Tne failures of three aging satellites the United States relies upon to forecast space weather could leave the nation partially blind to electromagnetic storms that could severely disrupt electrical grids, communications systems, aviation and Global Positioning System (GPS) dependent navigation.
“The observations that we rely on to provide alerts and warnings are critical. Should we lose some of the key spacecraft that we talk about, I won’t say we’re blind but we’re darn close. It will impact our ability to support this nation’s need for space weather services. And I don’t want to see that happen,” said William Murtagh, director of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.
Senate and House committees held hearings on consecutive days last week about space situational awareness (SSA) and space traffic management (STM), i.e., the ability to accurately track objects in Earth orbit and to avoid dangerous collisions that could knock out satellites and even render entire orbits unusable.
The overall conclusion was that, although progress is being made, we’re not nearly as aware as we need to be as orbital debris poses an ever bigger problem and companies prepare to launch tens of thousands of new satellites.
“Near Earth space is geo-politically contested, it’s commercially contested and it’s in dire need of environmental protection because it is a finite resource,” said Moriba Jah, an associate professor of astronautics at the University of Texas.
The Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commerce (OSC) is seeking a major boost in its budget from $2.3 million to $15 million for fiscal year 2021.
The office’s director, Kevin O’Connell, told a Senate committee on Wednesday that the bulk of the increase would go toward improving space situational awareness (SSA) so objects in Earth orbit can be accurately tracked and collisions that increase space debris can be avoided.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross wants OSC to be elevated from an office within NOAA to a higher profile bureau that would be headed by an assistant secretary. The new bureau would be in charge of non-military SSA activities and a host of other activities.
Congress has not approved either the creation of the bureau nor giving the Commerce Department authority over SSA. Different bills are pending in the Senate and House that address Ross’ plan and which government agency will oversee SAA activities.
Congress is now considering the FY 2021 budget proposal, which the Trump Administration unveiled last Monday.
WASHINGTON, DC (House Science Committee PR) – Today, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) sent a follow up letter to Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on the Department’s involvement in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) actions surrounding claims that Hurricane Dorian would impact Alabama. This letter follows up on the Chairwoman’s September 11 and October 10 requests for information.
“To date, we have received no responsive materials from the Department that would address the items in either of these letters, despite repeated follow-up phone calls and emails to the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs,” Chairwoman Johnsonsaid in the letter. “The Department of Commerce’s communications with the public on weather forecasting is a critical government function that depends on the public trust in order to ensure the health and safety of all Americans. The Department’s refusals to give a public explanation for its actions in early September and to cooperate with Congressional oversight after the fact are harmful to our national weather enterprise.”
WASHINGTON (CNES PR) — On the sidelines of the International Astronautical Congress, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross signed a Declaration of Intent with Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) President Jean-Yves Le Gall. The Declaration charts a path forward for expanded cooperation between the Department and the French space agency on space situational awareness (SSA) and other important efforts driving the commercial development of space.
CANBERRA (Karen Andrews PR) — The Morrison Government is positioning Australia for lift-off with a $150 million [US $101.5 million] investment into our local businesses and new technologies that will support NASA on its inspirational campaign to return to the Moon and travel to Mars.
The five year investment will see the
Australian Space Agency foster the new ideas and hi-tech skilled jobs
that will make Australian businesses a partner of choice to fit out NASA
Washington, DC (House Science Committee PR) – Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairwoman Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross requesting information related to the Department’s involvement in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) actions surrounding claims that Hurricane Dorian would impact Alabama, as well as requesting a briefing with Department of Commerce employees who may have been involved in any directives to NOAA related to the September 6 statement. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee has full legislative and oversight jurisdiction over the National Weather Service, in addition to other portions of NOAA.
“As the operational face of weather forecasting in the United States, the NWS protects countless lives and property every year through its accurate and timely forecasts, watches, and warnings,” said the Committee Chairwomen Johnson and Sherrill. “We are committed to supporting the activities of the NWS and its dedicated staff. During your Senate confirmation hearing, you committed to allowing federal scientists to ‘be free to communicate data clearly and concisely’ and that you would ‘not interfere with the release of factual scientific data.’ However, actions by you that were described in the New York Times article would, if accurate, be inconsistent with the values of scientific integrity.”
Additionally, Chairwoman Johnson sent a letter yesterday to the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General Peggy
Gustafson requesting a copy of the notification sent to NOAA staff of an
investigation into the statement issued by the Agency on September 6,
2019. The Office of the Inspector General promptly provided a response to the Chairwoman’s inquiry.
A copy of the full letter to Secretary Ross can be found here.
A copy of the full letter to Inspector General Gustafson can be found here.
WASHINGTON, DC, September 10, 2019 – Yesterday, the New York Times reported “Secretary of Commerce threatened to fire top employees at NOAA on Friday after the agency’s Birmingham office contradicted President Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian might hit Alabama, according to three people familiar with the discussion.”
Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) made the following statement.
“I am extremely disturbed by the directive that NOAA leadership sent on September 6, which threatens the integrity and public trust of weather forecasts at the peak of Hurricane season. I am even more distressed to learn that political interference from the Secretary of Commerce may be behind the directive. The Committee will pursue this issue and we expect full cooperation from the Department of Commerce in our efforts. I would remind Department employees of the whistleblower protections afforded them by law. Any employees with information are welcome to share anonymously via the Committee Whistleblower Page.”
The New York Timesreports that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire top officials at NOAA unless they backed President Donald Trump’s claim that he was right when he tweeted about Hurricane Dorian threatening Alabama with worse damage than anticipated.
Meanwhile, NOAA’s top scientist is investigating whether the statement backing Trump’s claim violates the agency’s scientific integrity rules.
Trump tweeted on Sept. 1 that Alabama would be one of the states hit by the Category 5 storm. The warning was quickly contradicted by the National Weather Service’s office in Birmingham, Ala.
EXPLORATION PARK, Florida, USA, July 22, 2019 – OneWeb Satellites – a joint venture of OneWeb
and Airbus – today officially opened the world’s first high-volume,
high-speed advanced satellite production facility to bring
transformative internet connectivity to everyone, everywhere.
are custom built, costing tens of millions of dollars to build, and
taking more than a year to produce a single one. The OneWeb Satellites facility is the first to employ industrial-scale
mass production techniques for satellites, enabling dramatically reduced costs and production times that can deliver one
satellite per production shift or two a day, while significantly
expanding internet connectivity and making space technology far more
The battle over 5G wireless frequency allocation is heating up.
On one side, there’s NASA, the Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who say that spectrum in the 24GHz band the government recently auctioned off to private companies will likely result in cell signals that would interfere with accurate weather forecasting.
On the other side is Federal Communications Commission and its chairman, Ajit Pai, who ignored requests to delay the auction while more studies were done. Pai recently toldthe Senate Science Committee to ignore what he called faulty data presented by NASA and NOAA at the 11th hour.
LUXEMBOURG (Luxembourg Space Agency PR) — The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the United States of America today signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will serve to catalyze and significantly deepen cooperation between the two countries in the field of space. Étienne Schneider, Luxembourg’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy, signed the MoU for the Grand Duchy. Wilbur Ross, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, signed for the United States.
The Memorandum will serve as a vehicle to establish a more formal dialogue, sharing of expertise and exchange of information between Luxembourg and the United States. The MoU will promote the continued growth of their respective space industries through new commercial and investment opportunities, as well as strengthen policy coordination as the two countries lead the international community in promoting a business-friendly regulatory framework.
WASHINGTON (Commerce Department PR) — Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross sent a report to President Donald J. Trump detailing thirteen recommendations that will improve the global competitiveness of the American space sector through updated domestic and international spectrum policies.
This report was developed collaboratively with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Space Council, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, as well as other Federal entities, to create a set of proposals the Federal Government as a whole can adopt to fuel the growth of the U.S. space commerce economy.
Video Caption: Introduction by Hudson President and CEO Kenneth R. Weinstein followed by a Keynote address by Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX).
Maintaining U.S. leadership in the face of global competition warrants a reevaluation of the U.S. political and legal landscape governing space. On July 24, Hudson Institute was joined by the Secretary Wilbur Ross and House Science, Space, & Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith to discuss the Department of Commerce’s evolving role in the space sector.
The web of national, regional and international institutions—organized to guide and serve an industry undergoing dramatic transformation—needs to be updated. Rising to meet this challenge, Congress and the Executive Branch have been working together to reshape the legal environment for the commercial use of outer space. Keynote addresses by Secretary Ross and Congressman Smith will be followed by a panel with senior government officials responsible for executing the reform agenda laid out by the Trump Administration.