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.
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.
“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.
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 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.
SpaceX has scrubbed the launch of NASA’s TESS exo-planet hunting satellite, which had been planned for Monday evening.
“Standing down today to conduct additional GNC analysis, and teams are now working towards a targeted launch of @NASA_TESS on Wednesday, April 18,” the company tweeted.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence addressed the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs earlier today. He made the following announcements:
Ret. Adm. Jim Ellis has been named to lead the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group; and,
The space council has come up with a set of guidelines on space traffic management that will be signed by President Donald Trump and implemented by the Commerce Department. A key goal of the new guidelines is to deal with the threat of orbital debris.
Capping nearly 30 years in government, we thank Robert Lightfoot for his service to @NASA & our Nation. @RepJBridenstine would continue @NASA’s important work & the Senate should swiftly confirm him as Administrator to carry on NASA’s proud tradition.
The Wall Street Journalreports that George Nield’s decision to retire as head of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) at the end of March is related to dissatisfaction over the pace of deregulating space activities.
But Mr. Nield’s leaving, according to industry and government officials, was prompted at least partly by White House and cabinet-level criticism that his initiatives to ease licensing procedures for rocket launches are proceeding too slowly. Members of the White House Space Council, a senior policy-making group, and the Transportation Department’s deputy secretary have expressed displeasure about the pace of change, these officials said.
The retirement, which was a surprise to some industry officials, also comes in the face of escalating pressure by budding commercial-space ventures to streamline federal rules, cutting the time and expense of obtaining launch licenses and approvals to operate spacecraft in orbit and beyond.
Mr. Nield’s decision could end up accelerating moves by top FAA officials, along with other parts of President Donald Trump’s administration, to ease or roll back regulations covering everything from earth-observation satellites to lunar landers to eventually mining minerals on asteroids.
Last week, the White House policy group chose the Commerce Department to serve as the main catalyst to promote U.S. commercial space ventures, effectively taking that role away from the FAA. During internal administration debates leading up to that public meeting, FAA critics pushed to strip the agency of authority over launch licensing, according to two people familiar with the details.
Mr. Nield’s office, which ultimately answers to the Transportation secretary, retained that responsibility but ended up with overall reduced stature.
WASHINGTON, DC (White House PR) — Vice President Mike Pence will provide policy recommendations to the President to streamline the regulatory environment for commercial space companies. At the second National Space Council Meeting, the council agreed on the following four recommendations to reform the commercial space regulatory frameworks at the Departments of Transportation and Commerce:
WASHINGTON (White House PR) — Vice President Mike Pence, Chairman of the National Space Council, today announced the candidates selected to serve on the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group.
Pending official appointment by the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the selected members of the Users Advisory Group will serve to fulfill President Trump’s mandate to “foster close coordination, cooperation, and technology and information exchange” across our nation’s space enterprise.
The announcement as made on the eve of the second meeting of the National Space Council. “Moon, Mars, and World Beyond: Winning the next Frontier” includes testimonials from leaders in the civil, commercial, and national security sectors about the importance of the United States’ space enterprise.
Selection to the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group:
Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 astronaut
Tory Bruno, President and CEO of United Launch Alliance
Wes Bush, CEO of Northrop Grumman
Dean Cheng, Scholar at the Heritage Foundation
Eileen Collins, 4-time Shuttle astronaut, first female shuttle commander
Steve Crisafulli, Former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives
Mary Lynne Dittmar, President and CEO of The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration
Adm. Jim Ellis, Retired 4-star Admiral, former head of STRATCOM, and member of the Space Foundation Board of Directors
Tim Ellis, CEO of Relativity Space
Newt Gingrich, Author, former Speaker of the House
Marillyn Hewson, CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation
Homer Hickam, Author of the book “Rocket Boys” and former NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center engineer
Governor Kay Ivey, Governor of Alabama
Fred Klipsch, Founder and Chairman of Hoosiers for Quality Education
Les Lyles, Retired 4-star Air Force General and member of the NASA Advisory Council
Pam Melroy, 3-time Shuttle astronaut and former Deputy Director of the Tactical Technology Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Dennis Muilenberg, CEO of the Boeing Company
Faith Ozmen, CEO of the Sierra Nevada Corporation
G.P. Bud Peterson, President of the Georgia Institute of Technology
Jack Schmitt, Apollo 17 Astronaut and former Senator
Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX
Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin
Eric Stallmer, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation
David Thompson, Founder and CEO of Orbital ATK
Pamela Vaughan,, Board Certified Science Teacher
Mandy Vaughn, President of VOX Launch Company
Stu Witt, Founder of Mojave Air and Spaceport, former Navy pilot, former Chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation
David Wolf, 4-time Shuttle astronaut and physician
Pete Worden, Former Air Force General and NASA Ames Center Director.
WASHINGTON, DC (White House PR) — On Tuesday, February 20, Vice President Mike Pence will travel to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There, he will tour the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch facilities and participate in a commercial spaceflight federal reception.
On Wednesday, February 21, Vice President Pence will lead the second meeting of the National Space Council at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. “Moon, Mars, and Worlds Beyond: Winning the Next Frontier,” will include testimonials from leaders in the civil, commercial and national security sectors about the importance of the United States’ space enterprise. The Vice President will conclude his visit with a tour of the Kennedy Space Center.
UPDATE: NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live coverage of the meeting beginning at 10 a.m. EST.
I realize it’s a bit late, but here’s a look back at the major developments in space in 2017.
I know that I’m probably forgetting something, or several somethings or someones. Fortunately, I have eagle-eyed readers who really seem to enjoy telling me just how much I’ve screwed up. Some of them a little too much….
So, have at it! Do your worst, eagle-eyed readers!