Latest News

HASC Subcommittee Cuts Unclassified National Security Space Programs by $182 Million

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-May-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

The Subcommittee on Strategic Forces of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) cut $182 million from the $9.9 billion FY2011 request for unclassified national security space programs today. A committee press release lists the following additions and reductions:

  • includes $50 million for the Air Force to continue developing future protected communications satellite technologies because the TSAT program has been terminated
  • adds $40 million for Operationally Responsive Space (ORS)
  • adds $51.2 million for Army procurement of Defense Advanced GPS Receivers
  • adds $28 million for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles "to achieve a common upper stage between the Atlas and Delta launch vehicles, enabling efficient use of the existing RL-10 rocket engine inventory"
  • adds $5 million to support Navy mitigation measures to augment the declining UHF narrow-band communications capacity
  • cuts NPOESS by $300 million because of a lack of a clear strategy for the program
  • cuts $40.9 million from High Integrity GPS
  • cuts $30 million from the Space Based Surveillance System, and
  • authorizes the National Air and Space Intelligence Center to conduct original intelligence analysis and requires congressional notification of "changes in the lead integrator for foreign space and counterspace intelligence analysis"

Bolden Will Do Everything in My Power to Make Commercial Launch Companies Succeed

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-May-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden told the Senate Commerce Committee today that he will do "everything in my power" to ensure that the commercial launch companies at the heart of President Obama's new plan for NASA succeed. The magnitude of that commitment was the source of some contention at the hearing.

Senator David Vitter (R-LA) asked Gen. Bolden if he had said in a telephone briefing to Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan last week that he would "do whatever it takes" to make the commercial option work including "bailing them out" even if that meant "a bigger bailout than Chrysler and GM." Bolden responded that he did not recall saying those words, but had always said that he would do "everything in my power" to make commercial access to low Earth orbit successful because he needs it, the defense department needs it, and the intelligence community needs it: "I have to look at the possibility that the commercial sector will have difficulty" and "I will do everything in my power to facilitate their success." However, he insisted that he did not remember saying the words Senator Vitter quoted.

Testifying later in the hearing, Captain Cernan revealed that those quotes were from his notes. Cernan said that Bolden expressed concern during the telephone briefing about the commercial sector's ability to succeed and said the government might have to subsidize them significantly and it "may be a bailout like GM and Chrysler, as a matter of fact it may be the largest bailout in history." Cernan told the committee that he had written the word "Wow" in the margin of his notes at that statement.

The degree to which the government would be dependent on the commercial companies is one of the major objections to President Obama's plan to turn responsibility for crew and cargo missions to low Earth orbit over to the commercial sector. At a February hearing before the House Science and Technology Committee, for example, Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) asked if it would make those companies "too important to fail," akin to the financial companies that received government bailouts because they were "too big to fail."

President Obama's plan has been the subject of many op-ed articles and congressional hearings, so the viewpoints of most of the Senators and witnesses at the hearing already were well known. However, Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) made it clear that the issues that have concerned him about NASA over many years remain. They include fundamental philosophical questions such as why human spaceflight is necessary and how it helps the "human condition," as well as more prosaic questions about NASA's management abilities. While his statements were not quite a ringing endorsement of the Obama plan, he made it clear that he thinks NASA has to change.

Famed Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, focused on the lack of analysis that went into developing the Obama plan and rued what he sees as the U.S. abandoning its leadership in space: "If the leadership we have acquired through our investment is simply allowed to fade away, other nations will surely step in where we have faltered. I do not believe that would be in our best interest." Cernan, who commaned the final Apollo mission to the Moon, called the plan "a blueprint for a mission to nowhere."

Armstrong and Cernan said that there are rumors that neither Presidential Science Adviser Holdren nor NASA Administrator Bolden knew the plan in advance. Holdren and Bolden were asked about this during their appearance on the previous panel, and both dismissed such talk, insisting that they did know at least two weeks prior to the budget release what it would contain.

Norm Augustine explained once again that his committee developed options rather than making recommendations, but agreed that the President's plan is close to the committee's option 5B. He added that one significant difference is that his committee felt the human spaceflight budget had to increase by $3 billion over the next four years and by inflation thereafter, and "we could find no interesting human spaceflight program" for less than that. The President's proposal does not provide that level of funding. Mr. Augustine stressed that NASA's "goals [must] match the budget" or 10 years from now this same discussion will be held again.

Holistic Approach to Space Law and Policy Needed for the Space Community

Laura M. Delgado
Posted: 12-May-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

One of the resounding themes of yesterday's Space Law and Policy 2010 symposium was that of the need for holistic solutions - that take into account the role of a variety of players- to solve the regulatory issues facing the space community.

The need for increased Space Situational Awareness (SSA) to avoid scenarios like the Iridium-Cosmos collision of February 2009 is one such issue that affects every satellite operator on the planet. The founders of the Space Data Association aim to complement the government services that track objects on orbit by establishing exchange of data procedures and providing conjunction analysis for commercial operators. Richard DalBello, Vice President of Intelsat General, explained how this approach would help address some of the limitations of the U.S. Strategic Command's (StratCom's) Space Surveillance Network, including the fact that the data StratCom makes public is incomplete or "dumbed down," while not ignoring the concerns that call for such measures: "you [as a satellite operator] get information relevant to your satellite; no one's downloading the entire database."

Restrictions on satellite exports under the International Trade in Arms Regulations (ITAR) was another major topic. ITAR and export control reform were mentioned repeatedly during a panel composed of representatives of key U.S. companies answering the question - what keeps you up at night? The implications of ITAR require both education and translation for the investment community that the commercial sector depends on, explained Alexandra (Sasha) Field, Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of TerreStar Networks. Education is key not only between industry and investors, but also between industry and regulators. Dean Manson, Senior Vice President of Hughes Network Systems, called it a "dual educating process" and said that industry also needs to "look inward" to understand how Washington works.

While export control reform is underway, discussions over the possibility of reforming the underlying international legal regime based on the 1967 Outer Space Treaty are still ongoing. Some argue the existing regime is sufficient to ensure the free and safe access of all countries to space, while others point to the need to ensure the rights of private actors in space and look to international measures to do so. Ken Hodgkins, from the U.S. Department of State, responded to a question about the possibility that the Obama Administration may reverse the Bush Administration's policy against new international regulations saying that existing laws were "insufficient in some respects" due to the "changing nature of space activities" and that there are "gray areas that need to be looked at." Ben Baseley-Walker, Legal and Policy Advisor for the Secure World Foundation, in turn, expressed enthusiasm at the Obama Administration's "greater willingness to engage" with the international community.

Although some resistance to change can be expected, many are criticizing the long tradition of overhauling U.S. space policy each time a new Administration comes into office. Phil Meek, U.S. Air Force (ret.), said the constant reorganizations were akin to the process of getting a new commander: "by the time you get through the learning period, a new [one] comes aboard to change everything." President Obama has pushed for change, particularly in NASA's exploration program with the transformation of the Constellation Program and a renewed focus on technology development. NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, who gave the last keynote speech of the event, argued that the President's proposals - while definite changes - do not veer far from NASA's foundational mandate in the 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act. The FY2011 proposals follow the original goals "laid down in the founding document." The President's commitment to supporting the commercial sector is not new, she explained, but the focus on commercial procurement is - by providing sufficient resources up front and a guaranteed market.

The Space Act also directed the United States not to explore space alone, said Ms. Garver, and by providing funds not only for the continuation of the International Space Station, but for its increased utilization, the FY2011 proposal does just that. This cooperative initiative seeks to enhance a tradition that in the last 50 years has led to more than 3,000 agreements with more than 100 nations. This, she added, is just one of the benefits of the new proposal that seeks to "take us even further" in providing benefits for the country and the world, thus painting the "big picture."

Space Law and Policy 2010 was the first International Institute of Space Law (ISSL) - International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) Symposium, in partnership with Secure World Foundation, Arianespace and the European Space Policy Institute. The event brought together experts from law, policy, military and academia to look at developments and challenges in the regulatory environment of U.S. space activities.

NRC Says NASA Facilities Deferred Maintenance is "Staggering," Affects Safety

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 11-May-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

A National Research Council (NRC) study committee reports that NASA's basic research facilities are in a state of decline. Committee co-chair John Best says that it is "imperative that NASA restore and maintain its basic research laboratories" or jeopardize its ability to meet major mission goals according to an NRC press release.

"Capabilities for the Future -- An Assessment of NASA Laboratories for Basic Research," released today, is based on the committee's examination of laboratories at Goddard Space Flight Center, Glenn Research Center, Langley Research Center and Ames Research Center. The committee found that NASA's deferred maintenance budget grew from $1.77 billion in 2004 to $2.6 billion in 2009, a "staggering" bill yet to be paid. "NASA is spending well below accepted industry guidelines on annual maintenance, repairs, and upgrades," with consequent effects on safety, says the NRC.

The report was requested by Congress in the 2008 NASA authorization act. The study was paid for by NASA and conducted under the auspices of the NRC's Laboratory Assessments Board, Space Studies Board, and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board.

Mollohan Loses Primary

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 11-May-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

UPDATE: Rep. Mollohan lost the primary. He will remain in Congress for the rest of this year, of course, but the extent to which his lame duck status affects the outcome of the debate on NASA's FY2011 funding and the Obama plan for human space flight is an unknown at this point.

ORIGINAL STORY: Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) is in a tight primary race today. With anti-incumbent fervor shaping political races this year, Rep. Mollohan's close to 30 years in the House may work against him rather than for him as would be typically true. He chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. How a loss today would affect the congressional debate over NASA's new plan for human spaceflight is unknown. Even if he wins today, he faces Republican opposition in November. His opponent today, state Senator Mike Oliverio, is quoted as saying that "Congress is broken" and "we need to clean House." Stay tuned.

Who's Who of Space to Testify At Senate Commerce Hearing

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 10-May-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

In a rare public appearance to talk about the future of the human spaceflight program, Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon, will testify to the Senate Commerce committee on Wednesday. Mr. Armstrong will be joined by fellow Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan -- the last man to walk on the Moon. Armstrong landed on the Moon along with Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11 in 1969. Cernan and Harrison (Jack) Schmitt (later a U.S. Senator) visited the Moon on Apollo 17 in 1972. Also testifying Wednesday will be Presidential Science Adviser John Holdren, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, and Norm Augustine who chaired the 2009 Augustine Committee that provided options to the Obama Administration on the future of the human space flight program..

Armstrong, Cernan and Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell signed an open letter to President Obama just before his April 15 speech at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) arguing for continuation of the Constellation program. By contrast, Aldrin is a strong supporter of the Obama plan and accompanied the President to KSC.

The hearing is at 2:30 on Wednesday in 253 Russell Senate Office Building.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Schmitt also signed the letter. Schmitt was one of a number of former astronauts and other officials who signed a different letter to the President also supporting the Constellation program. Cernan and Lovell also signed that letter, but not Armstrong.

Lyles, Fisk and Colladay: Pendulum Has Swung Too Far The Other Way

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 10-May-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

The chair and vice-chairs of the 2009 National Research Council (NRC) study "America's Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program With National Needs" think the Obama plan for NASA makes the NASA program just as unbalanced as its predecessor. "This time the pendulum has swung the other way," write Gen. Lester Lyles (Ret), Dr. Lennard Fisk and Dr. Raymond Colladay in a joint letter to Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), ranking member of the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee. Rep. Wolf's office is making the letter public.

Gen. Lyles not only chaired the NRC committee, but served as a member of the Augustine Committee. Dr. Colladay is chair of the NRC's Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board and is a former NASA Associate Administrator for Aeronautics and Space Technology and a former Lockheed Martin executive. Dr. Fisk is the immediate past chair of the NRC's Space Studies Board and a former NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science and Applications; he is currently a distinguished university professor of space science at the University of Michigan.

In their letter to Rep. Wolf, the three note that under the Bush Administration, NASA space and earth science programs and technology development efforts were underfunded in order to provide funding for human space flight activities, including Constellation. Today, they write, the Obama Administration is proposing to take money from Constellation in order to fund science and technology development programs.

"It makes no more sense to have a NASA with an under-emphasis on human spaceflight than it did to have a NASA with an over-emphasis. The strategic leadership of the United States in a rapidly evolving globalized world, the economic well-being of our people, and the sense in our society that our future is promising, all require a NASA that has breadth in science and technology, and accomplishments in both robotic and human spaceflight."

They conclude it is up to Congress and NASA to craft a human space flight program that does not "re-inflict damage on the breadth of NASA's activities" and that whatever NASA does "truly befits a great nation."

The 2009 NRC study was internally funded by the National Academies.

Events of Interest: Week of May 10-14, 2010

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 08-May-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The following events may be of interest in the coming week. For more details, see our calendar on the right menu or click the links below. Times, dates and witnesses for congressional hearings and markups are subject to change; check the relevant committee's website for up to date information. All times are EDT.

Tuesday, May 11

  • IAA-IISL-SWF-ESPI-Arianespace symposium on "Space Law and Policy 2010," 8:30 am - 4:30 pm, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington DC
  • US-UK Space Seminar, 11:30 am - 5:45 pm, Lockheed Martin Global Vision Centre, 2121 Crystal Drive, Arlington, VA

Tuesday-Wednesday, May 11-12

Wednesday, May 12

Thursday, May 13

Thursday-Friday, May 13-14

  • NASA Advisory Council Planetary Protection Subcommittee, NASA Headquarters, Washington DC
    • May 13, 9:00 am - 4:30 pm
    • May 14, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm

Orion Pad Abort System Test Successful

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 07-May-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

The much anticipated Pad Abort 1 test of the launch abort system for the Orion spacecraft was successful today. Conducted at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the test lasted 135 seconds with the crew module landing about one mile away at 16.2 miles per hour according to a press released from NASA.

The fate of Orion is still up in the air, with the latest plan from the Obama Administration calling for Orion technologies to be used only to build a crew rescue module for the International Space Station. That version of Orion would be launched with no one aboard so the launch abort system would not be needed. However, NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Doug Cooke was quoted in the press release as saying that the test will contribute to NASA's goal of making human spaceflight as safe as possible.

APL's Faulconer Starts New Consulting Business

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 07-May-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

J. Walter ("Walt") Faulconer, the Applied Physics Laboratory's (APL's) business area executive for civilian space, is leaving May 14 to start a consulting business, Strategic Space Solutions, with his wife, Cindy. After 26 years at Lockheed Martin, Mr. Faulconer joined APL five years ago to take charge of APL's work for NASA and NOAA. He successfully led APL's civil space business through somewhat tumultuous times. Today, the civil space business area has a host of missions on the books, including Solar Probe Plus. The Faulconers' new company will focus on effective strategic planning, business development, systems engineering and management.

Events of Interest   

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


Subscribe to Email Updates:

Enter your email address: