Today’s Tidbits: July 19, 2019

Today’s Tidbits: July 19, 2019

Here are’s tidbits for July 19, 2019. It’s a long list this time because space policy has been incredibly busy lately.  There is a lot to catch up on: DOD nominations, legislation, Japan snags another asteroid sample, China deep sixes a space station, Israel’s lunar lander wins another chance, Kathy Warden gets new responsibilities and Mike French has a new job.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

DOD Nominations Update

Secretary of the Army and Secretary of Defense nominee Mark Esper. Credit: DOD

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) approved the nomination of Mark Esper to be Secretary of Defense (SecDef) yesterday and a Senate vote on his confirmation is scheduled for Monday.  Esper is currently Secretary of the Army, although he served for several weeks as Acting SecDef after Patrick Shanahan left.  Shanahan was expected to become SecDef, but withdrew from consideration after allegations of past domestic abuse were published, although it is not clear who was at fault.

SASC will hold a hearing this coming Wednesday on the nomination of David Norquist to be Deputy Secretary of Defense (DepSecDef).  He is DOD’s Chief Financial Officer who has also been “performing the duties of” the DepSecDef since Shanahan vacated that position to become Acting SecDef after James Mattis departed in January.

SASC also approved the nomination of Gen. Mark Milley to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff yesterday.  He is currently Chief of Staff of the Army. A vote on his confirmation is expected very soon.

Gen. John Hyten, currently Commander of U.S Strategic Command and formerly Commander of Air Force Space Command, was nominated to be Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The nomination was expected to sail through quickly, but an allegation of sexual harassment was lodged against him by a former subordinate.  A DOD investigation cleared him, but some Senators are questioning the probe. SASC is deciding how to proceed.

President Trump announced his intent to nominate Barbara McConnell Barrett to be Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF), replacing Heather Wilson who left at the end of May.  The nomination does not appear to have been submitted to the Senate yet, however. Matthew Donovan is the Acting SecAF.  He had been Under Secretary of the Air Force.

Many have commented on the large number of vacant or acting positions in DOD and the critical need to fill them.  Another senior DOD official, David Trachtenberg, left today.  He was Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

Legislation Advances to Protect Heritage Sites on the Moon

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Michigan) at a May 14, 2019 Senate hearing.

Yesterday the Senate passed the “One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act” (S. 1694).  Introduced by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), the bill cleared the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on July 11.  A companion bill was introduced in the House on Tuesday by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK).

The Moon is getting to be a busy place, with other countries and companies planning robotic missions to the surface.  The legislation would apply only to entities needing U.S. licenses to send spacecraft to the Moon, but would require them to agree to abide by NASA recommendations on how to protect those sites.  It includes a Sense of Congress statement that the President initiate “a diplomatic initiative to negotiate an international agreement” to encourage everyone to adhere to those recommendations.

House Passes Intelligence Authorization Bill 

On Thursday, the House passed the FY2020 Damon Paul Nelson and Matthew Young Pollard Intelligence Authorization bill. The Senate passed its version as part of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act last month.

The unclassified version of the House bill has little to say about intelligence-related space activities, but it authorizes programs at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), for example.  NRO builds, launches and operates the nation’s spy satellites. The Senate bill does discuss NRO-related activities in its unclassified text.  The two Intelligence Committees will now have to negotiate a final version.

Japan’s Hayabusa2 Grabs Another Asteroid Sample

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) asteroid sample return spacecraft, Hayabusa2, grabbed another sample of asteroid Ryugu last week.  The first sample was obtained in February — which is to say the spacecraft went through all the procedures to get a sample.  Scientists won’t actually know what or how much until the sample canister returns to Earth in December 2020.

In April, the Small Carry-On Impactor (SCI) was dropped onto Ryugu to create a crater and expose subsurface material.  That is what was collected during the second touchdown on July 11 (Japan Standard Time).  JAXA tweeted these before and after images.

China’s Tiangong-2 Space Station Reenters

China’s small (8.6 metric ton) Tiangong-2 space station reentered over the Pacific Ocean today.  Launched in 2015, it hosted only one two-man crew for 30 days.

China’s first space station, Tiangong-1, made an uncontrolled reentry last year causing some concern.  This time China ensured there was enough fuel to make a controlled reentry and all seems to have gone according to plan.

With Tiangong-2’s reentry, the International Space Station resumes its status as the only earth-orbiting crewed facility.  China plans to launch a larger, three module space station, China Space Station (CSS), by 2022.  It needs the Long March 5 rocket to launch the 20 metric ton modules, however, and it has not resumed service since a 2017 failure. China’s official Xinhua news service nevertheless reiterated today that 2022 is still the plan for CSS to be completed.  Xinhua published an article about what was accomplished on Tiangong-2 and hopes for CSS. []

Beresheet Gets Another Chance

When SpaceIL’s tiny lunar lander Beresheet crashed into the Moon in April, the immediate reaction from its Israeli backers was to try, try again.  Alas, they changed their minds and decided to “seek out another, significant objective for Beresheet-2” other than the Moon.

But the lunar lander is back, this time in partnership with a U.S. company, Firefly Aerospace.  On July 9, Firefly and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced they will work together to participate in NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program using technology IAI developed for Beresheet. []

Firefly is one of nine companies selected by NASA for CLPS, a public-private partnership where NASA will pay companies to deliver science and technology payloads to the surface of the Moon. The companies provide the spacecraft and the rocket; NASA provides only payloads and money.

Firefly is developing small rockets and needed to partner with someone who could build a lander.  According to NASA, under the terms of the CLPS contract, companies must be 100 percent American owned, but may partner with international companies as long as 51 percent of the components, all manufacturing of the landers, and 100 percent of launch services occur on U.S. soil.

Beresheet means Genesis in Hebrew.  The companies are using the English word for this lander.

Kathy Warden Named Chairman of Northrop Grumman

Kathy J. Warden, president and CEO (and incoming chairman), Northrop Grumman

The board of directors of Northrop Grumman has named Kathy Warden as its new chairman, effective August 1.  She has been at the company since 2008.  Previously she held leadership positions at General Dynamics and at Veridian. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from James Madison University and George Washington University respectively.

Last year, Wes Bush was chairman and CEO of the company and Warden was president and COO.  Bush stepped down as CEO on January 1 and Warden became president and CEO.  Bush remained as chairman for a transition period that ends July 31.  Warden will then take on that role as well, so she will be chairman, president and CEO.

She is one of several women running big aerospace companies or major components thereof.  Marillyn Hewson is chairman, president and CEO of Lockheed Martin.  Eileen Drake is CEO and president of Aerojet Rocketdyne.   Gwynne Shotwell is president of SpaceX.  Leanne Caret is president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security.  Though more defense than space, the CEO of General Dynamics is also a woman, Phebe Novakovic.  Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Boeing are four of the five largest U.S. aerospace and defense companies.  Raytheon is the fifth. Its chairman and CEO is Thomas Kennedy.

Mike French Moves to Aerospace Industries Association

Mike French, Vice President-Space Systems, Aerospace Industries Association. Source: French’s LinkedIn page.

Mike French is the new Vice President-Space Systems of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA).  French is well known in space policy circles having served as Deputy Chief of Staff and then Chief of Staff for NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden.  More recently, he was Senior Vice President-Commercial Space at Bryce Space and Technology.  He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UC Berkeley and a J.D. from Harvard.

He just started in his new position and already will be testifying to Congress next week.  He is one of the witnesses for the House Science, Space, and Technology subcommittee hearing on the Commercial Space Landscape next Thursday.

AIA is the “voice” of the U.S. aerospace and defense industry, with nearly 340 member companies. It advocates for “effective federal investments; accelerated deployment of innovative technologies; policies that enhance our global competitiveness; and recruitment and retention efforts that support a capable and diverse 21st century workforce.”

Also testifying at the hearing are Bhayva Lal from IDA’s Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI); Carissa Christensen from French’s former company, Bryce Space and Technology; and Eric Stallmer of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

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