Space Access ’11: Jim Muncy on DC Politics

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Jim Muncy
“Some Relevant Government-Industry Interactions”

Current Lobbying Effort

  • Eight years ago, various companies and Dennis Tito started an effort to get a clear regulatory regime for government emerging commercial launch industry
  • Many different types of vehicles being developed — some with wings, others not
  • Legislation enacted at end of 2004
  • Industry is starting to lobby for changes to act and additional Congressional actions so industry can grow
  • Hesitant to touch the act before they have to because it’s complicated
  • FAA has the authority to regulate for the safety of passengers based on observed patterns and data that indicate problems or potential dangers
  • At the end of 2012, the limitation that passenger regulations have to be based on observed data — FAA could write regulations based on hypotheses of potential issues
  • It doesn’t mean FAA wants to or will write regulations on a looser basis, but govt. agencies due tend to exercise their authority
  • Expectation in 2004 that SpaceShipOne and other vehicles would be flying quickly — there was an agreement to limit regulations for 8 years so that data could be accumulated
  • Commercial Space Flight Federation and companies are working for an extension of 8 year period — would date from the first FAA licensed flight of a vehicle….
  • House Science, Space and Technology Committee wants to hold one or more hearings on commercial space transportation in late April – May — legislation would include a provision for an extension– agree on substance of the measure
  • May not get full 8 years

Third-Party Indemnification Issue

  • Government has the authority to pay for third-party damages above the insurance by the launch carrier — protects everyone involved (rocket provider, satellite maker, etc.)
  • Those writing the FAA legislation felt that if passengers are rich enough to afford a trip into space (suborbital or orbital), they didn’t need any government help in terms of indemnifying them from against suits by third-parties suffering damages from a flight
  • Commercial space sector wants to extend protections afforded satellite launch industry to individuals buying seats — will be lobbying for changes in FAA regulations

Annual Space Access Rant

  • Quite astounded that his fellow Republicans were rejecting Obama’s plan to privatize space access to LEO…they wanted a public option
  • He had a heart problem last year while attending a shuttle launch…not sure where this is going…seems to have impacted on ability to lobby on behalf of Obama’s plan
  • Senate bill that became authorization legislation was imperfect but good enough….included key provisions for commercial crew, tech development, and a NASA option for crew vehicle…he thinks that’s good
  • Lockheed Martin put its own money up for a Delta IV for Orion launch — want to fly vehicle as early as late 2013 — robotic test flight
  • On way to full crew operations in 2016
  • Lockheed has put on its website ideas for BEO exploration missions that could be flown in late 2010s that don’t require HLVs
  • Will Orion compete for crew and cargo transport to ISS? Not really. NASA doesn’t have enough money to achieve that goal — too expensive
  • It’s a good idea for Lockheed to launch Orion in late 2013 early 2014 — proves that you don’t need HLV to launch a human spacecraft…
  • We could start exploring BEO this decade using existing rockets or rockets that are available near term — NASA bureaucracy is not telling Charlie Bolden that because it wants a shuttle-derived HLV
  • Lots of wiggle room for NASA to say that it is not practical to do a shuttle-derived HLV — budget doesn’t support it, for one reason
  • Bolden, bless his heart, is saying that he wants an evolvable launch vehicle, take their time designing it, come up with affordable system
  • Commercial and NASA crew can co-exist
  • Beyond insane that KSC and JSC are waiting for Marshall to develop a new launch vehicle when that center hasn’t developed anything new since the shuttle in the 1970s

Q&A

NASA Budget in Newly Agreed to Budget

  • Senator’s aide who will remain nameless (Senate Launch System) is rumored to be engaging to try to get commercial crew cut from the continuing resolution to fund govt. for next six months
  • Shelby’s language will be removed from the CR prohibiting cancellation of Constellation spending

Editor’s Note: The original post mentioned Senator Richard Shelby as being behind an effort to remove the commercial crew funding from this year’s budget.

Muncy never mentioned any specific Senator’s name when referring to this alleged effort. Instead, he was referring to rumors about a nameless aide of an unidentified Senator.

Parabolic Arc regrets the error and apologizes to Mr. Muncy.

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