Experts Say Much More Required to Avoid Satellite Collisions, Space Debris

Space debris

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Senate and House committees held hearings on consecutive days last week about space situational awareness (SSA) and space traffic management (STM), i.e., the ability to accurately track objects in Earth orbit and to avoid dangerous collisions that could knock out satellites and even render entire orbits unusable.

The overall conclusion was that, although progress is being made, we’re not nearly as aware as we need to be as orbital debris poses an ever bigger problem and companies prepare to launch tens of thousands of new satellites.

“Near Earth space is geo-politically contested, it’s commercially contested and it’s in dire need of environmental protection because it is a finite resource,” said Moriba Jah, an associate professor of astronautics at the University of Texas.

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House & Senate Hearings Set on Space Situational Awareness, Planetary Defense

House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology
Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics

Space Situational Awareness

Tuesday, February 11, 2020
02:00 PM
2318 Rayburn House Office Building

Witnesses

Dr. Brian Weeden, Director of Program Planning, Secure World Foundation

Mr. Daniel Oltrogge, Co-Director, Space Safety Coalition, Founder and Administrator, Space Safety Coalition, AIAA Space Traffic Management Space Governance Task Force Chairman, Official International Standards Organization (ISO) representative to the United Nations Committee for the Peaceful Use of Outer Space (UN COPUOS)

Professor Joanne Gabrynowicz, Professor Emerita of Space Law, University of Mississippi Law Center

Professor Danielle Wood, Director of the Space Enabled Research Group, Assistant Professor of Media Arts & Sciences and Aeronautics & Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Webcast

https://science.house.gov/hearings/space-situational-awareness-key-issues-in-an-evolving-landscape

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

Space Missions of Global Importance: Planetary Defense, Space Weather Protection, and Space Situational Awareness

Wednesday, February 12, 2020
10:00 a.m
Hart Senate Office Building 216

The hearing will focus on U.S. leadership in space missions vital to the global economy and the protection of human health and life on Earth. Witnesses will also discuss policies, programs, and research that are important for planetary defense, space weather protection, and space situational awareness. 

Witnesses:*

Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Mr. William Murtagh, Director, Space Weather Prediction Center, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration

Mr. Kevin O’Connell, Director, Office of Space Commerce, Department of Commerce

Dr. Moriba Jah, Associate Professor, Advanced Sciences and Technology Research in Astronautics, University of Texas

*Witness list subject to change

Webcast

Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing  will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

House Science Committee Approves Space Weather Bill

Space weather effects. (Credit: ESA/Science Office)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The House Science Committee has unanimously approved a bill designed to enable the federal government to coordinate its monitoring of and response to space weather events.

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Johnson: Commerce Dept Not Cooperating with SharpieGate Investigation

President Donald Trump redraws Hurricane Dorian’s path after the fact.

WASHINGTON, DC (House Science Committee PR) – Today, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) sent a follow up letter to Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on the Department’s involvement in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) actions surrounding claims that Hurricane Dorian would impact Alabama. This letter follows up on the Chairwoman’s September 11 and October 10  requests for information.

“To date, we have received no responsive materials from the Department that would address the items in either of these letters, despite repeated follow-up phone calls and emails to the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs,” Chairwoman Johnson said in the letter. “The Department of Commerce’s communications with the public on weather forecasting is a critical government function that depends on the public trust in order to ensure the health and safety of all Americans. The Department’s refusals to give a public explanation for its actions in early September and to cooperate with Congressional oversight after the fact are harmful to our national weather enterprise.”

A full copy of the letter can be found here.

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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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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NASA’s Uncertain Path Back to the Moon

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Nothing illustrates the changes wrought by the Trump Administration’s decision to move up the deadline for returning astronauts to the moon from 2028 to 2024 than a pair of contracts NASA awarded for the Lunar Gateway that will serve as a staging point for the landing.

In May, Maxar won a competitively awarded $375 million contract to build the Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element (PPE). NASA released a source selection statement that detailed how officials evaluated the five bids they received and why Maxar’s proposal was superior to the others.

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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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House Subcommittee Boosts NASA Budget, Ignores Supplemental Request

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

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The House commerce, justice and science subcommittee approved a fiscal year 2020 budget for NASA that increases the space agency’s budget while ignoring a $1.6 billion supplemental budget request from the Trump Administration that NASA says is required to land astronauts on the south pole of the moon in 2024.

The House measure would boost NASA’s budget from $21.5 billion to $22.32 billion, an increase of $820 million. The amount is below the Trump Administration’s total request of $22.62 million for fiscal year 2020 (FY 2020). That would be an increase of $1.1 billion over NASA’s current budget.

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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.











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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House Science Committee Passes Revised Space Weather Bill

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)

WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) – The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee approved legislation today to better protect lives, property, and infrastructure from the adverse effects of space weather.

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House Passes Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act

Lamar Smith

The House passed a measure on Tuesday designed to create a ‘one-stop shop’ for commercial space companies.

The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017 invests oversight authority in the Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commerce.

A key element of the bill is the reform and simplification of the regulatory process that covers remote sensing. The measure requires the office to approve or reject an application for a space object to launch.

“The bill establishes a favorable legal and policy environment for free enterprise with maximum certainty and minimum burden for stakeholders,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who introduced the legislation and chairs the House Science Committee. “With this innovative legislation, we position the American space industry as a leader.

“New space operators would now be incentivized to set up shop on American ground and allow the United States to maintain and adhere to our international obligations as well as improving our national security,” Smith added. “This enterprising bill provides an efficient, transparent, and streamlined structure for authorizing and supervising future space activities to create the path for future exploration of the final frontier.”

The bill creates a Private Space Activity Advisory Committee to analyze the effectiveness of the the office’s operations, identify problems, and provide recommendations to the Commerce Department and Congress on policies and practices.

Space companies and industry groups praised the act in a press release issued on Tuesday.

“The member companies and institutions of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation are in strong agreement with all of the goals and most of the key elements of your legislation: significant reform of the Commerce Department’s obsolete, burdensome, and dysfunctional regime for licensing commercial remote sensing satellites is especially welcome,” said federation president Eric Stallmer.