NASA Adds Airbus to Commercial Satellite Data Program

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has decided to add Airbus Defence and Space GEO Inc. to its growing list of companies from which the space agency will purchase commercial optical and radar satellite imagery.

NASA published a public notice earlier this month that it plans to acquire Airbus imagery as part of its Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition Program (CSDAP). The commercial imagery complements data collected by NASA’s satellites.

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Report: Geodetic Infrastructure Needs Enhancements, Continued Maintenance to Answer High-Priority Scientific Questions

WASHINGTON (National Academies PR) – A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine says that enhancements to the geodetic infrastructure are needed to answer important questions about sea level rise, water resources, geological hazards, and more over the next decade

The report, Evolving the Geodetic Infrastructure to Meet New Scientific Needs, compares the current capabilities of the geodetic infrastructure with the requirements of high-priority science questions for 2017-2027. Many of these questions can be supported by the existing geodetic infrastructure, as long as it is maintained. However, other science questions will require enhancements.

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ESA to Issue Call for Ideas for Next Earth Explorer

GOES-16 full disk GeoColor image from October 16, 2019. GeoColor is an RGB that approximates what the human eye would see from space. (Credit: NOAA/CIRA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — As part of the ongoing commitment to realise new satellite missions that advance our understanding of Earth, contribute to climate research, benefit society and demonstrate innovative space technologies, ESA soon expects to release a Call for Ideas for Earth Explorer 11, pending approval from Member States at the Programme Board for Earth Observation. The hope is to issue the Call before the end of May, with a deadline to submit full proposals by the end of October 2020.

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Trump Calls for Full Support for Artemis Moon Program

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

During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Donald Trump urged Congress to fully fund NASA’s Artemis program to astronauts on the moon in 2024.

The Administration will release its budget proposal for the 2021 fiscal year next week. We will finally get some idea of what the program will actually cost for the first time since the Administration moved the landing date up from 2028 last March.

Congress will probably gag if the estimate is too high. It won’t take the proposal seriously if the Administration tries to low ball the estimate.

Trump’s ideas for how to fund Artemis — by cutting Earth science and other NASA programs — probably won’t go over any better with Congress than they did in previous years.

And Congress probably won’t pass a budget until next fall, probably after the election.

Other than that, no problemo.

CSA Strengthens Long-term Partnership with ESA

SEVILLE, Spain (CSA PR) — The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) took part in the Ministerial Council of the European Space Agency (ESA) on  November 27–28, 2019, in Seville, Spain. This high-level meeting is held every two to three years to make important decisions regarding Europe’s future space activities. Canada is the only non-European cooperating state of ESA.

Following broad consultations with Canada’s space sector, the CSA is investing approximately $60 million (€37.2 million) in the ESA  programmes that have been strategically selected as areas most likely to benefit Canadian industry: Earth observation, satellite communications, exploration and technology development.

These investments are aligned with the Space Strategy for Canada. Past investments in ESA have resulted in opportunities for Canadian companies worth almost three times the value of the initial contract.

Canada and ESA have been cooperating in space activities for over 40  years in order to provide Canadian organizations with access to European markets, and to foster collaboration in science. The partnership also provides Canada’s space sector with access to data from ESA missions and infrastructure. In June 2019, Canada renewed its treaty-level  agreement  with ESA until 2030.

2018 Fourth Warmest Year in Continued Warming Trend, According to NASA, NOAA

Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest since 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Global temperatures in 2018 were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.83 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. Globally, 2018’s temperatures rank behind those of 2016, 2017 and 2015. The past five years are, collectively, the warmest years in the modern record.

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Britain, Australia Sign Space Agreement

BREMEN, Germany (UKSA PR) — The United Kingdom and Australia will co-operate on activities including communications technologies, space situational awareness and satellite navigation, Science Minister Sam Gyimah announced today (3 October).

The Memorandum of Understanding, signed at the International Astronautical Congress in Bremen, Germany, provides a framework for collaborative activities and the exchange of information, technology and personnel between both nations.

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NASA Awards Earth Science Data Contracts to DigitalGlobe, Planet & SPIRE

One of the organizations in NASA’s Private Sector Small Constellation Satellite Data Product Pilot program, Planet, has several satellite constellations including Dove. Two of the Dove small satellites are shown here deploying from the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has launched a pilot program to evaluate how Earth science data from commercial small-satellite constellations could supplement observations from the agency’s fleet of orbiting Earth science missions. On Sept. 28, the agency awarded sole-source contracts to acquire test data sets from three private sector organizations.

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NASA Announces Initiative to Boost Small Science Satellite Efforts

Artist illustration of events on the sun changing the conditions in Near-Earth space. A new study finds daily U.S. economic cost from solar storm-induced electricity blackouts could be in the tens of billions of dollars. (Credit: NASA)

LOGAN, Utah — The head of NASA’s science programs unveiled an $100 million per year initiative on Monday focused on the use of small scuebce satellites that includes data buys from three spacecraft constellation operators.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said the funding would go to targeted space science, technology and educational projects. He made the announcement during a keynote address at the annual Small Satellite Conference in Logan, Utah.

A key element of the initiative is the purchase of Earth science data from companies with satellite constellations in Earth orbit. Zurbuchen announced that the first purchases will be made from DigitalGlobe, Planet and Spire. He did not disclose the amounts of the awards.

Zurbuchen said NASA’s goal is to work with the growing small-satellite industry, not to compete with it. The space agency will invest in early-stage research and development to advance and test new technologies.

Zurbuchen also announced a new opportunity for small-satellite technology demonstrations focused on heliophysics that will be funded at up to $65 million.

“This opportunity will ultimately help deploy #SmallSat technologies to better understand @NASASun science and protect Americans by protecting US technological infrastructure on Earth and in space from the perils of space weather,” he tweeted.

Zurbuchen said NASA plans to provide more launch and rideshare opportunities for small satellites built by government, commercial and international partners.











NASA Canceled Radiation Budget Instrument Due to Budget, Technical Issues

Radiation Budget Instrument (Credit: Harris Corporation)

Excessive cost growth, technical issues and poor contractor performance were the key factors that caused NASA to cancel a scientific instrument that had been set to fly aboard NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System 2 (JPSS-2), according to an assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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Senate to Vote on Bridenstine’s Nomination to Lead NASA

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has filed a motion to bring the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) to become the next administrator of NASA to a vote on the Senate floor.

News of the cloture motion was tweeted by Senate Cloakroom (@SenateCloakroom) on Monday. The account is operated by the Senate Republican Cloakroom staff.

Bridenstine was nominated for the position by President Donald Trump in September. The Senate Commerce Committee approved by a narrow party-line vote, with all the Democratic members voting against it.

Democrats have said that Bridenstine lacks the requisite scientific and technical background to lead the nation’s space agency. They have also questioned his past statements that global warming was not occurring. NASA spends $1.9 million on Earth science programs.

The vote on Bridenstine could be very close. It is believed that all 49 Democrats will vote against it. That would leave a narrow margin of 51 Republicans to vote for Bridenstine.

However, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has questioned  the wisdom of appointing a partisan politician to run an agency that has broad bipartisan support.

Vice President Mike Pence could break a 50-50 tie. However, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been absent from the Senate undergoing cancer treatments.











Trump Budget Proposal Cuts NASA Earth Science Missions, Education & WFIRST Program

Earth as seen from the DSCOVR spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

Below are excerpts from a White House budget document. As it did with the FY 2018 budget plan, the Trump Administration once again proposes to close NASA’s Office of Education and to cut the same five Earth Science missions. The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope program would also be canceled.

All totaled, the cuts would be a reduction of $338 million from what was spent on these programs in FY 2017. Congress and the president have not yet settled on final budget figures for FY 2018, which began last Oct. 1.

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NASA KSC Director Looks Ahead to 2018 Milestones

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana speaks to employees at the Florida spaceport about plans for the coming year. (Credits: NASA/Frank Michaux)

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana recently spoke to spaceport employees about plans for 2018. The coming year will be highlighted by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partners preparing to launch test flights for crewed missions to the International Space Station.

“This is going to be an awesome year for us,” Cabana said speaking to center employees on Jan. 11, in the Lunar Theater of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Apollo Saturn V Center. “The number one priority this year is we’ve got to get commercial crew flying to the International Space Station.”

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NASA & JAXA Agree to Pursue Deep Space Gateway

TOKYO (JAXA PR) — On January 24, 2018, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) met to exchange their views on space exploration. The agencies signed a joint statement affirming their strong mutual interest in continued future cooperation in space exploration.

Both agencies have established a strong and committed partnership throughout the many years of cooperation in all mission areas, including human exploration, Earth and space science, fundamental aeronautics, and especially through the International Space Station (ISS) Program.

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