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Lawmakers Blame Obama for Chinese Space Advancements

From .globalsecuritynewswire.org-

Republican lawmakers have accused the Obama administration of abetting China’s space program through its allowance of “dangerous” technology export deals, Agence France-Presse reported on Friday (see GSN, March 10).

Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) at a Capitol Hill hearing last week charged that an illegal “overreach” by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy was causing a looming national security danger in the form of Chinese advancements in outer space.

“China has aggressively sought our technologies through legal and illegal methods for decades,” said Rohrabacher, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Representative Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said at the hearing he was “very troubled with this administration’s apparent eagerness to work with China on its space program and willingness to share other sensitive technologies…”

…OSTP head John Holdren told the House subcommittee he had been notified by the Justice Department that his office’s initiatives were covered by the White House’s executive prerogative to carry out foreign policy and thus superseded the congressional requirement on the permitted uses of federal funds.

“I certainly don’t dispute technology transfer to China that we did not wish and do not welcome,” Holdren said in a reference to suspected leaks by private companies conducting commerce with China.

But he backed the scientific collaboration pursued over multiple U.S. administrations, contending it aided in getting “China to change the aspects of its conduct that we oppose,” including human rights violations.

Full story…

Don’t ya just miss the days of the cold war when things like this would end up with NASA getting more money to plan a joint space trip with the USSR? You can’t run from space. You can’t block it. Even if you don’t want to, you might as well plan the next high-level PR trip to shake hands in space and act like everything is cool. :)


Senate and House Don’t Agree on NASA Budget Cuts

Both the Senate and House are chopping at the NASA budget, but the House cuts more, doesn’t fund JWST, and spends less for commercial crew.

From Floridatoday-

The Senate voted Tuesday to give NASA $17.9 billion in fiscal 2012, significantly more than the agency would get from the House.

Both chambers are far apart on two key initiatives. One is the James Webb Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Telescope. The other is a commercial crew program in which NASA and private rocket companies are working together to develop a replacement for the space shuttle.

The Senate bill includes $500 million for the program, compared to $312 million in the House measure. The James Webb telescope, which would get $530 million from the Senate, would get nothing under the House bill…

Full story…

More from Spacepolicyonline (yesterday)-

This afternoon the Senate passed the “minibus” appropriations bill (H.R. 2112) that combines three of the regular appropriations bills into one, including funding for NASA, NOAA and the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST).

The Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill includes NASA and NOAA. The Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) includes AST. The third bill in the package is Agriculture.

The vote was 69-30.

The bill now goes to the House where its future is unclear. The most recent reports indicate that the House will, in fact, accede to the Senate’s approach to the appropriations bills for FY2012, dealing with them in groups instead of combining all 12 into a single “omnibus” package. Omnibus bills have become common in recent years and initially it appeared the House preferred that method.

The House and Senate appropriations committees were fairly far apart in their recommendations for NASA. The House committee approved $16.8 billion, and, among other things, recommended terminating the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) program. The Senate approved $17.9 billion and recommended increasing JWST funding by $156 million so it could be launched in 2018 instead of years later. The President’s request for NASA was $18.7 billion, of which $374 million was for JWST…

Full story…


Senate Approves JWST Funding

From Universetoday.com-

This afternoon the U.S. Senate approved H.R. 2112, a FY 2012 bill from Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski that would fund the James Webb Space Telescope to launch in 2018. This is another step forward for the next-generation space telescope, which many have called the successor to Hubble… all that now remains is for the House to reconcile.

“We are creating the building blocks that we need for a smarter America. Our nation is in an amazing race – the race for discovery and new knowledge, the race to remain competitive,” Chairwoman Mikulski said. ”This bill includes full funding of the James Webb Telescope to achieve a 2018 launch. The Webb Telescope supports 1,200 jobs and will lead to the kind of innovation and discovery that have made America great. It will inspire America’s next generation of scientists and innovators that will have the new ideas that lead to new products and new jobs…”

Full story…

This is still not a done deal. A Bill in the House that cuts NASA funding more than the Senate version (including less for commercial crew) doesn’t fund JWST.


What Happened at the House Committee Hearing on Commercial Crew

From Spacepolitics.com-

Wednesday’s hearing by the House Space, Science, and Technology Committee on NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) programdidn’t yield any major breakthroughs or other significant news. Industry members in the hearing’s first panel expressed their confidence to develop systems to transport NASA astronauts and serve other markets in the next several years, provided adequate funding. NASA’s associate administrator Bill Gerstenmaier also backed the program, while NASA inspector general Paul Martin covered some of the challenges the program faces. Two themes did emerge from the nearly three-hour hearing, though.

1. Congressional skepticism is about markets, not capabilities:During the hearing several members of congress, including committee chairman Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) and ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), expressed their doubts that CCDev would unfold as NASA and industry claim…

CCDev’s FY12 budget is looking increasingly likely to be no more than $500 million: As NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver warned last week, Gerstenmaier said that funding CCDev at $500 million (the current Senate mark) rather than the administration’s request of $850 million would result in a one-year delay in vehicles entering service, to 2017, with the result that NASA would have to pay $480 million to Russia for an additional year of flight services. However, when asked by committee members, Gerstenmaier said that one-year delay would be the only major impact provided the program was adequately funded in future years. He added that NASA was still about a year away from making a decision to buy additional Soyuz seats…

Full story…

Nasawatch has links to statements from John Elbon, Boeing, Steve Lindsey, Sierra Nevada, Elon Musk, SpaceX, Charles Precourt, George Sowers, United Launch Alliance, Paul Martin, Inspector General, and Bill Gerstenmaier, HEOMD, NASA.


Gingrich-SLS a “Political Pork-Barrel”

From Spacepolitics.com-

Former Speaker of the House and current 2012 Republican presidential candidate said Thursday he would “absolutely” privatize human spaceflight if elected president. Speaking at a town hall meeting in Dallas, Gingrich was asked about the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket that NASA is developing as required by the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. “I think it is disgraceful the way getting into space has been turned into a political pork-barrel. It’s an abuse of the taxpayer and an abuse of America’s future,” he said, according to a statement from the Space Frontier Foundation, which also provided a transcript of the exchange. “It is a tragedy that between bureaucrats and politicians we have reduced NASA to the point where we are relying on Russian rockets to get to the space station…”

Full story…

OK, so Gingrich is against pork-barrels. He wants alternatives to government-led programs. I did a quick google to see if Gingrich is consistent with this view, and he’s a flip-flopper.

From Prospect.org-

When it comes to the Iraq War, Gingrich has a long history of flipping, flopping, and then flipping again. As Alex Koppelman reported in Salon last year, “As a close advisor to the administration over the past six years, and an intimate of both Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Gingrich was a powerful advocate both for the idea of invading Iraq and for the botched way in which it was done.” A member of the influential Defense Policy Board, Gingrich helped draw up war plans at the Central Command for the Middle East in Tampa, Fla. And his Oct. 16, 2002 USA Today column about Iraq was titled, “Strike Sooner Than Later.”

Full story…

Well there ya go. If Gingrich was really into private solutions and getting government out of the way, he would have told the oil companies to hire their own mercenary army to invade Iraq and take the oil!


Iron Man to Speak to House Technology Committee Next Week

Elon Musk from SpaceX is on the list to discuss Commerical Crew at a House Technology Committee next week.

From spacepolicyonline-
The House Science, Space and Technology Committee today released the witness list for its hearing next week on commercial crew.

The October 26 hearing is entitled NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program: Accomplishments and Challenges and will begin at 10:00 am in 2318 Rayburn House Office Building. The witnesses are:

Panel One

Mr. John Elbon, Vice President and General Manger, Space Exploration Division, The Boeing Company
Mr. Steve Lindsey, Director, Space Exploration, Sierra Nevada Space Systems
Mr. Elon Musk, CEO and CTO, Space Exploration Technologies
Mr. Charles Precourt, Vice President and General Manager, ATK Space Launch Systems
Mr. George Sowers, Vice President, Business Development and Advanced Programs, United Launch Alliance


Sole-Source SLS, What Else Do People Expect?

MSFC had a big business meeting yesterday to kick off contracting for the SLS.

Here’s a preview by The Huntsville Times…

Blogs are already on about open competition for the big ticket items, but I haven’t seen anyone writing about what we knew all along, and that is this is going to be a big Boeing project. What else did you expect? The language in the NASA bill that approved SLS talked about using CxP contracts as much as practical to speed things up. We should not expect any big surprises on propulsion either.

If we want to see this project get half-done and cancelled in our lifetimes, NASA needs to streamline the process. This isn’t and wasn’t going to be a revolution.

At least critics have something else to write about besides Sen. Shelby and MSFC jobs. The truth here is MSFC is glad to get the SLS initial design work, but it is still letting people go, even today. The balance of work that MSFC will do on SLS is tiny compared to what was happening on Ares 1. MSFC was staffed up to design the Ares 1 Upper Stage and release designs for Boeing to manufacture. Those designers are gone. This time Boeing will do that part, and MSFC does “insight and oversight.” It’s hardly a make-work program for MSFC. It’s a “we still have too many people” program.

Read “NASA’s SLS Procurement: So Far, Sole Source Only” on Nasawatch…

From Spacepolitics…

NASA’s plan to sole-source most elements of the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket has led one member of Congress to complain to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). “I have serious concerns with NASA’s attempt to avoid holding a full and open competition to acquire the SLS,” Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA) wrote in a September 22 letter to the GAO, provided by the advocacy group Tea Party in Space (TPIS).

McClintock wrote that he believed NASA’s plans to procure key elements of the SLS through modifying existing contracts made them “de facto sole source awards” that could be in violation of the 1984 Competition in Contracting Act, which allows sole source awards only when there is a “single responsible source” to meet government needs…

Full story…

Nice try Tom, but a waste of time.


Former Astronauts Still Talking

Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan were back in Washington, DC last week sounding off to a House Committee about the direction of human spaceflight.

Both moon landing heroes obviously don’t see the kind of enthusiasm and commitment to human spaceflight that they remember from Apollo days. Without a Red Menace to scare money out of Congress, that is not going to change.

From Humanspaceflight.com-

As the Space Launch System (SLS) continues to push on – with the latest stage being the release of the acquisition overview – NASA’s recent official announcement of the new launch vehicle has been warmly received by the first and last men to walk on the Moon. However, both Neil Armstrong and Captain Gene Cernan remain concerned by the lack of goals and destinations…


The past year has been frustrating to NASA observers, as they tried to understand NASA’s plans and progress. The NASA leadership enthusiastically assured the American people that the agency was embarking on an exciting new age of discovery in the cosmos…But the realities of the termination of the Shuttle program, the cancellation of existing rocket launcher and spacecraft programs, the layoffs of thousands of aerospace workers, and the outlook for American space activity throughout the next decade were difficult to reconcile with the agency assertions…


Until this past week, NASA had continued to disregard, ignore, and flaunt the law and the mandate of the Congress while continuing to pursue its own agenda of disabling our nation’s space program. It had become obvious that NASA as directed by the Administration has had no interest in following the law and the mandate of Congress in the development of a heavy lift launch vehicle…

…Today we are on a path of decay. We are seeing the book closed on five decades of accomplishments as the world’s leading space-faring nation. As unimaginable as it seems, we have now come full circle and ceded our leadership role in space back to the same country, albeit with a different name, that spurred our challenge five decades ago…My immediate concerns are the deterioration of our technological base, the lack of stability of the NASA budget when considering the present state of the economy, the absence of the Administration’s commitment to cooperate with Congress and forge an ambitious program, the question of continued bi-partisan Congressional support, and perhaps the most important risk with lasting effect, is the loss and dismemberment of our skilled workforce…

Full story…

Spacepolitics asks (dated Sept 23), “Did yesterday’s sound and fury signify anything?

…So this hearing may have been little more than an opportunity for critics of the administration’s plan—which, as the NASA statement implied, has the endorsement of Congress in the form of last year’s authorization act—to vent their frustrations that things aren’t going they way they would like, rather than an attempt to reshape policy in the near-term. With the current authorization act in effect for two more fiscal years, and little interest by appropriators to rectify those perceived shortcomings by, say, putting more money into SLS and MPCV (or CCDev), the current policy is likely to be in place at least into 2013. And even if a new president takes office in January 2013, space is probably not going to be a high priority for him or her given the current focus of candidates’ campaigns on jobs, the economy, and other issues outside the realm of human spaceflight.

Full story…

Nasawatch has a lot more detail and links to statements and testimony…


Congressional reaction to the SLS announcement

According to Spacepolitics.com, Congress folks saying nice things about the SLS was the norm since yesterday’s press event, except for that Grinch Rohrabacher-

Most members of Congress—with one notable exception—spoke approvingly of NASA’s announcement Wednesday of the design of the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket, even if they also expressed some frustration that the decision took too long to make or a perceived lack of vision for NASA’s human spaceflight programs.

For example, the key senators involved in promoting the SLS, Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), joined colleagues in praising the announcement. “This is the biggest thing for space exploration in decades,” Nelson said. “Because of the delays in announcing this design, it is imperative that we work with NASA to assure that the new Space Launch System is pursued without further losses of time and efficiency, while relying on NASA’s world-class engineers and designers to continue U.S. leadership in space exploration,” said Hutchison.

Another senator vocal on NASA issues, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), was cautiously pleased with the announcement. Citing a lack of details in the announcement, he said, “I will continue to monitor this situation very closely…

Full story…

There ya go. It seems like this Congress can’t agree on anything..but with space exploration, we can get them to agree that we need to get ready to go somewhere we can’t agree on right now.


Senate Saves the James Webb Space Telescope

From Universetoday-

The 2012 fiscal year appropriation bill, marked up today by the Senate, allows for continued funding of the James Webb Space Telescope and support up to a launch in 2018! Yes, it looks like this bird is going to fly.

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System. JWST will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror…

Full story…