House Science Committee Launches Investigation into Commerce Department’s Involvement in NOAA Actions Regarding Hurricane Dorian

Wilbur Ross

Washington, DC (House Science Committee PR) – Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairwoman Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross requesting information related to the Department’s involvement in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) actions surrounding claims that Hurricane Dorian would impact Alabama, as well as requesting a briefing with Department of Commerce employees who may have been involved in any directives to NOAA related to the September 6 statement. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee has full legislative and oversight jurisdiction over the National Weather Service, in addition to other portions of NOAA.  

 “As the operational face of weather forecasting in the United States, the NWS protects countless lives and property every year through its accurate and timely forecasts, watches, and warnings,” said the Committee Chairwomen Johnson and Sherrill. “We are committed to supporting the activities of the NWS and its dedicated staff. During your Senate confirmation hearing, you committed to allowing federal scientists to ‘be free to communicate data clearly and concisely’ and that you would ‘not interfere with the release of factual scientific data.’ However, actions by you that were described in the New York Times article would, if accurate, be inconsistent with the values of scientific integrity.”

Additionally, Chairwoman Johnson sent a letter yesterday to the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General Peggy Gustafson requesting a copy of the notification sent to NOAA staff of an investigation into the statement issued by the Agency on September 6, 2019. The Office of the Inspector General promptly provided a response to the Chairwoman’s inquiry.

A copy of the full letter to Secretary Ross can be found here.

A copy of the full letter to Inspector General Gustafson can be found here.

House Science Chairwoman Slams Trump Administration’s Artemis Lunar Plans

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

Opening Statement (Excerpt)

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)

Subcommittee on Space & Aeronautics Hearing:
Developing Core Capabilities for Deep Space Exploration: An Update on NASA’s SLS, Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

….I also want to echo Chairwoman Horn’s comment about the lateness of NASA’s testimony. NASA was provided ample advance notice of this hearing and more than sufficient time to prepare testimony and have it reviewed by OMB and whomever else looks over NASA’s testimony these days. The fact that this testimony is overdue is not only frustrating, it leaves Members little opportunity to consider NASA’s testimony in advance of the hearing. If NASA and the Administration can’t meet simple hearing deadlines, it doesn’t inspire great confidence in their ability to meet the much harder deadline of landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024.

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CBS News Video: Living Next to SpaceX’s Boca Chica Test Site

What happens when SpaceX moves in next door

A hover test by a Starhopper rocket at SpaceX’s launch site is the latest move by founder Elon Musk to eventually take humans to Mars. The launch site is next to a tiny neighborhood east of Brownsville, Texas, called Boca Chica, where the rocket company has transformed life. Neighbors differ on whether the company’s presence is a good thing. Mark Strassman reports.

Cornwall Council’s Cabinet Approves Spaceport Expenditures

Spaceport Cornwall got a boost on Wednesday as the Cornwall Council’s Cabinet narrowly approved the expenditure of £12 million ($14.79 million) to support Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit launch company.

The 6-4 vote sends the proposal to the full Cornwall Council for a vote at its next meeting on Nov. 26. The contribution is part of a £22.5 million ($28.1 million) program for upgrades to the Cornwall Airport Newquay that also includes:

  • UK Space Agency: £7.5m ($9.68 million)
  • Virgin Orbit: £2.5m ($3.1 million)
  • Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership: £500,000 ($616,295)

Virgin Orbit will use a Boeing 747 to air launch satellites using its LauncherOne booster. The company is planning to conduct its first test launch within the next two months.

According to a staff report prepared for the Cabinet, the funds would allow the airport to acquire a spaceport license, make improvements that will allow it to accommodate wide-body aircraft, accelerate progress on its Aerohub Enterprise Zone, and add value to its business park.

“Spaceport Cornwall is an opportunity for Cornwall to create high value jobs in a fast-growing sector that is worth £14.8bn in the UK,” the report stated. “The initial Spaceport project will create 150 direct jobs by 2025, which are 2.6 times more productive than the national average. This will add £200m [$249.5 million] Gross Value Added (GVA) to the economy and will act as a catalyst for wider growth in associated sectors which use space derived data and applications.

“Specifically, Spaceport Cornwall will provide sovereign launch capability for small scale satellites and see a ‘pathfinder’ launch delivered by 2021,” the document added. “There are no plans to develop human space flight as part of the Spaceport Cornwall.”

Virgin Galactic Reaches Milestone Building SpaceShipTwo No. 3

SpaceShipTwo no. 3 (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Virgin Galactic PR) — Virgin Galactic announced today that it has mated the fuselage and cabin of its next spaceship to the completed wing assembly. In addition, the two tail booms have been mated to the spaceship’s rear feather flap assembly. The completion of these two milestones brings assembly of the next SpaceShipTwo, planned to enter service after VSS Unity, a major step forward. 

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Space Safety Coalition Forms

MAUI, Hawaii, Sept. 18, 2019 (Space Safety Coalition PR) — A first-of-its-kind global ad hoc coalition dedicated to developing and maintaining a set of “living” space-safety best practices was announced today at the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference – AMOS.

The new coalition, the Space Safety Coalition (SSC), is comprised of space operators, space industry associations and space industry stakeholders.  SSC aims to lead by example, actively promote responsible space safety through the voluntary adoption of relevant international standards, guidelines, and practices, and the development of more effective space safety guidelines and best practices.

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A New Journey into Earth for Space Exploration

Astronauts from five space agencies around the world take part in ESA’s CAVES training course– Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behaviour and performance Skills. (Credit: ESA – A. Romeo)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Six astronauts, five space agencies and a fresh start into underground worlds to help prepare for living on other planets. ESA’s latest training adventure will equip an international crew with skills to explore uncharted terrains on the Moon and Mars, this time with a focus on the search for water.

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Video: Brad Pitt Speaks with NASA Astronaut Nick Hague Aboard ISS

Video Caption: “What’s a spacewalk like? What do you feel?” As NASA prepares to send the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024 under the #Artemis program, Brad Pitt is playing an astronaut in his latest film, Ad Astra. On Sept. 16 from NASA Headquarters in Washington, the actor spoke to astronaut Nick Hague about what it’s truly like to live and work in space.

Hayabusa2 Releases Target Markers in Advance to Another Rover Landing

The target markers are in preparation for the landing of the MINERVA-II2 Rover-2 on the surface of asteroid Ryugu in October.

DOD Awards 7-Year, $738.5 Million Contract to Iridium

MCLEAN, Va., Sept. 16, 2019  (Iridium PR) –Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: IRDM) today announced that it has been awarded a $738.5 million, seven-year, fixed-price contract with the United States Department of Defense through the U.S. Air Force Space Command (AFSpC) to provide unlimited satellite services from its unique Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation.

Through what is known as the AFSpC’s Enhanced Mobile Satellite Services (EMSS) program, Iridium will continue to deliver access to global secure and unsecure voice, broadcast, netted or Distributed Tactical Communications System (DTCS) and select other services for an unlimited number of DoD and associated DoD-approved subscribers. 

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Iridium, OneWeb Sign MOU on Global Satellite Services Offering

McLean, VA, U.S.A. & London, U.K., September 17, 2019 (Iridium/OneWeb PR) — Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: IRDM) and OneWeb today announced they have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work together toward a combined service offering.

This combined service offering would be designed to make it easier for their mutual partners to offer unique bundling and co-marketing opportunities for the Iridium Certus® L-band services and OneWeb’s Ku-band service. The offering would leverage the strengths of their respective low-Earth-orbit (LEO) networks. This is the first time that LEO operators have collaborated to deliver services in L-band and Ku-band.

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Air Force Selects Ball Aerospace, Microsoft to Demonstrate Cloud Processing for LEO Constellations

BOULDER, Colo., Sept. 17, 2019 (Ball Aerospace PR) — Ball Aerospace and Microsoft were selected to demonstrate agile cloud processing capabilities in support of the U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center’s Commercially Augmented Space Inter Networked Operations (CASINO) project. The demonstration will show how simultaneous, worldwide data streams from large, distributed constellations of small satellites can be processed quickly using Microsoft’s Azure cloud and Ball Aerospace algorithms.

Additionally, the demonstration will include a single downlink directly into a Microsoft data center using a Ball Aerospace phased array antenna.

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NASA Wins Two Emmy Awards for Interactive Mission Coverage

Crowd gathers to watch as NASA and SpaceX make history by launching the first commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket to the International Space Station. The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off at 2:49 a.m. EST Saturday on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credits: NASA)

LOS ANGELES (NASA PR) — NASA’s efforts to engage a broader audience in exploration through the use of social media and online features was recognized with two Emmy Awards for interactive programming this weekend. During ceremonies held Sept. 14-15 at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences recognized NASA for its coverage of a Mars mission and the agency’s first test of a spacecraft that will help bring crewed launches to the International Space Station back to U.S. soil.

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Mackay Says: SpaceShipTwo Will Be “Safe, Reliable Commercial System”

The BBC visits Spaceport America. Safety claim begins at 6:46. Mackay also makes interesting claim about 15 years of development time.

Hey, BBC. If you’re going to visit New Mexico, for the sake of perspective, maybe talk to some of the folks who paid for the spaceport about all the benefits they were promised when they agreed to fund it.