Trump, Pence Demand Space Spectacular During Election Year as SLS Schedule Slides Further

SLS liquid hydrogen tank (Credit: NASA/Tyler Martin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

If you’ve been puzzling over exactly why NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine suddenly floated the idea of flying the first Orion space capsule to the moon next year without the Space Launch System (SLS), The Washington Post has a couple of answers today:

  • SLS is much further behind schedule than anyone knew; and,
  • 2020 is a presidential election year.

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National Space Council to Meet Next Tuesday

Vice President Mike Pence addresses NASA employees, Thursday, July 6, 2017, at the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Fifth Meeting of the National Space Council

Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at 12:00 p.m. CDT
Location: Saturn V Hall, Davidson Center for Space Exploration, U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Panel 1: “Ready to Fly”

  • Gen. Les Lyles, USAF (ret.), former Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force
  • Col. Eileen Collins, USAF (ret.), former Shuttle commander
  • Dr. Sandy Magnus, former Shuttle astronaut

Panel 2: “Ready to Explore”

  • Dan Dumbacher, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Dr. Jack Burns, University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Wanda Sigur, independent consultant

NOAA, FAA AST Space Programs Get Funding Boosts

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Last week, we took a look at the significant increase in NASA’s budget for FY 2019. In this story, we will examine the budget increases for the Commerce Department — which manages the nation’s weather satellites — and the Department of Transportation, which oversees commercial launches. We will also take a look how the White House’s National Space Council fared.

Commerce Department

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA’s satellite programs received $1,45 billion, which is an increase of $55 million over FY 2018. The bulk of the funding is designated for the GOES-R,  Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Polar Follow-on (PFO) programs. The amounts include:

  • JPSS: $548 million
  • GOES-R: $408.4 million
  • PFO: $330 million

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Comments of President Trump and Vice President Pence at Space Force Directive Signing

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

THE PRESIDENT:  Today, I’m thrilled to sign a new order taking the next step to create the United States Space Force. So important, when you look at defense, when you look at all of the other aspects of where the world will be someday. I mean, this is the beginning. This is a very important process.

First, I want to recognize our wonderful Vice President, Mike Pence, who serves as the Chairman of the National Space Council. Thank you, Mike. Great job. I know you feel the same way I do.

I also want to thank Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who is with us; Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva; and the Executive Secretary of the Space Council, Dr. Scott Pace for being here today.

They’ve all worked very hard on the Space Force. They all believe in it very strongly, as I do. It’s the future. It’s where we’re going. I suspect, whether we like it or not, that’s where we’re going. It’s space. That’s the next step, and we have to be prepared.

Our adversaries and — whether we get along with them or not, they’re up in space. And they’re doing it, and we’re doing it. And that’s going to be a very big part of where the defense of our nation — and you could say “offense” — but let’s just be nice about it and let’s say the defense of our nation is going to be.

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Remarks by Vice President Pence at Kennedy Space Center

Mike Pence

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Yeah, great words. Great words. Well, thank you, Secretary Wilson. Thank you for that introduction and thank you for your great leadership of the United States Air Force.

And I want to thank our host today, the Kennedy Space Center, Bob Cabana, and the entire team. To General Selva, who joins us here today; to all of our distinguished guests; to General Shess; but especially to the airmen of the 45th Space Wing and your families, it is great to be here at the Kennedy Space Center, the “World’s Premier Gateway to Space.” Thank you all.

And I want to bring greetings this morning, first and foremost, to a great champion of American leadership in space and a great champion of America’s military personnel and your families. I want to bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.

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Vice President Pence Talks Future Human Space Exploration at NASA’s Johnson Space Center

Mike Pence

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Vice President Mike Pence, with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, will visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston Thursday, Aug. 23, to discuss the future of human space exploration and the agency’s plans to return to the Moon as a forerunner to future human missions to Mars.

The event will be held at 12:45 p.m. CDT in the Teague Auditorium at Johnson and will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Media Schedule (all times CDT):

  • 6:30-7:30 a.m. – Media call time and pre-set for video cameras and tripods
  • 7:30-9:30 a.m. – Venue access closed to press for security sweep
  • 9:30 a.m. – Media re-entrance
  • 12:45 p.m. – Event begins

Check out the latest on NASA’s plans for human space exploration at:

https://www.nasa.gov/topics/humans-in-space

Remarks by Vice President Pence on the Future of the U.S. Military in Space

Mike Pence

The Pentagon
Arlington, Virginia

11:17 A.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Secretary Mattis, Deputy Secretary Shanahan, General Selva, General Goldfein, members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, and all the men and women of the United States Department of Defense who each and every day oversee the greatest military in the history of the world: Thank you for all you do every day for the American people.  (Applause.)

It is my great honor, Mr. Secretary, to join you here today at the Pentagon.  And let me begin by bringing greetings from your Commander-in-Chief, who has from the very earliest days of this administration proved himself to be a great champion of the Armed Forces of the United States, committed to strengthening American security here on Earth and in space.  I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.  (Applause.)

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Boeing Suffers Setback During CST-100 Starliner Abort Test

CST-100 Starliner with Atlas V booster. (Credit: Boeing)

Media are reporting that Boeing suffered a setback recently when testing CST-100 Starliner’s emergency abort system at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Here’s an account from The Washington Post:

The spacecraft Boeing plans to use to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station suffered a significant setback when, during a test of its emergency abort system in June, officials discovered a propellant leak, the company confirmed.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Boeing said it has “been conducting a thorough investigation with assistance from our NASA and industry partners. We are confident we found the cause and are moving forward with corrective action.”

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Space Policy Directive 3 Brings Space Traffic Coordination to Commerce Department

Wilbur Ross

WASHINGTON, DC (Commerce Department PR) — Today, U.S Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross praised President Donald J. Trump’s signing of Space Policy Directive 3 (SPD-3), America’s first National Space Traffic Management Policy.  The policy acknowledges the rapidly increasing volume and diversity of commercial space activity and announces that the Department of Commerce should be the new civil agency interface for space traffic management (STM) and space situational awareness (SSA).

“I commend President Trump and the National Space Council for reaching yet another important milestone as we work to ensure U.S. commercial leadership in space,” said Secretary Ross. “I look forward to working closely with DoD and other departments and agencies as we meet the challenge of increased commercial and civil space traffic.”

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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.

Multi-user Kennedy Space Center is Home to Diverse Activities

Two Launches in One Week: On Aug. 14, 2017, a Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the photo on the left. It was carrying a Dragon resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station. In the image on the right, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Aug.18, 2017 placing in orbit NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite. (Credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Sandra Joseph)

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

On Aug. 14, 2017, a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft was launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was a commercial resupply mission delivering supplies to the International Space Station. Four days later, the agency’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M lifted off on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

This kind of diverse activity is typical at a multi-user spaceport.

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Pence to Swear in Bridenstine as NASA Administrator on Monday

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Media are invited to see Vice President Mike Pence swear in Jim Bridenstine as NASA’s new administrator at 2:30 p.m. EDT Monday, April 23, at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. The ceremony will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Following the swearing-in, Vice President Pence and newly sworn-in NASA Administrator Bridenstine will speak live with three NASA astronauts currently living and working aboard the International Space Station. Expedition 55 crew members Scott Tingle, Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold will offer congratulations and take questions from the Vice President and Administrator Bridenstine. The astronauts will also briefly share stories of their experiences on the orbiting outpost from 250 miles above Earth, traveling at 17,500 miles per hour.

Bridenstine was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Thursday, April 19, to serve as the agency’s 13th administrator. Prior to this position, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives for the state of Oklahoma, where he held positions on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee. Bridenstine also is a pilot in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium.

Bridenstine: “Honor” to be Confirmed as NASA Administrator

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Statement From Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.)

“It is an honor to be confirmed by the United States Senate to serve as NASA Administrator. I am humbled by this opportunity, and I once again thank President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for their confidence. I look forward to working with the outstanding team at NASA to achieve the President’s vision for American leadership in space.”

Jim Bridenstine served as a U.S. Navy pilot on active duty for nine years, followed by four years in the Navy Reserve where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander.  In 2015 he transitioned to the Oklahoma Air National Guard.  He was elected to Congress in 2012 and serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space, and Technology Committee.  In 2016 he introduced the American Space Renaissance Act.  Bridenstine lives in Tulsa, OK with his wife Michelle and their three children. For a full bio, please click here.

Bridenstine Narrowly Survives Vote to Vote on His Nomination

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

The Senate has scheduled a vote on the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) to become the next NASA Administrator on Thursday at 1:45 p.m. EDT.

Tomorrow’s showdown comes after a procedural vote to end debate on Wednesday that showed how sharply divided the Senate is about Bridenstine’s nomination. The measure passed 50-48, with all Republicans voting in the affirmative and all Democrats voting against it.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) initially voted against the nomination, resulting in a 49-49 tie. However, he later switched his vote to the affirmative. Vice President Mike Pence could have broken the tie, but he was not in the capital on Wednesday.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) had previously questioned Bridenstine’s nomination. However, he voted to end debate.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) did not vote on Wednesday. McCain is undergoing cancer treatment; Duckworth gave birth to a daughter last week.

Senate to Vote on Bridenstine’s Nomination to Lead NASA

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has filed a motion to bring the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) to become the next administrator of NASA to a vote on the Senate floor.

News of the cloture motion was tweeted by Senate Cloakroom (@SenateCloakroom) on Monday. The account is operated by the Senate Republican Cloakroom staff.

Bridenstine was nominated for the position by President Donald Trump in September. The Senate Commerce Committee approved by a narrow party-line vote, with all the Democratic members voting against it.

Democrats have said that Bridenstine lacks the requisite scientific and technical background to lead the nation’s space agency. They have also questioned his past statements that global warming was not occurring. NASA spends $1.9 million on Earth science programs.

The vote on Bridenstine could be very close. It is believed that all 49 Democrats will vote against it. That would leave a narrow margin of 51 Republicans to vote for Bridenstine.

However, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has questioned  the wisdom of appointing a partisan politician to run an agency that has broad bipartisan support.

Vice President Mike Pence could break a 50-50 tie. However, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been absent from the Senate undergoing cancer treatments.