U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Signs Declaration of Intent with CNES

WASHINGTON (CNES PR) — On the sidelines of the International Astronautical Congress, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross signed a Declaration of Intent with Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) President Jean-Yves Le Gall. The Declaration charts a path forward for expanded cooperation between the Department and the French space agency on space situational awareness (SSA) and other important efforts driving the commercial development of space.

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House Science Committee Launches Investigation into Commerce Department’s Involvement in NOAA Actions Regarding Hurricane Dorian

Wilbur Ross

Washington, DC (House Science Committee PR) – Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairwoman Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross requesting information related to the Department’s involvement in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) actions surrounding claims that Hurricane Dorian would impact Alabama, as well as requesting a briefing with Department of Commerce employees who may have been involved in any directives to NOAA related to the September 6 statement. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee has full legislative and oversight jurisdiction over the National Weather Service, in addition to other portions of NOAA.  

 “As the operational face of weather forecasting in the United States, the NWS protects countless lives and property every year through its accurate and timely forecasts, watches, and warnings,” said the Committee Chairwomen Johnson and Sherrill. “We are committed to supporting the activities of the NWS and its dedicated staff. During your Senate confirmation hearing, you committed to allowing federal scientists to ‘be free to communicate data clearly and concisely’ and that you would ‘not interfere with the release of factual scientific data.’ However, actions by you that were described in the New York Times article would, if accurate, be inconsistent with the values of scientific integrity.”

Additionally, Chairwoman Johnson sent a letter yesterday to the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General Peggy Gustafson requesting a copy of the notification sent to NOAA staff of an investigation into the statement issued by the Agency on September 6, 2019. The Office of the Inspector General promptly provided a response to the Chairwoman’s inquiry.

A copy of the full letter to Secretary Ross can be found here.

A copy of the full letter to Inspector General Gustafson can be found here.

Report: NOAA Errors Led to Diminished Weather Satellites

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

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NOAA’s poor management of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites-R (GOES-R) program has resulted in less accurate meteorological data from the GOES-16 and GOES-17 weather satellites now in orbit, according to an audit by the Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General (IG). [Full Report]

NOAA’s failure to properly address an overheating problem discovered during ground testing in 2017 led to the degraded performance of GOES-17’s main instrument, the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). The GOES-16 satellite, which was already in orbit at the time, is also suffering from overheating of its ABI to a lesser degree, the report found.

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House Science Committee Chairwoman Blasts Ross, Trump on Hurricane Dorian Actions

Eddie Bernice Johnson

WASHINGTON, DC, September 10, 2019 – Yesterday, the New York Times reported “Secretary of Commerce threatened to fire top employees at NOAA on Friday after the agency’s Birmingham office contradicted President Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian might hit Alabama, according to three people familiar with the discussion.”

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) made the following statement.

“I am extremely disturbed by the directive that NOAA leadership sent on September 6, which threatens the integrity and public trust of weather forecasts at the peak of Hurricane season. I am even more distressed to learn that political interference from the Secretary of Commerce may be behind the directive. The Committee will pursue this issue and we expect full cooperation from the Department of Commerce in our efforts. I would remind Department employees of the whistleblower protections afforded them by law. Any employees with information are welcome to share anonymously via the Committee Whistleblower Page.”

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Report: Wilbur Ross Threatened Firings at NOAA Over Sharpiegate

Wilbur Ross

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The New York Times reports that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire top officials at NOAA unless they backed President Donald Trump’s claim that he was right when he tweeted about Hurricane Dorian threatening Alabama with worse damage than anticipated.

Meanwhile, NOAA’s top scientist is investigating whether the statement backing Trump’s claim violates the agency’s scientific integrity rules.

Trump tweeted on Sept. 1 that Alabama would be one of the states hit by the Category 5 storm. The warning was quickly contradicted by the National Weather Service’s office in Birmingham, Ala.

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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.

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Commerce Department Releases Report on Driving Space Commerce Through Effective Spectrum Policy

WASHINGTON (Commerce Department PR) — Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross sent a report to President Donald J. Trump detailing thirteen recommendations that will improve the global competitiveness of the American space sector through updated domestic and international spectrum policies.

This report was developed collaboratively with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Space Council, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, as well as other Federal entities, to create a set of proposals the Federal Government as a whole can adopt to fuel the growth of the U.S. space commerce economy.

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NASA & Commerce Department Battle FCC Over 5G Frequency Allocation

Ajit Pai

SpaceNews reports that NASA and the Commerce Department are battling the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the commission’s plan to auction radio frequency spectrum for 5G service.

The battle has apparently taken the form of an exchange of tersely written letters.

In a March 8 letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, [FCC Chairman Ajit] Pai emphasized the Trump Administration’s commitment to rolling out 5G as soon as possible and freeing up spectrum for it.

The FCC is preparing to auction 2,909 licenses in the 24.25 to 25.25 bands of the electromagnetic spectrum on March 14. At the same time, the FCC is preparing the U.S. government’s proposal for the 2019 World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC) in Egypt starting in October. The U.S. plan for protecting passive microwave services from interference is far less stringent than plans published by other nations.

Ross and Bridenstine asked for further discussion of the U.S. position.

“The current FCC proposal would have a significant negative impact on the transmission of critical Earth science data – an American taxpayer investment spanning decades and billions of dollars,” they wrote in a Feb. 28 letter to Pai. “As the U.S. government continues to investigate additional spectrum for future commercial broadband use, it is essential that protections are established for the critical operations of NASA, the Department of Commerce and our international partners in the 23.6 to 24 GHz spectrum band.”

Pai wrote back on March 8 rejecting the idea of putting the auction on hold and attending an inter-agency meeting scheduled for today.











House, Senate Committees Set Dueling Hearings on America’s Future in Space


House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
America in Space: Future Visions, Current Issues

Date: Wednesday, March 13, 2019 – 10:00 am EST
Location: 2318 Rayburn House Office Building

Witnesses

  • Dr. Ellen Stofan, John and Adrienne Mars Director, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Former NASA Chief Scientist
  • Dr. Peggy A. Whitson, Technical Consultant and Former Astronaut
  • Mr. Frank A. Rose, Senior Fellow, Security and Strategy, The Brookings Institution, Former Assistant Secretary of State

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
The New Space Race: Ensuring U.S. Global Leadership on the Final Frontier

Date: Wednesday, March 13, 2019 – 10:00 am EST
Location: G50 Dirksen Senate Office Building

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “The New Space Race: Ensuring U.S. Global Leadership on the Final Frontier,” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. The hearing will discuss the U.S. government’s strategy for maintaining leadership in space, ensuring space industry competitiveness, and addressing challenges to spacefaring preeminence.

Witnesses:

  • The Honorable Jim Bridenstine, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • Mr. Kevin O’Connell, Director, Office of Space Commerce, Department of Commerce

Live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.











NOAA, FAA AST Space Programs Get Funding Boosts

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Last week, we took a look at the significant increase in NASA’s budget for FY 2019. In this story, we will examine the budget increases for the Commerce Department — which manages the nation’s weather satellites — and the Department of Transportation, which oversees commercial launches. We will also take a look how the White House’s National Space Council fared.

Commerce Department

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA’s satellite programs received $1,45 billion, which is an increase of $55 million over FY 2018. The bulk of the funding is designated for the GOES-R,  Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Polar Follow-on (PFO) programs. The amounts include:

  • JPSS: $548 million
  • GOES-R: $408.4 million
  • PFO: $330 million

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CBO: Implementing Space Situational Awareness Act Would Cost $127 Million

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that it will cost $127 million over five years to implement a House bill that gives the Department of Commerce authority to provide civilian space situational awareness and traffic management.

Of that amount, the Department of Commerce would spend $118 million for fiscal years 2019-23.

“The bill would authorize the appropriation of $20 million annually to implement the civil space situational awareness program, and an additional $5 million annually to develop and implement the pilot program,” the CBO report stated.

NASA would spend an additional $9 million over this period to establish and operate a research center focused on space situational awareness and traffic management.

Some of the costs of the program would be offset by fees.

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Aerospace Corporation Examines the U.S. Regulation of Space Commerce

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., July 25, 2018 (Aerospace Corporation PR) – The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS) released a new issue brief today that analyzes the U.S. administration’s plans to significantly enlarge the space portfolio of the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC).

The plan calls for DOC to expand its range of responsibilities beyond regulatory reform to encompass space traffic management and to promote the nation’s commercial space sector.

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Videos: Wilbur Ross, Lamar Smith on the New Era of Space

Video Caption: Introduction by Hudson President and CEO Kenneth R. Weinstein followed by a Keynote address by Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX).

Maintaining U.S. leadership in the face of global competition warrants a reevaluation of the U.S. political and legal landscape governing space. On July 24, Hudson Institute was joined by the Secretary Wilbur Ross and House Science, Space, & Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith to discuss the Department of Commerce’s evolving role in the space sector.

The web of national, regional and international institutions—organized to guide and serve an industry undergoing dramatic transformation—needs to be updated. Rising to meet this challenge, Congress and the Executive Branch have been working together to reshape the legal environment for the commercial use of outer space. Keynote addresses by Secretary Ross and Congressman Smith will be followed by a panel with senior government officials responsible for executing the reform agenda laid out by the Trump Administration.

Hudson Adjunct Fellow Brandt Pasco talks to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Panel discussion: Regulatory Efficacy and Efficiency in Space Commerce











Smith: A New Era in Space is Upon Us

Lamar Smith

WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) – Chairman Lamar Smith of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee gave remarks today at the Hudson Institute’s discussion of the New Era in Space. Smith’s remarks touched on the growing private sector presence in space and how the government can effectively collaborate with industry while spurring investment and innovation.

Additionally, Smith explained how two Committee bills, H.R. 5346, the Commercial Space Support Vehicle Act, and H.R. 6226, the American Space SAFE Management Act, are designed to enable the Department of Commerce to be responsible for carrying out the supervision of space activities. “The Commerce Department is best equipped to help entrepreneurs and innovators build companies and succeed in business,” Smith said.

The full text of the remarks, as prepared for delivery, is below:

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