Members of Congress Urge DARPA to Reconsider Satellite Servicing Program

Four members of Congress have sent letters to DARPA asking the defense agency to review a satellite servicing program they believe duplicates other efforts by a commercial company and NASA.

“We are concerned that DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellite (RSGS) program is duplicating commercial investment and capability in violation of National Space Policy and contrary to the best interests of taxpayers,” reads one letter signed by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA).

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The Year Ahead in Space

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.

A New Direction for NASA?

NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.

Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.

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Bridenstine Weighs in Favor of Lunar Development

Rep. Jim Bridenstine
Rep. Jim Bridenstine

In a Dec. 29 blog post titled, Why the Moon Matters, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) calls for the United States to focus on the economic and strategic benefits of the moon.

Bridenstine is reported to be a leading candidate for the position of NASA administrator in the Trump Administration. The space agency is focused on sending astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s. However, the new administration might refocus NASA on returning astronauts to the moon.

Here’s an excerpt from the blog post.

Utilizing propellant and materials on the Moon is also the first step for manned missions deeper into our solar system.  A permanent human presence on other celestial bodies requires in situ resource utilization.  The Moon, with its three-day emergency journey back to Earth, represents the best place to learn, train, and develop the necessary technologies and techniques for in situ resource utilization and an eventual long term human presence on Mars.  Fortunately, the Space Launch System and Orion are close to being developed and will start testing in 2018.  This system, with a commercial lander, could quickly place machines and robots on the moon to begin the cis-lunar economy.  With the right presidential guidance, humans could return in short order as well…this time, to stay.
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Report: Bridenstine Leading Candidate for NASA Administrator

Rep. Jim Bridenstine
Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Andy Pasztor of The Wall Street Journal reports on the decision process for NASA Administrator:

Rep. Jim Bridenstine, an Oklahoma Republican with a record supporting both commercial space ventures and traditional manned exploration programs, appears to be the leading candidate to become the next NASA administrator, according to people familiar with the matter.

The lawmaker’s name emerged early during the Trump administration transition process, and he has been interviewed by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, these people said. But they emphasized that Mr. Bridenstine, a former Navy pilot who has actively sought the position, still is waiting for a final signoff by President-elect Donald Trump and top aides….

Picking Rep. Bridenstine to run NASA could help bridge some of the deep policy and philosophical disagreements that have split the Trump transition effort involving the agency. Most members of the team assigned to NASA are associated with big-ticket programs favored by longstanding agency contractors, while a separate faction wants to emphasize commercial initiatives and novel funding strategies….

Mr. Bridenstine has a history of backing commercial space tugs and taxis to ferry cargo and eventually U.S. astronauts to the international space station. But he also is considered a proponent of existing exploration programs backed by Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and other legacy contractors.

The story says that Bridenstine’s prospects of becoming the next U.S. Air Force secretary appear to have faded.

Meanwhile, Bridenstine has authored a blog post on the importance of the moon as our next destination in space.

Harper, Trump & Science a la Carte: A Warning From Canada

Stephen Harper and cat.
Stephen Harper and cats.

Canadian science writer Graham Templeton says the election of Donald Trump and a Republican controlled Congress threatens a repeat of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s nine-year war on science.

Though Americans might be surprised to hear it, Canada offers a good example of why there is a very real need to worry, and of how the coming anti-science administration could realistically affect all of national research. My home and native land has been a fair ways down the road America is just now preparing to travel and, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the endpoint is absolutely disastrous….

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New NASA Administrator Names: Bridenstine, Griffin, Collins & Albrecht

Rep. Jim Bridenstine
Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) is a leading candidate  to replace Charlie Bolden as the new NASA Administrator when President Barack Obama’s term ends in January.

“He’s made it clear to the campaign that if asked to serve as NASA Administrator or Air Force secretary, he would be willing,” the official said. The person added that there would likely be “a clearer path to NASA” than the Air Force.

Other names that have been circulated include: former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, who served under President George W. Bush; former astronaut Collins, who spoke during the Republican National Convention in support of Trump; and space veteran Mark Albrecht, who served as executive secretary of the National Space Council under President George H.W. Bush.

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Smith, Bridenstine Congratulate Spire on NOAA Contract

spire_logo2WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) — U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX21), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, along with U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK1), chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment for the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, today released the following statements congratulating Spire, Inc., a private sector weather company, on earning the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration first contract to acquire data from a commercial weather satellite constellation. Spire has been hired to provide GPS Radio Occultation data to increase weather forecasting.

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Study Finds FAA Could Take Over Space Situational Awareness from Air Force

In addition to active satellites, a large number of items of debris that originated from collisions, decommissioned satellites or the spent upper stages of launch vehicles are currently in Earth orbit. Credit: ESA.
In addition to active satellites, a large number of items of debris that originated from collisions, decommissioned satellites or the spent upper stages of launch vehicles are currently in Earth orbit. Credit: ESA.

A Department of Transportation (DOT) review has found that it would be possible for it to take over responsibility for space situational awareness from the U.S. Air Force.

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Bridenstine’s Bill Would Radically Restructure NASA

NASA LOGOBy Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA would be given a mandate to pioneer the development and settlement of space and a commission dominated by Congressional appointees to oversee those efforts under a bill proposed by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).

The measure’s basic premise is that NASA’s problems stem from unstable presidential commitments to space exploration as opposed to Congress’ tendency to support expensive programs that bring funding into particular states and districts.

“Over the past twenty years, 27 NASA programs have been cancelled at a cost of over $20 billion to the taxpayer,” according to a statement on a website devoted to the measure. “Many of these have come as a result of changes in presidential administrations.

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Congressman Backs Space Renaissance Act, Death Ray Weapons

Doug Lamborn
Doug Lamborn

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Doug Lamborn PR) — Congressman Doug Lamborn has partnered with Congressman Jim Bridenstine (OK-01) as an original cosponsor on the American Space Renaissance Act. This legislation will permanently secure the United States as the world’s preeminent space-faring nation. The comprehensive and bold reform bill covers national security, civil, and commercial space policies and programs.

Lamborn and Jim Langevin (RI-02) have partnered to introduce a House companion bill to legislation introduced in the Senate by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and James Inhofe (R-OK) designed to allow the military an accelerated process to acquire Directed Energy weapons.

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Bridenstine Releases American Space Renaissance Act

Rep. Jim Bridenstine
Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) has released a draft of the American Space Renaissance Act, which he says will

  • project military strength and protect our space based capabilities
  • provide certainty to encourage commercial space innovation
  • promote stability, accountability, and mission clarity at NASA

The 110-page (!) bill is aimed at a major overhaul of American military, civil and commercial policies. It includes such changes as appointing the NASA administrator to a five-year term, creating a Congressional appointed board to oversee the space agency, and giving NASA a clear mandate to pioneer space.

Personally, I can’t imagine any sane president handing control of NASA over to Congress. And yes, I realize sane may not describe some of the current candidates for that office, so anything could happen.

Bridenstine has created a website where the provisions of the bill are explained and people can submit comments about them.

I will provide a more in-depth analysis of the provisions on Parabolic Arc once I get an opportunity to review them.

CSF on Bridenstine’s Commercial Space Efforts: We Like Them!

csf_logo_newestWASHINGTON, DC (CSF PR) – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation today hosted its first Executive Leadership Forum, an open dialogue for policymakers, industry leaders and other key stakeholders to discuss key issues and opportunities in the commercial spaceflight industry.

Today’s keynote speaker, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), told the group that, “The commercial space industry holds enormous potential both as a tool of economic growth and reliable provider of services to government. The Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act is a tremendous milestone that will enable this industry to innovate and expand access to space. We must not let the momentum established by this law dissipate; Congress, together with stakeholders, need to continue proactively addressing issues that could serve as further impediments to commercial space.”

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Amendment Partially Restores Funding Increase Requested for FAA Commercial Space Office

Capitol Building
The House has approved an amendment that would partially restore a requested funding increase for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). The amendment offered by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) would add $250,000 to the office’s budget.

Citing a sharp increase in workloads, the Obama Administration had asked Congress for an additional $1.5 million for Fiscal Year 2016 in order to hire an additional 13 full-time employees for FAA AST. Officials say the plan is to eventually hire 25 full-time staffers.

“FY 2014 was a very busy year for commercial space with a total of 19 licensed or permitted launches. That is more than six times the level of activity that we had in 2012, which only had three licensed or permitted launches,” said FAA-AST Associate Administrator George Nield during the FAA’s 18th Commercial Space Transportation Conference in February.

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House Science Committee Approves Commerce Department Space Measures

Capitol Building
Although members of the House Science Committee clashed on asteroid mining and FAA regulating on Wednesday, they did manage to approve two commercial measures with bi-partisan support.

Sponsored by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), the Commercial Remote Sensing Act would require the Commerce Department to produce annual reports on actions taken relating to remote sensing. The information would include lists of applicants, applications approved and denied, and related data.

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House Science Committee to Mark Up 4 Space Measures Wednesday

Capitol Building
The House Science Committee is back in action on Wednesday at 2 p.m. EDT, marking up four bills focused on commercial space. The measures include:

The Office of Space Commerce Act would rename the Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commercialization to the Office of Space Commerce. The bill by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) also would add the following responsibilities to the office’s mandate:

“(1) foster the conditions for the economic growth and technological advancement of the United States space commerce industry;

‘‘(2) coordinate space commerce policy issues and actions within the Department of Commerce;

‘‘(3) represent the Department of Commerce in the development of United States policies and in negotiations with foreign countries to promote United States space commerce;

“(4) promote the advancement of United States geospatial technologies related to space commerce, in cooperation with relevant interagency working groups; and

“(5) provide support to Federal Government organizations working on Space-Based Positioning Navigation, and Timing policy, including the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Position, Navigation, and Timing.’’

Sponsored by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), the Commercial Remote Sensing Act would require the Commerce Department to produce annual reports on licenses issued to commercial space companies. The department also would be required to submit a report to Congress on any statutory changes required to protect the nation’s remote sensing technology base and national security.