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.

(more…)

House Science Chairwoman Slams Trump Administration’s Artemis Lunar Plans

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

Opening Statement (Excerpt)

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)

Subcommittee on Space & Aeronautics Hearing:
Developing Core Capabilities for Deep Space Exploration: An Update on NASA’s SLS, Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

….I also want to echo Chairwoman Horn’s comment about the lateness of NASA’s testimony. NASA was provided ample advance notice of this hearing and more than sufficient time to prepare testimony and have it reviewed by OMB and whomever else looks over NASA’s testimony these days. The fact that this testimony is overdue is not only frustrating, it leaves Members little opportunity to consider NASA’s testimony in advance of the hearing. If NASA and the Administration can’t meet simple hearing deadlines, it doesn’t inspire great confidence in their ability to meet the much harder deadline of landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024.

(more…)

White House Continues to Press for Space Force as Separate Military Branch

The Trump Administration continues to press Congress to designate the newly created Space Force as a separate military service instead of being subordinate to the U.S. Air Force.

“The Administration strongly urges the Congress to explicitly designate the Space Force as a separate sixth branch of the Armed Forces and include all related technical and conforming amendments,” Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Russell T. Vought wrote in a letter to Congressional leaders.

(more…)

U.S. Sanctions Target Iran Space Agency

WASHINGTON, DC (State Department PR) — Today, the Department of State designated the Iran Space Agency and two of its research institutes under Executive Order (E.O.) 13382 for engaging in proliferation-sensitive activities. This is the first time the United States is designating Iran’s civilian space agency for activities that advance its ballistic missile program.

The United States will not allow Iran to use its space launch program as cover to advance its ballistic missile programs. Iran’s August 29 attempt to launch a space launch vehicle underscores the urgency of the threat. These designations should serve as a warning to the international scientific community that collaborating with Iran’s space program could contribute to Tehran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon delivery system.

Editor’s Note: The sanctions freeze any assets in the United States owned by the Iran Space Agency, Iran Space Research Center, and Aeronautics Research Institute. American citizens are barred from doing business with these organizations.

U.S. Space Command Established

White House Announcement

“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”

President Donald J. Trump

ESTABLISHING SPACE COMMAND: Today, at the direction of President Donald J. Trump, the Secretary of Defense established the United States Space Command to ensure space superiority.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

Pence to Chair National Space Council Meeting Next Week

Vice President Mike Pence and the National Space Council are back in action next week after a five-month hiatus.

Mike Griffin Alienating Friends & Enemies Alike, Firing Scientists at New Pentagon Job

Mike Griffin

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin has had a tumultuous time since taking over as undersecretary of defense for research and engineering in February.

In his role as the Defense Department’s chief technology officer, Griffin has been criticized for his efforts to overhaul the Pentagon’s costly and time-consuming development and procurement of new systems through the newly established Space Development Agency (SDA).

Key personnel have departed as critics have attacked Griffin for what they view as his erratic management and decision making. In addition to SDA, he is in charge of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU).

(more…)

NASA’s Uncertain Path Back to the Moon

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Nothing illustrates the changes wrought by the Trump Administration’s decision to move up the deadline for returning astronauts to the moon from 2028 to 2024 than a pair of contracts NASA awarded for the Lunar Gateway that will serve as a staging point for the landing.

In May, Maxar won a competitively awarded $375 million contract to build the Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element (PPE). NASA released a source selection statement that detailed how officials evaluated the five bids they received and why Maxar’s proposal was superior to the others.

(more…)

Presidential Message on Space Exploration Day, 2019

President Donald Trump signs an executive order reviving the National Space Council. (Credit: The White House)

On Space Exploration Day, we marvel at our country’s accomplishments in space, commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, and pledge to launch a new era of discovery and exploration of our universe.

For more than a half century, the United States has led humanity’s quest into the great unknown.  Few moments in our American story spark more pride than the Apollo 11 mission, when Neil Armstrong, alongside Buzz Aldrin, planted our beautiful flag into the Moon’s surface on July 20, 1969.  Those first steps upon that “magnificent desolation” represent a remarkable era in American innovation that has inspired future generations to become scientists and engineers and has served as a catalyst for the technological revolution of the 21st century.  The Apollo 11 lunar landing was a spectacular demonstration of American technical prowess and space leadership, and it served as an enduring example of what can be accomplished, in the face of incredible odds, by American heart, courage, and grit.

To honor those who have come before us and for the future betterment of all humankind, we pledge to launch a new era of exploration, extending our pioneering spirit into the farthest reaches of the cosmos.  My Administration is committed to reestablishing our Nation’s dominance and leadership in space for centuries to come.  I have instructed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to send the next man and first woman to the Moon and to take the next giant leap—sending Americans to Mars.  Sustained exploration that extends from our Earth to the Moon and on to the Martian surface will usher in a new era of American ingenuity, drawing untold individuals into the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and defense.

On this Space Exploration Day, we celebrate our tremendous technological advancements, honor those we have lost in the pursuit of discovery, and embrace the American Spirit that has inspired our Nation to lead the world in space.

House Science Committee Not Buying Ajit Pai’s Assurances on Weather Forecasting

Ajit Pai

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The battle over 5G wireless frequency allocation is heating up.

On  one side, there’s NASA, the Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who say that spectrum in the 24GHz band the government recently auctioned off to private companies will likely result in cell signals that would interfere with accurate weather forecasting.

On the other side is Federal Communications Commission  and its chairman, Ajit Pai, who ignored requests to delay the auction while more studies were done. Pai recently told the Senate Science Committee to ignore what he called faulty data presented by NASA and NOAA at the 11th hour.

(more…)











Trump to Nominate Former Aerospace Corporation Chairwoman for USAF Secretary

Barbara Barrett

President Donald Trump tweeted today that he planned to nominate former Aerospace Corporation Chairwoman Barbara Barrett to replace Heather Wilson as U.S. Air Force secretary.

Barrett, 68, is a businesswoman , politician and former diplomat. Her business career includes serving as:  the founding chairwoman of Valley Bank of Arizona; a partner in a Phoenix law firm; and as executives in two Fortune 500 companies.

In 1994, she ran unsuccessfully for governor of Arizona as a Republican. Barrett served as U.S. ambassador to Finland in 2008-09 under President George W. Bush. She also served as a senior advisor to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

Barrett was the first civilian female to land in an F/A-18 Hornet jet fighter on an aircraft carrier. She trained in Russia as an astronaut and was the backup to Canadian space tourist Guy Laliberte for the Soyuz TM-16 flight to the International Space Station in 2009.

Barrett also served as deputty administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and as vice chairwoman of the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board.











House Subcommittee Boosts NASA Budget, Ignores Supplemental Request

Astronauts on a future lunar walk. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The House commerce, justice and science subcommittee approved a fiscal year 2020 budget for NASA that increases the space agency’s budget while ignoring a $1.6 billion supplemental budget request from the Trump Administration that NASA says is required to land astronauts on the south pole of the moon in 2024.

The House measure would boost NASA’s budget from $21.5 billion to $22.32 billion, an increase of $820 million. The amount is below the Trump Administration’s total request of $22.62 million for fiscal year 2020 (FY 2020). That would be an increase of $1.1 billion over NASA’s current budget.

(more…)











House Appropriations Committee Boosts Budgets for NASA, NOAA


WASHINGTON (House Appropriations Committee PR) — The House Appropriations Committee today released the draft fiscal year 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies funding bill, which will be considered in subcommittee on Friday, May 17. The bill funds the Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other related agencies.

The text of the bill is here. The subcommittee markup will be webcast live and linked from https://appropriations.house.gov/events/markups.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – NASA is funded at $22.32 billion, $815 million above the 2019 enacted level. This funding includes:

  • $7.16 billion for NASA Science programs – $255.6 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level.
  • $123 million for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Engagement, $13 million above fiscal year 2019 and rejecting the Administration’s request to eliminate funding for these programs, which help inspire and train the country’s future STEM workforce.
  • $5.1 billion for Exploration – $79.1 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level. This includes funding to continue the development of the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System, and related ground systems.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – The legislation contains $5.48 billion for NOAA, which is $54.28 million above the fiscal year 2019 level and more than $1 million above the Administration’s request. Funding will help address important priorities such as climate research, improvements in weather forecasting, the reduction of harmful algal blooms, and fisheries management.

Editor’s Note: The measure does not seem to take into account the supplemental request made earlier this week for NASA.

Working on a freelance project right now, so I don’t have time to go through the bill. For anyone who has time to take a look at the text of the House markup (link above), here are some resources for comparison purposes:











University Association Opposes Use of Pell Grant Surplus for NASA, Other Programs

Credit: NASA

Association of Public and Land-grant Universities

May 14, 2019

The Honorable Roy Blunt
Chairman
Senate LHHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee

The Honorable Patty Murray
Ranking Member
Senate LHHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee

The Honorable Rosa DeLauro
Chairwoman
House LHHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee

The Honorable Tom Cole
Ranking Member
House LHHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee

Dear Chairman Blunt, Ranking Member Murray, Chairwoman DeLauro, and Ranking Member Cole:

I write to express the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ strong opposition to the administration’s revised budget request,which would rescind $3.9 billion from the Pell Grant reserve to, in part, fund the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

(more…)