GAO Report: FAA Launch Insurance Update Remains Work in Progress

Members of the 45th Space Wing’s Incident Management Team responded to an explosion Sept. 1, 2016, on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. (Credit: 45th Space Wing)

The FAA’s effort to update insurance requirements for space launches remains a work in progress that could expose the federal government to excess financial risk, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Under the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015, Congress required the FAA to update the requirements for insurance that private launch providers must purchase for damages to third parties and federal property.  The requirements had not been updated since 1988.

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Congress, President Fail to Embrace Musk’s Bold Plan for Mars

Last September, Elon Musk made his pitch for a bold new approach to sending people to Mars that requires substantial taxpayer supporter. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed a NASA authorizing act that maintains the slow, steady-as-she-goes status quo. The billionaire was not amused.

Congressmen Call for Clear NASA Strategy for Putting Humans on Mars


Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) have filed bills calling for NASA to develop a clear strategy for placing astronauts on Mars.

The Mapping a New and Innovative Focus on our Exploration Strategy (MANIFEST) for Human Spaceflight Act of 2017 calls for the space agency to accomplish this goal “through a series of successive, sustainable, free-standing, but complementary missions making robust utilization of cis-lunar space and employing the Space Launch System, Orion crew capsule, and other capabilities.”

The cis-lunar elements include the expansion of human presence into lunar orbit, lunar surface, asteroids, the moons of Mars, and the martian surface. The plan must include opportunities for collaboration with international partners, private companies and other federal agencies.

The strategy would identify how the International Space Station could support the program, and include “a range of exploration mission architectures and approaches for the missions…including capabilities for the Orion crew capsule and the Space Launch System.”

Congress Could Target Individual Civil Servants, Programs

Capitol Building
First, there was the incoming Trump Administration’s effort to identify individual civil servants at the Energy Department who had participated in climate change work. The Trumpies backed down after officials told them to stuff it, but now those very officials could be at risk for doing so.

House Republicans this week reinstated an arcane procedural rule that enables lawmakers to reach deep into the budget and slash the pay of an individual federal worker — down to $1 — a move that threatens to upend the 130-year-old civil service.

The Holman Rule, named after an Indiana congressman who devised it in 1876, empowers any member of Congress to propose amending an appropriations bill to single out a government employee or cut a specific program.

The use of the rule would not be simple; a majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any such amendment. At the same time, opponents and supporters agree that the work of 2.1 million civil servants, designed to be insulated from politics, is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials….

In light of recent inquiries by the Trump transition team about a list of Energy Department scientists who have worked on climate change, advocates for federal workers say they worry that bureaucrats could be targeted for political reasons.

Jeffrey Neal, former personnel chief at the Department of Homeland Security and now a senior vice president at ICF International, said the rule “creates a lot of opportunity for mischief.”

I know conservatives like to envision taking America back to a simpler time of smaller government and all that other stuff, but 18-fraking-76? What’s next? Spittoons? Wood-burning locomotives? A revival of Vaudeville?

The implications are pretty scary. Some member of Congress doesn’t like an individual at NASA or a specific program they’re working on, he can bring the full might of Congress down on this person. Their program goes away and their salary is cut to nothing.

These bozos in Congress are simply not smart enough to start micromanaging federal agencies. Congress is dysfunctional enough as it is without adding to the list of responsibilities.

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AIA Urges Congress to Pass Budget, Lift Limit on Ex-Im Bank Deals

aialogosmARLINGTON, Va. (AIA PR) — Aerospace Industries Association sent a letter today urging Congress to pass a completed FY2017 appropriation package rather than a full-year continuing resolution. We also ask that the ExIm Bank be enabled to process transactions more than $10 million. It was signed by more than 70 CEOs and senior industry representatives from AIA member companies.

The letter argues that the aerospace and defense industry is “arguably the most successful sector in our country,” contributing significantly to our nation’s economic growth, stability and national security despite “great uncertainty and instability in both the marketplace and with regard to annual government funding.” Our innovative industry supports our military, the dynamic aerospace sector and space exploration, and few things would offer a greater sense of stability going forward than completing the final FY2017 appropriations bills and restoring the ExIm Bank to full functionality.

Dear Speaker Ryan, Leader McConnell, Leader Pelosi, and Leader Reid:

With the 114th Congress coming to a close, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the leaders of our member companies would like to express our strong support for efforts to pass appropriations legislation providing full year FY 17 funding for the federal government.

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Budget Update: The President Proposes, Congress Does Nothing

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It looks as though Congress will once again fail to pass a budget this year.

Faced with the start of a new fiscal year on Oct. 1, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) in September that kept the government open until Dec. 9. Now, that august body will pass another CR that will keep the lights on until March 31.

By then, a new Congress will have convened (albeit with most of the same members) and a new president, Donald Trump, will be in office. Fiscal year 2017 will be half over, and everyone involved will be grappling with passing a budget for fiscal year 2018.

CRs make life difficult for government agencies, keeping funding at the same levels as the previous fiscal year and making it hard to start new programs and initiatives.

“We must continue to keep our federal agencies and programs open for business, while looking towards future progress on these vital Appropriations bills,” said House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) in a press release. “While I’m disappointed that the Congress is not going to be able to complete our annual funding work this year, I am extremely hopeful that the new Congress and the new Administration will finish these bills. I am also hopeful for a renewed and vigorous ‘regular order’ on future annual funding bills, so that the damaging process of Continuing Resolutions will no longer be necessary.”

Congress’ Chronic Under Funding of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

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Excerpted from, “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program: Update on Development and Certification Efforts,” NASA Office of Inspector General, Report No. IG-16-028, September 1, 2016

Past Funding Shortfalls Have Delayed NASA’s Commercial Crew Plans

As discussed in our previous report, for several years during its early development, the Commercial Crew Program received significantly less funding than requested.14 As shown in Table 2, to date the cumulative difference between the President’s budget requests for the Program and actual appropriations is approximately $1.1 billion. However, under the current CCtCap phase of the Program, Boeing and SpaceX are operating under firm-fixed price contracts, which provide a more stable cost estimate for the remaining work needed to certify the commercial crew vehicles. Further, in December 2015 – for the first time in 6 years – NASA received the full amount the President requested for the Program: $1.2 billion for FY 2016. Although not the only factor, the shortfall contributed to slippage in the Program’s schedule. NASA officials said while full funding in FY 2016 will help reduce risks related to budget uncertainty, it will do little to address technical Program risks.
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Bridenstine’s Bill Would Radically Restructure NASA

NASA LOGOBy Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA would be given a mandate to pioneer the development and settlement of space and a commission dominated by Congressional appointees to oversee those efforts under a bill proposed by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).

The measure’s basic premise is that NASA’s problems stem from unstable presidential commitments to space exploration as opposed to Congress’ tendency to support expensive programs that bring funding into particular states and districts.

“Over the past twenty years, 27 NASA programs have been cancelled at a cost of over $20 billion to the taxpayer,” according to a statement on a website devoted to the measure. “Many of these have come as a result of changes in presidential administrations.

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Why the Space Leadership Preservation Act Solves Nothing

Michael Griffin, Eileen Collins and Cristina Chaplain testify (Credit: House Science Committee)
Michael Griffin, Eileen Collins and Cristina Chaplain testify (Credit: House Science Committee)

By House Science Committee Democrats

WASHINGTON, DC  – Today, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to receive testimony on H.R. 2093, the Space Leadership Preservation Act, and to consider the issue of maintaining a “constancy of purpose” for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Committee also held a hearing on the Space Leadership Preservation Act last Congress.
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Why the Space Leadership Preservation Act is Necessary

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By House Science Committee Republicans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today held a hearing on The Space Leadership Preservation Act and the need for stability at NASA. The hearing featured input from former astronaut and first female Space Shuttle pilot and commander, Eileen Collins, former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, and Rep. John Culberson, author of the Space Leadership Preservation Act.

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AIAA Applauds FY2016 Omnibus Spending Bill

aiaaBill Provides Increased Funding for Important Aerospace Programs

RESTON, Va., (AIAA PR) — The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) applauds congressional passage of the “Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016.” The $1.15 trillion spending bill provides funding for key programs at NASA, the Department of Defense, and the FAA.

The bill increases NASA funding to $19.3 billion, more than $1.3 billion dollars over FY15 funding. Among the allocations are $1.24 billion for the Commercial Crew program, which will allow the transport of astronauts from the United States to the International Space Station. The bill also funds the agency’s planetary sciences program at $1.63 billion and the Space Launch System at $2 billion. These increased levels will help us maintain our long-standing global leadership in space exploration and scientific discovery.

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AIA Welcomes House Extension of R&D Tax Credit

aialogosmStatement by Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO David F. Melcher on the House voting to extend the R&D Tax Credit permanently.

Arlington, Va. — AIA welcomes the House vote to permanently extend the research and development tax credit which lapsed at the end of 2014. It provides an important incentive during these times of fiscal austerity for thousands of companies to make long-term investments in innovation and is critical to creating economic growth. Particularly at a time when DOD is actively seeking new sources of innovation, it’s imperative that we do everything in our power to incentivize companies in every sector to invest in innovative ideas and solutions.

This credit supports companies that invest working capital in basic research and in applied research aimed at the creation or improvement of products. More than 70 percent of the credit is used to fund the salaries of R&D workers who hold the kinds of high-quality jobs that fuel our national economy, with the remainder applied to investment in new plant and equipment.

Currently, the U.S. significantly trails other leading countries in providing incentives for companies to conduct research and development.  Making this critical tool for spurring investment and innovation permanent helps maintain the American edge in innovation and provides companies with the certainty they need for long range planning.  The House is to be congratulated for voting to ensure American companies can rely on this credit going forward and we encourage the Senate to pass the bill as soon as possible.

International Institute of Space Law Weighs in on Space Mining Law

IISL_logoINTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF SPACE LAW

Position Paper on Space Resource Mining
Adopted by consensus by the Board of Directors on 20 December 2015

I. The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act

On 25 November 2015, the President of the United States signed into law the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (H.R. 2262).1 It consists of four Titles: I. Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship; II. Commercial Remote Sensing; III. Office of Space Commerce; and IV. Space Resource Exploration and Utilization.

Title IV, which is of interest here, addresses in a preliminary way space resource exploitation.

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More NASA Funding Provisions From the Omnibus Spending Bill

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Here are some additional provisions included in the omnibus spending measure unveiled by Congress on Wednesday.

Commercial Crew

“This Act provides up to $1,243,800,000 for NASA’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability to safely send the Nation’s astronauts to and from the ISS by 2017. The Committees note that NASA notified Congress in an August 2015 letter of its decision to modify an existing contract with the Russian government for crew transportation services beyond 2017. That decision was made prior to any final action by Congress on NASA’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability funding for fiscal year 2016.

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