Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has had a tumultuous time since taking over as undersecretary of defense for research and engineering in February.
In his role as the Defense Department’s chief technology officer, Griffin has been criticized for his efforts to overhaul the Pentagon’s costly and time-consuming development and procurement of new systems through the newly established Space Development Agency (SDA).
Key personnel have departed as critics have attacked Griffin for what they view as his erratic management and decision making. In addition to SDA, he is in charge of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU).
A group of 61 House members has sent a letter to the Senate urging the body to approve the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to serve as the next administrator of NASA.
“As the Congressman from the 1st District of Oklahoma, Jim has been an active member of the House Space Subcommittee, distinguishing himself as one of the most engaged, passionate, and knowledgeable members of the Subcommittee,” the letter states. “In 2015, SpaceNews named him one of “five space leaders in the world making a difference in space.” He authored several provisions in the 2017 NASA Transition Authorization Act and co-authored the bipartisan American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act.”
The Trump Administration and the House Armed Services Committee are on a collision course over four space- and rocket-related provisions in the fNational Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018).
Specifically, the administration is objecting to the following provisions:
the establishment of a separate space corps within the U.S. Air Force (USAF);
limitations on the funding of new rocket engines for the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program;
a prohibition on the Pentagon procurement of transponder services on commercial satellites launched on Russian rockets; and,
requirements that the Defense Department find multiple suppliers for individual components of solid rocket missile systems.
The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) approved the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) yesterday that limits United Launch Alliance (ULA) to purchasing nine Russian-made RD-180 engines for use in the first stage of the company’s Atlas V booster to launch national security payloads.
The move sets up a showdown with the House Armed Services Committee, which earlier put the number of engines ULA could purchase at 18. ULA and the U.S. Air Force support the higher number, saying the engines are needed to meet military launch needs.
The House Armed Services Committee approved a measure on Wednesday that would allow United Launch Alliance to purchase up to 18 Russian-made RD-180 engines to power the first stage of its Atlas V rocket.
On Wednesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee will take up legislation to fund the Defense Department that includes provisions for a pilot program to determine how commercial weather data could be used to support military operations.
“The [Defense] Secretary would have 1 year and up to $3.0 million to carry out the pilot program by purchasing and evaluating commercial weather data that meets the standards and specifications set by the Department of Defense,” according to a summary of the provisions. “The Secretary would be required to provide interim and final briefings on the utility, cost, and other considerations regarding the purchase of commercial satellite weather data to support the requirements of the Department of Defense.”
Earlier this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a schedule for its Commercial Weather Data Pilot program, which also will last one year.
The American Space Renaissance Act, which Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) proposed earlier in April, calls for the incorporation of commercial weather data into NOAA and defense forecasts.
The House Armed Services Committee appears determined to require United Launch Alliance (ULA) to re-engineer its Atlas V booster with a new Aerojet Rocketdyne engine in its first stage even though the launch provider doesn’t really want the motor.