Richard DalBello Appointed to Head NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce

Rich DalBello (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WASHINGTON (Commerce Department PR) — Today, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo announced that Richard DalBello, a venerable figure in government and the private-sector satellite industry, has been appointed to be the new director of NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce (OSC), the coordinator of space commerce policy activities within the U.S. Department of Commerce. DalBello officially will begin his duties on May 9.

OSC’s key mission is to foster the conditions for the economic growth and technological advancement of the U.S. commercial space industry, issuing, enforcing and maintaining operating licenses for private remote sensing space systems and positioning the nation as a leader in space. OSC is also responsible for modernizing and managing the U.S. systems for space situational awareness.

DalBello has more than 30 years of public and private sector commercial space experience. In his previous position as Virgin Atlantic’s Vice President of Global Engagement, he managed international business development for the company’s fleet of carrier aircraft and space vehicles.

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Committee Leaders Question Biden Administration’s Efforts to Address Space Debris Issues

The scales of the space debris problem (Credit: ESA)

WASHINGTON (Senate Commerce Committee PR) – U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., ranking member and chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, along with Sens. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., and John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., ranking member and chair of the Subcommittee on Space and Science, today sent a letter requesting that Vice President Kamala Harris prioritize space debris issues in her role as chair of the National Space Council. The Senators also sent a letter to Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to inquire about the department’s outer space-related efforts following Russia’s destructive anti-satellite test two weeks ago.    

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Report on Commerce Department’s Space Accomplishments

WASHINGTON (Commerce Department PR) — The Office of Space Commerce published a report on the Commerce Department’s space commerce accomplishments under Secretary Wilbur Ross and the Trump Administration.

The report recaps the Department’s success in achieving its strategic objective to expand commercial space activities through a host of actions. The text of the report is below.

Department of Commerce Accomplishments Space and Space Commerce

Under the leadership of Secretary Wilbur Ross, the Department of Commerce emphasized the importance of space and space commerce to U.S. national and economic security, prosperity, and the growing role of the Department in this area. Strategic Objective 1.1 of the Secretary’s Strategic Plan for 2018-2022 was to increase U.S. commercial space activities; the Department’s efforts to improve space situational awareness were Agency Priority Goals in FY2020 and FY2021.

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Failure of Aging Satellites Could Leave U.S. Partially Blind to Space Weather

Diagram of DSCOVR spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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.

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Experts Say Much More Required to Avoid Satellite Collisions, Space Debris

Space debris

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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.

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NASA OIG: Use More Minotaurs

SpaceX and other commercial launch providers will have more competition for lofting some of NASA’s science missions — courtesy of America’s nuclear arsenal.

NASA has agreed to consider using more ICBM-derived Minotaur IV boosters to launch medium-size missions after an investigation by the agency’s Inspector General found that the move could save a significant amount of money and hedge against delays in the availability of commercial alternatives.

In a report released today, the IG’s Office said NASA has been resisting the move because it could interfere with the development of other commercial alternatives. However, agency officials said they would include Minotaur IV for medium-size science missions after they were given a draft copy of the report. Minotaur IV was already in the mix for launching small payloads.

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