OIG Audit: NASA Gateway Elements Behind Schedule, Over Budget

Artemis Gateway (Credit: Thales Alenia Space/Briot)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s attempt to use innovative acquisition practices to speed up development of the lunar Gateway has left the first two elements of the station over budget and behind schedule, according to a new audit from the space agency’s Office of Inspector General.

It is also unlikely the human-tended Gateway will be capable of supporting the planned 2024 mission to land American astronauts at the south pole of the moon, the audit concluded.

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Bridenstine to Leave NASA Administrator Post

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In a decision that has disappointed his supporters, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine plans to leave his position even if president-elect Joe Biden asked him to stay.

Irene Klotz broke the news in Aviation Week. The story is behind a paywall, but Klotz did tweet:

“You need somebody who has a close relationship with the president of the U.S. … somebody trusted by the administration…. including OMB, National Space Council, National Security Council. I think I would not be the right person for that in a new administration –Bridenstine

Agency administrators usually change when a new president comes in, particularly if he is from a different party. Bridenstine is a former Republican Congressman from Oklahoma appointed by President Donald Trump, who was defeated by his Democratic opponent Biden last week.

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White House Science Office Credits Trump for “Ending the COVID-19 Pandemic”

Ivanka Trump plays a lab assistant.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A week before the presidential election, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) set Twitter afire on Tuesday by crediting the Trump Administration with “ending the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Donald Trump has clearly not ended the pandemic, which has left more than 226,000 Americans dead and set a single-day record for new cases just last week.

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House Appropriations Committee Rejects NASA Budget Hike, 2024 Moon Landing Goal

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The House Appropriations Committee has criticized the Trump Administration’s “ominous shift away” from legacy NASA programs in favor of a “politically motivated timeline” aimed at returning astronauts to the lunar surface in 2024 under the Artemis program.

“NASA’s fiscal year 2021 request, much like the 2020 amended budget request, reflected the Administration’s ominous shift away from legacy programs and programs with clear environmental and educational benefits,” the committee in a report on its funding bill.

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The Federation Praises Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Reform

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The Commercial Spaceflight Federation today praised the Department of Commerce’s release this week of a rulemaking that dramatically reforms the U.S. government’s regulation of the U.S. commercial remote sensing industry.

“We wish to thank Secretary Wilbur Ross, the Office of Space Commerce and its Director Kevin O’Connell, and NOAA’s Office of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs for publishing this forward-leaning, streamlined set of rules for this growing and important industry,”  declared Eric Stallmer, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. “And we again thank Vice President Pence, the National Space Council, and its Executive Secretary Scott Pace for issuing Space Policy Directive 2 two years ago, which focused agencies across the government to minimize regulatory burden and streamline oversight.”

Up until now, the U.S. remote sensing industry has been governed by legislation and regulations written in the early 1990’s.  While capabilities and technologies have progressed over the decades, companies dealt with these outdated regulations, often prohibiting new technologies and disincentivising the industry.  License applications regularly took too long to authorize with little to no transparency into the decision making process. With these revised regulations, comes a new era for the remote sensing industry and as new licenses are granted, we hope to see these principles put into practice.

“Thank you to the Commerce Department for developing these new rules that reduce bureaucratic restrictions on industry so they can innovate faster, compete effectively internationally, and enable new applications for satellite observations of the Earth,” said Stallmer.  “CSF has fought hard for several years to promote legislative and regulatory reforms that would streamline these rules.  We believe that these new rules from the Department of Commerce are an important step forward to enable U.S. companies to compete in a growing international marketplace while protecting America’s national security concerns.”

Crew Dragon Notes: Weather Forecast Poor, Trump to Attend Launch

Credit: 45th Weather Squadron

President Donald Trump will join Vice President Mike Pence at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for the Crew Dragon launch scheduled for the afternoon of Wednesday, May 27.

However, Trump and Pence may end up disappointed by Florida’s stormy weather. The latest forecast predicts a 60 percent probability of violating weather constraints. The main concerns are rain, lightning and clouds.

The backup launch date is Saturday, May 30.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are set to conduct a flight test to the International Space Station. It will be the first Crew Dragon flight with astronauts aboard.

Commerce Department Releases New Streamlined Commercial Remote Sensing Regulations

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2020 (NASA PR) — Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce released new regulations to improve the licensing process for private U.S. satellite remote sensing operations, helping ensure continued U.S. leadership in a critical commercial space industry.

The new final rules increase openness and transparency in the licensing process, will eliminate most restrictions on how licensed remote sensing systems may be operated, such as limits on the resolution of imagery, and prohibit the government from imposing additional conditions after a license has been issued.

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Former Congressman Culberson Joins National Space Council Users’ Advisory Group

John Culberson

Vice President Mike Pence has nominated former Congressman John Culberson and four other people to serve two-year terms on National Space Council Users’ Advisory Group. Four current members are leaving the board.

“The nominated members of the Users’ Advisory Group will serve to fulfill President Trump’s directive to ‘foster close coordination, cooperation, and technology and information exchange’ across our nation’s space enterprise to ensure that the United States remains the world’s foremost spacefaring country,” the White House said in a press release.

Nominees are pending official appointment by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

New Members

John Culberson
Former U.S. Congressman, Texas

Eileen Drake
President and CEO, Aerojet Rocketdyne

Dr. Bruce Jakosky
Professor of Atmosphere and Space Physics, University of Colorado

Jeanette Nuñez
Lieutenant Governor of Florida
Chairwoman of the Board, Space Florida

James D. Taiclet, Jr.
Board member, Lockheed Martin Corporation
Takes over as President and CEO on June 15

Departing Members

Marillyn Hewson
President and CEO, Lockheed Martin
Retiring on June 15

David Thompson
Former President and CEO, Orbital ATK

Steve Crisafulli
Former Speaker, Florida House of Representatives

Eric Schmidt
Former CEO and Executive Chairman, Google

Current Members

Admiral James Ellis, Jr., USN, Retired
Chairman, Users’ Advisory Group

Former Commander, United States Strategic Command, member of the Space Foundation Board of Directors

Dr. Buzz Aldrin, USAF, Retired
Apollo 11 astronaut

Tory Bruno
President and CEO, United Launch Alliance

David Calhoun
President and CEO, The Boeing Company

Dean Cheng
Scholar at the Heritage Foundation

Colonel Eileen Collins, USAF, Retired
Four-time shuttle astronaut, first female shuttle commander

Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar
President and CEO, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

Tim Ellis
CEO, Relativity Space

Homer Hickam
Board Member, U. S. Space & Rocket Center; former NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center engineer; Author of “Rocket Boys”

The Honorable Kay Ivey
Governor of Alabama

Fred Klipsch
Board of Trustees, Marian University;
Chairman and CEO, Klipsch Audio Technologies, Retired

General Les Lyles, USAF, Retired
Chairman, NASA Advisory Council

Colonel Pam Melroy, USAF, Retired
Three-time shuttle astronaut, former Deputy Director of the Tactical Technology Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

Fatih Ozmen
CEO, Sierra Nevada Corporation

Harrison H. Schmitt
Former United States Senator, New Mexico; Apollo 17 astronaut

Gwynne Shotwell
President and COO, SpaceX

Dr. Robert H. Smith
CEO, Blue Origin

Eric Stallmer
President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

Pamela Vaughan
STEM Integration Specialist for the Arkansas Department of Education

Mandy Vaughn
President, VOX Space

Kathy Warden
Chairman, CEO, and President, Northrop Grumman Corporation

Stuart O. Witt
Former Navy pilot; founder, Mojave Air and Spaceport; former chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

David Wolf, M.D.
Four-time shuttle astronaut, Purdue University

Space Force Welcomes First Academy Graduates to its Ranks

Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, administers the U.S. Space Force Oath of Office to the Eighty-Six Space Force Cadets during the U.S. Air Force Academy Class of 2020 graduation at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., April 18, 2020. In all, Nine-hundred-sixty-seven cadets crossed the stage to become the Air Force/Space Force’s newest second lieutenants. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. J.T. Armstrong)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AFNS) — Eighty-six graduates from the United States Air Force Academy celebrated receiving their diplomas April 18 and moved directly into the U.S. Space Force, marking the first infusion of commissioned personnel into the new service since its creation last year.

Vice President Mike Pence was in attendance at the event and congratulated the entire graduating class.

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SIA Releases Principles of Space Safety for Commercial Satellite Industry

WASHINGTON, DC (SIA PR) — The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) today announced the release of a set of Principles of Space Safety, drafted to help protect freedom of use and long-term access to space by ensuring safe flight operations for satellites, human spacecraft and other space missions.

SIA is a U.S.-based trade association that for more than two decades has advocated on behalf of the U.S. satellite industry regarding policy, regulatory, and legislative issues affecting the commercial satellite business. 

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Trump Calls Astronauts During First All-Female Spacewalk

President Donald Trump and other administration officials talk to NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir during the first all-woman spacewalk. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — President Donald Trump, second from left, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, left, Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, right, speaks with NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir during the first all-woman spacewalk on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington.

The first all-woman spacewalk in history began at 7:38 a.m. EDT with Koch and Meir venturing outside the International Space Station to replace a failed battery charge-discharge unit. This is the fourth spacewalk for Koch and Meir’s first.

Boeing Starliner Commercial Crew Delay: ~3 Years

Boeing’s first crewed Starliner finished initial production at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. and is readied for its cross-country trip. (Credit: Boeing)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On March 26, Vice President Mike Pence went to Huntsville, Ala., to declare that the Trump Administration would use “any means necessary” to accelerate the return of American astronauts to the surface of the moon by 2024 — four years earlier than planned.

Pence was putting Huntsville-based Marshall Space Flight Center and prime contractor Boeing on notice to get the delayed, over budget Space Launch System (SLS) being built to accomplish that goal back on track. If they didn’t, the administration would find other rockets to do the job.

In his effort to accelerate the Artemis lunar program, however, Pence unintentionally contributed to delays in NASA’s behind schedule effort to launch astronauts to a much closer location: low Earth orbit.

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GAO Report on SLS/Orion: Making Progress, But….

SLS core stage pathfinder is lifted onto the Stennis B-2 test stand (Credits: NASA/SSC)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Government Accountability Office released another depressing review this week of NASA’s Artemis program, specifically looking at the space agency’s progress on the Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft and the exploration ground systems (EGS) required to support them.

Cristina Chaplain, GAO’s director of Contracting and National Security Acquisitions, summarized the report’s conclusions on Wednesday in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.

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Marco Rubio Urges Administration to Place Hosted Payloads on American Rockets

Sen. Marco Rubio

MIAMI (Marco Rubio PR) — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) urged Vice President Mike Pence to direct U.S. Government agencies who intend to place hosted payloads on commercial spacecraft to do so on American rockets.

The request recognizes our nation’s strong commercial industrial base that is capable of accommodating these payloads, and therefore, the current exemption should no longer be used to take away commercial market share from American companies and sent overseas to French and Russian vehicles.

The full text of the letter is below.

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