House Science Committee Not Buying Ajit Pai’s Assurances on Weather Forecasting

Ajit Pai

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The battle over 5G wireless frequency allocation is heating up.

On  one side, there’s NASA, the Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who say that spectrum in the 24GHz band the government recently auctioned off to private companies will likely result in cell signals that would interfere with accurate weather forecasting.

On the other side is Federal Communications Commission  and its chairman, Ajit Pai, who ignored requests to delay the auction while more studies were done. Pai recently told the Senate Science Committee to ignore what he called faulty data presented by NASA and NOAA at the 11th hour.

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Bridenstine: NASA Needs Funding Surge to Land on Moon by 2024

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

SpaceNews reports that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine didn’t do much on Wednesday to clear up what the Trump Administration’s plan to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 is going to cost in testimony before the commerce, justice and science subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Bridenstine declined to offer a dollar figure, saying that the agency submitted a “pretty good” proposal to the Office of Management and Budget, which is performing its own review along with the staff of the National Space Council. The goal, he said, is to “come up with a unified administration position” on how much additional funding NASA will request.
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Bill Asks for NASA Report on Establishment of Space Resources Institute

A vision of a future Moon base that could be produced and maintained using 3D printing. (Credit: RegoLight, visualisation: Liquifer Systems Group, 2018)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A bill seeking a report on whether NASA should establish a space resources institute has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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NASA Galactica: The Plan

No. 6 with two old model Cylons.

“The Cylons were created by man. They evolved. They rebelled. There are many copies. And they have a plan.”

— Battlestar Galactic

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Watching the re-imagined “Battlestar Galactic,” I was never quite sure exactly what the Cylons’ plan was beyond the whole exterminate all humans with nukes thing. In an apparent nod to this lack of clarity, the producers created a two-hour TV movie called, “Battlestar Galactic: The Plan,” to explain it all.

NASA has suffered from a similar lack of clarity over the past week. At a National Space Council meeting last Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence announced it was the Trump Administration’s policy to land astronauts on the south pole of the moon by the presidential election year of 2024 — four years ahead of the current schedule.

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Cruz Reintroduces Space Frontier Act

Sen. Ted Cruz

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Ted Cruz PR) — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, along with Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) this week introduced the Space Frontier Act. This bipartisan bill would secure funding to continue operations for the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030, eliminate overreaching regulations to support further development of the commercial space sector, and to strengthen America’s leadership in space exploration. Read the full text of the bill here.

“I am proud of this bipartisan legislation as it will help to fortify America’s leadership in the domain of space,” Sen. Cruz said. “The Space Frontier Act moves our nation forward in taking the critical step of continuing the operations and utilization of the International Space Station through 2030, securing the United States’ competitive edged against China in low-Earth orbit, and enacts meaningful reforms to modernize our nation’s launch and re-entry regulations, and streamlines nongovernmental Earth observation regulations.”

“Arizona is home to a thriving aerospace manufacturing community,” said Senator Sinema. “We’re working across the aisle to cut red tape, support our space industry, and ensure that the United States continues to be a leader in the global space community.”

“Fifty years after the United States first put a man on the moon, we are in the midst of a new and exciting space race,” Wicker said. “This challenge requires policy certainty, partnerships with the private sector and our friends across the globe, and America’s continuing competitive edge and innovative thinking. The Space Frontier Act would ensure American leadership in space for years to come.”

“This bill passed the Senate through unanimous consent last year, and I am glad to continue this bipartisan effort to provide certainty and a firmer launchpad for our commercial space industry,” Sen. Markey said. “Our sky should not be a ceiling for innovation and achievement, and the Space Frontier Act will help the American space industry achieve new heights, all while protecting small businesses and the scientific research that benefits all Americans through innovation and discovery.”

NASA Receives Significant Funding Increase with $21.5 Billion Budget

The Lunar Gateway (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has received a $21.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2019, which is $736.86 million above FY 2018 and $1.6 billion above the total requested by the Trump Administration.

The funding, which came more than four months into the fiscal year,  was included in an appropriations bill signed by President Donald Trump on Friday. NASA’s budget has been on an upward trajectory over the last few years. In FY 2018, the space agency received an $1.64 billion increase over the previous year.

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Government Shutdown Ends — for Now

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

President Donald Trump just announced that a deal has been reached to reopen the government after a partial shutdown that has lasted five weeks.

The agreement does not include any money for the wall Trump wants to build on the southern border with Mexico. And the deal only lasts three weeks. So, either the president and Congress will negotiate their differences and reach a permanent deal during that time. Or, it’s going to be like deja vu all over again come Feb. 15.

Federal employees will receive full pay they lost during the shutdown. Many government contractors will not. What effect the closure will have on the economy is yet to be seen.

Two events occurred today that may have influenced the decision to end the shutdown.

One in 10 unpaid air traffic controllers called in sick to work. The resulting shortfall resulted in the FAA stopping flights from landing at LaGuardia Airport in New York. That, in turn, caused disruptions of air travel across the system.

The slowdown came two days after three unions representing air traffic controllers, airline pilots and flight attendants issued a dire statement saying the safety and security of air travel were rapidly breaking down.

“We have a growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines, and the traveling public due to the government shutdown. This is already the longest government shutdown in the history of the United States and there is no end in sight. In our risk averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented,” they said.

Trump has gotten most of the blame from the public for the shutdown. Air travel grinding to a halt for any length of time due to an air traffic controller sickout would have been very bad news for the administration politically. A major air disaster would be even worse.

The other major development on this Friday was the indictment of long-time Trump associate Roger Stone by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. That story is too complicated to go into here. Suffice to say, whether planned or not, the end of the shutdown allowed Trump to appear on TV and change the subject — if only temporarily.

Stay tuned. It ain’t over yet.

NASA Postpones Rogozin Visit to U.S. Amid Criticism

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

NASA has postponed a planned visit by Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin amid sharp criticism in Washington over the sanctioned Russian official.

“NASA has informed the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, that the proposed visit of Roscosmos Director General, Dr. Dmitry Rogozin, currently planned for February 2019 will need to be postponed. A new date for the visit has not been identified,” the space agency said in a statement.

The Roscosmos head was to have conferred with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and other agency officials. He was also set to visit Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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NOAA-Led Climate Change Report Predicts Dire Consequences for Nation

The second volume of the Fourth National Climate Assessment released last week forecasts a future full of wrath of God type events right out of the Bible. [Download report at nca2018.globalchange.gov]

In the decades ahead, the United States will experience: rising sea levels swamping coastal areas; severe droughts that will threaten vital food supplies; killer heat waves that will leave thousands dead annually; an increase in the number and intensity of wildfires like the ones seen in California this year; stronger hurricanes and other storms causing severe damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure; an increased number of power outages as an aging power grid struggles under the heat; and the migration of tropical diseases northward.

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Trump Forgets Congress Exists, Orders Creation of Space Force

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Earlier today, Donald Trump bragged about the booming economy, defended his policy of separating refugee parents from their children, declared that one of his favorite places to visit is Alabama, and threatened to fire a new agency head if he screwed up.

In other words, a pretty standard rally speech he probably gave in Birmingham, Montgomery or someplace else in the Yellowhammer State (it’s a bird).

Only, in this case, he was in the White House at the third meeting of the National Space Council, whose agenda focused on space traffic management and how to leverage commercial activities in exploring the moon.

Trump didn’t disappoint here, either. Overshadowing the progress in these areas and the efforts of his vice president, Mike Pence, who chairs the council, Trump ordered the Pentagon to create an independent, separate but equal branch of the military: the Space Force. This new military service, which would be carved primarily out of the U.S. Air Force, would enable the America to dominate space, the president said.

Of course, Trump can’t simply order the Pentagon to do something so momentous; it will require the ascent of Congress, as Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) helpfully pointed out.

A similar message came from the office of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

“Our Policy Board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy,” spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement. “Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders.”

So, stay tuned. The political fight has just begun.

Florida Governor to Challenge Bill Nelson for Senate Seat

Florida Senator Bill Nelson

Three-term Florida Sen. Bill Nelson — a major supporter of NASA and the space program — will face a challenge in November from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, The Hill reports.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) announced on Monday that he’ll challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D), setting up a marquee battle that could help decide which party controls the Senate.

Scott sought to paint himself as an outsider and vowed to “shake up Washington” if elected in November, without naming Nelson during his speech….

Scott’s long-awaited announcement ends months of speculation and sets up what is expected to be the costliest race of the cycle against Nelson, a three-term incumbent.

It will also serve as a test for President Trump given the White House’s efforts to recruit Scott for the race. Trump won Florida in 2016’s presidential contest by a little more than a percentage point.

Scott, who because of term limits cannot run for a third term as governor, is a close ally of Trump. While Trump carried the state, Democrats and even some Republican believe that his closeness to Trump could be a liability if the president’s approval numbers don’t improve.

Bridenstine’s Nomination Remains in Limbo in Senate

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Nearly 15 months into Donald Trump’s term as president, NASA still lacks an administrator as the acting one prepares to retire in just 20 days. Meanwhile, the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) has been bogged down in the Senate for more than seven months.

USA Today reports the president is not giving up despite what appear to be long odds.

President Trump remains firmly behind his choice of Oklahoma GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine to be the next administrator of the space agency, even though he does not appear to have the votes for Senate confirmation.

“Senate Democrats should stop their pointless obstruction, and confirm our eminently qualified nominee immediately,” said Lindsay Walters, deputy White House press secretary, said in a statement to USA TODAY. “The President looks forward to Rep. Bridenstine’s swift confirmation by the Senate, and is confident he will ensure America is a leader in space exploration once again.”

Bridenstine’s critics say NASA should be led by a “space professional” rather than a politician, and it’s not just the Senate’s 49 Democrats who are blocking the president’s pick

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also has voiced deep misgivings.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is out of the Senate undergoing cancer treatments. If he were to return and support the nomination, Vice President Mike Pence could break a 50-50 tie.

NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot is set to retire on April 30.

A Closer Look at NASA’s FY 2018 Budget


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite a last minute threat of a veto, President Donald Trump signed an $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill on Friday that boosts NASA spending by about $1.1 billion to $20.7 billion.

So, with the fiscal year nearly half over, let’s take a closer look at NASA’s FY 2018 budget, which the Administration had tried to cut. The table below lays out the numbers from the omnibus bill, the Administration’s request and the FY 2017 budget.

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Bridenstine Attempts to Soften Anti-Science Image with The Science Guy

Bill Nye in Washington. (Credit: Planetary Society)

Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (the Science Guy) is defending his controversial decision to attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address this evening as a guest of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), whose nomination to serve as NASA administrator is facing a tough fight in the Senate.

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Aerospace Corporation Policy Paper Explores Regulations & Compliance for Nontraditional Missions

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Aerospace Corporation PR) – The Aerospace Corporation’s (Aerospace) Center for Space Policy and Strategy today released a policy paper, Navigating the Space Compliance Roadmap for Small Satellites. The paper explores U.S. spaceflight regulations and how they apply to the increasingly common “nontraditional missions,” which do not match the historical norm of a single large government satellite on a launch vehicle. This paper provides roadmaps to help new mission planners obtain the proper approvals prior to launch.

The release of Aerospace’s analysis is timely, as Congress is considering new legislation, The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017, intended to foster a “more favorable legal and policy environment for free enterprise.” Authors Barbara Braun, systems director, Space Innovation Directorate, and Eleni “Sam” Sims, project engineer, highlight significant opportunities to improve and streamline the current approval process for new space systems.

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