Space Law News
The following events may of interest in the week ahead. The House and Senate are in session. As hard as it is to believe, Washington, DC may get another (thankfully brief) taste of winter Wednesday night into Thursday. If the forecast holds, be sure to check to see if any Thursday events in DC are still on track.
During the Week
Of geopolitical as well as space interest, two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut are due to land in Kazakhstan tomorrow night (Monday) Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). U.S. officials insist that International Space Station (ISS) operations are not being affected by the tensions over Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. This landing, of Soyuz TMA-10M carrying Russians Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy and NASA's Mike Hopkins, could help prove that point. Landing is scheduled for 11:24 pm EDT (9:24 am Tuesday local time at the landing site).
Fortuitously, noted Russian space authority Anatoly Zak will be speaking at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) earlier that day as part of the NASM/Applied Physics Lab Space Policy & History Forum series. Zak runs the RussianSpaceWeb.com website and is author of the superb book Russia in Space published last year. His talk is at 4:00 pm ET. There is no charge, but RSVPs are REQUIRED in order to enter the part of the museum where the talk will be held. See the entry for Monday below for instructions.
Lots of other interesting hearings, meetings and conferences are on tap. Here's what we know about as of early Sunday afternoon.
Monday, March 10
Monday-Thursday, March 10-13
Tuesday, March 11
Wednesday, March 12
Thursday, March 13
Friday, March 14
UPDATE, March 3, 2014, 9:30 pm ET: NASA has decided to hold its FY2015 budget briefing as a telecom rather than an event at Goddard Space Flight Center tomorrow (Tuesday) because of the weather. It will be streamed on NASA's news audio website. Still at 2:00 pm ET.
UPDATE, MARCH 3, 2014: Federal government offices in the Washington, DC area are, indeed, closed today, Monday, March 3. However, the Space Studies Board's (SSB's) Space Science Week will go on according to a tweet from the SSB (@SSB_ASEB). A limited number of WebEx connections are available to LISTEN to the plenary session this afternoon. See the meeting agenda (link below) for instructions.
ORIGINAL STORY, MARCH 2, 2014: The following space policy events may be of interest in the week ahead, but be forewarned that Washington D.C. is forecast to get a MAJOR winter storm beginning tonight (Sunday) and lasting throughout the day Monday. If the forecast holds, the government is very likely to be closed tomorrow with disruptions to government and non-government activities alike. Be sure to check with the host organization before heading out to any Washington-area meetings on Monday and perhaps even Tuesday. The House and Senate are scheduled to be in session, but no space-related hearings are scheduled Monday.
During the Week
This is it! Budget week. It's a month late, but President Obama is scheduled to submit his FY2015 budget request to Congress on Tuesday. Many agencies, including NASA, as well as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) typically hold press briefings the day the budget is released to explain the key issues they foresee. NASA's is scheduled at 2:00 pm ET Tuesday. Curiously, it will be held at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center instead of NASA Headquarters. It will be broadcast on NASA TV. Some NASA center directors are holding their own briefings later in the afternoon.
The submittal of the budget kicks off budget season in Washington and all the congressional hearings that go with it. Hearings on the Pentagon's budget begin this week including a posture hearing on U.S. Strategic Command.
Apart from the budget, this week has other notable events, including the National Research Council's Space Studies Board's (SSB's) Space Science Week. Over three days (Monday-Wednesday), the SSB's four standing committees -- Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics, Committee on Solar and Space Physics, Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space, and Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science -- will meet separately as well as in a particularly interesting plenary session tomorrow (Monday) afternoon. For the first time, a public lecture on Tuesday night is also planned. The meetings are at the National Academy of Sciences building on Constitution Avenue (NOT the Keck Center on 5th Street). The plenary session on Monday includes a panel discussion with representatives from NASA and its counterparts in Japan, Europe and China. Hopefully that event will be able to take place despite the ice and snow -- be sure to check the SSB's website for up to date information. A limited number of listen-only WebEx connections will be available for this session and for Sara Seager's public lecture on Tuesday night. Instructions for how to listen in are on the agenda, which is posted on the SSB's website.
Also of great interest, the American Astronautical Society (AAS) will hold its annual Goddard Memorial Symposium Tuesday-Thursday at the Greenbelt Marriott in Greenbelt, MD near Goddard Space Flight Center (Tuesday is an evening reception; sessions are Wed-Thurs). This perfectly-timed meeting includes talks by NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and the four NASA Mission Directorate Associate Administrators -- Bill Gerstenmaier (Human Exploration and Operations), John Grunsfeld (Science), Jaiwon Shin (Aeronautics) and Mike Gazarik (Space Technology) -- who should be able to shed more light on NASA's FY2015 budget request as well as the status of ongoing activities. Lots of other interesting speakers are scheduled for the two days as well.
And last, but certainly not least, the annual "space prom" will be held Friday night -- the National Space Club's Goddard Dinner at the Washington Hilton (as usual).
Here's the complete list of events that we know about as of Sunday morning. As we said, for events scheduled in Washington, DC on Monday and Tuesday, check with the organization to see if they are still on track. This storm is supposed to be whopper -- lots of ice overnight and then 8-12 inches of snow on top of it falling throughout the day.
Sunday-Saturday, March 2-8
Monday-Wednesday, March 3-5
Tuesday, March 4
Tuesday-Thursday, March 4-6
Wednesday, March 5
Thursday, March 6
Friday, March 7
The following events may be of interest in the week ahead. The House and Senate both are in session.
During the Week
It's another comparatively slow week as everyone eagerly awaits the release of the FY2015 budget request a week from now (March 4). In the meantime, perhaps the most interesting event this week is the House Science, Space and Technology Committee's hearing on "Mars Flyby 2021: The First Deep Space Mission for the Orion and Space Launch System?" on Thursday. As far as we know, there is no launch opportunity to Mars in 2021 -- they occur only every 26 months and there's one in 2020 and another in 2022, so we will see what someone has in mind for 2021. There is an interesting group of very knowledgable witnesses.
That and other events we know of at the moment are listed below.
Monday, February 24
Tuesday, February 25
Wednesday, February 26
Thursday, February 27
The following events may be of interest in the week ahead. The House and Senate are in recess this week: Monday is a federal holiday -- Presidents' Day -- commemorating the birthdays of Presidents Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12) and George Washington (Feb. 22).
During the Week
It's a quiet week from a space policy perspective, but the departure of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus spacecraft from the International Space Station (ISS) early Tuesday morning Eastern Standard Time (EST) and the launch of an Air Force GPS satellite from Cape Canaveral on Thursday should be of interest more generally. Cygnus will be unberthed on Tuesday, ending the Orb-1 mission, Orbital's first operational Commercial Resupply Services mission for NASA. The spacecraft is being loaded with trash and will burn up on reentry Wednesday. The launch of the 5th GPS Block IIF satellite (GPSIIF5) aboard an Atlas V is scheduled for Thursday at 8:40 pm EST with a 19 minute launch window. Weather is 80% go at the moment.
While not directly space-related, CSIS is having a meeting on Tuesday morning about National Security and Economic Issues in Spectrum Allocation that also could prove interesting. Government (DOD, FCC, NTIA) and industry (AT&T, T-Mobile) will discuss the thorny issues of how to allocate spectrum to satisfy the insatiable demand for this limited natural resource.
Here's a list of the events we know about as of Sunday afternoon.
Tuesday, February 18
Wednesday, February 19
Thursday, February 20
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) says that he was "taken aback" at security challenges identified at NASA by an independent report commissioned by NASA at Wolf's request. The report was led by former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh under the auspices of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA).
Eleven months ago, Wolf blasted NASA for what he termed a "management culture that turns a blind eye, or in some cases may outright encourage, violations of security regulations." He laid out seven steps he wanted NASA to follow to rectify the situation and recommended that NASA ask an independent entity like NAPA to conduct a study chaired by someone like Thornburgh. Wolf chairs the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. The agency followed that direction.
Wolf's statement yesterday was in response to the resulting report, which has not been made public. He said: "Frankly, I was taken aback at the breadth and depth of security challenges identified across NASA and I am deeply disappointed the agency has restricted access to the report. The report should be made public as soon as possible, with any necessary redactions in the interest of national security, because it confirms not only the serious security challenges that need to be addressed, but a persistent organizational culture that fails to hold center leadership, employees and contractors accountable for security violations. This must change."
Wolf has expressed deep concern over the past several years about NASA's Langley Research Center and Ames Research Center, in particular, with regard to allowing foreign nationals -- especially Chinese -- to have access to their facilities.
The following events may be of interest in the week ahead. The House and Senate both are in session.
During the Week
The week starts off quickly, with a field hearing at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center on Monday morning at 9:00 am ET on "Assessing NASA's Underutilized Real Property Assets at the Kennedy Space Center." This is a somewhat unusual hearing in that it is not being held by any of the committees that typically oversee NASA. Instead, this is being held under the auspices of the Subcommittee on Government Operations of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Subcommittee chairman John Mica (R-FL) represents a district near KSC. His subcommittee "oversees the efficiency and management of government operations and activities," according to its website. The list of witnesses span federal, state and local government as well as the Audubon Society.
Other congressional hearings this week center on issues that could affect national security space programs. Of greatest interest may be Wednesday's HASC hearing on defense acquisition reform. Not that there haven't been an awful lot of hearings on this topic over the years, but Wednesday's includes the esteemed Norm Augustine, who can always be counted on to provide extremely wise words of advice. In the space community he is probably best known these days as the chair of the 2009 "Augustine Committee" that offered options for the future of the human spaceflight program, but he has chaired many such review/advisory committees over the decades and is a former Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, not to mention a former under secretary of the Army and author of the incisive Augustine's Laws.
Those and other events that we know about as of Sunday afternoon are listed below.
Monday, February 10
Tuesday, February 11
Wednesday, February 12
Thursday, February 13
The FAA’s annual Commercial Space Transportation conference covered a lot of ground this week (February 5-6, 2014), but two topics were highlights: the Obama Administration’s recent decision to extend operations of the International Space Station (ISS) by four more years and debate about the extent of government regulation of commercial human spaceflight.
Extending ISS to 2024. NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Bill Gerstenmaier opened the conference by noting progress in the commercial crew and cargo programs and how the business environment for those companies has improved with the decision to keep ISS operating through 2024. Gerstenmaier praised that “tremendous decision” by the Obama Administration, announced last month, and the fact that it was made quickly rather than requiring independent reviews or extended debate. Gerstenmaier acknowledged that it may take several years for the other partners in the ISS to decide if they will follow suit, but “I believe they will over time.” (Editor’s Note: As we pointed out in a recent editorial, SpacePolicyOnline.com does not share his enthusiasm for extending the ISS to 2024 without an independent technical review.)
He went on to praise Russia’s “innovative spirit ... that pushes us in the right direction and helps us,” offering space tourism, the just-installed Earthkam, and the Olympic torch relay as examples: “Think Russian, think commercial.”
Not surprisingly, the decision to extend ISS to 2024 was greeted warmly by the commercial crew and commercial cargo companies whose business plans benefit from the decision. Representatives of Boeing, Orbital Sciences, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada participated in a panel discussion later that day along with Phil McAlister, NASA’s Director of Commercial Spaceflight.
McAlister said the decision took him by surprise, but he was delighted because “as of now we’ve never had a better business plan” for commercial crew. Chris Ferguson, director of commercial crew for Boeing, praised the decision, but wondered what the industry will do after 2024. “We really need to maintain this toehold” in low Earth orbit (LEO), he stressed, then asked rhetorically whether ISS will be extended to 2028 or will there be a market for commercial LEO stations. “We have to have a destination in low Earth orbit or we’ll struggle to keep the business model going,” he concluded.
McAlister was asked why ISS was extended only to 2024 instead of 2028 (when the first ISS modules will be 30 years old, a timeframe NASA has been discussing for quite some time), but said he had no insight into that decision.
Regulating Commercial Human Spaceflight. Another panel debated the regulatory environment for commercial human spaceflight. Moderated by Wayne Hale, it had an interesting group of participants– a former astronaut, Ken Reightler; an economist with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Ken Heyer; a Boeing lawyer, Russ McMurry; and a commercial space industry political insider, Jim Muncy. Collectively they offered a range of views on the issues of informed consent and the role, if any, for government regulation beyond what is already provided by the 2004 Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments (CSLAA). Muncy was substituting for XCOR's Jeff Greason. All were speaking in their personal capacities.
The primary areas of contention were the need for government regulation versus voluntary industry standards and how to ensure spaceflight participants (passengers) really do have informed consent when deciding whether or not to step aboard an orbital or suborbital commercial human spaceflight vehicle.
Under the informed consent provisions of CSLAA, companies must explain the risks and provide information on their vehicle’s safety record. Prospective passengers then make their own decisions on whether to board the flight. CSLAA prohibits the FAA from adding more regulations for a fixed period of time except under certain conditions (like a fatal accident) and one of the debates is over whether this “moratorium” or “learning period” should be extended beyond its current expiration date of September 30, 2015.
Generally, Reightler and McMurry argued in favor of some level of government regulation, while Heyer and Muncy questioned the need for anything beyond current law.
Heyer, the economist, focused on whether or not there is a market failure that makes it essential for the government to step in. He does not see one now. McMurry took the position that the government is the repository of lessons learned from 50 years of human spaceflight and “the more we push government away” the more “we fail to avail ourselves of some valuable lessons learned.” Muncy agreed that it would be “insane” to not take advantage of government help in developing space systems that are as safe as possible, but “there are a thousand ways” to do that “other than writing regulations.”
McMurry disagreed, worrying that companies who chafe at oversight by a government that has 50 years of experience in human spaceflight are exactly the ones that will “ruin the industry by creating a death that is avoidable” because they will adhere only to minimum safety standards. Reightler agreed with McMurry, cautioning that a spaceflight accident will get more public attention than a train wreck, for example.
McMurry went further, arguing that industry self-regulation lends itself to manipulation of the rules in order to turn situations to a competitive advantage. He likened it to the difference between a pick-up sports game versus a game with a referee: “If you really want fairness and ... equality, you need regulations. To what extent? Up for debate. But we need a referee.” Heyer argued that in most industries consumers are the referees. If they do not approve of a company, they take their business elsewhere. He wondered why it would be different in this case.
At the end, the panelists were asked if they, personally, would fly on one of the commercial vehicles, which elicited some of the more entertaining answers of the day. Reightler – who flew on two space shuttle missions – offered what he said was a good engineer’s answer: “it depends.” In this case, it would depend on the details, into which he would dive deeply. Heyer asked “will it cost money?” evoking jokes that that was a good economist’s answer. He added, however, “even if it was perfectly safe I still might not do it.” More broadly, he said the question is whether the average person will fly. He thinks the initial market will be wealthy thrill-seekers and scientists who have experiments to conduct, not the average person. McMurry displayed company loyalty: “If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going.” Muncy said he would be delighted to go, “but I’m not paying for the ticket.”
Other Notable Notes from the Conference
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) pressed Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper about other countries' counterspace capabilities at a House Intelligence Committee hearing yesterday. Though it seems an unusual venue for such a discussion, he also called for relaxing "out-dated regulations" that may hamper the U.S. commercial space industry.
The hearing on worldwide threats was the House committee's counterpart to the Senate Intelligence Committee's hearing on the same topic last week, with the same set of witnesses: DNI Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, FBI Director James Comey, and Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Matthew Olsen.
Ruppersberger is the top Democrat, or ranking member, on the committee and therefore one of the "Gang of Eight" (the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, the Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, the Senate Majority Leader and Senate Minority Leader) whom the President must keep informed of the country's most secret intelligence activities.
Clapper's testimony yesterday was similar to what he told the Senate Committee, which is based on the U.S. Intelligence Community's assessment of current worldwide threats. An unclassified version of that report has one paragraph describing Chinese and Russian counterspace threats.
Yesterday, Ruppersberger broached space issues as part of his opening statement and followed up during the question and answer period. Space was just a small part of the discussion, but is nonetheless significant in the context of this broad hearing. He called out China's counterspace activities as one of three areas of particular concern to him (cyber and the East China Sea were the other two), and also cited keeping the U.S. commercial space industry competitive as another important issue.
"This year, we must also continue to focus our attention on space. We must continue to promote our commercial space industry and relax those out-dated regulations that are hampering our competitive advantage. I cannot emphasize enough that U.S. companies must also be allowed to compete in the free market. This competition will promote innovation in our space industry."
Commercial space did not arise again, but Ruppersberger did have a dialog with Clapper about counterspace activities, a subject the two apparently already had discussed in a classified session the previous day.
Ruppersberger began by stressing the importance of space: "We have to keep our eye on the ball as it relates to space. With all the other issues, Snowden and Syria and Iran, space is still one of the most important things that we do to protect the United States of America." He expressed concern about China's 2007 antisatellite (ASAT) test and the resulting debris that threatens U.S. space operations, but primarily he worried that "countries are working on the ability to destroy our satellites, on which so much of our daily lives and our military intelligence capabilities depend." He asked Clapper to describe the counterspace threat and whether China understands the "ramifications" of disabling a U.S. satellite.
Clapper replied that the importance of space assets is "why I intentionally brought this up at our closed session yesterday evening" where he had explained "there are countries who are pursuing very aggressive, very impressive counterspace capabilities which I cannot go into here because of classification restrictions." In the report he presented to Congress, China and Russia were the only countries specifically identified as pursuing counterspace systems and at yesterday's hearing he again singled them out. He asserted that both of those countries "well understand the implications of -- as an act of war -- to do something destructive against any of our satellites."
The question of whether China understands the repercussions of attacking U.S. space systems arose at a House Armed Services Committee (HASC) hearing on January 28. Michael Krepon of the Stimson Center, a witness at the hearing, said he was not sure China does understand the consequences because the United States and China are not engaged in the types of dialogues and negotiations that characterized the U.S.-Soviet relationship during the Cold War. Krepon argued that he sees dysfunction between the Chinese political and military leadership and having bilateral discussions between the two countries would get everyone sitting at the same table talking about "red lines." Another witness, Robert Butterworth of Aries Analytics, disagreed, saying that he believes China fully understands that attacking U.S. satellites "means war," the same assessment Clapper provided yesterday.
The following space policy events may be of interest in the week ahead. The House and Senate are in session.
During the Week
Among the highlights this week is the FAA's annual Commercial Space Transportation conference on Wednesday and Thursday in Washington, DC. Speakers this year include Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations; Congressman Steve Palazzo (R-MS), chair of the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee; staff from House and Senate committees with oversight of commercial space transportation issues; and an impressive set of representatives of other government agencies, traditional and entrepreneurial space companies, and academia.
The day before that conference, George Nield, FAA's Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, will testify to Palazzo's subcommittee on "Necessary Updates to the Commercial Space Launch Act." That's the law, which, among other things, created the authority for the FAA to indemnify commercial space launch companies against certain amounts of third party claims for damages from launch accidents. Congress extended the FAA's indemnification authority for three more years (to December 31, 2016) as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, but Democrats on the House committee had wanted just a one-year extension to provide time for more hearings on the topic. It wouldn't be surprising for questions to arise on indemnification despite the extension.
It's always difficult to guess what Members will be interested in at any hearing, but another issue that might come up is the extent to which the FAA should regulate commercial human spaceflight. It currently is limited by law as to how strictly it can regulate that industry until 2015. The idea of a light handed regulatory regime is to ensure that heavy regulation doesn't deter the emergence of a new industry. At last year's Commercial Space Transportation conference, Wayne Hale argued in favor of voluntary industry standards rather than government regulation. Hale is not on the list of witnesses at the hearing, but he is scheduled to speak at the conference the next day. In addition to Nield, the other hearing witnesses are Alicia Cackley from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Henry Hertzfeld from George Washington University.
Lots of other interesting events this week, too, as shown in the list below -- everything we know about as of Sunday afternoon.
Sunday-Thursday, February 2-6
Monday, February 3
Monday-Tuesday, February 3-4
Tuesday, February 4
Tuesday-Thursday, February 4-6
Wednesday-Thursday, February 5-6
Wednesday-Friday, February 5-7
Thursday, February 6
Friday, February 7
Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) today that China’s counterspace capabilities are “extremely serious” and “on a par” with its offensive cyber operations. The only issue on which witnesses disagreed was on the value of diplomacy and a Code of Conduct in addressing the threat.
Also testifying at the HASC hearing today were Robert Butterworth of Aries Analytics and Michael Krepon of the Stimson Center. The hearing was before the HASC subcommittees on Strategic Forces and on Seapower and Projection Forces.
Tellis asserted that the “current and evolving counterspace threat posed by China to U.S. military operations … is extremely serious and the threat ranks on par with the dangers posed by Chinese offensive cyber operations to the United States more generally.” He added that the “diversity and complexity” of China’s counterspace activities make them “particularly problematic.” He listed a spectrum of capabilities from direct ascent and co-orbital antisatellite (ASAT) programs to electromagnetic warfare to directed energy and radio frequency weapons as well as computer network attack capabilities.
Butterworth and Krepon did not disagree with that characterization. The question was what the United States should do in response.
Once again there was agreement that the United States needs more resilient military satellite capabilities perhaps based on a “disaggregated” architecture. That term refers to building systems based on more, smaller satellites rather than a few large ones so that if one fails, others can compensate and might be easier to replace quickly. Butterworth also stressed that U.S. military planners need to integrate space operations into the “joint fight, the contribution of space to US combat capability.”
Krepon offered that the United States needs to retain capabilities to respond to threats to space systems “in ways of our choosing if someone messes with us,” though he does not support developing dedicated systems because existing systems have sufficient latent capabilities.
All three also were unified on the need for improved Space Situational Awareness (SSA) to deter an attack or to be able to attribute an attack if one occurs. “The extent to which we can deter depends on how much we know ahead of time. If the committee underfunds [SSA] then our deterrence capabilities can be diminished even if we’re doing the other things right,” Krepon warned.
Tellis added that SSA “is the foundation for any kind of defensive counterspace. … We certainly have to put resources first and foremost into [SSA] because nothing else with respect to defensive counterspace is going to work” without it. Butterworth emphasized that SSA is needed “from orbit, and some of those orbits should be very high so we are looking down” and threats can be detected from “all angles.”
The witnesses parted ways, however, on the role of diplomacy and a Code of Conduct for space activities and a related issue of whether China understands the consequences of attacking U.S. space systems.
Krepon argued strongly for diplomacy in addition to other measures for responding to the threat. He compared the situation today in U.S.-China relations to the U.S.-Soviet relationship during the Cold War. During the Cold War, he explained, the United States and Soviet Union had ongoing diplomatic exchanges that allowed each an understanding of the other’s motivations and where to draw the line. Those dialogues led to several treaties. With regard to today’s threats to space systems, “we can’t do treaties in space ... but we can do… a Code of Conduct that establishes rules of responsible ... behavior.”
Krepon doubts whether China really understands the consequences of attacking U.S. satellites because the United States and China are not engaged in similar dialogues. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) called that a “startling revelation.” Krepon continued that he sees a “dysfunction in China between the political leadership and the military” that adds to his concern and suggested that a country-to-country dialogue would put all the parties at the same table talking about “red lines.”
Butterworth disagreed. He believes China understands completely that attacking U.S. satellites “means war.” He dismissed the value of a Code of Conduct -- “finding ways to negate the U.S. military space advantage is a compelling strategic requirement for China. It won’t be moderated by proselytizing space norms or deterrence by démarche or a Code of Conduct for good guys in space.”