Today’s Tidbits: June 27, 2019

Today’s Tidbits: June 27, 2019

Here are’s tidbits for June 27, 2019:  Scolese and Raymond confirmed by Senate; Senate passes FY2020 NDAA; no second Moon attempt by SpaceIL.   Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Scolese and Raymond Confirmed by Senate

Chris Scolese. Credit: NASA

Today the Senate confirmed Chris Scolese to be the new Director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and Gen. Jay Raymond to continue as Commander of Air Force Space Command and become Commander of U.S. Space Command.

Scolese is currently Director NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and was nominated to be NRO Director — the first time that position is a political appointment — in February.  Before joining NASA in 1987, he was a Navy officer working at Naval Reactors for Adm. Hyman Rickover.

No announcements were made today as to when Scolese will be sworn in to his new job or who will replace him at Goddard.  George Morrow is Goddard’s Deputy Director.

Gen. John “Jay” Raymond. Credit: U.S. Air Force.

Scolese’s nomination was approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee in May.  NRO is part of the Intelligence Community, but has close ties to the Air Force and hence his nomination also was referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC).

SASC held a hearing to consider both Scolese’s nomination for NRO and Gen. Jay Raymond’s nomination to be reappointed as General and Commander of Air Force Space Command and become Commander of U.S. Space Command.

SASC approved the two nominations earlier this month and they were placed on the Executive Calendar ready for consideration by the Senate as a whole.  Raymond was also confirmed today.


Senate passes FY2020 NDAA

The Scolese and Raymond confirmations came shortly after the Senate passed the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Among its many provisions, the bill approves creation of a Space Force although it is different from what the Trump Administration proposed and from what the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) approved in its version of the bill.

Kaitlyn Johnson at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) just published an excellent analysis of the three variants of what the Space Force, or Space Corps, could look like including a table comparing which features are in which version (Administration, SASC or HASC).  As she says, “there is much to deliberate in conference” but it is reasonably likely that some form of a Space Force/Corps will be included in the final NDAA.

One obstacle may be the name — Space Force (Senate) or Space Corps (House).  The term “Space Force” is associated with Trump, making it a political lightning rod.  “Space Corps” has a bipartisan flavor because it originated with the duo of Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Jim Cooper (D-TN) who got this whole thing started two years ago when they were Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of HASC’s Strategic Forces subcommittee.

The NDAA usually is a bipartisan piece of legislation, but the strained political climate today is affecting even that.  Only two Republicans voted in favor of the HASC bill when it was reported from committee on June 13 by a vote of 33-24.  It did fare better in the Senate today, passing by a vote of 86-8.  The eight who voted no were three Republicans and five Democrats.

No Second Moon Attempt by SpaceIL

In other news, Israel’s SpaceIL has decided against sending another spacecraft to the Moon.  Its privately-funded Beresheet spacecraft crashed into the lunar surface instead of making a soft landing as planned in April.  Nonetheless, the SpaceIL team earned plaudits for making the attempt in the first place.  With “if at first you don’t succeed…” advice ringing in its ears, the non-profit announced a week later that it would try again with a Beresheet 2.

Thus it was a bit of a surprise when it announced via Twitter that it changed its mind and will try something else next time.  No specifics were provided.


Small privately-funded lunar landers are gaining in popularity, though.  NASA initiated the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program last year to buy services from companies that would land NASA instruments on the lunar surface.  NASA awarded the first contracts to three companies on June 1 — Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines, and Orbit Beyond — who will launch their spacecraft in 2020 or 2021.

Perhaps that’s what SpaceIL was referring to when it later tweeted:


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