Bridenstine Nomination to Head NASA Faces Opposition From Nelson, Rubio

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

President Donald Trump’s long expected nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to become the next administrator of NASA ran into immediate trouble on Capitol Hill after it was announced on Friday.

Florida’s two Senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, both expressed serious concerns about appointing the three-term Congressman and former U.S. Navy pilot to lead the nation’s space agency.

“The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician,” Nelson said in a brief written statement to POLITICO.
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Senate Passes Commercial Space Launch Act

Capitol Building
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Senate Commerce Committee PR) –
The U.S. Senate, today, unanimously approved S. 1297, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, introduced by Commerce Committee Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee chairman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), full committee ranking member Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee ranking member Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and subcommittee members Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). The legislation, which the full Commerce Committee approved by voice vote with an amendment on May 20, 2015, extends the operational use of the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024, a regulatory moratorium on commercial space activity through FY 2020, and ensures stability for the continued development and growth of the U.S. commercial space sector and other space initiatives.
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Asteroid Property Rights Legislation Introduced in Congress

Welcome WRANGLER, a NIAC-funded idea to capture and de-spin asteroids and space debris. (Credit: Robert Hoyt/Tethers Unlimited)
Welcome WRANGLER, a NIAC-funded idea to capture and de-spin asteroids and space debris. (Credit: Robert Hoyt/Tethers Unlimited)

Legislation that would grant property rights to entities mining asteroids has been introduced in Congress.

“Any asteroid resources obtained in outer space are the property of the entity that obtained such resources, which shall be entitled to all property rights thereto, consistent with applicable provisions of Federal law,” the measure states.

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Rubio Proposes Change to FAA Commercial Space Permitting & Licensing

Sen. Marco Rubio
Sen. Marco Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced legislation that would allow companies developing and operating commercial reusable launch vehicles to hold launch licenses and experimental permits simultaneously.

Under current law, a company must give up its FAA-issued experimental permit for a vehicle once it obtains a launch license. Industry officials say this provision prevents them from testing improvements and repairs to existing vehicles as well conducting flight tests on new spacecraft that come off the assembly line.

“The Secretary may issue a permit under this section notwithstanding any license issued under this chapter,” the legislation states. “The issuance of a license under this chapter may not invalidate a permit under this section.”

Rubio introduced Senate Bill 592 in late February. The measure has been read twice and referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Senate Committee Passes Spaceflight Licensing & Permitting Measure

Capitol Building
The Senate Commerce Committee approved a measure on Wednesday that would allow space companies to fly their reusable launch vehicles under experimental permits even after the Federal Aviation Administration issues launch license.

Currently, the experimental permit is superseded by launch license, making it more difficult to use the vehicle to test modifications later on.

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Rubio: NASA Should Dispose of Underutilized Facilities

Marco_Rubio
Marco Rubio

In an effort apparently aimed at supporting the development of a commercial space facility in Florida, the Senate has approved a budget amendment introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) that urges NASA to dispose of underutilized property and facilities in order to save money and promote commercial space activities.

“NASA currently has underused facilities and property which are beyond their design life or outdated and costing billions of dollars to keep and maintain,” Rubio said in a press release.

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Nelson, Rubio Introduce Legislation to Help Brevard County

Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio have introduced legislation to designate all of Brevard County as a HUBZone, making small businesses eligible for economic assistance in an area hard hit by the end of the space shuttle program.

The Shuttle Workforce Revitalization Act of 2102 aims to help the area around the Kennedy Space Center to help retain its skilled workforce by encouraging the development of small businesses. Approximately 9,000 people were laid off when the shuttle program ended last year. The designation would remain in place until not earlier than Jan. 1, 2020.

According to the HUBZone website:

Small businesses in high-unemployment, low-income areas can receive an economic boost from the HUBZone contracting program. The HUBZone program provides contracting assistance to small businesses located in economically distressed communities, referred to as Historically Underutilized Business Zones, or HUBZones, to promote job growth, capital investment and economic development in these areas, including Indian reservations.

The program’s benefits for HUBZone-certified companies include competitive and sole source contracting, a 10 percent price evaluation preference in full and open contract competitions, as well as subcontracting opportunities. The Federal government has a goal of awarding 3 percent of all dollars for Federal prime contracts to HUBZone-certified concerns.