U.S. Space Force Officially Established as Sixth Branch of Armed Services

ARLINGTON, Va., December 20, 2019 (AFNS) — Today the President signed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act and with it, directed the establishment of the U.S. Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.

“We are at the dawn of a new era for our Nation’s Armed Forces. The establishment of the U.S. Space Force is an historic event and a strategic imperative for our Nation. Space has become so important to our way of life, our economy, and our national security that we must be prepared as a Nation to protect it from hostile actions,” said Secretary of Defense, Mark T. Esper. “Our Military Services have created the world’s best space capabilities. Now is the time for the U.S. Space Force to lead our Nation in preparing for emerging threats in an evolving space environment. This new service will help ensure we are postured to deter aggression, defend our national interests and outpace potential adversaries.”

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Legislation to Create Space Force as 6th Branch of Armed Forces

The White House and Congress have worked out a deal that will establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Services in exchange for 12 weeks of paid leave for federal employees with newborn babies.

The details of the Space Force taken from a summary of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) are below.

Space Force

The FY20 NDAA recognizes space as a warfighting domain and establishes the U.S. Space Force in Title 10 as the sixth Armed Service of the United States, under the U.S. Air Force. In doing so, the NDAA provides the Secretary of the Air Force with the authority to transfer Air Force personnel to the newly established Space Force. To minimize cost and bureaucracy, the Space Force will require no additional billets and remains with the President’s budget request.

The conference agreement creates a Chief of Space Operations (CSO) for the U.S. Space Force who will report directly to the Secretary of the Air Force and become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During the first year, the CSO may also serve as the Commander of U.S. Space Command. The CSO will provide updates to the committees of jurisdiction every 60 days, with briefings and reports on implementation and establishment status. The conference report also creates:

  • A Senate-confirmed Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration, as the senior space architect, who will:
    • Provide a renewed focus on the acquisition of space systems as the Chair of the Space Force Acquisition Council, ensuring integration across the national security space enterprise;
    • Synchronize with the Air Force Service Acquisition Executive on all space system efforts, and take on Service Acquisition Executive responsibilities for space systems and programs effective on October 1, 2022; and
    • Oversee and direct the Space and Missile Systems Center, Space Rapid Capabilities Office, and Space Development Agency.
  • An Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy as the senior civilian in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for oversight of space warfighting.

Myers Withdraws Nomination to Head NOAA

Barry Lee Myers

President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has withdrawn from consideration for health reasons.

Barry Lee Myers, 76, told The Washington Times that he has had surgery for and is undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer.

Myers’ nomination to lead NOAA had languished in the Senate for more than two years since the White House announced it in October 2017. Opponents of the nomination said he lacked scientific expertise and had conflicts of interest because the position entails overseeing the National Weather Service (NWS).

Myers was previously CEO and general counsel of  AccuWeather, a private weather forecasting company founded by his older brother, Joel. The family-owned firm has backed efforts to curtail the information the NWS could release, arguing that the government agency competes with private services.

Myers stepped down from his post at AccuWeather and promised to divest himself of his holdings in the company. But, the moves were insufficient to advance his nomination to a Senate vote.

White House Wants Congress to Provide More Money for Artemis, Dump SLS as Europa Mission Launcher

The core stage test team recently completed structural testing confirming the stage’s liquid hydrogen tank structural design is good for conditions that will be experienced in the rocket’s initial configuration, called Block 1, during the Artemis I launch. (Credits: NASA/Tyler Martin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The White House wants Congress to provide more money for the Artemis moon landing program, and to save about $1.5 billion by dropping the requirement that NASA launch the Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s icy moon on the Space Launch System (SLS).

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Trump Administration Opposes Additional Study of Possible 5G Weather Satellite Interference

GOES-17 satellite during processing by Astrotech. (Credit: NASA)

The Trump Administration is opposed to any further study on whether new 5G communications services will interfere with meteorological satellites and degrade the accuracy of weather forecasting.

In a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the White House said it wants a provision removed from the FY 2020 funding bill that would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to review the impact of 5G services operating in the 23.6 to 24 gigahertz bands on weather satellites.

“Such a study would be directly duplicative of past Agency studies on this subject, which were fully considered by the Administration in a lengthy interagency process earlier this year, leading to a carefully-wrought compromise that balances the spectrum needs of government and private enterprise,” wrote Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Some studies have shown that 5G transmissions could interfere with weather satellites. However, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has criticized the studies as flawed.

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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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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NASA, JAXA Issue Joint Statement Pledging to Explore the Moon

Artist’s rendering of an ascent vehicle separating from a descent vehicle and departing the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)


Joint Statement on Cooperation in Lunar Exploration

During their September 24, 2019, meeting at JAXA Headquarters in Tokyo, NASA Administrator James Bridenstine and JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa welcomed the ongoing engagement between their agencies to realize JAXA’s participation in NASA’s Artemis program and vision for the participation of Japanese astronauts in lunar exploration.

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Lack of Anomalies in House Spending Bill a Blow to NASA’s Moon Plan

For once, a lack of anomalies is a problem for NASA.

The House of Representatives has passed a continuing resolution (CR) that will keep the government operating for seven weeks when the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. A CR keeps government spending at FY 2019 levels until Congress passes and the president signs a new budget.

NASA, which the Trump Administration tasked earlier this year with landing astronauts on the moon by 2024, has sought a number of exceptions or anomalies to allow for new program starts. But, the Democratic House did not include any for the space agency in the CR.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said earlier this year that a CR instead of a new budget would be “devastating” to the Artemis program meeting the 2024 deadline.

Ken Bowersox, the NASA official who is overseeing Artemis, told the House space subcommittee this week that NASA would need funding for lunar landing contracts by the end of 2019 or the landing would slip into 2025.

The Republican-controlled Senate, which has been supportive of the Trump Administration, has not passed a CR yet.

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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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