NASA Statement on National Space Council Policy on American Space Leadership

The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot about the results from the first meeting of the National Space Council on Thursday:

“It was my pleasure today to attend the first meeting of the new National Space Council. The council includes government leaders from civil and military space, and the group also heard from space industry leaders. The council has historic roots in the earliest days of the Space Age, and it has been established by the president to streamline and coordinate national space policy.

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VP Pence to Visit NASA Marshall on Monday

Mike Pence

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — Vice President Mike Pence will visit NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, on Monday, Sept. 25. The Vice President will tour Marshall to get an update on the progress of the Space Launch System rocket and International Space Station science operations as the agency prepares for missions to deep space, around the Moon and ultimately to Mars.

The Vice President will tour Marshall’s Payload Operations Integration Facility, where all scientific research aboard the station is managed around-the-clock, 365 days a year. This research is helping people learn how to live and work in space for long periods. The Vice President will see a test with the engine section of the Space Launch System (SLS) core stage –the largest rocket stage ever built for the world’s most powerful rocket. The four RS-25 engines and the two solid rocket boosters that attach to the engine section will produce more than 8 million pounds of thrust to help send the Orion crew vehicle farther than any human-rated spacecraft has ever travelled before.

While at Redstone Arsenal, where Marshall is located, Vice President Pence will visit the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center for briefs from Army leaders on current missile defense projects and Army initiatives. Redstone Arsenal is an Army installation with a workforce of around 41,000 active duty military, government civilians and contractors. The arsenal is a Federal Center of Excellence, hosting components of more than 70 government organizations, including NASA, Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency, FBI, and Department of Justice.

Get more information about Redstone Arsenal at:

https://www.garrison.redstone.army.mil

Get more information about how Marshall Space Flight Center is hard at work building the SLS rocket and the technologies and systems needed to send astronauts into deep space at:

https://www.nasa.gov/marshall

Orion Parachutes Measure Up in High Pressure Test

Orion parachute test at Yuma Proving Ground. (Credit: NASA/James Blair)

YUMA, Ariz. (NASA PR) — Orion’s three main orange and white parachutes help a representative model of the spacecraft descend through sky above Arizona, where NASA engineers tested the parachute system on Sept. 13, 2017, at the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Yuma. NASA is qualifying Orion’s parachutes for missions with astronauts.

During this test, engineers replicated a situation in which Orion must abort off the Space Launch System rocket and bypass part of its normal parachute deployment sequence that typically helps the spacecraft slow down during its descent to Earth after deep space missions. The capsule was dropped out of a C-17 aircraft at more than 4.7 miles in altitude and allowed to free fall for 20 seconds, longer than ever before, to produce high aerodynamic pressure before only its pilot and main parachutes were deployed, testing whether they could perform as expected under extreme loads. Orion’s full parachute system includes 11 total parachutes — three forward bay cover parachutes and two drogue parachutes, along with three pilot parachutes that help pull out the spacecraft’s three mains.

A Look at NASA’s Plans to Explore the Moon

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Statement of Jason Crusan
Director, Advanced Exploration Systems Division
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

before the

Subcommittee on Space
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
U. S. House of Representatives

SELECTED EXCERPTS

Lunar CATALYST: Promoting Private Sector Robotic Exploration of the Moon

As part of the Agency’s overall strategy to conduct deep space exploration, NASA is also supporting the development of commercial lunar exploration. In 2014, NASA introduced an initiative called Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST). The purpose of the initiative is to encourage the development of U.S. private-sector robotic lunar landers capable of successfully delivering payloads to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial launch capabilities.

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NASA Space Act Agreements with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and More

NASA has released a document listing the 1,206 active Space Act Agreements (SAAs) the agency has with commercial companies, non-profit organizations and state and local governments.

From that list, I’ve extracted agreements with individual companies. Below you will find tables listing SAAs that NASA has signed with Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, Space Systems Loral, Google and Teledyne.

SAAs come in three varieties: reimburseable, non-reimburseable and funded. Under reimburseable agreements, a company or organization will pay NASA for its services. No money exchanges hands under non-reimburseable agrements. And under funded agreements, NASA pays the company to perform work or provide services. (The space agency made substantial use of SAA’s in the Commercial Crew Program.)
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Orbital ATK Completes Qualification of SLS Solid Rocket Booster Avionics

The ground test of Orbital ATK’s five-segment rocket motor, known as QM-1, ocurred on March 11, 2015. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

DULLES, Virginia, 6 September 2017 (Orbital ATK) – Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, recently completed an important qualification test of the avionics system for the solid rocket boosters the company has developed and is now manufacturing for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). Completion of this milestone is an important step toward preparing the SLS and Orion spacecraft for their first flight in 2019. Two Orbital ATK-developed five-segment rocket boosters will be used on each SLS launch to help provide initial thrust for the first two minutes of flight.

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Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Backs Bridenstine Nomination

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

WASHINGTON, D.C.The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (Coalition) welcomes the Trump Administration’s continuing commitment to human space exploration, space science, and the economic development of space with the nomination of U.S. Representative Jim Bridenstine for NASA Administrator.

“Together with the establishment of the National Space Council chaired by Vice President Pence, this step advances the framework for U.S. leadership in space,” said Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, President and CEO of the Coalition. “Rep. Bridenstine has been an active and vocal advocate for space on Capitol Hill. We look forward to working with NASA’s new leadership team to support NASA’s development of a deep space infrastructure for human spaceflight, beginning with the Space Launch System, Orion crew vehicle and Exploration Ground Systems. Other exciting developments include the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope and Mars Insight in 2018, progress on future deep space exploration and science platforms such as Mars 2020, Europa Clipper and the Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope, and ongoing science, exploration, international cooperation and economic development enabled by the International Space Station, leading to the eventual extension of new ventures and technology into deep space.”

“The Coalition— representing thousands of Americans working in the space industry, including many small business suppliers and manufacturers across the country— stands ready to support the new NASA leadership team and looks forward to working together as we embark on this exciting new era of deep space science and human exploration.”

About the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration is a national organization of more than 70 space industry businesses and advocacy groups focused on ensuring the United States remains a leader in space, science and technology. Based in Washington D.C., the Coalition engages in outreach and education reinforcing the value and benefits of human space exploration and space science with the public and our nation’s leaders, building lasting support for a long-term, sustainable, strategic direction for our nation’s space program.

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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FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation Budget Boosted in Senate Bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee has ignored a request by the Trump Administration to cut the budget of the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST), instead providing it with a significant boost.

The funding measure would raise the office’s budget from $19.826 million to $21.587 million for fiscal year 2018. House appropriators have approved an identical increase.

The Trump Administration had proposed cutting FAA AST’s budget to $17.905 million.

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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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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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