Committee Leaders Question Biden Administration’s Efforts to Address Space Debris Issues

The scales of the space debris problem (Credit: ESA)

WASHINGTON (Senate Commerce Committee PR) – U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., ranking member and chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, along with Sens. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., and John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., ranking member and chair of the Subcommittee on Space and Science, today sent a letter requesting that Vice President Kamala Harris prioritize space debris issues in her role as chair of the National Space Council. The Senators also sent a letter to Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to inquire about the department’s outer space-related efforts following Russia’s destructive anti-satellite test two weeks ago.    

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House Passes Infrastructure Spending Bill With Extra $1 Billion for NASA

The House of Representatives passed H.R. 5376, the Build Back Better Act last week that includes billions of dollars in funds for NASA, NOAA and other scientific and technology agencies.

In addition to funding improvements to physical infrastructure, the measure puts a major emphasis on addressing climate change, a problem that the Biden Administration takes seriously. The previous president described as a Chinese plot to destroy American industry.

The bill now goes to the Senate where its fate is uncertain.

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Lucas, Babin Push Back Against NTSB Move to Expand Role into Commercial Space Accident Investigations

Part of SpaceShipTwo’s fuselage. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

WASHINGTON (Frank Lucas/Brian Babin PR) — House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas joined Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Ranking Member Brian Babin in a letter to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) requesting information on their attempts to expand their role in commercial space accident investigations. Concurrently, Babin introduced a resolution to reiterate that commercial space launch is a developmental activity, rather than a mode of transportation.

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New Russian Sanctions Include Commercial Space Launch Activities

Export applications to face presumption of denial beginning September 1, 2021

WASHINGTON (Commerce Department PR) — On March 1, 2021, the Secretary of State determined pursuant to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 that the Government of Russia used chemical weapons in violation of international law or lethal chemical weapons against its own nationals.

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Report: Biden to Retain National Space Council

NASA’s Orion spacecraft that flew Exploration Flight Test-1 on Dec. 5, 2014 is seen on the South Lawn of the White House, Sunday, July 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. Lockheed Martin, NASA’s prime contractor for Orion, began manufacturing the Orion crew module in 2011 and delivered it in July 2012 to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where final assembly, integration and testing was completed. More than 1,000 companies across the country manufactured or contributed elements to the spacecraft. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Politico reports that the Biden Administration will retain the National Space Council. The council was revived by the Trump Administration in 2017 to coordinate national space activities after a 24-year gap in operation.

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Industry Groups Urge Increased Support for Office of Space Commerce

Three industry groups have written a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to emphasize the importance of the Office of Space Commerce in supporting the U.S. space industry.

“Given the constant developments, from start-ups to new technologies in the space sector, and the uncertainties of the post-pandemic and changing regulatory environment globally, the space industry requires a strong U.S. Office of Space Commerce to drive continued growth here and abroad for U.S. space industry,” the letter said.

The document was signed by the Aerospace Industries Association, Commercial Spaceflight Federation and Satellite Industry Association.

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Report on Commerce Department’s Space Accomplishments

WASHINGTON (Commerce Department PR) — The Office of Space Commerce published a report on the Commerce Department’s space commerce accomplishments under Secretary Wilbur Ross and the Trump Administration.

The report recaps the Department’s success in achieving its strategic objective to expand commercial space activities through a host of actions. The text of the report is below.

Department of Commerce Accomplishments Space and Space Commerce

Under the leadership of Secretary Wilbur Ross, the Department of Commerce emphasized the importance of space and space commerce to U.S. national and economic security, prosperity, and the growing role of the Department in this area. Strategic Objective 1.1 of the Secretary’s Strategic Plan for 2018-2022 was to increase U.S. commercial space activities; the Department’s efforts to improve space situational awareness were Agency Priority Goals in FY2020 and FY2021.

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U.S. Government Releases Orbital Debris R&D Plan

This GIF is part of a longer animation showing different types of space debris objects and different debris sizes in orbit around Earth. For debris objects bigger than 10 cm the data comes from the US Space Surveillance Catalogue. The information about debris objects smaller than 10 cm is based on a statistical model from ESA. (Credit: ESA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In its waning days, the Trump Administration released the National Orbital Debris Research and Development Plan, which is designed to guide federal R&D efforts aimed at limiting, tracking, characterizing and remediating debris in Earth orbit.

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Congress Approves Boost for Office of Space Commerce, Funding for Weather Satellites

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Congress approved a budget boost for the Office of Space Commerce (OSC) as it gears up to oversee civilian space traffic management (STM) and space situational awareness (SSA).

Congress provided OSC with $10 million and approved its plan with the merge with the Office of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 approved on Monday. The amount is $5.9 million above the total the two offices received fiscal year 2020.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had wanted to elevate OSC into a bureau that would report directly to him. However, Congress elected to keep the office within the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS).

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Global Leader in SSA/STM Officially Launches as Independent Company

EXTON, Pa. (COMSPOC PR) — COMSPOC Corp. — a global leader in space situational awareness (SSA), space domain awareness (SDA), and space traffic coordination and management (STCM) — commences as an independent company and no longer a subsidiary of Analytical Graphics, Inc. (AGI). 

COMSPOC retains all SSA/STCM intellectual property, contracts, the products and services associated with SSA, SDA, and STM as well as its research arm, the Center for Space Standards and Innovation (CSSI), and the free space data service, CelesTrak. COMSPOC will also continue to provide staffing and resources for several global organizations including the Space Data Association and the Space Safety Coalition.

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Wicker Introduces Space Preservation and Conjunction Emergency Act to Put Commerce Department in Charge of Space Situational Awareness

WASHINGTON (Senate Commerce Committee PR) – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today introduced the Space Preservation and Conjunction Emergency (SPACE) Act. The legislation would authorize the Department of Commerce (DOC) to provide space situational awareness (SSA) services to civil, commercial, and international space operators. 

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Commerce Department to Measure Value of U.S. Space Economy

WASHINGTON (Commerce Department PR) — The Space Economy Satellite Account (SESA) is a new, collaborative effort to measure the relative importance of the space sector on the U.S. economy, with a special emphasis on the growing commercial space segment. This new account is part of the economic satellite accounts produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). 

A satellite account refers to statistics that complement BEA’s official U.S. economic statistics, such as GDP and personal income. These satellite accounts provide additional detail and allow for a more in-depth analysis of key sectors of the U.S. economy, such as health care, travel and tourism, and outdoor recreation. 

Using input from industry experts and multiple government agencies, chiefly the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) Office of Space Commerce, the forthcoming SESA statistics will show the impact of the U.S. space economy on the overall U.S. economy.

Specifically, the SESA statistics will provide an estimate of the space economy’s contribution to current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP) and will illustrate the contributions of individual industries to the U.S. space economy.

In addition to GDP, the SESA will include gross output, compensation, and employment by industry statistics for the space economy.

More information can be found on the Bureau of Economic Analysis website

Report: NOAA Errors Led to Diminished Weather Satellites

GOES-17 satellite during processing by Astrotech. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NOAA’s poor management of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites-R (GOES-R) program has resulted in less accurate meteorological data from the GOES-16 and GOES-17 weather satellites now in orbit, according to an audit by the Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General (IG). [Full Report]

NOAA’s failure to properly address an overheating problem discovered during ground testing in 2017 led to the degraded performance of GOES-17’s main instrument, the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). The GOES-16 satellite, which was already in orbit at the time, is also suffering from overheating of its ABI to a lesser degree, the report found.

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Commerce, DOD Outline Space Achievements in Exit Memos

The GOES-R satellite will be NOAA's most sophisticated weather observation spacecraft and is expected to improve forecasts and tracking substantially. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)
The GOES-R satellite will be NOAA’s most sophisticated weather observation spacecraft and is expected to improve forecasts and tracking substantially. (Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

The departments of Defense and Commerce have outlined their achievements in space in a pair of exit memos. The Obama Administration also outlined its space achievements in the Office of Science and Technology exit memo.

There is no mention in the Department of Transportation’s exit memo of the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation, which is playing an increasingly important role in the sector.

Below are excerpts from those memos from the Defense and Commerce departments.
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Posey Legislation Would Allow for Military-Private Space Partnerships

Washington, Apr 19 (Bill Posey PR) — Today, Congressman Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) introduced legislation to allow for private sector investment in the Department of Defense for space transportation in an effort to modernize America’s defense capabilities, promote America’s commercial space industry and help America regain the loss of commercial launches.

“A priority for me is working to secure America’s leadership in launch vehicles, technology and operations and this bill helps us do that,” said Congressman Bill Posey. “We have been losing launches to overseas competitors and that is not good for our economic competiveness or our national security. We need to change that direction and my bill will do that. This bill is a win-win.”

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