Today’s Tidbits: March 26, 2019

Today’s Tidbits: March 26, 2019

Here are’s tidbits for March 26, 2019:  Raymond nominated as USSPACECOM Commander; DOT wants comments on revised regulations; DOC issues spectrum report; OSTP releases space weather action plan; and a JWST update.

Today has been chock full of news, starting with Vice President Pence’s announcement of the goal of landing astronauts back on the Moon by 2024.  He spoke in Huntsville, AL at a meeting of the White House National Space Council, which he chairs.  Don’t miss our articles summarizing what he said and reaction to it.

There were several other noteworthy announcements or report releases as well.  We do not have time to go into them in detail, but here is a quick list.

Raymond Nominated as USSPACECOM Commander

President Trump is reestablishing a unified combatant command, U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM), as part of his reorganization of how DOD manages space activities.  USSPACECOM does not exist yet, but today Acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan announced that Trump will nominate Gen. John (Jay) Raymond to be commander of USSPACECOM.  He currently is commander of Air Force Space Command and apparently will retain that position in addition to his new duties.

Source: DOD

DOT Wants Comments on Revised Regulations

In SPD-2, President Trump tasked the Department of Transportation (DOT) to modernize its regulations governing commercial space launches.  The original deadline was to release a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) by February 1, 2019, but the effort was delayed by the 35-day partial government shutdown.

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao is a member of Pence’s National Space Council and attended the meeting in Huntsville today.  She announced that the NPRM was just posted and the comment period is open for 60 days.  A DOT press release summarizes what the revisions will accomplish.

DOC Issues Spectrum Report

SPD-2 also directed the Department of Commerce (DOC) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), in consultation with the Federal Communications Commission, to provide “a report on improving the global competitiveness of the United States space sector through radio frequency spectrum policies, regulation, and United States activities at the International Telecommunication Union and other multilateral forums.”

The deadline was 120 days from the issuance of SPD-2, a deadline that has long passed.  Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, another Space Council member who was there today, said the report was just released.

OSTP Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan

OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier is another member of the Space Council who was at the meeting and similarly had a new report to release — the National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan.  According to an OSTP press release, the plan supports three main objectives:

·         Enhancing the protection of critical infrastructure and national security assets.

·         Improving the accuracy and timeliness of space weather forecasts.

·         Establishing procedures for responding to and recovering from space weather events.

JWST Update

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was also in the news today.  NASA established an Independent Review Board, chaired by Tom Young, last year to reassess the program due to cost overruns and schedule delays.  NASA released the Board’s original report in June 2018, but asked the Board to reconvene late last year to take another look and see if prime contractor Northrop Grumman was following its recommendations.

NASA recently posted the results of the second study without fanfare.  NASA’s JWST Program Director Greg Robinson and Young summarized it today at a meeting of the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  Space News reporter Jeff Foust was there and tweeted the following.

Also today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its latest annual report on JWST, which is required by Congress.  It recommends that NASA update its joint cost and schedule confidence level (JCL) analysis for the project even though it is not required to do so.  It said NASA concurred with the recommendation.

Before the project enters its final phase of integration and test, it must conduct a review to determine if it can launch within its cost and schedule commitments. As part of this review, the project is not required to update its joint cost and schedule confidence level analysis—an analysis that provides the probability the project can meet its cost and schedule commitments—but government and industry cost and schedule experts have found it is a best practice to do so. Such analysis would provide NASA officials with better information to support decisions on allocating resources, especially in light of the project’s recent cost and schedule growth. — GAO

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