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Stimulus Money Used to Cover Overruns, Not to Accelerate Earth Science Decadal Survey Missions

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 18-Jun-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

Berrien Moore, Director of Climate Central and a member of the National Research Council's (NRC's) Space Studies Board, testified to the House Science and Technology Committee's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics that the additional funds provided for NASA's earth science missions in the stimulus bill have been spent on cost overruns for existing missions, not to accelerate missions recommended by the NRC's earth science decadal survey. In his written statement, he said:

"The latest budget has the first decadal survey mission (SMAP) launching in late 2013 or early 2014, with a second (ICESat-II) launching in late 2014 or early 2015. In contrast, the decadal survey had recommended launching four missions by 2013. It is my understanding that CLARREO is to be launched in 2019 (12 years after the release of the Decadal Survey). So, what happened? Put simply, the needed budget increase did not happen and existing programs overran. To remain within the allocated profile, NASA stretched out the program.


"The Stimulus monies, even though it states an objective of accelerating decadal survey missions, does not seem to be having the intended effect, unless one argues that it prevented further delays. Tracking NASA's weekly reports on its recovery act website, it does not appear any activity has occurred related to the decadal survey missions; indeed the FY10 budget indicates SMAP and ICESat-II will likely slip rather than accelerate. Perhaps there is more detail in the operations plan that NASA has been preparing, but this is not yet public."


The subcommittee recessed the hearing at 10:45 for votes on the House floor and will reconvene at 1:30 pm.

NPOESS Independent Review Team Report Now Available Online

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 18-Jun-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

The report of the NPOESS Independent Review Team, chaired by Tom Young, is now available on the website of the House Science and Technology Committee. Mr. Young and others testified to the committee's Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight this afternoon. The Government Accountability Office also testified and released its latest report on NPOESS.

House Passes CJS Appropriations Bill

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 18-Jun-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

The House of Representatives passed the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill early this evening. No amendments specifically affecting programs at NASA or NOAA's satellite programs appear to have been adopted. As Congress Daily (subscription required) reported, passage came after a long series of votes that delayed a number of committee hearings. "The lengthy string of consecutive votes was spurred by a confrontation between Republicans and Democrats over how many amendments to the bill - the first FY10 spending measure to reach the floor this year -- would be considered by [the] House."

House Continues to Debate CJS Appropriations Bill

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 18-Jun-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

As of 8:00 pm EDT June 17, the House was continuing to debate the CJS appropriations bill. Aficionados may watch the proceedings on C-SPAN (http://www.c-span.org).

HASC "Orders Reported" the FY2010 DOD Authorization Bill, H.R. 2647; Floor Action Possible Next Week

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 18-Jun-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) completed its markup of the FY2010 Department of Defense Authorization Bill, H.R. 2647, on June 17 and ordered it reported from committee (which means that the committee agreed to it, but the report has not yet been formally submitted). No significant amendments affecting national security space programs appear to have been adopted. As ordered report, the bill includes--

  • an addition of $23 million for Operationally Responsive Space (for a total of $136 million) to fully fund the first operational ORS satellite, ORS Sat-1;
  • reductions of $59 million from High-Integrity GPS and $20 million from Third Generation Infrared Surveillance; and
  • a reduction of $88.1 million from Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle procurement reflecting the need for one fewer in FY2010 than anticipated.

The bill requires DOD to submit a space science and technology strategy annually, and directs DOD, in consultation with NOAA and NASA, to evaluate options for restructuring NPOESS. The bill also requires DOD to plan a strategy for military requirements for military communications satellites that takes into account the fragility of the industrial base. It also makes permanent the Air Force pilot program for sharing space surveillance data with state governents, U.S. and foreign commercial entities, and foreign governments, to reduce the possibility of satellite collisions.

According to Congress Daily (subscription required), the bill may go to the floor next week.

Augustine Panel Public Meeting 1: Information Rich, No Bombshells

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 18-Jun-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

The Augustine panel held a public meeting today in Washington, D.C. The day-long meeting was jam-packed with briefings from NASA, the Aerospace Corp., the COTS companies (SpaceX and Orbital), and representatives of companies and groups promoting alternatives to the Ares launch vehicles. A teleconference was held with the heads of the European Space Agency (Jean-Jacques Dordain) and Roscosmos (Gen. Anatoliy Perminov) who both were in Paris. The President's Science Adviser, John Holdren, opened the meeting, and later Representative Pete Olson (R-TX) and Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) spoke to the panel in person, with letters from Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX) and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) read aloud to the assemblage. The political folks stressed the importance of the panel's deliberations to both the White House and Congress. Several members of the audience commented during two "public comment" opportunities. The day's most interesting tidbits were --

  • the cost of the Constellation program through Initial Operational Capability in 2015 is estimated at $35 billion with a 65% confidence level. NASA had planned to spend an additional $9 billion on lunar systems development, but the panel will need to decide whether that will occur.
  • the Aerospace Corp.'s study on using EELVs instead of Ares 1 is pretty much as described in Monday's issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology.
  • ESA's Jean-Jacques Dordain stressed that the 18 nations that are members of ESA will never approve increased funding for human spaceflight "to the detriment of space science and applications" funding, so if Europe is to participate in future human spaceflight endeavors, the decision must be taken at higher levels in European government who can provide additional funding.
  • Dordain and Perminov both stressed that the International Space Station should continue beyond 2015. Perminov said 2020 at a minimum, while Dordain recommended that the ISS partners assess every three years whether the benefits of the ISS outweigh the costs and only when they do not should the ISS be terminated.
  • Dordain stressed that international space partnerships must remain open to new partners, mentioning China, India and South Korea in particular.
  • Steve Metschan, speaking for DIRECT, declined to name those who are involved in the design, even after a panel member noted that it is difficult for the panel to evaluate the DIRECT concept without knowing who is responsible for the technical analysis. Mr. Metschan said that even he does not know everyone since they are taking advantage of electronic media and anonymity is essential to avoid retribution.

NASA promised to post all the Powerpoints and minutes on the panel's website (http://hsf.nasa.gov) very soon.

House Debates Funding for NASA, NOAA, NSF

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-Jun-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

The House of Representatives is currently debating the FY2010 appropriations bill for Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS), including NASA, NOAA and NSF. Aficionados may follow the debate on C-Span (www.c-span.org). No votes are expected tonight.

GAO Commends NASA's Management of COTS Program, Worries About Aggressive Schedule

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-Jun-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on June 16 that commends NASA for its management of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. At the same time, it expresses concern about the aggressive schedules towards which both COTS contractors -- SpaceX and Orbital -- are working and recently experienced delays. The study, "NASA: Commercial Partners Are Making Progress, but Face Aggressive Schedules to Demonstrate Critical Space Station Cargo Transport Capabilities," was performed at the request of Congress.

Augustine Panel Agenda Now Available

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-Jun-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

NASA has posted the agenda for the public meeting of the Augustine panel on the future of NASA's human space flight program that will be held tomorrow, 9:00-5:00 at the Carnegie Institute, 1530 P Street, N.W., Washington, DC.

Aerospace Corp. Study Finds Delta IV Cheaper than Ares 1 For ISS Mission, But Could Add Two Years to Gap

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-Jun-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

Aviation Week and Space Technology provided details of an as-yet unreleased Aerospace Corp. study that evaluated using a human-rated version of the Delta IV evolved expendable launch vehicle instead of the Ares 1 now in development to take crews to and from the International Space Station. The study apparently did not look at launch vehicle architectures for later phases of the exploration program such as human return to the Moon or Mars.

According to Aviation Week, the study concluded that Delta IV's could be upgraded to perform the ISS crew mission more cheaply than building Ares I, but could add 2 years or more to the existing 5-year gap when the United States will be dependent on Russia to launch astronauts to the ISS. The study was requested by NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. The study is expected to serve as input to the Augustine panel that is assessing options for NASA's future human space flight program.

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