spring, as will the steering committee. The meetings are listed on our calendar on the right menu and at the NRC's website. The Planetary Sciences Decadal Survey is sponsored by NASA and NSF.
NRC reports are subject to extensive, confidential, external peer review after they are drafted by the relevant study committee, meaning that the draft report must be completed many months before a report is finally released. It is always difficult to guess when a report will be released.
The NRC's Report Review Committee (RRC) is the only entity that approves a report for release, not the committee writing it. Composed of members of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, the RRC only signs off when it is satisfied the committee has produced a report worthy of the NRC imprimatur. Many find the NRC review process frustrating - especially since it takes place behind closed doors and people want to know what the report will say - but it is arguably one of the keys to the NRC's reputation for excellence.
On the morning of Christmas Eve, the Senate finally adjourned after passing its version of the health care reform bill, wrapping up the first session of the 111th Congress. As one of its last acts, the Senate passed the commercial space launch liability bill, one of only a handful of space-related bills to be considered in 2009. (See our freshly updated fact sheet on major space-related legislation in the 111th Congress.)
Will 2010 be the year of space policy? Many expect President Obama to make decisions about the future of the U.S. human space flight program and hopefully on much broader space policy issues in both the civil and national security arenas. Congress reportedly is working on a NASA authorization bill, and NASA's appropriators made clear in the Consolidated Appropriations Act that they intend on having a say in the future of the Constellation program. The intelligence authorization bill is in limbo at least in part because of a dispute over what new spy satellites should be developed.
Of the four governmental space-policy related studies initiated in 2009, only one has been publicly released -- the "Augustine committee" report Seeking a Human Space Flight Program Worthy of a Great Nation. The other three are:
DOD's Quadrennial Defense Review also is underway, which is likely to impact DOD space activities.
The Obama Administration has demonstrated that in-depth review and analysis is its style, not quick decisions. One can hardly fault them for that, but the wait can be frustrating, especially with such critical issues to be decided.
Glimpses have emerged of some of the features that will frame an Obama space policy: more international cooperation and greater focus on commercial space activities appear to be key elements. Dick Buenneke, Deputy Director for Space Policy at the State Department, provided other nuggets in a November 17 speech at George Washington University's Space Policy Institute. In particular, he pointed the audience to a U.S. statement to the United Nations General Assembly that laid out fundamental U.S. policies that he said were shared with allies in Europe and Canada:
- Reject any limitations on the fundamental right of the United States to operate in, and acquire data from, space;
- Conduct United States space activities in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, in the interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international cooperation and understanding;
- Highlight the responsibility of states to avoid harmful interference to other nations' peaceful exploration and use of outer space;
- Take a leadership role in international fora to promote policies and practices aimed at debris mimimization and preservation of the space environment; and
- Support for the inherent right of individual or collection self-defense, as reflect in the UN charter.
Mr. Buenneke went on to discuss what he labeled as three "c's" of space -- congested, complex, and contested -- that illustrate the challenges facing policy makers.
Rumor has it that most of the studies are completed and the subject of intense discussions behind the scenes. We will certainly know more when the FY2011 budget request is released in early February (as some say, rightly or wrongly budgets ARE policy). Whether we learn anything in the intervening weeks only time will tell. Much work needs to be done to ensure -- to expand upon the title of the Augustine committee report -- a U.S. space program worthy of a great nation.
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has awarded three 5-year contracts for commercial satellite synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery, data products, and direct downlink services. Each is an IDIQ ("indefinite delivery indefinite quantity) contract for a miminum of $10,000 and maximum of $85,000,000. The three winners are MDA Geospatial Servies, EADS North America, and Lockheed Martin Space Systems. The contracts were awarded yesterday, just a tad bit late for Christmas.
Russian space agency head Anatoly Perminov reportedly is leading an effort to plan an international asteroid deflection mission. Voice of Russia and other news sources quote Perminov as saying that Russia wants to launch a mission to the asteroid Apophis that could divert it from a potential collision with Earth in 2036 (Voice of Russia mistakenly says 2032). Perminov reportedly wants experts from other countries, including the United States, Europe and China to join the project.
Alarm about the possibility that Apophis might hit Earth was quelled by NASA analysis in 2009 showing a much reduced chance of such a catastrophe. Initial reports of a 2.9% probability of a collision in 2029 have been completely refuted, but a small chance of a collision in 2036 remains. Originally the likelihood of a 2036 collision was calculated at one in 45,000, but NASA now estimates it at four-in-a-million.
The National Research Council is currently studying better methods to discover and track Near Earth Objects (NEOs) -- asteroids and comets -- and how to mitigate the hazards they pose. Its report is expected soon.
President Obama yesterday signed into law the Commmercial Space Launch Liability Indemnification extension. That was the last space-related law waiting for signature from the first session of the 111th Congress. Check out SpacePolicyOnline.com's updated fact sheet on major space-related legislation of the 111th Congress, first session.
Events of Interest
- AGU Fall Meeting, December 9-13, 2013, San Francisco, CA Press conferences on special topics will be webstreamed each day. See our "favorites" list. Note that times are in PST.
- NAC Human Expl & Ops Cmte, December 9-10, 2013, Kennedy Space Center, FL
- NAC Technology & Innovation Cmte, December 10, 2013, Kennedy Space Center, FL, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm ET
- THIS IS STILL ON DESPITE THE SNOW Mars One/Lockheed Martin/Surrey Satellite press conference, December 10, 2013, National Press Club, Washington, DC, 10:30 am ET (will be webcast)
- POSTPONED from DEC 10 TO DEC 11 DUE TO SNOW. House SS&T Committee markup of NASA termination liability bill, December 11, 2013, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building 2:00 pm ET
- NAC IT Infrastructure Cmte, December 10-11, 2013, Kennedy Space Center, FL
- MTG WILL TAKE PLACE DESPITE GOVT CLOSING IN DC DUE TO SNOW, PER COMSTAC CHAIR MIKE GOLD. FAA Commercial Space Trans Adv Cmte, December 10-11, 2013, Washington, DC
- House SS&T Sbcmte Hearing on Relationship Between Climate and Weather, December 11, 2013, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building. 10:00 am ET
- NASA Advisory Council (NAC), December 11-12, 2013, Kennedy Space Center, FL
- Senate Commerce Hrg on Weather Readiness (incl satellites), December 12, 2013, G50 Dirksen Senate Office Building, 10:30 am ET
- America's Space Futures: Defining Goals for Space Expl (Marshall Institute re its new book of that title), December 13, 2013, 2325 Rayburn House Office Building, 2:00-3:30 pm ET
Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »
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