Will the National Space Council Make a Difference at NASA?

Artist concept of the Block I configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS Program has completed its critical design review, and the program has concluded that the core stage of the rocket will remain orange along with the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter, which is the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements. (Credit: NASA)

Warren Ferster Consulting asks whether the newly revived National Space Council will make much of a difference at NASA, whose human deep space programs are dependent upon the Congressionally supported Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft.

Some have suggested that, with a space council chaired by Vice President Mike Pence cracking the whip, the full potential of companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin can be brought to bear in support of the nation’s space goals. The implication is this hasn’t happened to date, which is puzzling since leveraging commercial capabilities to support the International Space Station was the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s space policy.

Obama was challenged in that effort not by the lack of a National Space Council, but by Capitol Hill, where key lawmakers viewed his outsourcing initiative as a threat to the pet program that they mandated, the decidedly uncommercial Space Launch System.

The super-heavy-lift SLS is exhibit A of the argument that getting the Executive Branch speaking with one voice on space policy, while sensible, won’t matter a great deal if Congress has a different agenda.

To recap, Obama’s human spaceflight policy was to outsource ISS crew and cargo transportation and invest in technologies with the potential to change the economics of deep space exploration. To make budgetary room, Obama canceled Constellation, a collection of hardware development programs begun under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

The article notes that Bush got bipartisan approval from Congress for the Constellation program without a National Space Council. The program included Orion and two space shuttle-derived Ares boosters for human orbital and deep-space missions.

Obama subsequently canceled the Constellation program, only to have Congress revive the program as SLS and Orion. Only the smaller Ares orbital booster was canceled.

Trump Administration’s NASA Policy Slowly Emerges

Vice President Mike Pence addresses NASA employees, Thursday, July 6, 2017, at the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center last week was long on rhetoric and short on details, but a few themes and priorities have already emerged in the Trump Administration’s slowly evolving approach to the nation’s civilian space program.

NASA Will Lead Again

In a speech in which he repeatedly praised President Donald Trump, Pence used some variation of the word “lead” a total of 33 times (“leadership” 18 times, “leader(s)” eight times,  “lead”  six times and “leading” once).
(more…)

Trump Sets Dubious New Space Record on Independence Day

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

President Donald Trump has set a new record relating to NASA.

Some are skeptical of the White House’s soaring rhetoric because crucial leadership positions remain unfilled.

For instance, the US space agency set a dubious record on the Fourth of July: the longest span of time that a newly elected president has gone without naming a new NASA chief.

The previous record was a 164-day stretch in 1971 under President Richard Nixon.

NASA is currently headed by an “acting administrator” — engineer Robert Lightfoot, who took over when former astronaut Charles Bolden, an Obama appointee, stepped down.

Also empty is the chief of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology and Policy, once a key player in crafting NASA’s agenda.

Read the full story.

Save

Pence Promises Return to the Moon & Boots on Mars

Mike Pence

Vice President and newly minted Chairman of the revived National Space Council Mike Pence visited NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Thursday where he gave a speech promising a return to the moon and boots on Mars.

When? How? What will it cost? And how are we going to pay for it?

Pence didn’t get into that level of granularity. In fact, he didn’t get into very many details at all during his address to KSC employees.

Pence’s speech consisted of a lot of platitudes delivered with attitude and lots of latitude as to what it all meant in practice.

If you watched it and were baffled, welcome to the club. That seems to be the consensus of the media coverage I’ve seen so far among reporters who cover space.

(more…)

OSTP Science Division Now Empty, WH Official Says Nothing to See Here

On the same day Donald Trump signed an executive order reviving the National Space Council, the last employees of the science division of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) left their jobs, CBS News reports.

Eleanor Celeste, the OSTP’s assistant director for biomedical and forensic sciences at the OSTP, tweeted a picture of the sign outside the division’s office before leaving the building.

All three employees were holdovers from the Obama administration. The departures from the division — one of four subdivisions within the OSTP — highlight the different commitment to scientific research under Presidents Obama and Trump.

Under Mr. Obama, the science division was staffed with nine employees who led the charge on policy issues such as STEM education, biotechnology and crisis response. It’s possible that the White House will handle these issues through staff in other divisions within the OSTP…

“All of the work that we have been doing is still being done,” a White House official familiar with the matter told CBS News, adding that 35 staffers currently work across the OSTP.

“Under the previous administration, OSTP had grown exponentially over what it had been before,” the official said. “Before the Obama administration, it had usually held 50 to 60 or so policy experts, director-level people, for all of OSTP.”

Read the full story.

Buzz Aldrin Really Really Hates Being Called Second Man on the Moon

Credit: The White House

Buzz Aldrin reacts after Mika Pence calls him the second man on the moon. Buzz really really hates that label. Second man to walk on the moon, but he and Neil Armstrong landed together.

Watch Buzz wince at about 14 seconds into this video.

Save

Video: NASA Accomplishments at Mid-Year

Video Caption: 2017 is shaping up to be another year of unprecedented exploration, amazing discoveries, technological advances and progress in development of future missions – and we’re just six months into the year. Here are some of our top stories of 2017, so far – Mid-Year at NASA!

Is Trump the New JFK of Space?

Yeah, I don’t think so….

OK, let me clarify that. I’ve seen no real signs so far that Trump wants to do anything really bold in space. That could change; never say never. But, it’s been five months, and he hasn’t even gotten around to nominating a NASA administrator yet. His FY 2018 budget proposal doesn’t include anything novel.

“Mr. Trump’s charisma, vision, and style are reminiscent of JFK…”

Mmmmm…..no. Definitely not.

Here’s a challenge for you guys for the comments sections: JFK’s greatest and most inspiring quotes side-by-side with Trump’s worst quotes and Tweets. Don’t limit yourself to space.

Read the full op-ed piece.

Jay Gibson Out at XCOR, In With Trump Administration

John (Jay) Gibson

Jay Gibson’s two-year tenure as president and CEO of XCOR appears to be at an end.

On Friday, President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Gibson to be deputy chief management officer of the Department of Defense.

The announcement describes Gibson as “most recently” having been XCOR’s president and CEO. However, a source says he is still at the company.

The nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.

XCOR hired Gibson in March 2015 to replace founder Jeff Greason. The objective was for Gibson to focus on the business side while Greason focused on completing construction on the Lynx suborbital space plane.

That arrangement did not work out. By November, Greason and two other founders, Dan DeLong and Aleta Jackson, had left the company to found Agile Aerospace.

In May 2016, XCOR laid off about 25 employees — roughly half of its workforce — and suspended work on the Lynx. The company has since refocused its energies on its rocket engine work.

UPDATE: XCOR board member Michael Blum issued the following written statement:

“Jay Gibson is still at XCOR but will be leaving shortly for a tremendous opportunity to serve his country in a very senior role at DoD. He has been a great CEO whose leadership and experience has guided XCOR through ups and downs.”

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Palazzo Celebrates Proposed NASA Earth Science Cuts

Rep. Steven Palazzo

You might think that that being from a Gulf state susceptible to the effects of rising sea levels, higher storm surges and stronger hurricanes from a warming planet, Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS) would be a big fan of NASA’s research into global change.

Well, think again.

Rep. Steven Palazzo praised NASA’s move away from studying the Earth and instead focusing resources on the rest of the universe.

During a House Appropriations Committee hearing Thursday, the Mississippi Republican applauded the agency for proposing to eliminate five Earth science missions designed to measure a number of global warming factors such as ocean ecosystems and carbon levels. President Trump’s proposed budget also would cut funding for Earth research grants and would terminate the Carbon Monitoring System, a project that NASA developed in 2010 in response to congressional direction.
(more…)

Musk Quits Trump Advisory Boards Over Paris Climate Accord Withdrawal

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX and Tesla Motors Founder Elon Musk has quit three White House advisory bodies over President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord.

“Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world,” Musk wrote in a tweet on Thursday.

Musk said he had done all he could to convince the president not to withdraw from the global agreement to reduce carbon emissions to flight global warming.

Musk served on the White House Manufacturing Jobs Council, the Strategic and Policy Forum, and the Infrastructure Council.

Disney CEO Bob Iger also resigned from the Strategic and Policy Forum over Trump’s decision on the Paris Climate Accord.

Save

NASA FY 2018 Budget Fact Sheet

The President’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget
Maintains NASA’s world leadership in space and increases cooperation with industry.

NASA Fact Sheet

NASA’s budget ensures our nation remains the world’s leader in space exploration and technology, aeronautics research and discovery in space and Earth science. The budget supports developing the technologies that will make future space missions more capable and affordable, including partnerships with the private sector for a variety of activities, such as transportation of crew and cargo to the International Space Station. The budget also continues the development of the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System and Exploration Ground Systems that will send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit in the early 2020’s. The budget also keeps the Webb Telescope on track for a 2018 launch; builds on our scientific discoveries and achievements in space; and supports the Administration’s commitment to serve as a catalyst for the growth of a vibrant American commercial space industry.
(more…)

Trump Eyes Half Billion Dollar Cut in NASA’s Budget

President Donald Trump would cut $561 million from NASA’s budget for fiscal year 2018 under a spending plan set for release next week, according to a leaked budget document.

NASA would see its budget reduced from $19.6 billion this year to just below $19.1 billion. The space agency received just under $19.3 billion in fiscal year 2016.

The total budget is close to the $19.1 billion contained in a budget blueprint the Trump Administration released in March. The blue print provided guidance for the formal budget proposal to be released next week.

(more…)

NASA Will Not Fly Crew on First SLS/Orion Mission

An expanded view of the next configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, including the four RL10 engines. (Credit: NASA)

NASA officials announced on Friday the first combined flight of the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, known as Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), will be conducted without a crew as originally planned. They also said the flight test will slip from 2018 to 2019.

(more…)

AIA Policy Recommendations for Improving U.S. Space Competitiveness


Engine for Growth:
Analysis and Recommendations for U.S. Space Industry Competitiveness

Aerospace Industries Association
May 2017
[Full Report]

Policy Recommendations
for Strengthening U.S. Space Competitiveness

1. Level the Playing Field

Provide a responsive regulatory environment for commercial space activities. The list of commercial space activities is varied and growing, ranging from traditional applications such as satellite telecommunications to emerging ones like space resource utilization. At the same time, the U.S. space industry is governed by multiple federal agencies with disparate regulatory interests, including the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration and Departments of State and Commerce. These agencies often suffer from funding and staffi ng shortages, a situation that creates bottlenecks in licensing processes and slows responsiveness to technological and market changes. The new Administration should work closely with Congress to ensure that the appropriate space regulatory agencies are fully resourced and staffed.
(more…)