Senate Committee Approves Jacobs as NOAA Administrator

Neil Jacobs

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NOAA might finally get a permanent — if that is the right word –administrator more than three years into President Donald Trump’s four-year term.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation approved the nomination of Neil Jacobs to become under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, a position that includes serving as NOAA administrator.

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Udall, Kaine Introduce Resolution to Reinforce U.S. Leadership in Peaceful Use of Space & Technology Innovation

Tom Udall

WASHINGTON (Sens. Udall & Kaine PR) —Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a resolution to maintain U.S. leadership in protecting satellites and spacecraft in Earth’s orbit from space debris and ensuring that all nations cooperate to promote the peaceful use of space for research and commercial purposes. The resolution prioritizes the implementation of the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space guidelines negotiated between the U.S. delegation to the United Nations and 92 countries. 

“Peaceful and safe innovation in space is a foundation of today’s interconnected world—and necessary for our future security and prosperity,” Udall said. “From satellites that support our service members and send information to our smartphones at the speed of light, to scientific research that leads to breakthroughs back on earth, as well as a nascent tourist economy, outer space is both a strategic priority and an economic engine for communities around the world. Cooperative use of space is especially important in my home state of New Mexico – where our space economy is thriving. I introduced this resolution with Senator Kaine to maintain U.S. leadership in international space cooperation, prevent collisions which could make space too dangerous to use, and reinforce the United States’ position as a leader of a coalition of nations pushing the bounds of human discovery.”

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Russian Rocket Engines Exempted from Sanctions Bill

RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)

Officials at Orbital ATK and ULA breathed sighs of relief on Thursday as the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to exempt rocket engines from a sanctions bill targeting Iran and Russia.

The amendment to the sanctions measure exempted RD-180 engines used by ULA in the first stage of its Atlas V booster and the RD-181 engines Orbital ATK uses in the first stage of its Antares launch vehicle. Both engines are produced by NPO Energomash of Russia.

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NASA Budget: New Year, Same Old Senate (and House)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies (CJS) has finished marking up the FY 2013 budget. Looks like much of the same, with money ladled on massively expensive programs and a $305 million reduction in the President’s request for commercial crew:  [Update: The House has weighed in with its own budget, which does the same thing in a more extreme fashion — see below]

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is funded at $19.4 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion over the fiscal year 2012 enacted level. The large increase results from a reorganization of operational weather satellite procurement from NOAA into NASA. Without the funds for weather satellite procurement, this level represents a $41.5 million cut from the fiscal year 2012 enacted level.

Funding for the development of the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle is $1.2 billion, the same as fiscal year 2012. Heavy lift Space Launch System (SLS) development is funded at $1.5 billion, $21 million less than fiscal year 2012. The bill also provides $244 million for construction needed to build, test, and operate Orion and SLS. Commercial crew development is provided $525 million, an increase of $119 million above fiscal year 2012.

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Senators Question NASA Human Spaceflight Transition Plan

U.S. Senators from both sides of the aisle publicly questioned NASA’s strategy of relying on Russian transport to the International Space Station between the end of the shuttle program and the beginning of Orion and Ares, CongressDaily reports.

During a hearing last week, senators complained that President George Bush’s proposed $17.6 billion NASA budget would slow a transition that could already result in a years-long flight gap when the shuttle is retired in 2010. The concerns come amid worsening U.S.-Russian relations.

NASA Administrator Mike Griffin acknowledged that a risk exists but that this is the most reasonable strategy available. The U.S. will spend about $2 billion for Russia to provide Soyuz and Progress transportation vehicles to the station through 2012. Griffin had no estimate on how much four additional years of services might cost.

Meanwhile, there seemed to be general agreement that NASA needs a waiver from a U.S. law that would prevent it from purchasing services from Russia if the Russia government continues its support of Iran’s nuclear program.