Cooper Optimistic Congress Will Approve Space Force, But Will it Solve the Problem?

Cooper Optimistic Congress Will Approve Space Force, But Will it Solve the Problem?

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan today championed the need for a Space Force to protect our $19 trillion economy and the space systems our military depends upon.  Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), a key member of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), expressed optimism that Congress will approve a Space Force in some form this year.  A major rationale is to focus responsibility for and raise the priority of national security space activities within DOD. Cristina Chaplain of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which identified as many as 60 military space stakeholder organizations, wondered if it will solve the problem.

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U.S. and Japanese Probes Discover Asteroids Are Full of Surprises

U.S. and Japanese Probes Discover Asteroids Are Full of Surprises

Two asteroid sample return missions are showing scientists that Earth-based observations do not tell the whole story about the nature of these small bodies in the solar system.  Scientists and engineers on the U.S.-led OSIRIS-REx and the Japanese-led Hayabusa2 missions are having to scramble to adjust their sample acquisition plans now that the probes are at their destinations and finding unexpected environments.  For OSIRIS-REx, that includes particles spewing off of the surface in plumes. The mission’s top scientist, Dante Lauretta, calls it one of the biggest surprises of his career.

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NASA Confirms Mars 2020 Overrun

NASA Confirms Mars 2020 Overrun

Today NASA confirmed persistent rumors that the Mars 2020 project is in trouble.  Buried in the agency’s FY2020 detailed budget justification book, released by OMB and the Government Publishing Office this morning, the agency reveals that two of the instruments and the sample caching system “have resulted in mission cost growth.”  A NASA official told a planetary science conference this evening that the overrun is about 15 percent.

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What’s Happening in Space Policy March 17-23, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy March 17-23, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of March 17-23, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in recess this week (except for pro forma sessions).

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Soyuz MS-12 Arrives at ISS; NASA and Roscosmos Confirm Future Mixed Crews on Soyuz and U.S. Commercial Crew Systems

Soyuz MS-12 Arrives at ISS; NASA and Roscosmos Confirm Future Mixed Crews on Soyuz and U.S. Commercial Crew Systems

NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) today, five months later than planned.  Along with NASA astronaut Christina Koch, their Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft docked at ISS at 9:01 pm ET approximately 6 hours after lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.  The uneventful trip was quite unlike their first launch on October 11 which ended abruptly after a launch failure.  After they docked, NASA and Roscosmos officials confirmed that mixed U.S.-Russian crews will continue to fly on Soyuz and on the new U.S. commercial crew systems once they are operational.  In addition, Koch will remain on ISS longer than originally planned.

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Trump’s DOD Space Reorganization Moves Forward, But Headwinds Await – UPDATED

Trump’s DOD Space Reorganization Moves Forward, But Headwinds Await – UPDATED

President Trump’s effort to reorganize how DOD deals with space activities took some steps forward this week, but is also facing headwinds from skeptics in Congress and elsewhere.  The FY 2020 budget request includes funds for the three key elements — a U.S. Space Force (USSF) as a new service under the U.S. Air Force, a unified combatant U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM), and a Space Development Agency (SDA).  Key members of Congress expressed reservations about USSF today however, and USSPACECOM has hit a snag.  At the same time, SDA reportedly was officially established yesterday, but over the objections of outgoing Air Force Secretary (SecAF) Heather Wilson.

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NASA Studying Launching EM-1 On Commercial Rockets, Not SLS

NASA Studying Launching EM-1 On Commercial Rockets, Not SLS

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine made a bombshell announcement at a Senate hearing this morning that the agency is studying whether it can launch the uncrewed Orion spacecraft on its first mission around the Moon on commercial rockets instead of the Space Launch System (SLS).  Bridenstine expressed strong support for SLS and insisted plans for EM-2, the first flight with a crew, would not change.  Coupled with decisions revealed yesterday in NASA’s FY2020 budget request to delay planned SLS upgrades, however, some see this as a further indication that commercial rockets can do the job that SLS is designed to do, but faster and at less cost.

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DOD Wants 17 Percent Increase for Space Activities in FY2020

DOD Wants 17 Percent Increase for Space Activities in FY2020

DOD is requesting $14.1 billion for space activities in FY2020, a 17 percent increase over FY2019 according to DOD officials.  Included in the request is $72 million to begin establishing a Space Force as a separate military service within the Air Force in anticipation of Congress approving that action, although it is not assured.

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DOT Requests Big Boost for Commercial Space Transportation in FY2020

DOT Requests Big Boost for Commercial Space Transportation in FY2020

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is requesting a total of $64.6 million for commercial space transportation activities in FY2020.  That is a significant boost from its FY2019 level of $36.5 million including all three budget line items that comprise DOT’s support for commercial space launch and reentry activities.  The biggest increase is for integrating commercial space transportation into the National Airspace System (NAS) to reduce disruption to other airspace users.

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Trump Administration Proposes Half Billion Dollar Cut to NASA for FY2020

Trump Administration Proposes Half Billion Dollar Cut to NASA for FY2020

The Trump Administration released its FY2020 budget request today.  For NASA, the request is $21.019 billion, a $481 million cut from its FY2019 budget.  NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tried to put a positive spin on it by comparing it to last year’s request since by that measure it is a 6 percent increase, but it is actually a 2.2 percent reduction from current funding.

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