This Week in Elon: Musk Mocks Biden Amid Cooler Political Climate, Federal Investigation of Tesla

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It seems that Elon Musk is a bit peeved that President Joe Biden didn’t congratulate SpaceX on completing the privately-funded Inspiration4 crewed mission last week and helping to raise $210 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“He’s still sleeping,” Musk wrote in response to a question from a Twitter follower about Biden’s silence. It was a clear reference to ex-President Donald Trump’s description of him as “sleepy Joe” during the campaign.

The remark set off the usual battle on social media. Musk’s legion of defenders called the omission unforgivable. Musk’s critics noted his willingness to amply praise authoritarian China where Musk’s Tesla Motors has a manufacturing plant even as he called U.S. officials “fascists” for their efforts to contain the deadly COVID-19 virus.

For his part, Jared Isaacman, the billionaire who funded and commanded the Inspiration4 flight, says Biden’s silence is no big deal.

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White House Taps Chirag Parikh to Serve as National Space Council Executive Secretary

Chirag Parikh

The White House has tapped space policy expert Chirag Parikh to become executive secretary of the National Space Council. He will oversee day-to-day operations of the council, which helps to formulate, coordinate and implement space policies across the federal government. Vice President Kamala Harris chairs the council.

Parikh was director of space policy at the National Security Council from 2010-16, where he oversaw creation of the Obama Administration’s 2010 National Space Policy. The Obama Administration did not have a National Space Council; the Trump Administration revived it in 2017 after a 24-year hiatus.

Parikh left the White House in 2016 to serve as director of the Office of Source Strategies at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. He was responsible for worldwide imagery collection operations and adjudicated requirements for all U.S. space-based imagery intelligence systems.

Parikh became senior director of Microsoft’s Azure Space in 2020, where he focused on integrating space applications with Microsoft’s cloud computing platform.

Prior to joining the Obama White House in 2010, Parikh served as deputy national intelligence officer for science and technology at the National Intelligence Council and principle intelligence analyst for space systems at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center.

Parikh graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering.

Vice President Harris to Lead National Space Council

Harris will swear in former Sen. Bill Nelson as the next NASA Administrator on Monday morning (details TBA). The Senate unanimously approved his nomination on Thursday.

Nelson issued the following statement on Saturday:

“The Vice President is the perfect person to lead the federal government’s space policy, which is increasingly complex, with many nations in space.

“Vice President Lyndon Johnson was the first chair of the National Space Council when America initially ventured beyond Earth. Now, Vice President Harris will coordinate our nation’s efforts to ensure America continues to lead in space. It is an exciting time for our space program.”

The Trump Administration revived the National Space Council after a 24-year gap. The Biden Administration has announced it will keep the council’s Users’ Advisory Group, which was established by the last administration.

Surprise! NASA Artemis Lunar Program Schedule Likely to Slip Again, 2024 Landing Unlikely

An astronaut descends the ladder to explore the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The latest in a series of updates from NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) says that despite making significant progress on the $86 billion Artemis program, the space agency’s schedule for returning astronauts to the moon in four years is likely to slip. [Full report]

“Nonetheless, the Agency faces significant challenges that we believe will make its current plan to launch Artemis I in 2021 and ultimately land astronauts on the Moon by the end of 2024 highly unlikely,” the update said.

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Report: Biden to Retain National Space Council

NASA’s Orion spacecraft that flew Exploration Flight Test-1 on Dec. 5, 2014 is seen on the South Lawn of the White House, Sunday, July 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. Lockheed Martin, NASA’s prime contractor for Orion, began manufacturing the Orion crew module in 2011 and delivered it in July 2012 to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where final assembly, integration and testing was completed. More than 1,000 companies across the country manufactured or contributed elements to the spacecraft. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Politico reports that the Biden Administration will retain the National Space Council. The council was revived by the Trump Administration in 2017 to coordinate national space activities after a 24-year gap in operation.

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DoD Inspector General to Investigate Decision to Locate US Space Command Headquarters n Huntsville

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General has announced an investigation into the U.S. Air Force’s controversial decision to locate U.S. Space Command’s headquarters at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala.

In a letter to the U.S. Air Force secretary, the office said it would investigate whether the decision process:

  • “complied with DoD and Air Force policies during the location selection process;
  • used objective and relevant scoring factors to rank the six candidate locations; and
  • calculated the cost and other scoring factors accurately and consistently among the six candidate locations.”
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Colorado Congressional Delegation Wants Biden to Suspend U.S. Space Command Move to Huntsville

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Colorado’s nine-member Congressional delegation has asked President Joe Biden to suspend the move of the U.S. Space Command from Colorado Springs to Huntsville, Ala., until the administration conducts a full review of a decision made during the waning days of the Trump Administration.

“This move undermines our ability to respond to the threats in space and is disruptive to the current mission. Additionally, significant evidence exists that the process was neither fair nor impartial and that President [Donald] Trump’s political considerations influenced the final decision,” the delegation said in a Jan. 26 letter to the president.

The U.S. Air Force announced the move of the U.S. Space Command from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs to the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville on Jan. 13, one week before Trump left office and a week after Congress certified the election of Democrat Joe Biden.

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Report on Commerce Department’s Space Accomplishments

WASHINGTON (Commerce Department PR) — The Office of Space Commerce published a report on the Commerce Department’s space commerce accomplishments under Secretary Wilbur Ross and the Trump Administration.

The report recaps the Department’s success in achieving its strategic objective to expand commercial space activities through a host of actions. The text of the report is below.

Department of Commerce Accomplishments Space and Space Commerce

Under the leadership of Secretary Wilbur Ross, the Department of Commerce emphasized the importance of space and space commerce to U.S. national and economic security, prosperity, and the growing role of the Department in this area. Strategic Objective 1.1 of the Secretary’s Strategic Plan for 2018-2022 was to increase U.S. commercial space activities; the Department’s efforts to improve space situational awareness were Agency Priority Goals in FY2020 and FY2021.

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U.S. Government Releases Orbital Debris R&D Plan

This GIF is part of a longer animation showing different types of space debris objects and different debris sizes in orbit around Earth. For debris objects bigger than 10 cm the data comes from the US Space Surveillance Catalogue. The information about debris objects smaller than 10 cm is based on a statistical model from ESA. (Credit: ESA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In its waning days, the Trump Administration released the National Orbital Debris Research and Development Plan, which is designed to guide federal R&D efforts aimed at limiting, tracking, characterizing and remediating debris in Earth orbit.

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Memo on Space Policy Directive 7: U.S. Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Policy

Global Positioning System (Credit: DOT&E)

January 15, 2021

MEMORANDUM

SUBJECT: Space Policy Directive 7, The United States Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Policy

This Space Policy Directive establishes implementation actions and guidance for United States space-based positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) programs and activities for United States national and homeland security, civil, commercial, and scientific purposes. This policy complements the guidance set forth in Executive Order 13905 of February 12, 2020 (Strengthening National Resilience through Responsible Use of Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Services), and the intersector guidance for Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) included in the December 9, 2020, National Space Policy. This policy supersedes National Security Presidential Directive-39 (NSPD-39) of December 15, 2004 (United States Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Policy).

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Statement from the Press Secretary Regarding Small Modular Reactors for National Defense and Space Exploration

Credit: Matt Wade

WASHINGTON, January 12, 2021 (White House PR) — Today, President Trump is issuing an Executive Order on Promoting Small Modular Reactors for National Defense and Space Exploration, which will further revitalize the United States nuclear energy sector, reinvigorate America’s space exploration program, and produce diverse energy options for national defense needs.

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Executive Order on Promoting Small Modular Reactors for National Defense and Space Exploration

NASA’s Orion spacecraft that flew Exploration Flight Test-1 on Dec. 5, 2014 is seen on the South Lawn of the White House, Sunday, July 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. Lockheed Martin, NASA’s prime contractor for Orion, began manufacturing the Orion crew module in 2011 and delivered it in July 2012 to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where final assembly, integration and testing was completed. More than 1,000 companies across the country manufactured or contributed elements to the spacecraft. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1.  Purpose.  Nuclear energy is critical to United States national security.  That is why I have taken a series of actions to promote its development and facilitate its use.  On June 29, 2017, I announced an initiative to revive and expand the nuclear energy sector and directed a complete review of United States nuclear energy policy to help find new ways to revitalize this crucial energy resource.  On July 12, 2019, I signed a Presidential Memorandum entitled “The Effect of Uranium Imports on the National Security and Establishment of the United States Nuclear Fuel Working Group,” with the goal of examining the current state of domestic nuclear fuel production and reinvigorating the nuclear fuel supply chain, consistent with United States national security and nonproliferation goals.  On August 20, 2019, I signed National Security Presidential Memorandum-20, entitled “Launch of Spacecraft Containing Space Nuclear Systems,” calling for development and use of space nuclear systems to enable or enhance space exploration and operational capabilities.

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Department of Energy Releases ‘Energy for Space’ Strategy

Policy Recommendations Support America’s Renewed Leadership in Space

WASHINGTON, D.C. (DOE PR) – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the “Energy for Space” strategy, an outlook of policy recommendations to further DOE’s role in powering the next generation of space exploration. “Energy for Space” supports President Trump’s recently released National Space Policy, and calls for DOE to be an essential source of the science, technology, and engineering solutions that are needed for advancing U.S. leadership in the space domain.

“Under the vision outlined in today’s “Energy for Space” plan, DOE’s scientific and engineering capabilities will be applied to overcome the challenges of vast distances, extreme conditions, complex operations, and unfamiliar environments to propel and power exploration, security, and commerce in space,” said Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “In coordination with NASA, the interagency, and private sector partners, we must continue to harness the incredible capabilities throughout the DOE enterprise to expand exploration and utilization of the space domain.”

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Scott Pace Departs National Space Council

Scott Pace (Credit: GWU)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

With the Trump Administration winding down, Scott Pace has left his position as executive executive of the National Space Council and returned to his previous post in academia.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in my capacity as Executive Secretary of the National Space Council,” Pace said in a statement. “The leadership of the president in reviving the National Space Council and the active chairmanship of the Vice President have made the past four years among the most ambitious and productive years for the Unite States space enterprise.

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Artemis Update From the Department of Well Duh

An astronaut descends the ladder to explore the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

NASA’s Office of Inspector General terminates audit of Artemis program with words of obviousness

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Office of Inspector General (IG) has determined that the biggest problem the space agency faces in its Artemis lunar program is….wait for it….money.

“Based upon our audit work completed to date, we found that the most significant challenge NASA currently faces in returning humans to the Moon by 2024 is budget uncertainty, a challenge that could ultimately affect the Agency’s ability to safely accomplish the mission,” the IG said in a memorandum published on its website.

Well, yeah….

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