Today’s Tidbits: June 25, 2019

Today’s Tidbits: June 25, 2019

Here are’s tidbits for June 25, 2019:  congressional update; NASA awards Mobile Launcher 2 contract; tweets from the Summit for Space Sustainability.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Congressional Update

Congress continues to work on appropriations and authorization bills that include space programs.

Today the House passed H.R. 3055, the “Minibus 2” FY2020 appropriations bill that includes the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that funds NASA and NOAA, and the Transportation-HUD (THUD) bill that funds the FAA and its Office of Commercial Space Transportation.  The most significant space-related changes from the version of the bills approved by the House Appropriations Committee are that–

The Senate has not acted on the bills yet, so this is just one step in the process.

Meanwhile, the Senate continues debate on the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Last week Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) proposed adding the Space Frontier Act to the NDAA, but it is not one of the 93 amendments incorporated into the version brought to the floor by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) was successful, however, in getting the Intelligence Authorization bill incorporated into the NDAA.  McConnell hopes to complete Senate consideration of the bill this week.  Among its many provisions, it would create a Space Force, although it is different from what the Trump Administration proposed.

NASA Awards Mobile Launcher 2 Contract

NASA awarded the contract to build a 2nd Mobile Launcher for the SLS/Orion program to Bechtel today.  The cost-plus contract for approximately $383 million calls for Bechtel to complete the design, build, test and commissioning of ML-2 in 44 months beginning July 1.

ML2 is needed for the upgraded (Block 1B)  version of the SLS/Orion system that will use the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS), which is larger and heavier than the upper stage for the initial (Block 1) version.

This aerial view shows NASA’s Mobile Launcher atop Crawler-Transporter 2 as it moves along the crawlerway, making its way to Launch Pad 39-B at Kennedy Space Center. Credit: NASA

SLS/Orion Block 1 will use the existing Mobile Launcher, refurbished from the space shuttle program.  On Thursday, June 27, the Mobile Launcher will make its way to Launch Complex 39-B at Kennedy Space Center to undergo final testing to certify the systems for launch.  It’s a slow trek and will take place from 6:00-10:00 am ET.  The next time it goes out to the pad, it will be for the first SLS/Orion launch, Artemis-1, which NASA hopes will take place by the end of 2020, but may slip into 2021.  That ML also will be used for Artemis-2, the first SLS/Orion mission that will carry a crew.

ML2 will be needed for Artemis-3, currently slated to be the mission that returns astronauts to the lunar surface (via the Gateway in lunar orbit) in 2024.

Tweets from the Summit for Space Sustainability

We live tweeted the Secure World Foundation’s Summit for Space Sustainability today.  It’s an excellent conference that continues tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.  The program is posted on SWF’s website.  SWF plans to post the conference presentations and audio recordings of the panels in the next several days.  Here are a few samples of what we tweeted.  Visit our Twitter feed (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more.  [O’Connell is Kevin O’Connell, Director of NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce; SSA is space situational awareness; Doug Loverro, Loverro Consulting, is former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy; Bridenstine is NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.]



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