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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.
As 2009 gives way to 2010 tomorrow night, the world will be treated to a Blue Moon. No, it won't change color. A Blue Moon refers to the unusual circumstance of having two full moons in the same month. It happens sufficiently rarely that the phrase "once in a blue Moon" was coined to signal an unlikely event. Not THAT unlikely, though. According to the Associated Press, they occur about every two and a half years. Let's hope it's not prophetic -- the space program has been singing the blues for far too long. Not to mention that the Moon has turned out to be a pretty exciting place -- scientifically speaking!
South Korea will try again to launch a satellite into Earth orbit using its KSLV-1 rocket by June 2010 according to the head of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI).
Lee Joo-jin told the Yonhap News Agency that a final report on the failure of its first attempt earlier this year is expected by the end of January. The KSLV-1, or Naro-1, is a joint development effort with Russia. The South Korean-built second stage is believed to have been the cause of the August failure, when a fairing failed to separate properly. South Korea also is developing its own launch vehicle, KSLV-2. The country's plans for space exploration include sending a spacecraft to orbit the Moon in 2020 and another to land on the Moon in 2025, according to Lee.
NASA has selected three missions as candidates for the next spacecraft to fly as part of its "New Frontiers" program. One would send a probe to descend through Venus' atmosphere and made a survivable landing on its surface, the second would orbit an asteroid, and the third would place a lander at the Moon's South Pole Aitken Basin. A final selection will be made in 2011 after 12-month detailed studies, with launch expected in 2018. The three were chosen from eight proposals.
The New Frontiers program is part of NASA's Planetary Sciences Division and nominally selects one medium-class space mission every three years for development. The mission cost cannot exceed $650 million, not including launch costs. The 2011 mission will be the third in the series. The first was the New Horizons spacecraft now enroute to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. The second, Juno, is scheduled for launch in August 2011 to orbit Jupiter around its poles.
A recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that the Department of Defense (DOD) has a mixed record of implementing GAO's recommendations over the past eight years regarding DOD space activities.
GAO's letter report reviews all 3,099 recommendations that it made to DOD during that time period on all issues, not only those affecting DOD space programs. GAO then categorizes the recommendations as open, closed-implemented, or closed-not implemented. While it is a numerical assessment only, not a substantive assessment of what the recommendations were and the impact of implementing or not implementing them, the summary does provide an interesting glimpse of the extent to which DOD is responsive to GAO.
SpacePolicyOnline.com has extracted the data on recommendations concerning DOD space programs, available in this table. Of the 25 reports that we could identify as being directly related to space activities, GAO counted 16 recommendations as "open," 43 as "closed-implemented," and 21 as "closed-not implemented." Among those "open" are all that were made in four reports GAO issued in FY2008. The reports concerned operationally responsive space (GAO-08-831), low cost space capabilities (GAO-08-516), polar-orbiting environmental satellites (GAO-08-518), and Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (GAO-081039). A fifth GAO report in FY2008, on Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) software, had two recommendations that GAO categorizes as "closed-not implemented."
GAO was required to submit this report to Congress by language in the FY2010 Concurrent Resolution on the Budget. It does not include classified reports or reports that GAO issued that had no recommendations.
S. Neil Hosenball, who served as NASA's General Counsel from 1975-1985, passed away on December 23. His obituary appears in today's Washington Post. He succumbed to cancer.
Editor's Note: Among his many legacies, Neil Hosenball was instrumental in negotiating what is commonly known as the 1979 "Moon Treaty" through the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) -- formally the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. Although U.S. policy on certain language in the treaty changed and the United States ultimately decided not to sign the treaty, Neil's indefatigable pursuit of the agreement was testament to his skills as a space lawyer and negotiator.
The Moon Treaty was negotiated at the same time as the Law of Sea Treaty. The two were philosophically and politically joined in the sense that both invoked the principle of "common heritage of mankind." At that time, some argued that natural resources in the deep sea bed and on the Moon were the common heritage of mankind and economic benefits deriving from them should be shared equitably among all nations. Although the United States initially was a strong supporter of the common heritage language -- against the objections of the Soviet Union, among others -- and successfully fought for consensus to include it, by the time the Moon Treaty reached Washington, forces were aligned against that principle and the United States did not sign it. The Law of the Sea Treaty met the same fate. The Moon Treaty entered into force in 1984 after the requisite five countries signed and ratified it (a total of 13 have done so now), but none of the major spacefaring countries is among them. (France and India signed but did not ratify it.) An interesting paper recounting the political defeat of the Moon Treaty in the United States was presented at the 2008 AIAA Aerospace Sciences meeting by Thomas Gangale.
Though many will remember Neil because of his role in the Moon Treaty negotiations, he was involved in many other issues as NASA's General Counsel. In addition to being a great lawyer, Neil was a really nice person. I was a relative youngster back then and Neil was always more than willing to explain the intricacies of space law and COPUOS to me. It has been many years since our paths crossed, but I very much appreciate the time he spent sharing with me his excitement and enthusiasm for space law.
The LA Times wants NASA TV to "Liven Up."
"Coverage of topics like space exploration and the Earth should be mesmerizing. Instead, there's too much technical detail and silence," complains David Ferrell in an article today. Among the live coverage of events that he criticizes is the LCROSS splatdown earlier this year that apparently disappointed many from a visual standpoint, despite the terrific science it accomplished.
"The discovery this fall of water on the moon -- one of the most significant moments in the history of science -- offered an especially revealing glimpse of NASA Television on the job. The achievement involved smashing a 5,000-pound probe into the moon at 5,600 mph and analyzing readings from the resulting plume of dust and vapor.
"Befitting its growing awareness of the world looking on, NASA TV later put its coverage on YouTube. However, the soundtrack is filled with technical gibberish as scientists ready their instruments, and the impact itself is virtually invisible."
Editor's Note: Granted, NASA TV is not Nova or the National Geographic channel. If it were, commentators probably would simply criticize NASA for spending taxpayer dollars on public relations. This definitely is a no-win situation for NASA.
The U.S. space launch propulsion industrial base faces significant challenges according to a report submitted to Congress on Tuesday by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The report was required by the 2008 NASA Authorization Act.
"Despite the current adequacy of the space launch propulsion industrial base to meet identified space launch needs in the near and medium term, there are a number of significant challenges that pose concerns for the long-term health of this industrial base. Specifically, the current low level of demand for launch services combined with significant production overcapacity (and the fact that reliance on foreign suppliers has further limited dependence on the U.S. industrial base) creates challenges regarding:
Supplier retention and quality levels.
Workforce retention, as well as insufficient practice and learning opportunities necessary to sustain workforce skills.
"Significant challenges also exist on the development side. In particular, known long-term U.S. space launch requirements likely are not sufficient to justify significant U.S. private sector investment in developing new propulsion capabilities and technologies. At the same time, only limited funds are currently being invested by the U.S. Government for U.S. space launch propulsion-related R&D activities.
"Taken together, these factors raise important issues regarding:
The nation's ability to identify potential breakthrough cost-savings or performance opportunities in launch vehicle propulsion.
The industry's ability to attract the new talent required to create capabilities for future generations of U.S. space launch vehicles.
"Both sets of challenges are potentially significant and appear to warrant further analysis and review on the part of involved U.S. Government agencies and the U.S. private sector as the nation considers how best to sustain and ultimately advance this important technology area that is vital for maintaining access to space."
The Senate passed legislation on Wednesday extending government indemnification of third party liability for commercial space launches for three more years. The bill passed by unanimous consent without debate. As passed by the Senate, H.R. 3819 is identical to the version earlier passed by the House, so no further action by Congress is required; the President is expected to sign it.
As SpacePolicyOnline.com reported earlier, the government indemnifies commercial launch services companies against liability for third party claims between $500 million and $2 billion. That means the government will pay those sums to settle claims by third parties if a commercial launch vehicle were to crash into a populated area, for example. The commercial company is responsible for purchasing insurance for amounts up to $500 million and over $2 billion if required by the FAA's regulations. The current version of the legislation expires on December 31. This bill extends the provision through December 31, 2012.
Representative Parker Griffith, the freshman congressman who represents Huntsville, Alabama -- home of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center -- announced that he is switching parties from Democrat to Republican. The 67-year old radiation oncologist is a strong NASA supporter and a member of the House Science and Technology Committee and its Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee.
According to Politico, the main reason for the switch is his opposition to the health care bill championed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but he had this to say about NASA:
"I have also been very concerned about support in Congress for our Defense and NASA programs. These programs are not only important to our community they are critical for the future of our nation. Since election to Congress I have fought hard to educate other members on the importance of a strong National Missile Defense program and that we must give our NASA programs more support if we are to maintain our lead in space. And while there are some great Democratic supporters of these programs I increasingly find that my allies in fighting for these initiatives come from within the Republican Party."
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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