Bridenstine Releases American Space Renaissance Act, Welcomes Comment

Bridenstine Releases American Space Renaissance Act, Welcomes Comment

As promised, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) released a final draft of his American Space Renaissance Act (ASRA) at the Space Symposium today.  It will be officially introduced in the House of Representatives on Thursday.   Bridenstine created a website devoted exclusively to the legislation and welcomes input. 

Bridenstine said earlier this year that he does not expect the bill to pass en toto.  Instead, he sees it as a repository of plug-and-play provisions that could be inserted into other pieces of legislation, including this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Bridenstine serves on both the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, which authorizes NASA and NOAA activities, and the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), which oversees defense programs.

The bill would “permanently secure the United States of America as the preeminent spacefaring nation.”

Bridenstine created a website where interested persons can read the bill and a section-by-section analysis, provide input, and sign up for updates.  It is a broad bill encompassing military, civil and commercial space activities.  According to the website, the bill’s objectives are to:

  • Project military strength and protect our space based capabilities
  • Provide certainty to encourage commercial space innovation, and
  • Promote stability, accountability, and mission clarity at NASA

Drafting legislation typically takes place behind the scenes, with stakeholders lobbying to get favored provisions in and troublesome provisions out. Bridenstine has welcomed input from everywhere, however, posting an initial draft on his website in March and creating a link for input to this current version on the ASRA website.  In a sense, the bill is a potpourri of provisions that align with Bridenstine’s view of the world, which champions a strong defense and promotes commercial activities.

A few (yes, just a few) of the provisions in the 110-page bill would —

National Security Space

  • require the President to develop doctrine for responding to deliberately hostile acts against U.S. government, commercial and allied/partner space assets;
  • codify the roles and responsibilities of the Principal Defense Space Advisor (a position that already exists and is filled by the Secretary of the Air Force, but could be eliminated by a future administration if not codified in law);
  • require the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) to leverage hosted payloads to the maximum extent practicable;
  • require a number of actions regarding the space- and ground-based components of military satellite communications systems;
  • require the President to establish a National Executive Committee on Weather similar to the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Executive Committee;
  • require SecDef to develop and certify standards to facilitate the use of commercial weather data;
  • authorize $10 million for a commercial weather data pilot program (Bridenstine created one for NOAA already);
  • prohibit reliance on foreign partners for cloud characterization, theater weather imagery and space-based weather data;
  • after December 31, 2022, instruct DOD to consider bids from launch providers utilizing domestically-built engines as costing 25 percent less than the list cost of the bid for the purpose of the competitive bidding process;
  • require DOD to establish a venture-class launch services program and authorize $27 million to award not less than four contracts (NASA has a venture-class program for very small satellites already);
  • authorize $4 million to conduct studies on allied launch service providers to serve as backup to launch national security missions;
  • require the Secretary of the Air Force to commercialize Air Force Satellite Control Network operations by January 2018

 Civil Space

  • amend the 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act to align NASA’s mission with a doctrine of pioneering space;
  • direct NASA to be the first to arrive at space destinations, expand access, and put in place infrastructure to facilitate utilization and development;
  • establish a 5-year term for the NASA Administrator;
  • establish a 21-person NASA Leadership and Advising Commission whose members are chosen by Congress to provide a list of candidates for Administrator and provide Congress with an analysis of NASA’s annual budget submission and recommend changes;
  • require all NASA appropriations to be multi-year or no-year;
  • establish a $250 million revolving fund to supplement NASA programs suffering development challenges and support infrastructure upgrades;
  • direct the NASA Inspector General to recommend a mechanism for the automatic removal of the Administrator based on program delays or lack of adherence to long term plans;
  • beginning October 1, 2019, require NASA to determine the maximum probable loss associated with commercially-provided launches, and to require launch service providers to obtain certain levels of insurance;
  • establish landing on Mars as NASA’s primary human spaceflight priority;
  • express a sense of Congress that the United States should maintain a continuous presence in low Earth orbit and utilize commercial operations for that purpose;
  • by the end of 2018, require NASA to enter into at least one competitively bid agreement to test the viability of a commercially built habitat;
  • effective January 1, 2023, instruct NASA to consider bids from launch providers utilizing domestically-built engines as costing 25 percent less than the list cost of the bid for the purposes of the competitive bid process

Commercial Space

  • establish the position of Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Commercial Space Transportation and designate this person as the Associate Administrator of FAA/AST;
  • authorize appropriations for FAA/AST for 2017-2021, rising from $43.2 million in FY2017 to $99 million in FY2021 (the FY2016 level is $17.8 million);
  • establish an Office of Spaceports within FAA/AST;
  • establish a Space Awareness Advisory Committee to advise on space situational awareness (SSA);
  • direct the Secretary of Transportation to utilize private sector SSA capabilities to the extent practicable;
  • define Space Traffic Management (STM) and direct that a lead government agency for STM be designated, and regulations to prevent collisions in Earth orbit be promulgated, by September 30, 2020;
  • require the Secretary of State to seek bi-lateral and multi-lateral agreements with spacefaring nations to standardize regulations and work through interagency and multilateral processes to develop a unified, global space traffic management architecture;
  • direct the NOAA Administrator to promulgate rules on the treatment of weather data from commercial space-based systems to ensure the United States releases only the minimum amount of proprietary data to remain in compliance with World Meteorological Organization Resolution 40 (WMO 40);
  • require NASA to submit a report on how to leverage industry capabilities for Earth science missions;
  • require the Secretary of Commerce to review the feasibility and benefits of rearranging space-related activities within the Department;
  • make changes to how commercial remote sensing licenses are handled;
  • authorize appropriations for 2017-2021 for commercial weather data buys by NOAA, rising from $15 million in FY2017 to $130 million in FY2021 (NOAA has $3 million in FY2016 to evaluate the feasibility of using commercial data in numerical weather models);
  • express a sense of Congress that the Secretary of Transportation has authorities to determine compliance with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty;
  • establish a loan guarantee program within the Department of Commerce to support a domestic space industrial base for national security;
  • permit the Secretary of Transportation to allow experimental aircraft to be used for commercial compensation for spaceflight training


Editor’s Note:  The section-by-section portion of the website is NOT user-friendly.  Here’s a hint:  be sure to use the sliding scale at the bottom of the webpage to make the font large enough to read, not the more obvious + sign to which we are all so accustomed.   And be forewarned — there are a lot of ads.

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