The Wall Street Journalreports that George Nield’s decision to retire as head of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) at the end of March is related to dissatisfaction over the pace of deregulating space activities.
But Mr. Nield’s leaving, according to industry and government officials, was prompted at least partly by White House and cabinet-level criticism that his initiatives to ease licensing procedures for rocket launches are proceeding too slowly. Members of the White House Space Council, a senior policy-making group, and the Transportation Department’s deputy secretary have expressed displeasure about the pace of change, these officials said.
The retirement, which was a surprise to some industry officials, also comes in the face of escalating pressure by budding commercial-space ventures to streamline federal rules, cutting the time and expense of obtaining launch licenses and approvals to operate spacecraft in orbit and beyond.
Mr. Nield’s decision could end up accelerating moves by top FAA officials, along with other parts of President Donald Trump’s administration, to ease or roll back regulations covering everything from earth-observation satellites to lunar landers to eventually mining minerals on asteroids.
Last week, the White House policy group chose the Commerce Department to serve as the main catalyst to promote U.S. commercial space ventures, effectively taking that role away from the FAA. During internal administration debates leading up to that public meeting, FAA critics pushed to strip the agency of authority over launch licensing, according to two people familiar with the details.
Mr. Nield’s office, which ultimately answers to the Transportation secretary, retained that responsibility but ended up with overall reduced stature.
More detailed observations will improve marine, aviation forecasts and wildfire detection
WASHINGTON, DC. (NOAA PR) — NOAA is three days away from launching GOES-S, its newest geostationary weather satellite that will begin providing faster, more accurate data to track storm systems, lightning, wildfires, dense fog, and other hazards that threaten the western U.S., Hawaii, and Alaska.
“The GOES-S satellite will join GOES-16 and NOAA-20 as NOAA continues to upgrade its satellite fleet,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “The latest GOES addition will provide further insight and unrivaled accuracy into severe weather systems and wildfires in the western United States.”
WASHINGTON, DC (White House PR) — Vice President Mike Pence will provide policy recommendations to the President to streamline the regulatory environment for commercial space companies. At the second National Space Council Meeting, the council agreed on the following four recommendations to reform the commercial space regulatory frameworks at the Departments of Transportation and Commerce:
The Senate Appropriations Committee has rejected a proposal by the Trump Administration for a significant funding in a key NOAA weather satellite program.
Senate appropriators have provided $419 million for the Polar Follow-on (PFO) program for fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018). The program is aimed on developing two Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) spacecraft to follow two already funded JPSS satellites. The JPSS-1 satellite is scheduled for launch later this year.
WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) – U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today introduced H.R. 2809, the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017.
The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017 simplifies and strengthens the outdated space-based remote sensing regulatory system. At the same time, this bill enhances U.S. compliance with international obligations, improves national security and removes regulatory barriers facing new and innovative space companies.
Engine for Growth: Analysis and Recommendations for U.S. Space Industry Competitiveness
Aerospace Industries Association May 2017 [Full Report]
Policy Recommendations for Strengthening U.S. Space Competitiveness
1. Level the Playing Field
Provide a responsive regulatory environment for commercial space activities. The list of commercial space activities is varied and growing, ranging from traditional applications such as satellite telecommunications to emerging ones like space resource utilization. At the same time, the U.S. space industry is governed by multiple federal agencies with disparate regulatory interests, including the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration and Departments of State and Commerce. These agencies often suffer from funding and staffi ng shortages, a situation that creates bottlenecks in licensing processes and slows responsiveness to technological and market changes. The new Administration should work closely with Congress to ensure that the appropriate space regulatory agencies are fully resourced and staffed. (more…)
WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) yesterday sent letters to four senior officials following up on requests for information about the current U.S. policy governing the export of U.S. commercial satellites for launch on Indian launch vehicles.
On July 6 Chairmen Smith and Babin wrote Director of Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren, Secretary of State John Kerry, United States Trade Representative Michael Froman, and U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, seeking this information.
Yesterday’s letters reiterate requests for a briefing and documentation on the current U.S. policy. The letters can be found here.
Today, astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly are visiting the White House to talk to the President about developing innovative new space technologies. One critical area for technology development is making satellites more affordable, adaptable, and adept at providing the sorts of real-time information that will help advance knowledge out in space and on Earth.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s (R-OK) proposed American Space Renaissance Act (ASRA) would bring about significant changes in the nation’s commercial space policy, with a much larger role for the Department of Transportation and a revamping of activities within the Commerce Department.
Commercial Space Competitiveness Strategy for the 21st Century Aerospace Industries Association
The United States was the leader in space for much of the early Space Age after initial Soviet successes. From the development of the Saturn V rocket and the Apollo Lunar landing program, to development of the first communications satellites and the Global Positioning System, the U.S. has been the primary driver of both the exploration and commercial utilization of space.
Although members of the House Science Committee clashed on asteroid mining and FAA regulating on Wednesday, they did manage to approve two commercial measures with bi-partisan support.
Sponsored by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), the Commercial Remote Sensing Act would require the Commerce Department to produce annual reports on actions taken relating to remote sensing. The information would include lists of applicants, applications approved and denied, and related data.
The Office of Space Commerce Act would rename the Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commercialization to the Office of Space Commerce. The bill by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) also would add the following responsibilities to the office’s mandate:
“(1) foster the conditions for the economic growth and technological advancement of the United States space commerce industry;
‘‘(2) coordinate space commerce policy issues and actions within the Department of Commerce;
‘‘(3) represent the Department of Commerce in the development of United States policies and in negotiations with foreign countries to promote United States space commerce;
“(4) promote the advancement of United States geospatial technologies related to space commerce, in cooperation with relevant interagency working groups; and
“(5) provide support to Federal Government organizations working on Space-Based Positioning Navigation, and Timing policy, including the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Position, Navigation, and Timing.’’
Sponsored by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), the Commercial Remote Sensing Act would require the Commerce Department to produce annual reports on licenses issued to commercial space companies. The department also would be required to submit a report to Congress on any statutory changes required to protect the nation’s remote sensing technology base and national security.
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Gov. Rick Perry has announced a combined investment of $9 million from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund and The University of Texas System to create a powerful research and technology commercialization partnership that will create limitless possibilities for South Texas.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker has also announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding $1.2 million to the University of Texas at Brownsville. The EDA investment will help build a high-tech business incubation facility that will spur new business development associated with the region’s growing space industry cluster, according to the grantee.
The good news is that the U.S. government is about to loosen the restrictive export rules governing satellites and components that have been blamed for destroying America’s dominance in the satellite market over the past 15 years.
The bad news is that the rules are about to get a lot more complicated to interpret. And, for those who fail to interpret them properly, a jail cell could be in their future.
A scheduled meeting between ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke was canceled by the Indian side due to the ongoing Devas Multimedia controversy:
The scheduled meeting between Locke and Radhakrishnan was to take place in Bangalore last week where the commerce secretary also visited the air show. With Isro finally out of the US “entities list”, the meeting was to explore commercial cooperation including satellite launches and other applications.
But with Isro’s commercial arm Antrix precisely in the middle of a controversy surrounding allegations that it sold space-segment airwaves cheaply to Devas Multimedia and the Prime Minister’s Office under opposition fire, Radhakrishnan did not keep his date with Locke. He was busy putting together the government’s defence….