Senators Introduce NASA Authorization Bill That Extends Space Station Operations to 2030

Sen. Ted Cruz

WASHINGTON (Senate Commerce Committee PR) – Today, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, along with ranking member Kyrsten  Sinema, D-Ariz., and Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, introduced the NASA Authorization Act of 2019.

This bill expands and improves upon the bipartisan legislation Sen. Cruz introduced in December 2018 and provides the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) the clear direction needed to advance our nation’s space initiatives and investments and assert the United States’ global leadership in the final frontier.

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Virtual Field Trips Take Students Inside NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

By Danielle Sempsrott
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

As NASA begins a new era of space exploration – returning to the Moon and eventually on to Mars – education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects is increasingly important to the future of our nation’s space program. 

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) plays an integral role in the agency’s deep space exploration goals as it works with commercial partners to launch astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil on American-built rockets and spacecraft.

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Science Minister Hails ‘Incredible Strength’ of UK Space Industry

Chris Skidmore
  • New funding for UK business ideas to fly to the International Space Station
  • UK Space Agency to support one million STEM interactions with young people.
  • £20 million from government’s  Strategic Priorities Fund to upgrade UK capabilities in space weather modelling and measurement and £1.3 million for horizontal spaceport plans in England, Scotland and Wales.

NEWPORT, Wales (UK Government PR) — A new package of space funding was unveiled by Science Minister Chris Skidmore at the UK Space Conference in Newport today (Tuesday 24 September).

The government is committed to developing the UK’s national space capabilities while stepping up international collaborations, including through the European Space Agency.

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Senate Appropriators Boost NASA’s Budget by $1.25 Billion

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Senate Appropriations Committee PR) – The Senate Committee on Appropriations today approved the FY2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Act, which makes investments to support law enforcement, economic prosperity, scientific research, space exploration, and other national priorities.

The $70.833 billion measure is $6.715 billion above the FY2019 enacted level and funds the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and related agencies. 

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NMSU, Spaceport America to Announce STEM Partnership, Unveil Spaceport America’s New Las Cruces Office

Las Cruces, NM – Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University hosted a reception on Wednesday celebrating Spaceport America’s new home in Las Cruces, as well as a new collaborative agreement between NMSU and Spaceport America.

The reception also celebrated the signing of a memorandum of agreement between Spaceport America and NMSU to form a collaborative effort to advance student success in the STEM fields, along with research, economic development and community outreach.

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Meet the Promising New Researchers Making Waves on the Space Station

Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers recipient and International Space Station researcher Jennifer Barrila. (Credit: Jennifer Barrila)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Each year, the president of the United States selects an elite group of scientists and engineers at the beginning of their independent research careers to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. This is the highest honor given by the U.S. government to outstanding science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals at this point in their professions.

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Firefly Aerospace Provides a DREAM Payload Opportunity

CEDAR PARK, Texas, June 17, 2019 (Firefly Aerospace PR) — The quest for space travel inspires STEM interest like no other endeavor.  Firefly has promoted that interest by opening its doors to youth though Firefly Academy, the Base 11 Space Challenge, and the Firefly International Rocket Event (FIRE).  Today Firefly is taking their STEM commitment literally to the next level by announcing a global competition to host academic and educational payloads, free of charge, on the inaugural flight of the Firefly Alpha launch vehicle.
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House Appropriations Committee Boosts Budgets for NASA, NOAA


WASHINGTON (House Appropriations Committee PR) — The House Appropriations Committee today released the draft fiscal year 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies funding bill, which will be considered in subcommittee on Friday, May 17. The bill funds the Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other related agencies.

The text of the bill is here. The subcommittee markup will be webcast live and linked from https://appropriations.house.gov/events/markups.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – NASA is funded at $22.32 billion, $815 million above the 2019 enacted level. This funding includes:

  • $7.16 billion for NASA Science programs – $255.6 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level.
  • $123 million for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Engagement, $13 million above fiscal year 2019 and rejecting the Administration’s request to eliminate funding for these programs, which help inspire and train the country’s future STEM workforce.
  • $5.1 billion for Exploration – $79.1 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level. This includes funding to continue the development of the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System, and related ground systems.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – The legislation contains $5.48 billion for NOAA, which is $54.28 million above the fiscal year 2019 level and more than $1 million above the Administration’s request. Funding will help address important priorities such as climate research, improvements in weather forecasting, the reduction of harmful algal blooms, and fisheries management.

Editor’s Note: The measure does not seem to take into account the supplemental request made earlier this week for NASA.

Working on a freelance project right now, so I don’t have time to go through the bill. For anyone who has time to take a look at the text of the House markup (link above), here are some resources for comparison purposes:











NASA and Blue Origin Help Classrooms and Researchers Reach Space

Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable, suborbital rocket. (Credits: Blue Origin)

By Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.

EDWARDS, Calif.  — “We are now on the verge of giving students and teachers the ability to build and fly affordable experiments in space. When teachers are this excited about putting experiments in space, their students can’t help but get excited about space, too.”

Elizabeth Kennick, president of Teachers in Space, does not take the opportunity to fly an experiment to space for granted. The nonprofit organization has worked with educators and engineers to design and test standard equipment for classroom-developed experiments, including 3D-printed frames, customizable processors, power adaptors and more. The equipment first flew on high-altitude balloons and more recently on a stratospheric glider. Now, thanks to support from NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, the equipment will fly higher than ever before: to space on the next launch of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.

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UK Delivers World’s Most Accurate Weather Satellite Instrument

SWINDON, England (UKSA PR) — Collaboration between the UK and France has developed a sophisticated forecasting instrument that will set new standards of accuracy in short term weather prediction.

Using high-performance infrared detectors made in Southampton, the new device will improve short-range weather forecasts by monitoring atmospheric instability and cloud structure. It will also analyse the content of the Earth’s atmosphere, detecting and tracking pollutants around the globe.
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NanoRacks Joins With MBRSC to Fly Student Research in Emirati Astronaut Mission

DUBAI, UAE, 3 April 2019 (NanoRacks PR) — To support its efforts to empower and encourage youth to take an interest in space science, The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) launched the ‘Science in Space’ competition, in coordination with NanoRacks  LLC. This initiative is under the umbrella of the UAE Astronaut Programme, where schools can apply to participate in conducting scientific experiments to study the impact of microgravity.

MBRSC will choose 15 schools based on their efforts to promote the study of STEM fields and the reasons for participating in this competition. The winning schools will be able to nominate students to attend and participate in workshops organised by MBRSC to conduct 15 scientific experiences, where students can learn how to prepare scientific experiments and its phases.

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ULA & Ball Aerospace Seeks Student Payloads for Launch

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) has issued its request for student teams from kindergarten through 12th grade to create “payloads” for the 2019 ULA and Ball Aerospace Student Rocket Launch. More than 20 K-12 student teams will have a chance to design, build and launch objects, experiments or instruments on the ULA-intern-built Future Heavy Super Sport rocket next summer. Teams can choose to compete for a chance to win up to $5,000 for their school or sponsoring nonprofit organization by guiding their payload closest to a designated ground-based target.
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NASA, NSF Announce Support for White House STEM Engagement Plan

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF), in partnership with other federal agencies, have committed to a White House-led effort to strengthen education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Charting a Course for Success: A Federal Strategy for STEM Education lays out the federal government’s role in furthering STEM education by working with state and local stakeholders, the education community and American employers. Its goals include building a STEM-proficient citizenry, creating a STEM-ready workforce and removing barriers to STEM careers, especially for women and underrepresented groups.

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NASA Examining Commercial Endorsements, Rocket Naming Rights

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Corporations buying the naming rights to launch vehicles and space missions, and NASA astronauts with endorsements and their photos on cereal boxes were some of the commercial ideas floated this week to help the agency commercialize space activities.

“There is interest in that right now,” Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during an appearance before the NASA Advisory Council (NAC). “The question is, is it possible? And the answer is, I don’t know. But, we need somebody to give us advice on whether it is.

“Why would we want to sell the naming rights?” he added. “Well, because then those private companies can then embed in their marketing campaigns NASA. We can embed NASA into the culture and fabric of American society and inspire generations of folks that will create those next capabilities to keep America preeminent not only in space but in science and technology and discovery and exploration.”

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Proposed FCC Regulations Could Put CubeSats Out of Reach for Students

CubeSats (Credit: NASA)

Well, this doesn’t sound good.

In a move that threatens U.S. education in science, technology, engineering and math, and could have repercussions throughout the country’s aerospace industry, the FCC is proposing regulations that may license some educational satellite programs as commercial enterprises. That could force schools to pay a US$135,350 annual fee – plus a $30,000 application fee for the first year – to get the federal license required for a U.S. organization to operate satellite communications.

It would be a dramatic increase in costs. The most common type of small satellite used in education is the U.S.-developed CubeSat. Each is about 10 inches on a side and weighs 2 or 3 pounds. A working CubeSat that can take pictures of the Earth can be developed for only $5,000 in parts. They’re assembled by volunteer students and launched by NASA at no charge to the school or college. Currently, most missions pay under $100 to the FCC for an experimental license, as well as several hundred dollars to the International Telecommunications Union, which coordinates satellite positions and frequencies.

U.S. CubeSat programs have been a model for space education programs around the world. In our work in North Dakota, we’ve seen the power of satellites to excite and engage students. And we’re not alone. Hundreds of CubeSats have given students hands-on experience, even reaching elementary schools, to get younger students interested in, and connected to, engineering and space science. In my view, the FCC should protect all this by making clear what fees apply to school and university missions, and ensuring the cost is much lower than $135,350.