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Balancing Government, Industry Interests Key To Future of Commercial Remote Sensing

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

Dennis Hightower, Deputy Secretary of Commerce, said on the last day of the International Commercial Remote Sensing Symposium (ICRSS) that the remote sensing industry "is on the cusp" of making a breakthrough. Sales are expected to grow by 15% every year, he added, taking note of the "vast economic potential" of this "high-tech, high-growth industry."

Mr. Hightower underlined the Obama Administration's commitment to promote growth in this industry, balancing industry needs and national security concerns through "smart, calibrated regulations that keep us safe and enable competition." He outlined the Obama Administration's efforts to tackle what he called the "innovation deficit," including measures at the Department of Commerce to create a new "innovation pipeline." Mr. Hightower ended his remarks by saying that success for the commercial remote sensing industry "will require open dialogue between industry and government."

One issue is licensing restrictions. In the United States, the approach has been to limit the resolution of commercial satellite systems in order to prevent highly detailed data that could have national security consequences from being sold on the market. Industry proponents argue that the restrictions stifle innovation and hurt competitiveness and want them relaxed.

Acknowledging the need for some sort of rules, Norihiko Saeki, Deputy Director of Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, suggested that to ensure a sustainable market while balancing industry growth and national security, regulations should be broadened to include elements like place, person, and the timing of acquiring and disseminating remote sensing data. "We could change the sphere of the discussion" by including such criteria, said Saeki.

Wolfgang Schneider, Deputy Head of the Space Technologies Division of the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology suggested in turn that the information content (such as spectral resolution) or the circumstances of distribution could be used to develop regulations. "Nobody here [at the ICRSS], including industry, can have an interest in the misuse of data," he added. He said that everybody - both in government and industry - could agree that the goal is "not really to limit technology, but [to] set up the responsible use of it."

UPDATE: NASA Working on Alternate Plan to Constellation Cancellation?

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 04-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

UPDATE: NBC correspondent Jay Barbree was on MSNBC earlier today talking about why he feels a Plan B is needed. Click here to view the segment.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Citing an internal NASA email, the Wall Street Journal reports today that NASA is working on "Plan B" in case Congress does not agree to cancel the Constellation program. The newspaper said that it had seen an email from NASA Johnson Space Center Director Michael Coats to other NASA centers and program offices saying that NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden had "agreed to let us set up a 'Plan B' Team" to "flesh out" alternatives. The newspaper asserted that "The move to draft a compromise highlights behind-the-scenes maneuvering by NASA officials to save big chunks of existing programs now in jeopardy," but quoted an unnamed NASA spokesman as saying that Gen. Bolden and NASA "are fully committed to the President's budget."

Garver: "We Knew That Change Would Be Difficult"

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 04-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

Speaking at a heavily attended breakfast meeting of Women in Aerospace, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver projected confidence that as NASA continues to communicate with Congress about the change proposed in the FY2011 budget request they will see that it is "a good plan."

"The President took on the status quo with his eyes wide open," knowing that change always is difficult. He was willing to do that, she said, because of the importance he ascribes to NASA and the need for a "sustainable and affordable" way for the space program to move forward. Noting that the 5-year budget allocates $100 billion for NASA, she said President Obama "feels we can do better" and NASA is important enough to fight the battle. She stressed that the country's elected leaders are making the decisions, starting with the President, and now Congress will evaluate his proposal.

She outlined the increases that the budget proposes for science, aeronautics, technology development, and education, but focused on the proposed cancellation of the Constellation program. Praising the Constellation workforce, she said that the Obama Administration had inherited a "system that made no sense to continue." The Augustine Committee's finding that NASA's budget needed to increase by $3 billion for a successful human space flight program was not for continuing Constellation. She said keeping Constellation on a reasonable schedule would cost $5 billion more a year and the money just is not there. If Congress insists that Constellation continue, she asked, what will be cancelled in order to make that funding available?

In response to a question about how much it would cost to keep the space shuttle flying, she said that when she arrived at NASA she was told that the time to make such a decision already had passed so they had not looked at how much it would cost.

She emphasized that the commercial crew proposal is for "all our partners" in COTS, CCDEV, and Constellation. The main difference is that NASA will "loosen our grip a bit" through a different procurement mechanism than traditional programs like Constellation.

"This matters," she said, calling on the aerospace community to "come together and work toward a common ground."

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Commercial Remote Sensing Policy Could See Changes Soon, Says NOAA's Glackin

Laura M. Delgado
Posted: 04-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

Mary Glackin, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told the 2010 International Commercial Remote Sensing Symposium (ICRSS) on Wednesday that commercial remote sensing policy was an important aspect of the ongoing review of U.S. national space policy. Ms. Glackin spoke of the increasing demand for commercial data and referred to the guiding principles of remote sensing policy in the 2006 National Space Policy. She said that while it is too early to provide details of the new Obama space policy, in time the industry would see that they would provide support.

In addition to data obtained through international partnerships -- including synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data from Canada -- NOAA relies on data procured commercially from U.S. companies. "We need this commercial sector with us," said Glackin.

NOAA is not only a consumer of data, but also the regulatory agency for the commercial remote sensing business. In response to questions about why NOAA is taking so long to respond to changes in the commercial sector that call for softening resolution restrictions on synthetic aperture radar satellites and allegations that NOAA is "dropp[ing] the ball here," Ms. Glackin began by saying, "I could just say yes." She added that the United States was "a nation at war," a factor that contributed to the delay in revising the policy and that "the Secretary [of Commerce] understands what this means for competitiveness." She alluded to policies that may be revised in the new version of national space policy that will ensure the U.S. commercial sector can keep moving forward.

The issue of balancing national security concerns - which drive government restrictions on the resolution of data commercial remote sensing providers are allowed to provide - while supporting innovation and growth in commercial remote sensing will be the topic of discussion in an ICRSS expert panel Thursday. ICRSS runs from March 3 to March 5 and is being held at the Reagan Building in Washington, DC. For more information, see the website for the event.

2007 Issues of Journal of Space Law Free Online

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 04-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

The 2007 editions of the Journal of Space Law are now available for free online. Journal editor Joanne Gabrynowicz notes that online access to the Journal is free for issues more than three years old and the collection dates back to 1973 when the journal started. More recent editions are available by subscription.

Water, Water Everywhere ... on the Moon

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 03-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

A NASA radar that orbited the Moon on India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe has provided more evidence that there is water at the lunar poles. NASA's Mini-SAR instrument (also known as Mini-RF), a lighweight synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters at the Moon's north pole that have water ice, according to NASA.

The data are in addition to readings made at the Moon's south pole in 2009 by NASA's LCROSS probe, and data from another NASA instrument on Chandrayaan-1, the Moon Mineraology Mapper, that showed that there are trace amounts of water all over the lunar surface.

India's Chandrayaan-1 probe carried 11 scientific instruments from India and several other countries including the United States. The probe entered lunar orbit in November 2008 and was intended to send back data for two years. However, India lost contact with it in August 2009. Fortunately it had already had collected and transmitted back a substantial amount of data.

SpacePolicyOnline.com Summary of House NASA Authorization Hearing Now Available

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 03-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

A SpacePolicyOnline.com summary of the Feb. 25, 2010 House Science and Technology Committee's hearing on the NASA's FY2011 budget request is now available. Find it on our left menu under "Our Hearing Summaries" or simply click here.

Senate Passes Extension to Satellite TV Act and Other Expiring Legislation

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 03-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) relented late on Tuesday and allowed the Senate to proceed to vote on legislation that would extend until the end of this month a number of expiring laws that affected everything from unemployment benefits to satellite television signals. The Senate voted 78-19 to pass the bill (H.R. 4691). The House already has passed it and the President is expected to sign it quickly. The Senate still must deal with longer term extensions of each of those laws or a similar situation could arise as March 31 approaches.

Hutchison Introduces Bill to Reduce the Gap in Human Spaceflight

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 03-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, has introduced legislation to "close the gap in U.S. spaceflight." A press release on the committee's website explains that the bill would continue space shuttle launches as work on a new system continues. The bill's key points as stated in the press release are:

  • Make shuttle retirement dependent on the availability of replacement capabilities for comparable size crew and cargo delivery, whether government-owned or commercial, (assuming a rate of 2 missions a year), or until it is conclusively demonstrated that it is the space shuttle cargo capabilities are not needed to ensure space station viability;
  • Require International Space Station (ISS) operations and full utilization through at least 2020, and further establish the ISS National Laboratory operating mechanisms and procedures;
  • Provide for the acceleration of a government-owned human space flight capability to as close to 2015 as possible;
  • Expand support for Commercial Orbital Space Transportation (COTS) to support ISS -- both for cargo and for eventual crew launch capability;
  • Reaffirm long-term goal of moving beyond low-Earth orbit whether to the Moon, Mars or alternative destinations;
  • Provide for the near-term evaluation of heavy-lift rocket launcher design options, including shuttle-derived options, to enable the expansion beyond low-earth orbit and accelerate the start of vehicle design activity; and
  • Authorize top-level funding for all of NASA's mission activities, but would only address the human space flight policy issues.

Presentations to the NRC Planetary Science Decadal Survey Steering Committee, Feb. 22-23, 2010

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 02-Mar-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

The following presentations were made to the Survey Committee of the National Research Council's Planetary Science Decadal Survey during its meeting on Feb. 22-23, 2010 in Irvine, CA. Titles are from the agenda for the meeting. The slides from some of the presentations are not yet available and will be added later if possible. Some of the presentations are large and take a moment or two to load; please be patient.

Events of Interest 

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


 

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