Category: Civil

Advice for the National Space Council from Policy Insiders

Advice for the National Space Council from Policy Insiders

Now that President Trump has announced his intent to appoint Scott Pace as Executive Director of the newly reconstituted National Space Council, advice is pouring in on what issues it should tackle and the challenges ahead.

At a seminar Friday sponsored by the Aerospace Corporation and George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute — which Pace currently heads — Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) and two panels of experts offered their views on the Space Council and other topics.  The White House announcement came the evening before the seminar began.  While Pace was widely rumored to be the top choice, the timing caught many by surprise. The seminar’s topic, however, Ensuring U.S. Space Leadership, lent itself to the breaking development.

The National Space Council has existed in law since the FY1989 NASA Authorization Act. (A predecessor National Aeronautics and Space Council was created in the 1958 law that established NASA, but was disbanded by President Nixon in 1973).  President George H.W. Bush issued an Executive Order standing up the organization in April 1989 with Vice President Dan Quayle as its chair.  After his term ended in 1993, however, no President has chosen to fund or staff the office until now.  President Trump signed an Executive Order on June 30 reestablishing the Council within the Executive Office of the President (EOP) with Vice President Mike Pence as its chairman.

In the Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama Administrations, space policy was developed in the EOP through interagency processes led by the National Security Council (NSC) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which formulates the President’s budget request to Congress and oversees how agencies spend money appropriated by Congress, is also part of the EOP.

The two panels at Friday’s seminar encompassed six EOP space policy veterans.  From the NSC: Gil Kilnger (George W. Bush), Peter Marquez (George W. Bush and Obama), and Chirag Parikh (Obama).  From OSTP:  Richard DalBello (Clinton, Obama), Damon Wells (George W. Bush, Obama), and Ben Roberts (Obama). All but Roberts continue to work on space in industry or government — Harris, Planetary Resources, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), Virgin Galactic, and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), respectively — though all were speaking in their private capacities. The group is very collegial and offered good-natured advice and ribbing about the challenges Pace will confront, while seriously addressing both structural and policy issues that need to be solved.

Joining them were former Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and former Commander of U.S. Strategic Command Gen. C. Robert Kehler (Ret) who also offered their views on the proposal to form a Space Corps within the Air Force, an idea they oppose.  Babin chairs the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and gave a comprehensive keynote address that included the key issues he thinks the Space Council should address.

Many of the comments from the White House policy veterans focused on the inner workings of the EOP and the challenges of dealing with complex policy issues with just one person at the NSC assigned to work on space issues and perhaps one or two at OSTP.  The prevailing view was that reestablishing the Space Council would help because it presumably will have a few more staff than that and, with the Vice President as chairman, raising these issues to higher levels in the White House will be easier.

Roberts, who left OSTP in March after nine years in the EOP (the first seven at OMB) conceded that he was skeptical when he first heard that the Space Council would be reestablished because the OSTP/NSC model was working quite well.   He has changed his mind because it is not clear how President Trump will staff or utilize OSTP.  No science advisor has been nominated and most of the staff has departed with no replacements in sight.  Obama’s OSTP Director and Science Adviser John Holdren had “a lot of clout” with the President on civil and commercial space issues, Roberts said. With that model now in doubt, he views the Space Council, reporting directly to the Vice President, as a positive development.

Parikh pointed out that one missing element of the Executive Order reestabllshing the Council, however, is that no line is drawn among OSTP, NSC and OMB.  The NSC and OSTP staff can write policies, “but it you’re not linked with the budget officials” the policies may not be executable.  For example, when Obama’s National Space Policy was issued in 2010 the policy community recognized the need for more investment in space security, but funding was not made available until 6 years later.  He lamented that too much time is spent worrying about where to place a comma while forgetting about the budgetary spreadsheets.

Wells and DalBello agreed the challenge is implementation.  “Policy is aspirational goals,” said Wells. but it is only after the policy is released “that the fun begins” in obtaining budgetary resources and harmonizng policy and regulatory frameworks.  Calling the space policy process “self congratulatory,” DalBello said it falls short in getting the necessary interagency commitments to translate policy into workable budgets as well as in reaching out to Congress.  Congress needs to appropriate the money and in some cases set policy in law.

More broadly, Klinger stressed that the single most critical issue is whether the rate at which the United States is adapting and changing its space policy and capabilities matches the rate of change in threats and opportunities.  “If yes, we’re in the game.  If not, we are at risk of looking like the dinosaurs in the Gary Larson cartoon.”

Klinger, Parikh and DalBello all mentioned the soft power value of the space program on the global stage.  DalBello urged that whatever human spaceflight goals are chosen be “articulated in an international context.”  Whether in human spaceflight or space traffic management or other areas, the United States needs to “align our interests with other nations.”

One benefit that many see to a Space Council is that it can deal with issues on a cross-cutting basis rather than stovepiped into the civil, commercial, and national security sectors.  Babin discussed five issues he believes would benefit from a “holistic” review by the Space Council:  space transportation, satellite servicing, weather, space weather, and space situational awareness. He offered his own views and solutions, some of which are reflected in the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act that was approved by the committee last month, but also believes an “appropriately constituted” Space Council “can provide a leadership role in synergizing” many of these issues.  He cautioned, however, that if the Space Council does not get “buy-in” from the NSC, OMB and OSTP, “it could simply become another layer of bureaucracy.”

For his own part, Pace noted that he was the Department of Commerce’s representative to the George H.W. Bush Administration’s National Space Council and remarked on how much has changed in aerospace in the intervening decades.  The Council is being “reincarnated” in an era of “democratization and globalization” where the private sector “is changing the rules of the game.”

Although it dealt with a wide variety of issues, the earlier Space Council is probably best remembered for the tense relationship it had with NASA, which eventually led to the firing of NASA Administrator Richard Truly and his replacement by Dan Goldin.

Pace stressed in an op-ed published in the March 14, 2017 issue of The Hill that the Space Council’s purpose is not to supervise NASA.  Pace was NASA’s Associate Administrator for Program Analysis and Evaluation when Mike Griffin was Administrator in the second George W. Bush term, so has seen the process from that side.   The “White House does not, and never has, needed a space council to supervise NASA, but it does need a way to combine the separate strands of national security space programs, diplomatic engagement, commercial competition and civil space cooperation with a unity of national purpose and effort.”

That opinion was shared by participants in the seminar.  As Marquez said, it is “not a NASA council” but is “about national priorities, needs, and strategic imperatives.”

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 17-21, 2017

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 17-21, 2017

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of July 17-21, 2017 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate will be in session this week.

During the Week

The big event this week is the annual International Space Station Research and Development (ISS R&D) conference organized by the American Astronautical Society.  This year it’s in Washington, DC at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.  Pre-conference events take place tomorrow (Monday).  Among the events is a session on the role of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in the evolution of ISS research and a joint NASA-JAXA workshop on maximizing the outcome of the ISS and the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), which is named Kibo. The workshop includes NASA’s Marybeth Edeen and Bill Gerstenmaier (head of NASA”s human spaceflight program), and JAXA Vice President and Director General of Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate Takashi Hamazaki and JAXA’s manager and director of the JEM utilization center, Kunihiro Matsumoto and Kazuyuki Tasaki, respectively.

Tuesday-Thursday are the main sessions of the conference, which will be livestreamed.  Among the keynote speakers are Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot, Bigelow Aerospace’s Robert Bigelow, SpaceX’s Elon Musk, and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoferretti.  NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is a featured speaker on a panel Tuesday morning.  A space policy panel will take place on Wednesday morning.

On exactly the same days (Monday-Thursday), NOAA will hold a conference at the City College of New York in New York City on “A New Era for NOAA Environmental Satellites” with its own who’s who of experts from the U.S., other countries (including China, Japan, South Korea and Brazil) and international organizations (e.g. EUMETSAT and the World Meteorological Organization).  NBC’s Al Roker is the luncheon keynote speaker on Monday.  Sessions focus on GOES-R, JPSS, Big Data, and spectrum issues.  The conference website does not indicate if any of it will be webcast.  If we find out, we will add the information to our calendar item.

And on three of those four days (Tuesday-Thursday), NASA will hold its annual Exploration Forum at Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA.  Sponsored by the Solar System Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) it, too, has a jam-packed agenda with fascinating panels and speakers.

This week definitely has an embarrassment of riches for anyone interested in space science, technology and policy and we haven’t even gotten to Congress yet.

The House Appropriations Committee will mark up the bill (T-HUD) that funds FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation on Monday evening; the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Space Subcommittee will hold a hearing on planetary flagship missions, including Mars 2020 and Europa Clipper, on Tuesday morning; and the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) has a nomination hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon that includes the nominations of Ellen Lord to be USD/ATL and Matthew Donovan to be Under Secretary of the Air Force (SASC Chairman Sen. McCain’s decision to remain in Arizona this week recovering from eye surgery could change that schedule, though).

Those events and others we know about as of Sunday morning are shown below.  Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Events of Interest list.

Monday (July 17)

Monday-Thursday (July 17-20)

Tuesday (July 18)

Tuesday-Thursday (July 18-20)

Wednesday, July 19

Wednesday-Thursday, July 19-20

Thursday, July 20


House Adopts Johnson Amendment to Create Memorial to Apollo 1 Crew

House Adopts Johnson Amendment to Create Memorial to Apollo 1 Crew

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s (D-TX) effort to create a memorial to the Apollo 1 crew at Arlington National Cemetery took a step forward yesterday.  The crews of the space shuttle Challenger and Columbia are honored there, but not Apollo 1.  Her amendment to the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) directing the Secretary of the Army to establish an Apollo 1 memorial there was adopted by the House.  The bill itself passed later in the day.

Fifty years ago, Virgil “Gus” Grisson, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee died when fire erupted in their Apollo command module during a pre-launch test.  The test on January 27, 1967 was in advance of a planned February 21 launch of the first Apollo mission.  The cause of the fire is thought to have been a spark from an electrical wire in the 100 percent oxygen atmosphere inside the capsule, although the investigation could not conclusively identify the ignition source.  The capsule was pressurized at 16.7 pounds per square inch (psi), greater than that outside the capsule.  The hatch swung inward and the crew could not open it quickly enough to escape.

Apollo 1 crew members Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.  Photo credit:  NASA

During a tribute to the crew in January on the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, Chaffee’s daughter, Sheryl, movingly recounted what it was like as an 8-year-old to learn of her father’s death and how it led to her own 33-year career at NASA.  She said, however, that it seems as though few remember it.

Johnson introduced a bill last year to honor the Apollo 1 crew at Arlington Cemetery in the same manner as the Challenger and Columbia crews, but it did not pass.  She reintroduced it this year.  This week, however, she proposed a slightly different version as an amendment to the NDAA (H.R. 2810).  The House approved it as part of en bloc amendment 4.

In a press statement, Johnson expressed her gratitude to the House for supporting the amendment and hope that the Senate will follow suit.  “Each of these individuals made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of a noble and inspiring goal — the peaceful exploration of outer space.  I am grateful to all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for supporting this amendment, and I hope the Senate will join us in making the Apollo 1 memorial a reality.”

Memorial to the space shuttle Challenger crew at Arlington National Cemetery.  Photo credit:  Arlington National Cemetery.

Memorial to the space shuttle Columbia crew at Arlington National Cemetery.  Photo credit: Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington National Cemetery is overseen by the Department of the Army.  Johnson’s amendment requires the Secretary of the Army, in consultation with the NASA Administrator, to construct the memorial at “an appropriate place” in the cemetery and authorizes $50,000 for that purpose.

The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) has been supporting Johnson’s effort.  In an emailed statement, AIA thanked Johnson, House Armed Services Committee (HASC) chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA).   “AIA has supported Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s … effort along with our partners at the Challenger Center. … AIA applauds these three representatives for their leadership in moving forward the noble idea of authorizing a memorial marker honoring these American heroes.”

As Johnson said, the next step is getting the Senate to agree.  The Senate’s version of the FY2018 NDAA is awaiting floor action.  As reported from the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), it does not address this issue.

House Appropriators Approve FY2018 CJS Bill–Good News for NASA, Mixed for NOAA Satellites

House Appropriators Approve FY2018 CJS Bill–Good News for NASA, Mixed for NOAA Satellites

The House Appropriations Committee approved the FY2018 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill this evening.  The final version makes no changes to the subcommittee-approved recommendations for NASA or NOAA. NASA would get a significant increase above President Trump’s request and above current spending.  NOAA’s near-term satellite programs, JPSS and GOES-R, are fully funded, but future programs did not fare well.

The committee’s lengthy markup dealt with a wide variety of issues, reflecting the bill’s broad jurisdiction — NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and all of the Departments of Justice and Commerce (NOAA is part of Commerce).  Especially tense debates took place on Department of Justice issues such as the investigation into whether Russia interfered in the U.S. election.  Although the NASA and NOAA portions were not controversial, in the end, the bill was approved on a largely partisan basis 31-21 (the committee has 30 Republicans and 22 Democrats).

The only NASA-related amendment was offered by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). She sought to add money for NASA’s aeronautics program, but withdrew the amendment after making the point that more funding is needed.  House Appropriations CJS subcommittee chairman John Culberson (R-TX) agreed about the need for more money.  As he said during subcommittee markup, he is optimistic that once Congress agrees on a Budget Resolution, his subcommittee will have more money to spend and NASA’s aeronautics program is “at the top of the list.”  He made similar comments in reaction to amendments seeking more money for NSF and for the Legal Services Corporation.

The bill approves $19.872 billion for NASA in FY2018, $217 million more than its current (FY2017) spending and $780 million more than the Trump Administration’s request.  Among the highlights, the bill approves:

  • $5,858.5 million for Science
    • $1,704.0 million for earth science ($50 million less than the request). Includes $175.8 million to keep Landsat-9 on track for 2020 launch.
    • $2,120.9 million for planetary science ($191.4 million more than the request). Includes $475 million for “Europa Clipper and Lander”.
    • $822 million for astrophysics ($5.3 million more than the request).  Requires NASA to ensure WFIRST is Starshade compatible.
    • $533.7 million for James Webb Space Telescope (same as request).
    • $677.9 million for heliophysics (same as request).
  • $660.0 million for Aeronautics
  • $686.5 million for Space Technology
  • $4,550.0 million for Exploration
    • $1,350.0 million for Orion
    • $2,150.0 million for SLS
    • $600.0 million for exploration ground systems
    • $450.0 million for exploration R&D
  • $4,676.6 million for Space Operations (ISS, commercial crew and cargo, space and flight support)
  • $90.0 million for Education ($18 million for EPSCoR, $40 million for Space Grant, $32 million for MUREP)
  • $2,826.2 million for Safety, Security and Mission Support
  • $486.1 million for Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration
  • $37.9 million for Inspector General

For more information and a table comparing FY2017 funding, the Trump request, and the committee’s actions, see’s fact sheet on NASA’s budget request.

The total amount approved for acquisition of NOAA’s satellite systems in $1,469.6 million.  NOAA’s two major weather satellites programs — JPSS and GOES-R — are fully funded.

The JPSS program pays for only the first two of these new polar orbiting weather satellites, however.  The second pair, JPSS-3 and -4, are funded in a separate Polar Follow On (PFO) program.  The Trump Administration proposed a deep cut to PFO saying it will re-plan the program ($180 million instead of the $586 million NOAA said last year it would need for FY2018). The committee went even further, approving only $50 million, but added it would reconsider if NOAA provides a better explanation of how it is restructuring the program.  NOAA’s plans for new space weather satellites also fell far short of what the agency planned last year, although the committee provided more ($8.5 million) than the Trump Administration requested ($500,000).

The House Appropriations Committee is approving appropriations bills even though the House has not adopted a Budget Resolution establishing how much money there is to spend.  Strictly speaking that step is supposed to happen prior to action by the Appropriations Committee. Whether any such Resolution provides more money for the CJS bill, as Culberson hopes, is far from assured.

The path forward for any of these appropriations bills is unclear.  Congress has failed to pass Budget Resolutions in previous years, but nevertheless kept the government operating. So it is possible, but adds another layer of complication.

Scott Pace to Be National Space Council’s Executive Secretary

Scott Pace to Be National Space Council’s Executive Secretary

The White House announced today that President Trump intends to appoint Scott Pace to be Executive Secretary of the National Space Council.  Pace is currently Director of the Space Policy Institute and Professor of Practice of International Affairs at George Washington University (GWU).

Pace has a long career in space policy and is very well known and highly respected in the community.  Ever since the Trump Administration indicated that it would reestablish the Space Council, his is virtually the only name rumored to be in the running to serve as the head of its staff.  The Council was officially reestablished on June 30 and is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence.  Pace was spotted at Kennedy Space Center last week where Pence addressed the KSC workforce, further fueling speculation that he would be appointed as head of the Space Council.

In its announcement, the White House said Pace has “honed his expertise in the areas of science, space, and technology” citing his career at GWU, NASA, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the RAND Corporation’s Science and Technology Policy Institute.

Scott Pace.  Photo credit:  GWU website.

Pace received a B.S. in physics from Harvey Mudd College, a master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics and Technology and Policy from MIT, and a Ph.D. in policy analysis from the RAND Graduate School.

During the George W. Bush Administration’s second term, Pace was NASA’s Associate Administrator for Program Analysis and Evaluation under then-NASA Administrator Mike Griffin.  He was closely involved in formulating the Constellation program to return humans to the surface of the Moon and then going on to Mars.

His expertise is much broader, however.  He was Deputy Director and Acting Director of the Office of Space Commerce at the Department of Commerce from 1990-1993 when that office reported to the Deputy Secretary of Commerce (instead of being part of NOAA as it is today).   He has been very active on GPS issues for many years, including protecting GPS spectrum at World Radiocommunications Conferences (WRCs) organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).  He was a member of the U.S. delegation to the WRCs in 1997, 2000, 2003 and 2007.  He also has served as a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (2009 and 2011-2015). Today he is vice-chair of NOAA’s Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing, of which he has been a member for several years.

John Logsdon, who founded GWU’s Space Policy Institute and is Professor Emeritus there, said via email that he could think of “no one more qualified” to take on the “essential task of crafting a strategic approach to using U.S. space capabilities to advance this country’s geopolitical interests and to forge productive collaboration among all government space actors and the private sector.”

Mary Lynne Dittmar, President and CEO of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (CDSE), also praised the announcement.  “Dr. Pace’s unique combination of experience in government, the private sector, and academia, and his internationally-recognized expertise in space policy, make him an exemplary selection” for the position.  She added that CDSE looks forward to working with “the Council, its staff, and the Vice President’s office to support U.S. leadership and strategic interests in space.”  CDSE is an alliance of space industry businesses and advocacy groups that support deep space human exploration and science.


Update:  this article has been updated with reaction to the announcement.

NOAA’s Polar Follow On Program Zapped by House Appropriators

NOAA’s Polar Follow On Program Zapped by House Appropriators

NOAA’s Polar Follow On (PFO) program to build the next two JPSS polar-orbiting weather satellites barely survives in the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee’s draft budget for the agency.  Only $50 million would be allocated, compared to the $586 million NOAA said last year that it would need in FY2018.  The Trump Administration proposed a re-plan of the program in its budget request, asking for $180 million for FY2018.  The subcommittee is going well beyond that, but said it may reconsider its decision if NOAA provides better information about the re-plan.  The full committee will mark up the bill tomorrow (Thursday).

NOAA is building new generations of its two weather satellite systems, one that orbits around the Earth’s poles (polar orbit) and the other in geostationary orbit above the equator.

The Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) program consists of the first two JPSS polar-orbiting satellites.  It is fully funded in Trump’s budget request and by the subcommittee.  The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite series R (GOES-R) program also is fully funded.

The question is what comes next.  The JPSS program itself funds only the first two satellites, JPSS-1 and -2.  The next two, JPSS-3 and JPSS-4, have a different program name and funding line item — Polar Follow On (PFO).   The original decision to split JPSS into different program lines was part of an effort to reduce the cost of what was officially labeled the JPSS program, although a number of changes have been made since.  Most recently, NOAA has been planning to procure instruments and spacecraft for JPSS-2, -3, and -4 simultaneously to achieve cost savings and create resiliency in case a satellite fails early or is lost during launch.

Budget constraints have changed the picture, however.  With the Trump Administration trying to cut costs across the government, it signaled early on that NOAA’s future satellite programs would be reduced.  PFO is one of the targets.  NOAA had projected in its FY2017 request that $586 million would be needed in FY2018, but the Trump Administration’s request was for only $180 million in FY2018 and “TBD” for future years.

NOAA said it would “initiate a re-plan” and “work to improve the constellation strategy considering all the polar satellite assets to ensure polar weather satellite continuity while seeking cost efficiencies, managing and balancing systems technical risks and leveraging partnerships.”

The CJS subcommittee funds the Department of Commerce, of which NOAA is part.  In its draft report, released today, it left no doubt that it found NOAA’s new approach insufficient.   “The request proposes a dramatic and incipient re-plan of this program. Yet the request fails to assess the purported new mission design’s impacts on constellation availability, or provide an updated gap analysis, or new annual or lifecycle cost estimates.”   Therefore it approved only $50 million.

A gap analysis is an assessment of the possibility that a gap in coverage could occur if new satellites are not launched quickly enough to replace older satellites as they fail or if a satellite fails prematurely.  Because of the vital nature of weather satellite data, NOAA and Congress are determined to avoid gaps in either polar or geostationary weather satellite data.  Such assessments are difficult, though.  Many satellites outlive their design lives, but others do not and there is always the risk that a new satellite could be doomed by a launch failure.

The subcommittee added that it will reassess its decision on funding for PFO if NOAA provides better information.

Another NOAA satellite program whose future is in doubt is space weather.  NOAA is responsible for spacecraft that monitor the Sun for particle ejections that can damage  satellites in orbit and infrastructure on Earth like the electric grid.  The most recent space weather satellite to be launched to the Sun-Earth L1 Lagrange point for that purpose was DSCOVR.  NOAA proposed a plan last year to build two new spacecraft and instruments with the first one ready to be launched before the end of DSCOVR’s design lifetime.  This Space Weather Follow On program was to be funded at $53.7 million in FY2018 according to NOAA’s projections.

The Trump Administration’s budget request did not support that plan, requesting only $500,000.  Congress has a strong interest in space weather.  On May 2, 2017, the Senate passed the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act and a companion bill has been introduced in the House.  For FY2017, Congress appropriated $5 million to NOAA for space weather, double the request.

The House CJS subcommittee also boosted the request this time, approving $8.545 million, which is much better than $500,000, but far less than what the agency was planning last year.

In other NOAA space programs, the subcommittee recommended $6 million for the commercial weather data pilot program, twice what the Trump Administration requested.

It also recommended $1.8 million for the Office of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs (CRSRA) and $1.2 million for the Office of Space Commerce.  For FY2017, Congress funded the CRSRA at $998,000 and the Office of Space Commerce at $800,000.  For FY2018, the Trump Administration requested $1.2 million for each.

The full House Appropriations Committee will mark up the bill tomorrow at 10:00 am ET.  The meeting will be webcast.

SIA: State of Satellite Industry is “Positive”

SIA: State of Satellite Industry is “Positive”

The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) released its annual report on the “State of the Satellite Industry” today with data on how the industry fared in 2016 compared with prior years.  SIA President Tom Stroup said 2016 “was once again a positive year,” though results for the four industry market segments varied widely.  Global satellite manufacturing revenue dropped 13 percent, for example, while satellite ground equipment revenue grew 7 percent.

SIA released the 2017 report, the 20th in the series, at a press conference this morning in Washington, D.C.  The report was prepared for SIA by Bryce Space and Technology.

Overall, worldwide satellite industry revenue grew by two percent in 2016 to a new high of $261 billion, up from $255 billion in 2015.  The 2 percent growth rate is less than the 3 percent in 2015, however, and not all segments fared as well as others.  Satellite services revenue was flat, satellite manufacturing revenue decreased 13 percent, launch industry revenue increased 2 percent, and ground equipment revenue increased 7 percent.

Satellite services encompass consumer services (satellite TV, radio and broadband), fixed satellite services (transponder agreements and managed network services including in-flight services), mobile satellite services, and earth observation services.  Globally, that segment grew just 0.2 percent (hence the characterization as “flat”), from $127.4 billion in 2015 to $127.7 billion in 2016.   The U.S. share of the revenue was 40 percent, down 2 percent from 2015.

Earth observation services were singled out as one of the report’s case studies.  Charity Weeden, SIA’s Senior Director of Policy, noted that revenue increased 11 percent amid a growing number of companies and partnerships getting into the business.  The report lists six companies in the “large satellite” and 16 in the “small satellite” earth observation categories.

SIA Senior Director of Policy Charity Weeden (at podium) discusses findings from 2017 State of Satellite Industry Report, July 11, 2017.  Photo credit:  tweet from Bryce Space and Technology (@BryceSpaceTech).

In 2016, of the four market segments, commercial satellite manufacturing suffered the greatest revenue loss globally — 13 percent, from $16 billion in 2015 to $13.9 billion in 2016.  Although U.S. satellite manufacturing revenue dropped from $6.6 billion to $5 billion, its share of global revenues nonetheless grew from 59 percent to 64 percent.  SIA’s report found that excluding cubesats, U.S. companies built 27 percent of the satellites launched in 2016.  If cubesats are included, U.S. companies built about 63 percent of the satellites launched.  A total of 126 satellites were launched in 2016, a significant drop from the 202 launched in 2015 due largely to delays in launches of very small satellites.

Launch industry revenues were up 2 percent, from $5.4 billion in 2015 to $5.5 billion in 2016.  The U.S. share of those global revenues was 40 percent ($2.2 billion), an increase from 34 percent in 2015. The report signals troubled times ahead for the launch industry, however.  Only 14 commercial satellite launch orders were placed in 2016, down from 33 in 2015.  Just four were won by U.S. companies, down from 15 in 2015. That count does not include 11 orders for government satellites.

Ground equipment includes network equipment (gateways, control stations, Very Small Aperture Terminals) and consumer equipment (satellite TV dishes, satellite radio equipment, satellite broadband dishes, satellite phones and mobile satellite terminals, and satellite navigation stand-alone hardware). For this segment, global revenues were up 7 percent, from $106 billion to $113.4 billion.

The report also includes data on U.S. employment in the satellite industry:  211,185 jobs in September 2016, a decrease of 1 percent from 2015.

Stroup said in a press release that the growing number of operational satellites in orbit — 1,459 at the end of 2016 compared with 1,381 a year earlier — illustrates the “need for regulators to fully understand the critical importance of satellites.  Investment and innovation rely on lawmakers maintaining a spectrum policy regime that ensures the continued reliable delivery of vital satellite services to customers now, through the next decade and beyond.”

Insatiable consumer demand for terrestrial mobile services like smartphones has created spectrum wars between companies offering terrestrial versus satellite services.  Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are enmeshed in the debate over how to allocate spectrum effectively.

SIA is a trade association that represents the commercial satellite industry.  The report is posted on SIA’s website.

Correction:  An earlier version of this article stated revenues for satellite services and ground equipment in $millions.  The figures are in $billions and have been corrected.  


FAA Space Office To Get Budget Boost from House Appropriators – UPDATE

FAA Space Office To Get Budget Boost from House Appropriators – UPDATE

House appropriators are recommending a budget boost for FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST).  The office received $19.8 million for FY2017, but the Trump budget proposal for FY2018 is $2 million less.  By contrast, the House appropriations subcommittee that funds the office is proposing $21.587 million. [UPDATE:  the subcommittee approved that amount on July 11 as did the full House Appropriations Committee on July 17.]

The Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) subcommittee will mark up the bill tomorrow evening.  In total, the bill allocates $56.5 billion for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  That total is $1.1 billion less than FY2017 and $8.6 billion above the Trump Administration’s request.

FAA/AST regulates, facilitates and promotes the commercial space launch industry.  Among its responsibilities is issuing permits and licenses related to commercial space launches and reentries.  With the burgeoning growth in both areas, advocates point to the need to provide the office with enough funding to hire sufficient staff to process applications in a timely manner.  Debate continues over whether to expand FAA/AST’s role into non-military space situational awareness or regulating non-traditional space activities, but on a more fundamental level the question is how to ensure the office can effectively execute its current assignments.

The office received $17.8 million for FY2016.  The FY2017 request from the Obama Administration was $19.8 million and Congress eventually appropriated that amount in May 2017.  Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) were particularly influential in convincing House appropriators to provide that level of funding last year.

Unfortunately, the Trump Administration was formulating its FY2018 budget request while Congress was still debating the final FY2017 numbers and FAA/AST was funded by a Continuing Resolution at its FY2016 level.  Thus, the Trump Administration may have viewed its FY2018 request of $17.8 million as level funding when in fact it would be a $2 million cut.

In any case, the T-HUD subcommittee’s recommendation of $21.587 million is a boost over FY2017.  In March, Bridenstine testified before the subcommittee in favor of a $23 million budget, a $3.2 million increase above FY2017.  The $21.587 million proposed by the T-HUD subcommittee is a bit more than half of that.

FAA also funds commercial space transportation-related activities in two other accounts, but the draft bill released by the committee today does not provide sufficient detail to know how those requests fared.   The FY2018 requests are $1.796 million in Research, Engineering and Development (RE&D) for AST’s Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation and other R&D related to safely integrating commercial space transportation into the National Airspace System; and $4.5 million in Facilities and Equipment (F&E) for the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) to acquire a Space Data Integrator tool that will enable ATO to safely reduce the amount of airspace that must be closed, respond to unusual scenarios, and release airspace as a mission progresses.

Tomorrow’s subcommittee markup is at 7:00 pm ET.  It will be webcast.


What’s Happening in Space Policy July 10-14, 2017

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 10-14, 2017

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of July 10-14, 2017 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Congress and the space policy community overall are back to work in full force this week after a bit (but only a bit) of a break for July 4.

The House plans to take up the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) towards the end of the week. The House Rules Committee meets on Wednesday to consider which amendments will be allowed to be considered during floor debate.  As shown on the committee’s website, 394 have been filed as of today.  Five are related to space activities.

One is proposed by Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH).  It would strike a provision in the bill that requires DOD to establish a Space Corps within the Air Force, analogous to the Marine Corps, which is part of the Department of the Navy, and a U.S. Space Command as a subunit of U.S. Strategic Command.  The provision is very controversial.   It was written by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), chairman of the House Armed
Services Committee’s (HASC’s) Strategic Forces subcommittee, and Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), the subcommittee’s top Democrat.  However, it is opposed by the Secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force Chief of Staff and is not included in the Senate version of the bill.

Turner first tried to remove the provision during full committee markup by HASC on June 28.  His amendment instead would require DOD to study the need for such a reorganization and report to Congress next year. Turner is a former chairman of the Strategic Forces subcommittee and remains a member.  He argued that Congress has insufficient information to make such a major move.  Rogers, Cooper and HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) insisted the idea has been discussed for years and it is time to do it.  The amendment was rejected and the provision remains in the bill.  Turner wants the full House to have a chance to weigh in.  Will be interesting to see if the Rules Committee permits it.  Floor debate on the bill could begin late Wednesday or Thursday.

The House Appropriations Transportation-HUD subcommittee (T-HUD) will mark up its FY2018 funding bill on Tuesday, which includes the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST).  FAA/AST got $19.8 million in FY2017, a $2 million increase over the $17.8 million it received for FY2016.  Unfortunately, the Trump Administration formulated much of its FY2018 budget request before Congress finalized the FY2017 budget.  At that time, FAA/AST was funded at the $17.8 million level through a Continuing Resolution that held agencies to their FY2016 limits.  The Trump Administration may have thought it was proposing level funding for the office by requesting $17.8 million for FY2018, but Congress ultimately did give FAA/AST the $2 million boost it requested.  Now, if Congress funds the requested level for FY2018, it will mean a $2 million cut.  Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), a member of the full Appropriations Committee (though not the T-HUD subcommittee) and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) fought hard on FAA/AST’s behalf last year to get the $19.8 million.  We’ll see if they can convince appropriators to keep at least the $19.8 million this time.  (Bridenstine testified before the subcommittee in March in favor of another boost — to $23 million — for FY2018.)

The Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), has rescheduled its hearing on commercial space partnerships for Thursday morning.  The hearing was scheduled for June 21, but on June 20 it was postponed without explanation.  The witness list is the same as before except that SpaceX SVP for Global Business and Government Affairs Tim Hughes will substitute for President and COO Gwynne Shotwell.  The other witnesses are NASA KSC Director Bob Cabana, fresh from hosting Vice President Pence last week; Tim Ellis from Relativity; Moriba Jah from the University of Texas at Austin; and Jeff Manber from Nanoracks.

Off the Hill, but still in D.C., there are a slew of really interesting events, including the Secure World Foundation’s panel discussion tomorrow (Monday) with industry perspectives on the space debris problem; the Satellite Industry Association’s release of its annual State of the Satellite Industry report on Tuesday morning; an ISU-DC space cafe Tuesday evening with experts from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center talking about how we benefit every single day from data acquired by earth science satellites; the Future Space Leaders Foundation annual Future Space conference on Thursday; and a seminar sponsored by GWU’s Space Policy Institute and the Aerospace Corporation on Friday morning on “Ensuring U.S. Leadership in Space.”

In other parts of the country, AIAA will holds its annual propulsion and energy forum in Atlanta and NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA will hold a three-day symposium celebrating the center’s 100th birthday.  The National Academies committee that is performing the mid-term review of the 2011 planetary science Decadal Survey “Vision and Voyages” will meet at CalTech in Pasadena, CA from Tuesday to Thursday.  Open sessions of the meeting are available remotely via WebEx/telecon.   NASA’s Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) will meet via teleconference on Monday to review with the Mars science community the input it plans to provide to the Academies committee later in the week.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning are shown below.  Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Events of Interest list.

Monday, July 10

Monday-Wednesday, July 10-12

Tuesday, July 11

Tuesday-Thursday, July 11-13

Wednesday, July 12

Wednesday-Friday, July 12-14

Thursday, July 13

Friday, July 14


Note:  This was updated to add the Defense One Tech Summit on Thursday.

Pence Promises Return to Moon, Boots on Mars, But No Specifics

Pence Promises Return to Moon, Boots on Mars, But No Specifics

Vice President Mike Pence promised today to “reorient” the U.S. space program towards human exploration, starting with a return to the Moon and “boots on the face of Mars,” but provided no specifics on when or how that will happen or the source of the money to accomplish it.  The FY2018 Trump budget request for NASA does not include funding even for the modest lunar-orbiting Deep Space Gateway.  No announcement was made about who will be nominated to be NASA Administrator or who will serve as Executive Director of the White House National Space Council.

President Trump reestablished the Space Council by Executive Order on Friday.  As Vice President, Pence is its chairman.  This was Pence’s first space policy address in that capacity.  He said that he plans to hold the first meeting of the Council by the end of the summer.

Pence spoke in the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to a crowd of NASA and contractor employees along with members of Congress and other state and local politicians.  Among them were Florida’s two U.S. Senators: Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R).  Rubio flew to KSC with the Vice President on Air Force Two, which landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC.  Also present in the VAB were Florida Reps. Bill Posey (R) and Ron DeSantis (R).  Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin also was there.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at Kennedy Space Center, July 6, 2017.  Screengrab from White House video.

Pence and Rubio were met by Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot, KSC Director Bob Cabana, and KSC Deputy Director Janet Petro.  All three NASA officials and Pence spoke on stage with three space capsules as the backdrop:  the first SpaceX Dragon to take cargo to the ISS, NASA’s Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) capsule that was launched on a test flight in 2014, and a Boeing CST-100 Starliner training module.

Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot at Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building, July 6, 2017, introducing Vice President Mike Pence.  A SpaceX Dragon capsule, the Lockheed Martin Orion EFT-1 module, and a Boeing CST-100 Starliner training module are in the background.  Screengrab from NASA TV.

The speech was long on generalities about restoring American leadership in space, but contained only a few kernels that may indicate what this Administration is planning.

Pence said the Trump Administration will “reorient America’s space program toward human space exploration and discovery.”

“We will return to the Moon.  We will go to Mars, and will go still further to places that our children’s children can only imagine.  We will maintain a constant presence in low-Earth orbit, and we will develop polices that will carry human space exploration across our solar system and ultimately into the vast expanse of space.”

Later he added: “Like the pioneers that came before us, we will settle that frontier with American leadership, American courage and American ingenuity.”

The bold words were not accompanied by timetables or funding projections, however.  Presidents George H.W. Bush in 1989 and George W. Bush in 2004 personally asserted that American astronauts would return to the surface of the Moon and someday go to Mars, but neither followed through with the requisite funding.  President Barack Obama eliminated the goal of returning humans to the lunar surface in part because of the high cost of building landers to take astronauts from orbit to the surface and back.  Instead he focused on the goal of sending humans to orbit Mars by the 2030s.  Lunar orbit — not the surface — would serve as a steppingstone to Mars, a pronouncement that was met by strong disapproval from many in the space community.

Today, Pence said “we will return to the Moon,” but did not specifically state that he meant returning astronauts to the surface.  He had just referenced the Apollo 11 mission,so It could inferred from the context, but the words were not spoken. is seeking clarification from the Vice President’s office, but no response was received by press time.

Trump’s FY2018 budget request for NASA certainly does not include funding for such an effort.  It cancels Obama’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, a mission that involved astronauts in lunar orbit demonstrating technologies and techniques needed for a humans-to-Mars mission, but does not replace it with an alternative.  NASA officials have been promoting the concept of a Deep Space Gateway in lunar orbit — a modest habitat that could be used as a testbed and as a node for missions to or from Mars — but the FY2018 budget request does not include money for it.  The budget request only funds the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion capsule for their first flights.

As previous Administrations have discovered, announcing bold goals for human spaceflight is much easier than implementing them.

Another question is what the Trump Administration plans for NASA’s non-human spaceflight programs.  Pence said they will “reorient” NASA towards human spaceflight, but it already consumes half of NASA’s programmatic budget.  The FY2018 request, excluding the two accounts that fund agency and center operations and construction and environmental compliance, is approximately $15.8 billion.  Human spaceflight — the International Space Station and Exploration — account for $7.8 billion.  The rest is for science ($5.8 billion), aeronautics ($624 million) and space technology ($678 million).  Shifting resources from those activities to human spaceflight almost certainly would encounter resistance.

The Vice President praised NASA’s partnerships with the private sector and vowed that “in conjunction with our commercial partners, we’ll continue to make space travel safer, cheaper and more accessible than ever before.”  It remains to be seen, however, how much the private sector will expect from the government in terms of development dollars or guaranteed purchases before investing their own capital.  NASA’s commercial cargo and commercial crew programs require significant government funding despite their characterization as “commercial.”

The Trump Administration has been in office for less than 6 months, so in one respect it is not surprising that details are not yet available.  On the other hand, President George H.W. Bush announced his commitment to returning to the Moon and going to Mars at about the same point in his presidency.   Space policy veterans undoubtedly are hoping that the outcome will be different this time.

The text of the speech and a video from the event are posted on the White House website.