Today’s Tidbits: May 15, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: May 15, 2018

Here are’s tidbits for May 15, 2018:  FAA space office to get boost in House appropriations bill; apply by June 12 to head the FAA space office; a helicopter for Mars?  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

FAA Space Office to Get Boost in House Appropriations Bill

Kelvin Coleman, Acting Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, FAA. Credit: FAA

The Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will get a budget boost from the House Appropriations Committee.  The House Appropriations Committee today released its draft FY2019 bill for the Department of Transportation (DOT) and other agencies.  FAA is part of DOT.

The bill recommends $24.9 million for FAA/AST, an increase of $3.1 million over the  Trump Administration’s request of $21.8 million.

FAA/AST regulates, facilitates and promotes commercial space launches and reentries.  The former head of the office, George Nield, retired in March after 10 years leading the office and five as its deputy.  He assiduously argued for increases in the office’s budget as the number of commercial space launch providers requiring licenses and the number of launches and reentries has mushroomed in recent years.   Without adequate staff, licensing decisions can be delayed.

Kelvin Coleman is the acting head of FAA/AST while a successor to Nield is selected (see next item).  Coleman has more than 20 years of experience in the office and was Nield’s deputy.

FAA Posts Job Announcement for Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation

FAA has issued the job posting to fill Nield’s slot.  Apply by June 12 at:

Here’s a summary of the duties from the posting:

“The Associate Administrator is responsible for regulating the United States’ (U.S.) commercial space transportation industry to ensure compliance with international obligations of the U.S. and to protect the public health and safety, safety of property, and national security and foreign policy interests of the U.S; encourage, facilitate and promote commercial space launches and reentries by the private sector; recommend appropriate changes in Federal statutes, treaties, regulations, policies, plans and procedures; and facilitate the strengthening and expansion of the U.S. space transportation infrastructure.”

Mars Helicopter

NASA has decided to fly a helicopter on its next mission to Mars.  Yes, you heard that right!  A helicopter.

It will be part of the scientific package on Mars 2020, which, as its name implies, will be launched to Mars in 2020.  The basic spacecraft is the same design as the Curiosity rover that captivated everyone’s attention when it landed on Mars in 2012 surviving the “7 minutes of terror” during its descent.  Mars 2020 will have to get through the same entry, descent and landing (EDL) sequence.

The science package that will be delivered will have some differences though and the helicopter is one of them.  The plan is to make five flights of the 1.8 kilogram (4 pound)  ‘copter over a 30 day period of increasing duration and distance.  Its first flight will be a vertical climb of 3 meters (10 feet) where it will hover for 30 seconds and give scientists back on Earth the ability to “see over the next hill.”  It is equipped with solar panels to recharge its lithium-ion batteries.

It is cutting edge technology for Mars, which has a very thin atmosphere in which to fly.  The helicopter’s twin counter-rotating blades will turn at almost 3,000 rpm, 10 times the rate of an Earth helicopter.   NASA is treating this as a technology demonstration, not an integral part of Mars 2020’s mission.  If it works, terrific, if not, well, they at least would have learned something about trying to fly on Mars.

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