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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Trump Proposes Broad Range of Environmental, Energy and Health Cuts

Credit: NASA

If anyone had the slightest hope that Donald Trump might spare global warming research in his proposed spending plan, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney stuck a knife through it during a contentious press conference on Thursday.

“As to climate change, I think the President was fairly straightforward saying we’re not spending money on that anymore,” he said. “We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.”

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Trump Proposes Shutting off DSCOVR’s Cameras

This image shows the far side of the moon, illuminated by the sun, as it crosses between the DSCOVR spacecraft’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) camera and telescope, and the Earth – one million miles away. (Credits: NASA/NOAA)

Donald Trump’s first budget proposal terminates three NASA Earth science missions now under development: Orbiting Carbon Observatory – 3 (OCO-3), Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Pathfinder, and the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE).

It also “terminates” the “Earth-viewing instruments” on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft, a joint NASA-NOAA project that monitors the Earth, the solar wind and space weather from a location 1 million miles from Earth.

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Proposed Budget Maintains Funding for Current Gen Weather Satellites

The Trump Administration’s proposed Commerce Department budget maintains funding for the development of NOAA’s current generation geostationary and polar orbiting weather satellites.  However, the follow-on polar orbiting program appears to be delayed.

“Achieves annual savings from NOAA’s Polar Follow On satellite program from the current program of record by better reflecting the actual risk of a gap in polar satellite coverage, and provides additional opportunities to improve robustness of the low earth orbit satellite architecture by expanding the utilization of commercially provided data to improve weather models,” the blueprint states.

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One Year on Earth – Seen From 1 Million Miles

Video Caption: On July 20, 2015, NASA released to the world the first image of the sunlit side of Earth captured by the space agency’s EPIC camera on NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite. The camera has now recorded a full year of life on Earth from its orbit at Lagrange point 1, approximately 1 million miles from Earth, where it is balanced between the gravity of our home planet and the sun.

EPIC takes a new picture every two hours, revealing how the planet would look to human eyes, capturing the ever-changing motion of clouds and weather systems and the fixed features of Earth such as deserts, forests and the distinct blues of different seas. EPIC will allow scientists to monitor ozone and aerosol levels in Earth’s atmosphere, cloud height, vegetation properties and the ultraviolet reflectivity of Earth.

The primary objective of DSCOVR, a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Air Force, is to maintain the nation’s real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities, which are critical to the accuracy and lead time of space weather alerts and forecasts from NOAA.

For more information about DSCOVR, visit: http://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/DSCOVR/

If you like this video, subscribe to the NASA Goddard YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/goddardtv

Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Kayvon Sharghi

Russia Led in Launch Successes and Failures in 2015

Flight VS13 was the 13th Soyuz liftoff performed from French Guiana since this vehicle’s 2011 introduction at the Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)
Flight VS13 was the 13th Soyuz liftoff performed from French Guiana since this vehicle’s 2011 introduction at the Spaceport. (Credit: Arianespace)

Russia continued its dominance of the global satellite launch industry in 2015, conducting 29 of 86 orbital launches over the past 12 months. It also maintained its lead in botched launches, suffering two failures and one partial failure.

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Confirmed! Moon Does Orbit the Earth

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — A NASA camera aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite captured a unique view of the moon as it moved in front of the sunlit side of Earth last month. The series of test images shows the fully illuminated “dark side” of the moon that is never visible from Earth.

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DSCOVR Reaches L-1

DSCOVR orbits the sun at a location called the Lagrange point 1, or L1. (Credit: NOAA)
DSCOVR orbits the sun at a location called the Lagrange point 1, or L1. (Credit: NOAA)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NOAA PR) — More than 100 days after it launched, NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite has reached its orbit position about one million miles from Earth.

Once final instrument checks are completed, DSCOVR, which will provide improved measurements of solar wind conditions to enhance NOAA’s ability to warn of potentially harmful solar activity, will be the nation’s first operational space weather satellite in deep space. Its orbit between Earth and the sun is at a location called the Lagrange point 1, or L1, which gives DSCOVR a unique vantage point to see the Earth and sun.

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DSCOVR Headed for L-1

Artist's rendition of NOAA's DSCOVR: Deep Space Climate Observatory. (Credit:  NOAA/NASA)
Artist’s rendition of NOAA’s DSCOVR: Deep Space Climate Observatory. (Credit:
NOAA/NASA)

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket sent Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft on its way into deep space this evening from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The launch appears to have gone flawlessly, with the spacecraft separating as scheduled and heading off to the sun-Earth L1 Lagrangian point located 1.500 million kilometers (930,000 miles) from Earth.

The mission has one of the longest gestation periods in history. Back in 1998, then Vice President Al Gore proposed NASA build an environmental satellite called Triana designed to provide nearly continuous coverage of the Earth from L-1.

Triana, which critics dubbed GoreSat, proved to be controversial. Originally set for deployment from the space shuttle in 2003, the incoming Bush Administration put the satellite in storage in 2001. It was removed for refurbishment at the behest of NOAA in 2008.

In addition to monitoring conditions on Earth, DSCOVR will monitor solar wind conditions and provide early warning of coronal mass ejections.

DSCOVR marks the first deep space mission ever flown by SpaceX. Previously, the Falcon 9 had launched communications satellites to geosynchronous orbits.

SpaceX elected not to land the Falcon 9 first stage on a barge, citing rough seas. The plan was changed to a controlled landing on the ocean.

SpaceX Has Launch, Dragon Recovery Today

Artist's rendition of NOAA's DSCOVR: Deep Space Climate Observatory. (Credit:  NOAA/NASA)
Artist’s rendition of NOAA’s DSCOVR: Deep Space Climate Observatory. (Credit:
NOAA/NASA)


UPDATE: Dragon splashed down safely at 7:44 p.m. EST.

UPDATE: The Falcon 9 launch was scrubbed for Tuesday due to high upper level winds. The next launch attempt will be Wednesday at 6:03 p.m. EST.

Today is a busy one for SpaceX with Falcon 9 set to launch the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft from Cape Canaveral and the landing of a Dragon spacecraft in the Pacific Ocean less than two hours later. NASA will broadcast most of the activities live.

NASA Television will provide live coverage of Dragon’s departure from the International Space Station beginning at 1:45 p.m. EST. Dragon will conduct its deorbit burn at around 7:00 p.m. EST, with splashdown set for approximately 7:44 p.m. EST. NASA Television will not broadcast the deorbit burn and splashdown.

The DSCOVR launch is set for 6:05 p.m. EST. NASA Television coverage of Tuesday’s launch will begin at 5 p.m.

There is a backup launch opportunity at 6:03 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 11.

For NASA TV schedule and video streaming information, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

DSCOVR Launch Set for Tonight

Artist's rendition of NOAA's DSCOVR: Deep Space Climate Observatory. (Credit:  NOAA/NASA)
Artist’s rendition of NOAA’s DSCOVR: Deep Space Climate Observatory. (Credit:
NOAA/NASA)

UPDATE: The launch was scrubbed for Sunday after an Air Force range radar went down. SpaceX was also working a problem with the first stage during the final minutes of the count; unclear whether that issue was resolved. The next launch window is Monday at 6:07 p.m. EST.

UPDATE NO. 2:  The launch has been rescheduled for Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. due to weather.

Everything is looking good for tonight’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) launch. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle is set to lift off at 6:10 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral. NASA TV will begin coverage at 3:30 p.m. EST.