SASC Hearing on U.S. Strategic Command, March 2018

SASC Hearing on U.S. Strategic Command, March 2018

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) held a hearing on U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) on March 20, 2018.  USSTRATCOM Commander Gen. John Hyten was the only witness.  He declined to endorse President Trump’s call for creating a Space Force; endorsed the need for space-based sensors as part of Ballistic Missile Defense, but not space-based interceptors; and said that an up-to-date National Security Space Strategy exists,  but is so classified that few people know about it, and that’s a problem.

SpacePolicyOnline.com published a summary of the hearing on March 20, 2018.

House SS&T Hearing on Commercial Crew, January 2018

House SS&T Hearing on Commercial Crew, January 2018

The Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing to get an update on NASA’s commercial crew program to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station using Boeing and SpaceX spacecraft.  Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon systems are being developed as public-private partnerships (PPPs) with NASA.

The hearing illuminated a number of safety, reliability and cost issues, but the overarching concern is that the new systems will not be ready before the end of 2019.  By then, NASA will have exhausted its contracted “seats” on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft, the only way NASA astronauts get to and from ISS.  NASA has not had the ability to launch astronauts into space since it retired the space shuttle in 2011.

SpacePolicyOnline.com published a summary of the hearing on January 17, 2018.  Witnesses were:

  • Mr. William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, NASA
  • Mr. John Mulholland, vice president and program manager, Commercial Programs, Boeing Space Exploration
  • Dr. Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX
  • Ms. Cristina Chaplain, director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management, U.S. Government Accountability Office
  • Dr. Patricia Sanders, chair, NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel
Senate Commerce Confirmation Hearing for Jim Bridenstine to be NASA Administrator, November 2017

Senate Commerce Confirmation Hearing for Jim Bridenstine to be NASA Administrator, November 2017

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a confirmation hearing on November 1, 2017 for five Trump Administration nominees, including Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to be Administrator of NASA.  SpacePolicyOnline.com published a summary of the contentious hearing on November 1, 2017.

House Hearing on NASA’s Next Four Large Telescopes, December 2017

House Hearing on NASA’s Next Four Large Telescopes, December 2017

The Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on December 6, 2017 on “NASA’s Next Four Large Telescopes.”

By that the committee meant the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), and planning for whatever will come next. Part of the discussion focused on a recently announced delay to the JWST launch.  NASA Associate Administrator for Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen said that he agreed with another witness, Tom Young, that an independent review of the JWST schedule is needed and he has directed his team to do that in January.  Another focus was a recently released independent review of WFIRST which found that it is not executable as currently formulated.  Zurbuchen has ordered that the program be downscoped to fit within a smaller budget.

SpacePolicyOnline.com published a summary of the hearing on December 6.

House Hearing on Delays to the First SLS/Orion Launch, November 2017

House Hearing on Delays to the First SLS/Orion Launch, November 2017

The Space Subcommittee on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on November 9, 2017 to receive an update from NASA on its Exploration Systems program — the Space Launch System (SLS), Orion crew spacecraft and associated Exploration Ground Systems.  NASA had announced the previous day that the first launch of SLS with an uncrewed Orion, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1),  would be delayed from November 2018 to at least December 2019 and perhaps to June 2020.

Witnesses were Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, and Sandy Magnus, Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

SpacePolicyOnline.com published a brief summary of the hearing on November 9.

 

House SS&T Hearing on Production of Plutonium-238 for NASA Missions, October 2017

House SS&T Hearing on Production of Plutonium-238 for NASA Missions, October 2017

The Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on October 4, 2017 on Powering Exploration: An Update on Radioisotope Production and Lessons Learned from Cassini.  The hearing was based on a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that identified issues affecting the relationship between NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE) on the production of  plutonium-238 (Pu-238) for use on NASA missions.  DOE manages the nation’s nuclear stockpile and produces Pu-238, the fuel for radioisotope thermal generators (RTGs) that provide electricity and heat for NASA planetary exploration missions that travel too far from the Sun to rely on solar power or land on surfaces where sunlight is not always available.  Witnesses were:

  • Mr. David Schurr, deputy director, Planetary Sciences Division, NASA
  • Ms. Tracey Bishop, deputy assistant secretary for nuclear infrastructure programs, Office of Nuclear Energy, Department of Energy
  • Dr. Ralph McNutt, Jr., chief scientist for space science in the space exploration sector, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab
  • Ms. Shelby Oakley, director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management, Government Accountability Office (GAO)

SpacePolicyOnline.com published a brief synopsis of the GAO report and the hearing on October 4, 2017.

SASC Air Force Posture Hearing, June 2017

SASC Air Force Posture Hearing, June 2017

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) held its annual Air Force posture hearing on June 6, 2017.  Witnesses were Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.  Most of the hearing focused on aircraft and personnel, but there was some discussion of Air Force space programs.   Wilson said the service is requesting a 20 percent increase in space program funding for FY2018, which Sen. Ted Cruz said would raise the total to $7.7 billion.  She also revealed that the next launch of one of the Air Force’s two reusable X-37B Orbital Test Vehicles (OTVs) will be conducted by SpaceX in August, the first time that information appears to have been made public. SpacePolicyOnline.com published a summary of the hearing on June 6, 2017.

Senate Hearings on Commercial Space, April and May 2017

Senate Hearings on Commercial Space, April and May 2017

The Space, Science and Competitiveness Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held two hearings on further actions Congress could take to assist companies seeking to engage in commercial space activities, especially non-traditional ventures such as placing habitats in Earth orbit or on the Moon, satellite servicing, or asteroid mining.  Witnesses at the April 26, 2017 hearing represented four commercial space companies:  Bigelow Aerospace, Blue Origin, Made in Space, and Galactic Ventures (Virgin Orbit, Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company).   Three more companies were represented at the May 23, 2017 hearing:  Space Systems Loral, Moon Express and Planetary Resources.  Also testifying on May 23 were three space law experts (James Dunstan, Mobius Legal Group; Laura Montgomery, Ground Based Space Matters; and Matthew Schaefer, University of Nebraska College of Law).  SpacePolicyOnline.com published a summary of the two hearings on May 30, 2017.

SASC Subcommittee Hearing on Military Space Organization, Policy, and Programs, May 2017

SASC Subcommittee Hearing on Military Space Organization, Policy, and Programs, May 2017

The Strategic Forces subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on Military Space Organization, Policy, and Programs on May 17, 2017.  Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, who had been sworn into office just the prior day, testified along with three top Air Force space officials — Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force Chief of Staff; Gen. John Raymond, Commander, Air Force Space Command; and Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, commander, Air Force Space and Missile Center.   Cristina Chaplain of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) also testified.

The Air Force officials’ main theme was that space no longer is a benign environment, but a “warfighting domain.”  Another theme was that the organization for developing and executing space programs within DOD and the Air Force remains ineffective and changes are needed.

SpacePolicyOnline.com published a summary of the hearing on May 17, 2017.