Today’s Tidbits: October 5, 2017

Today’s Tidbits: October 5, 2017

Here are our tidbits for today, October 5, 2017:  Gallaudet confirmed, successful spacewalk, ANOTHER hurricane, and a House budget resolution.   Be sure to check our website for feature stories (like this one) and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events (like today’s meeting of the National Space Council).

Senate Confirms Gallaudet for NOAA Deputy Administrator

RDML Timothy Gallaudet (Ret). Credit: Navy photo.

Today the Senate confirmed RDML Timothy Gallaudet (Ret.) to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Deputy Director of NOAA by voice vote.

Gallaudet was nominated by President Trump on September 1, his confirmation hearing was held before the Senate Commerce Committee on September 27, and the committee approved it yesterday.  His only public views about NOAA’s satellite programs were expressed in written answers to questions before the hearing.  He said they were “growing at an unsustainable rate” and “have been delayed several times.”

One Down, Two to Go

NASA astronauts Randy Bresnik and Mark Vande Hei successfully completed the first of three spacewalks at the International Space Station (ISS) scheduled for this month.  The main purpose is refurbishing the robotic Canadarm2 that is essential to many, many space station operations on the exterior of the facility.  It was designed to operate for the lifetime of the ISS, but with maintenance, and that’s what’s going on now.  Today, during a 6 hour 55 minute spacewalk, or EVA (extravehicular activity), the astronauts replaced a Latching End Effector (LEE) — or “hand” —  that malfunctioned on August 22.  Two more spacewalks are planned for October 10 and October 18.

ANOTHER Hurricane?

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center was planning a “Rocket Day” on October 11 to showcase progress being made on the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) outside New Orleans, LA and Stennis Space Center just over the border in Mississippi.   The event was cancelled today because Tropical Storm Nate in the Gulf of Mexico is forecast to strengthen into a hurricane with potential impacts from Louisiana through the Florida Panhandle.  NASA needs to batten down the hatches: “To protect our valuable spaceflight hardware, ground support equipment and engines, we are taking precautionary measures…”   Michoud already sustained damage from Mother Nature this year when a tornado sliced through the facility on February 7.

House (Finally) Passes FY2018 Budget Resolution

The House passed its FY2018 budget resolution today, though just barely. The vote was 219-206.  All Democrats and 18 Republicans opposed the measure.

The passing (or not) of a budget resolution has many implications, not just on a particular year’s budget, but on other issues.  In this case tax reform, which is the real motivation for the House action today.  It is all extremely complicated and we will spare you the complete explanation.  What is important from a space policy standpoint is that budget resolutions determine how much money Congress may spend in any given fiscal year.  Since there hasn’t been one so far this year, the appropriations bills that passed the House and have been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee were not bound by a FY2018 budget resolution.  That could change now, so keep in mind that the budget situation remains up in the air.

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