And the New NASA Administrator is Probably….Wait for it….

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

This guy.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).

That’s what a couple of websites (here and here) are reporting this evening, with the caveat that — this being “Trump world” — anything could happen between now and the formal announcement planned for September or perhaps earlier.

Surprised?

You shouldn’t be.

During his three terms Congress, Bridenstine has made himself an expert in space policy, with a particular focus on promoting commercial space. He’s also been campaigning for the job since Trump was elected (and probably before). Bridenstine will also be in need of a new job soon. He promised voters he would serve a maximum of six years in the House, which means he won’t be standing for re-election next November.

The Trump Administration has also settled on a deputy administrator. That guy’s name is…

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NextSTEP Partners Develop Ground Prototypes of Deep Space Habitats

Concept of Lockheed Martin’s NextSTEP-2 habitat with Orion. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — Through exploration, NASA is broadening horizons, enhancing knowledge, and improving our way of life. Our efforts to explore and discover the universe are increasing in both scope and duration. The Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket in the world, soon will launch the Orion spacecraft and its crew deeper into space than ever before. Expanding humanity’s presence farther into the solar system also requires advancements in the development of habitats and the systems to keep astronauts safe as they live and work in deep space for long periods of time.

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Senate Appropriators Split Difference on NASA FY 2018 Budget


By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a modest cut to NASA’s budget for fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018) that splits the difference between the cut requested by the Trump Administration and the increase approved by House appropriators.

The $19.53 billion provided is $ below the agency’s current budget but above the $19 billion the administration wants to spend. The House Appropriations Committee has approved $19.87 billion for the space agency.

Senate appropriators rejected efforts by the Administration to significantly cut NASA’s Earth Science budget and to end the agency’s Education program. The House has made an even deeper cut in Earth Science than the administration proposed but also has rejected ending the Education program.

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Senate Subcommittee Approves Cut in NASA’s Budget


The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies today approved a $53.4 billion spending bill that includes a decrease in NASA’s budget.

The $19.5 billion budget for the space agency is $124 million below the FY2017 enacted level and $437 million above the amount requested by the Trump Administration. Earlier this month, the House Appropriations Committee approved $19.88 billion for NASA.

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Lockheed Martin to Build Prototype of NASA Cis-Lunar Habitat

Lockheed Martin artist rendering of the NextSTEP habitat docked with Orion in cislunar orbit as part of a concept for the Deep Space Gateway. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., July 20, 2017 (Lockheed Martin PR) — Refurbishing a shuttle-era cargo container used to transfer cargo to the International Space Station, Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) is prototyping a deep space habitat for NASA at Kennedy Space Center. This prototype will integrate evolving technologies to keep astronauts safe while onboard and operate the spacecraft autonomously when unoccupied.

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House Appropriations Committee Boosts NASA’s Budget

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Ignoring the Trump’s Administration’s fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018) budget request, the House Appropriations Committee has voted to boost NASA’ spending to $19.88 billion, including significant increases to the space agency’s Exploration and Planetary Science programs.

The appropriations bill is an increase of $779.8 million over Trump’s requested budget of $19.09 billion. It would increase NASA’s budget by $218.5 million over the $19.65 billion the space agency is receiving in FY 2017.

NASA’s Exploration program, which includes the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft, would be boosted by $226 million to $4.55 billion under the House measure. The administration had requested $3.93 billion, a cut of $390 million under current spending.

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Will the National Space Council Make a Difference at NASA?

Artist concept of the Block I configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS Program has completed its critical design review, and the program has concluded that the core stage of the rocket will remain orange along with the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter, which is the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements. (Credit: NASA)

Warren Ferster Consulting asks whether the newly revived National Space Council will make much of a difference at NASA, whose human deep space programs are dependent upon the Congressionally supported Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft.

Some have suggested that, with a space council chaired by Vice President Mike Pence cracking the whip, the full potential of companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin can be brought to bear in support of the nation’s space goals. The implication is this hasn’t happened to date, which is puzzling since leveraging commercial capabilities to support the International Space Station was the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s space policy.

Obama was challenged in that effort not by the lack of a National Space Council, but by Capitol Hill, where key lawmakers viewed his outsourcing initiative as a threat to the pet program that they mandated, the decidedly uncommercial Space Launch System.

The super-heavy-lift SLS is exhibit A of the argument that getting the Executive Branch speaking with one voice on space policy, while sensible, won’t matter a great deal if Congress has a different agenda.

To recap, Obama’s human spaceflight policy was to outsource ISS crew and cargo transportation and invest in technologies with the potential to change the economics of deep space exploration. To make budgetary room, Obama canceled Constellation, a collection of hardware development programs begun under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

The article notes that Bush got bipartisan approval from Congress for the Constellation program without a National Space Council. The program included Orion and two space shuttle-derived Ares boosters for human orbital and deep-space missions.

Obama subsequently canceled the Constellation program, only to have Congress revive the program as SLS and Orion. Only the smaller Ares orbital booster was canceled.

Trump Administration’s NASA Policy Slowly Emerges

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)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center last week was long on rhetoric and short on details, but a few themes and priorities have already emerged in the Trump Administration’s slowly evolving approach to the nation’s civilian space program.

NASA Will Lead Again

In a speech in which he repeatedly praised President Donald Trump, Pence used some variation of the word “lead” a total of 33 times (“leadership” 18 times, “leader(s)” eight times,  “lead”  six times and “leading” once).
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Pence Promises Return to the Moon & Boots on Mars

Mike Pence

Vice President and newly minted Chairman of the revived National Space Council Mike Pence visited NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Thursday where he gave a speech promising a return to the moon and boots on Mars.

When? How? What will it cost? And how are we going to pay for it?

Pence didn’t get into that level of granularity. In fact, he didn’t get into very many details at all during his address to KSC employees.

Pence’s speech consisted of a lot of platitudes delivered with attitude and lots of latitude as to what it all meant in practice.

If you watched it and were baffled, welcome to the club. That seems to be the consensus of the media coverage I’ve seen so far among reporters who cover space.

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Vice President Pence to Visit NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Mike Pence

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Vice President Mike Pence will visit NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, July 6.

NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live coverage for parts of the visit starting at noon EDT with Air Force Two’s arrival at Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility runway, as well as a special address to the center’s workforce at 12:50 p.m.

The Vice President will tour Kennedy and learn more about the center’s work as a multi-user spaceport for commercial and government clients, as well as see the agency’s progress toward launching from U.S. soil on spacecraft built by American companies, and traveling past the moon, and eventually on to Mars and beyond with the help of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

For more information about NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/kennedy

House Appropriations Committee Ignores Trump, Funds NASA at $19.9 Billion

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

The House Appropriations Committee has ignored President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts  in NASA’s budget and has instead approved a bill that would boost the space agency’s budget.

The spending measure would fund the agency at $19.9 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2018, which officials said was a $219 million increase over the enacted level for FY 2017.  Trump has proposed cutting NASA’s budget to just over $19 billion.

Appropriators provided a $226 million boost to the space agency’s exploration budget, which funds the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew spacecraft. They also boosted the budget for NASA’s science programs by $94 million.

NASA’s Education Office, which Trump has proposed shutting down, would receive $90 million.

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NASA Shutting Down Asteroid Retrieval Mission

Artists concept of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission capturing an asteroid boulder before redirecting it to an astronaut-accessible orbit around Earth’s moon. (Credit: NASA)

NASA is shutting down its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), an Obama-era program that Congress gave little love and even less month.

In a presentation at a June 13 meeting of the Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG) here, Michele Gates, program director for ARM at NASA Headquarters, said the mission received its “notice of defunding” from agency leadership in April, weeks after a budget blueprint document for fiscal year 2018 released by the White House called for cancelling the mission.

“We are in an orderly closeout phase, capturing all the good work that has been done across the team, and transitioning activities as appropriate to other potential missions or archived for future use,” she said.

ARM called for sending a robotic spacecraft to a near Earth asteroid, where it would grab a boulder a few meters across from the asteroid’s surface and return it to cislunar space. Astronauts flying on an Orion spacecraft would then visit the boulder, performing studies and collecting samples for return to Earth.

Read the full story.

Three CubeSats Get Rides on First SLS-Orion Flight

Three teams earned a $20,000 prize check and a slot to launch their CubeSat on Exploration Mission-1, the first integrated flight of NASA’s Space Launch System. NASA’s Associate Administrator of the Space Technology Mission Directorate, Steve Jurczyk, Benjamin Fried of team CU-E3, Kyle Doyle of team Cislunar Explorers, Wesley Faler of Team Miles, and NASA’s Ames Research Center Director, Eugene Tu. (Credit: NASA/Dominic Hart)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) has awarded rides for three small spacecraft on the agency’s newest rocket, and $20,000 each in prize money, to the winning teams of citizen solvers competing in the semi-final round of the agency’s Cube Quest Challenge.

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SLS & Orion Delays Have Multiple Causes

Artist concept of the Block I configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System.  (Credit: NASA)

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) 2017 assessment of NASA’s 21 largest programs contained a stark warning: the agency was in increasing danger of slipping the first flight (EM-1) of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle scheduled for November 2018.

But, by the time the assessment was published on May 16, it was already outdated: NASA officials had already announced a delay to an unspecified time in 2019.

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