Nelson, Hutchison Want Plan for Permanent Human Settlement Beyond LEO

Comments
Florida Senator Bill Nelson

Florida Senator Bill Nelson

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) have introduced legislation that would give NASA the long-term goal of creating a permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit space and the responsibility of submitting a plan to do so next year.

The bill is being opposed by NASA’s largest federal employee union, the International Federation of Professional Engineers (IFPTE). In a letter to Senators, the union says the measure is “a flawed and unbalanced effort to improperly prioritize a few outsourced and offshored activities, while neglecting NASA’s internal core capabilities and other critical needs.”

Senate Bill No. 3661 would amend NASA’s 2010 authorization act to include the following:

“Long-Term Goal.–The long-term goal of the human space flight and exploration efforts of NASA shall be to sustainably expand permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit and to do so, where practical, in a manner involving international partners and expanding economic activity in space.”

The legislation would require NASA to submit a strategy for achieving that long-term goal within 120 days after the measure is enacted. NASA would need to examine cooperation with and contributions from international partners as well as commercial companies. The bill also directs NASA to look at opportunities for “commercial ventures that result from an expanded and persistent human presence in cis-lunar space.”

The bill includes a further amendment to NASA’s 2010 authorization act that seems to protect NASA’s existing investment in the heavy-lift Space Launch System and Orion crew vehicle.

“(c) Assurance of Core Capabilities.–The Administrator shall
proceed with the utilization of the ISS, technology development, and
follow-on transportation systems, including the Space Launch System,
multi-purpose crew vehicle, and commercial crew and cargo
transportation capabilities authorized by this Act in a manner that
ensures–

“(1) that these capabilities remain inherently complimentary and interrelated;
“(2) a balance of the development, sustainment, and use of
each of these capacities, which are of critical importance to
the viability and sustainability of the U.S. space program; and
“(3) that resources required to support the timely and
sustainable development of these capabilities are not derived
from a reduction in resources from one capability as a means of
increasing resources to support another capability.'”

The IFPTE notes that the Senate measure includes a two-year extension of a law that provides government indemnification for U.S. commercial space activities. The law expires at the end of this year.

“S. 6331 is an attempt to take advantage of a false sense of urgency to tag on additional provisions better considered during the normal Re-Authorization process:

  • “S. 3661 provides a four-year extension of NASA’s waiver to the Iran, North Korea, Syria Non-Proliferation Act through the end of the decade, despite the fact that the current waiver expires in more than three and half years. This simply plays into the hands of the Russian government, which is seeking to lock-in Russian aerospace jobs at the expense of U.S. aerospace jobs, just as Russia is continuing to undermine U.S foreign policy on Iran and Syria, and just as the recent successes of the U.S. Commercial Space sector may obviate the need for extended dependence on Russia;
  • “S. 3661 singles out certain vehicle development programs for inflexible prioritization, making, by omission, NASA’s other missions more vulnerable; and
  • “S. 3661 contains an unfunded mandate to perform yet another architecture study along with coercive language to bias the outcome.”

“NASA and the nation would be better served by a more thoughtful prioritization process shaped by open committee hearings and resolved by balanced, non-parochial trade-offs. In the difficult zero-sum game ahead, S. 3661 would act to push NASA to favor a few outsourced and foreign vehicle development programs, at the expense of all of NASA’s other missions and of thousands of jobs at NASA and their academic and industry partners.”

The union urges Senators to support H.R. 6586, a House bill whose only provision is to extend the commercial space activity indemnification to the end of 2014.

The Senate bill is reproduced in full below. The union’s letter follows the bill.

_______________________________________________________________________

                               S. 3661

To reaffirm and amend the National Aeronautics and Space Administration 
           Authorization Act of 2010, and for other purposes.

                   IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

                            December 5, 2012

 Mr. Nelson of Florida (for himself and Mrs. Hutchison) introduced the 
 following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on 
                 Commerce, Science, and Transportation

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 A BILL

To reaffirm and amend the National Aeronautics and Space Administration 
           Authorization Act of 2010, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Space Exploration Sustainability 
Act''.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

    Congress makes the following findings:
            (1) A robust and balanced space program enhances the United 
        States long-term national and economic security by--
                    (A) inspiring students to pursue disciplines in 
                science, technology, engineering, and mathematics;
                    (B) stimulating development of advanced 
                technologies with widespread applications;
                    (C) increasing the United States technological 
                competitiveness; and
                    (D) enhancing global prosperity and security 
                through cooperation in shared interests, such as 
                advancement of science, understanding of Earth and the 
                universe, and protection from space borne threats, such 
                as asteroids.
            (2) The Nation's space program should include endeavors 
        that balance--
                    (A) national security space and civil space;
                    (B) robotic and human exploration;
                    (C) advancement of scientific knowledge and 
                engagement of the general public;
                    (D) U.S. Government led launch capability 
                development, including the Space Launch System and 
                multi-purpose crew vehicle, and partnerships with 
                commercial and international entities;
                    (E) advancement of the space frontier and 
                stimulation of commerce within Earth Orbit; and
                    (F) peering outward to further understanding of the 
                universe and observing Earth to expand knowledge of our 
                home planet.
            (3) The National Aeronautics and Space Administration 
        Authorization Act of 2010 (42 U.S.C. 18301 et seq.) provides 
        for a robust and balanced national space program.

SEC. 3. GOALS AND OBJECTIVES.

    Section 202 of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration 
Authorization Act of 2010 (42 U.S.C. 18312) is amended--
            (1) by amending subsection (a) to read as follows:
    ``(a) Long-Term Goal.--The long-term goal of the human space flight 
and exploration efforts of NASA shall be to sustainably expand 
permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit and to do so, where 
practical, in a manner involving international partners and expanding 
economic activity in space.''; and
            (2) in subsection (b)(2), by inserting ``and expanding 
        throughout cis-lunar space and beyond'' after 
        ``infrastructure''.

SEC. 4. REPORT ON CIS-LUNAR SPACE.

    (a) In General.--Not later than 120 days after the date of 
enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics 
and Space Administration shall submit to Congress a strategy to achieve 
the long-term goal of sustainably expanding a human presence beyond 
low-Earth orbit under section 202(a) of the National Aeronautics and 
Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010 (42 U.S.C. 18312(a)) 
through robust utilization of cis-lunar space.
    (b) Requirements.--The strategy shall include a discussion of--
            (1) the utility of an expanded permanent human presence in 
        cis-lunar space to enable missions to the lunar surface, 
        asteroids, the Mars system, and other destinations of interest 
        for future human exploration;
            (2) the utility of an expanded permanent human presence in 
        cis-lunar space to economic, scientific, and technological 
        advances;
            (3) the opportunities for--
                    (A) international partner collaboration toward the 
                establishment and continuance of an expanded permanent 
                human presence in cis-lunar space;
                    (B) international partner contributions to the 
                missions listed under paragraph (1) that are uniquely 
                enabled by mission architectures that make use of an 
                expanded and persistent human presence in cis-lunar 
                space;
                    (C) commercial industry participation toward the 
                expansion and continuance of permanent human presence 
                in cis-lunar space;
                    (D) commercial industry contributions to the 
                missions listed under paragraph (1) that are uniquely 
                enabled by mission architectures that make use of an 
                expanded and persistent human presence in cis-lunar 
                space; and
                    (E) commercial ventures that result from an 
                expanded and persistent human presence in cis-lunar 
                space;
            (4) the opportunities and uses for the National Aeronautics 
        and Space Administration managed allocation of the 
        International Space Station National Laboratory, including a 
        specific discussion of high priority scientific and 
        technological developments that use the International Space 
        Station toward expanding and sustaining a human presence in 
        cis-lunar space; and
            (5) a range of exploration mission architectures for the 
        missions listed under paragraph (1).
    (c) Comparison of Architectures.--
            (1) In general.--The strategy shall include a comparison of 
        architectures that use an expanded and persistent human 
        presence in cis-lunar space and architectures that do not, with 
        a primary objective of identifying the architectures and 
        approaches that--
                    (A) best support the long-term goal under section 
                202(a) of the National Aeronautics and Space 
                Administration Authorization Act of 2010 (42 U.S.C. 
                18312(a)); and
                    (B) are enabled by the transportation capabilities 
                developed under titles III and IV of the National 
                Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act 
                of 2010 (42 U.S.C. 18301 et seq.).
            (2) Factors.--Factors to be considered in the comparison 
        shall include recurring and non-recurring cost, safety, 
        sustainability, opportunities for international collaboration, 
        enabling of new markets and opportunities for commercial 
        industry, compelling scientific opportunities, flexibility of 
        the architecture to adjust to evolving technologies, and 
        leadership and priorities over time.
    (d) Implementation Plan.--The strategy shall include a plan that 
establishes a method and schedule for implementation of the strategy. 
The implementation plan shall include--
            (1) proposed Program Formulation events;
            (2) Program Critical Design Reviews;
            (3) System Integration Reviews;
            (4) Systems Assembly, Integration and Test milestones; and
            (5) schedules of planned test launches and events, up to 
        and including initial missions.

SEC. 5. ASSURANCE OF CORE CAPABILITIES.

    Section 203 of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration 
Authorization Act of 2010 (42 U.S.C. 18313) is amended by adding at the 
end the following:
    ``(c) Assurance of Core Capabilities.--The Administrator shall 
proceed with the utilization of the ISS, technology development, and 
follow-on transportation systems, including the Space Launch System, 
multi-purpose crew vehicle, and commercial crew and cargo 
transportation capabilities authorized by this Act in a manner that 
ensures--
            ``(1) that these capabilities remain inherently 
        complimentary and interrelated;
            ``(2) a balance of the development, sustainment, and use of 
        each of these capacities, which are of critical importance to 
        the viability and sustainability of the U.S. space program; and
            ``(3) that resources required to support the timely and 
        sustainable development of these capabilities are not derived 
        from a reduction in resources from one capability as a means of 
        increasing resources to support another capability.''.

SEC. 6. EXTENSION OF CERTAIN SPACE LAUNCH LIABILITY PROVISIONS.

    Section 50915(f) of title 51, United States Code, is amended by 
striking ``December 31, 2012'' and inserting ``December 31, 2014''.

SEC. 7. EXEMPTION FROM INKSNA.

    Section 7(1) of the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation 
Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 note) is amended to read as follows:
            ``(1) Extraordinary payments in connection with the 
        international space station.--The term `extraordinary payments 
        in connection with the International Space Station' means 
        payments in cash or in-kind made or to be made by the United 
        States Government for work on the International Space Station 
        which the Russian Government pledged at any time to provide at 
        its expense.''.

_______________________________________________________________________

IFPTE Letter Opposing S. 3661

Dear Senator:

The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) NASA’s largest federal employee Union, urges you to reject S. 3661 and instead support passage of H.R. 6586 as passed by the House of Representatives.

S. 3661 in its current form is a flawed and unbalanced effort to improperly prioritize a few outsourced and offshored activities, while neglecting NASA’s internal core capabilities and other critical needs. Unlike H.R. 6586 which is appropriately focused exclusively on the expiration in two weeks of the current indemnification of U.S. Commercial Space activities,

S. 6331 is an attempt to take advantage of a false sense of urgency to tag on additional provisions better considered during the normal Re-Authorization process:

  • S. 3661 provides a four-year extension of NASA’s waiver to the Iran, North Korea, Syria Non-Proliferation Act through the end of the decade, despite the fact that the current waiver expires in more than three and half years. This simply plays into the hands of the Russian government, which is seeking to lock-in Russian aerospace jobs at the expense of U.S. aerospace jobs, just as Russia is continuing to undermine U.S foreign policy on Iran and Syria, and just as the recent successes of the U.S. Commercial Space sector may obviate the need for extended dependence on Russia;
  • S. 3661 singles out certain vehicle development programs for inflexible prioritization, making, by omission, NASA’s other missions more vulnerable; and
  • S. 3661 contains an unfunded mandate to perform yet another architecture study along with coercive language to bias the outcome.

NASA and the nation would be better served by a more thoughtful prioritization process shaped by open committee hearings and resolved by balanced, non-parochial trade-offs. In the difficult zero-sum game ahead, S. 3661 would act to push NASA to favor a few outsourced and foreign vehicle development programs, at the expense of all of NASA’s other missions and of thousands of jobs at NASA and their academic and industry partners.

Like all federal agencies, NASA is likely facing large, unknown budget cuts as it enters 2013. It will need to adjust its programmatic planning accordingly to sustain its core competencies and critical missions. During that painful process, it is going to need a balanced approach whereby it accepts some schedule slip and other savings in its procurement activities, while maintaining to the maximum extent possible its internal core functional capabilities in order to continue to perform the broad range of missions across its Science, Aeronautics, Technology, Human Spaceflight, and Education portfolios. Now is not the time to encourage narrow or parochial plans.

If you have any questions please contact IFPTE Legislative Director, Matt Biggs.

Sincerely,

Gregory J. Junemann,
President

  • http://cosmic.lifeform.org Thomas Lee Elifritz

    Like all federal agencies, NASA is likely facing large, unknown budget cuts as it enters 2013. It will need to adjust its programmatic planning accordingly to sustain its core competencies and critical missions. During that painful process, it is going to need a balanced approach whereby it accepts some schedule slip and other savings in its procurement activities, while maintaining to the maximum extent possible its internal core functional capabilities in order to continue to perform the broad range of missions across its Science, Aeronautics, Technology, Human Spaceflight, and Education portfolios. Now is not the time to encourage narrow or parochial plans.

    In other words, they want to maintain their luxury of not having to perform.

    On the other side, we have the dysfunctional monster rocket design.

    Now that I think about it, this is a match made in heaven.

  • warshawski

    Apart from reinforcing the monster rocket with no mission its ok. But this is typical Pork, make it sound good but specify how you spend the money so nothing but the pork is done. All this would be achievable if SLS/Orion could be scrapped, it would free up $3 billion per year for useful activities.

  • http://LunarCOTS.com DougSpace

    > Nelson, Hutchison Want Plan for Permanent Human Settlement Beyond LEO

    A Lunar COTS program could achieve this at a fraction of the cost of other approaches. In such a program, volatiles would be extracted from the lunar poles for propellant, thereby achieving ongoing life-support production as a side benefit. The telerobotic mining equipment would cover an inflatable habitat with regolith in preparation for human return. Astronauts could stay on the lunar surface for a year or more at a time. So, there could be a permanent human presence from the very first human return.