Pence’s Visit to Mojave in Pictures

Vice President Mike Pence in the cockpit of Stratolaunch aircraft. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen visited Stratolaunch and Virgin Galactic during his trip to Mojave on Tuesday.

Vice President Mike Pence poses with Rep. Kevin McCarthy and others in the Stratolaunch hangar. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

The vice president received briefings on Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit during his visit.

Kelly Latimer with Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Virgin Galactic’s FAITH facility. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

It was Pence’s first visit to the Mojave Air and Space Port.

CJ Sturckow with Mike and Karen Pence in the SpaceShipTwo flight simulator. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
Vice President Pence and his wife Karen look inside of a SpaceShipTwo under construction. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Obama Signs Law to Prevent Encroachments on Nation’s Spaceports

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President Barack Obama has signed into law a measure that will help the nation’s growing legion of spaceports fight the encroachment of obstacles such as transmission lines that could endanger suborbital spacecraft.

The measure, sponsored by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), was inspired by a problem experienced by the Mojave Air and Space Port, which is in the Congressman’s district. A utility company built extra tall transmission towers near the airport, sparking safety concerns among officials there.

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House Passes McCarthy Spaceport Measure

Rep. Kevin McCarthy
Rep. Kevin McCarthy

As we face the end of another fiscal year with Congress not even close to passing a national budget, there is one tiny ray of hope coming out of Washington.

A bill introduced by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) concerning the nation’s spaceports passed unanimously, 425-0. The measure would allow the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct studies to determine whether constructing or altering structures at or near spaceports will interfere with “launch and reentry vehicles arriving or departing from a commercial launch site or reentry site.”

The measure is good news for the Mojave Air and Space Port, which has been concerned about the encroachment of structures on the airport.

McCarthy’s bill now goes to the Senate. Whether the measure will be passed during this current session is unclear. Congress is about to go on break so members campaign for re-election based on what a great job they’re doing in Washington.

After the election is over, Congress will reconvene to try to compete a year’s worth of legislative work in the time they have left before Christmas. If the Senate doesn’t approve McCarthy’s bill then, he will have to reintroduce it in the new Congress that convenes in January.

Commercial Human Spaceflight Industry Lightly Regulated

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by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

U.S. regulations for commercial human spaceflight give the wide latitude to develop and fly their launch systems while providing substantial protections about being sued for injuries and deaths resulting from accidents. What follows is is a brief summary of the provisions, most of which have been in place since December 2004.
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McCain, McCarthy Try to Limit ULA’s Access to Russian Rocket Engines

John McCain
John McCain

WASHINGTON, D.C. (John McCain PR) – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will be introducing legislation in the Senate and House, respectively, that would repeal a provision of the Fiscal Year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill that effectively allows the unlimited purchase and use of Russian rocket engines manufactured by a Russian company with close ties to the regime of Vladimir Putin for U.S. national security space launches.

The omnibus provision, which was airdropped into the bill by Senate appropriators in secret with no debate, undermines a measure in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (NDAA) that reasonably restricts the purchase of RD-180 rocket engines for military space launches by 2019, effectively rewarding Vladimir Putin and his cronies with a windfall of hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Stu Witt Retires From Mojave Spaceport in Style

Stu Witt (center) stands with Congressman Kevin McCarthy, X Prize Chairman Peter Diamandis, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides and others in front of a replica of SpaceShipOne. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Stu Witt (center) stands with Congressman Kevin McCarthy, X Prize Chairman Peter Diamandis, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides and others in front of a replica of SpaceShipOne. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

They came to Mojave from near and far — from the dusty desert communities of Lancaster, Boron and Ridgecrest to the snow swept tundra of Sweden — to send Stu Witt off in style. One of the most powerful men in Washington, D.C. played hooky from Congress to wish his friend a happy retirement.

Hundreds of people gathered on Jan. 8 to mark the end of Witt’s nearly 14-year term as CEO and general manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port. The event featured a reception and a long parade of friends and colleagues singing his praises.

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House Praise for Space Measure Passage

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (House Leadership PR) –
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today praised Senate passage of a bicameral, bipartisan agreement on H.R. 2262, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. The bill consolidates language from the House-passed Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 or SPACE Act with provisions from S.1297, the Senate’s commercial space legislation. It provides much-needed guidance and regulatory certainty for America’s private space industry partners.
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Planetary Resources on Space Measure: We Like It!

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REDMOND, Wash. (Planetary Resources PR) — Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, praises the members of Congress who promoted historic legislation (H.R. 2262) that recognizes the right of U.S. citizens to own asteroid resources they obtain as property and encourages the commercial exploration and recovery of resources from asteroids, free from harmful interference.

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Senate Passes Space Commercialization Act

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WASHINGTON (US Commercial Committee PR) –
U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee Chairman Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-Mich.) issued the following statements on the passage of H.R. 2262, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, a bicameral, bipartisan bill that encourages competitiveness, reflects the needs of a modern-day U.S. commercial space industry, and guarantees operation of the International Space Station until at least 2024. The bill builds on key elements in S. 1297 that the Commerce Committee approved earlier this year and passed the Senate on August 4, 2015.

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McCarthy Drops Out of Race to Become House Speaker

Rep. Kevin McCarthy
Rep. Kevin McCarthy

Update No. 2, 10/09/16: Ironies of ironies. Conservative Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who is also a big commercial space supporter, told McCarthy to withdraw on Thursday. “Kevin, you need to not be in this race,” he said. Rohrabacher was incensed over McCarthy’s comments that indicated  the Republican-led Congressional investigation into the Benghazi attack was a politically motivated effort to derail Hillary Clinton’s presidential run.

Update, 10/08/16: It has emerged that a conservative activist threatened to expose an alleged affair between McCarthy and Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.). The threat appears real; I have no idea whether there is anything to the accusation.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), a supporter of commercial space, abruptly dropped out of the race to replace outgoing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday. A House Republican Conference had been set to selected a candidate to be voted on by the full House on Oct. 29.

McCarthy, who as Majority Leader is second-in-command to Boehner, had been facing opposition from conservative members of the House. The Washington Post reported:

McCarthy’s hopes of uniting Republicans took a blow Wednesday when a close-knit group of roughly 40 hard-line conservatives, the House Freedom Caucus, said it would back a low-profile Florida lawmaker, Rep. Daniel Webster, instead.

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McCarthy Could Become House Speaker as Boehner Bails

Rep. Kevin McCarthy
Rep. Kevin McCarthy

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), a prominent supporter of commercial space, is a leading candidate to replace John Boehner (R-OH) as the new speaker of the House of Representatives.

On Friday. Boehner shocked Washington by announcing  he would be resigning his position as speaker and his House seat at the end of October. He was facing increasing challenges to his authority from conservatives Republicans who believe he should be more confrontational with the Obama Administration.  Boehner has served as speaker for nearly five years.

McCarthy, 50, serves as Majority Leader, which is the second most powerful position in the House. He represents California’s 23rd District, which includes the Mojave Air and Space Port, Rosamond and Ridgecrest.

Earlier this year, McCarthy introduced the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act of 2015. The measure extends the learning period for commercial human spaceflight, which limits the ability of the Federal Aviation Administration to regulate the industry. It also extends an legal regime under which industry and government share liability for third-party damages caused by commercial launches.

The SPACE Act is now being reconciled with a similar measure passed in the Senate.

House Republicans Praise SPACE Act Passage

Rep. Kevin McCarthy
Rep. Kevin McCarthy

WASHINGTON, D.C. (House Science Commnittee Leadeship) – House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today joined House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in praising passage of H.R. 2262, the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 or SPACE Act. Almost 50 Democrats joined Republicans to pass the bill with broad bipartisan support, 284-133.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy: “America has always led because it’s in our nature to lead. We crossed over the mountains of the Appalachians and into the Great Plains. We climbed the Rockies to the golden coast of California and beyond, creating a nation in this land that has far surpassed all others in truth, hope, and liberty. We are a beacon of freedom and human dignity to every person that longs for the right to choose their own future. And we are a force for good unlike anything this world has ever known.

“And yet, in space, we are losing our ability to lead. We once stood up to the challenge of the Soviet’s Sputnik and made it to the moon, but today, our astronauts use Russian rockets and other nations are working to put people on Mars and beyond.

“But we must go beyond. We must face the great unknown with that American spirit of adventure and hope.  To paraphrase President Kennedy, we must lead mankind into space not because it is easy, but because it is hard and because that goal brings out the very best of our nation. …

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House Science Committee Gives Industry What It Wants

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The commercial space industry had a great day on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, with the Republican-controlled House Science Committee giving it most of what it wanted while swatting away proposed changes from the minority Democrats.

Among the goodies approved by the committee: a decade-long extension of the moratorium on regulating commercial human spaceflight;  a nine-year extension of industry-government cost sharing for damages caused by launch accidents; and an act that would give companies property rights to materials they mine from asteroids.

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House Measure Would Extend Commercial Spaceflight Learning Period by 8 Years

Rep. Kevin McCarthy
Rep. Kevin McCarthy

The House Science Committee is set to mark up legislation on Wednesday introduced by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that would extend the commercial spaceflight learning period for another eight years while requiring a series of progress reports on safety from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The proposed extension to the end of 2023 is three years longer than one in a measure introduced in the Senate. The FAA’s Office of Commercial Spaceflight (FAA AST) wants the moratorium on regulating the industry to expire as scheduled at the end of September.

McCarthy’s Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 (or SPACE Act of 2015) also contains several other key provisions, including the extension of launch liability indemnification cost sharing provisions and a rule change that would allow companies to hold experimental permits and launch licenses simultaneously.

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Virgin Galactic Launch License on Hold While Legislative Fix is Sought

SpaceShipTwo on final approach during a glide flight on Jan. 17, 2014. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
SpaceShipTwo on final approach during a glide flight on Jan. 17, 2014. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Virgin Galactic’s application for a launch license for SpaceShipTwo has been on hold since January while legislators in Washington attempt to fix a quirk in the Federal Aviation Administration’s regulations governing licenses and experimental permits, the company said.

The specific issue involves a provision in the law that makes an experimental permit invalid once a launch license is issued for a vehicle, according to Will Pomerantz, Virgin Galactic’s vice president for special projects. Flight testing of SpaceShipTwo and its WhiteKnightTwo mother ship is continuing at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

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