— Q&A: A leading aerospace professional association wants Washington to focus on new regulations and technologies to manage space traffic control.
— Once again, NASA gets bad grades on its performance delivering major new systems as the portfolio is about to expand.
— The White House moves closer to getting a top scientist as the president’s nominee clears a key Senate committee.
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‘WE NEED TO BE READY’: The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the world’s largest aerospace technical society that represented the brainpower that fueled the space age, is stepping up its efforts to influence the investments and shape the regulatory changes in Washington needed to advance further into the final frontier. And one major priority is how to make sure the commercial air traffic system is coordinated with expanding space traffic.
“We have a committee that has been established recently to take a look at this question and what needs to be done — that interrelationship, that integration between space traffic management and air traffic management,” AIAA’s executive director, Dan Dumbacher, tells us. “It is really easy to think about the two separately. There is an interface there that’s coming and that we need to be ready for as launch rates start to increase.”
He added: “We have to be able to sort through and figure out what those problems are and how we address those problems. What technologies are needed? What research is needed to address those issues?”
That also means figuring out once and for all whose job it is. “AIAA has been clear … about the need to get clear in the U.S. government who is responsible and appropriate funding for dealing with the space debris/space traffic management question,” he said. “The Department of Commerce in the previous administration was identified as the lead agency. We need to make sure that that decision remains or if you are going to change it clearly, change it quickly. And that the funding to go execute and do the appropriate engineering, technical research and regulatory work is all available.”
Why is that so important? “When we talk about building a low-Earth orbit space economy, and we start talking about more and more commercial development and commercial utilization of low-Earth orbit, [addressing] the space debris and space traffic management problems is essential for success,” Dumbacher said.
‘The people who are good at doing it on Earth’: Dumbacher also says that as the low-Earth orbit economy matures, there is a growing need to bring in other industries that traditionally have not been involved in aerospace, especially as more people live and work in orbit or on the moon for long durations.
“We are having more and more adjacent industries or adjacent markets or adjacent technologies that are trying to take advantage of aerospace capabilities and need to be integrated or made part of the overall aerospace profession,” he said. “For example, we are planning a session in November on agricultural management from space. We are going to have those kinds of discussions about what’s needed to bring those companies that are good at construction and large facility development. If we are going to be successful with a lunar economy, I have to have the capability to build those facilities on the moon. Where am I going to go to get that? Probably from the people who are good at doing it on Earth.”
Check out our full Q&A to learn more about AIAA’s R&D and infrastructure priorities.
Related: NASA seeking more than $10 billion in infrastructure bill, via Space News.
‘THIS IS NOT THE TIME’: There are many more earthly concerns about expanding the commercial space launch market. A missive this week from Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia to the FAA raised concerns about “shortcomings in the environmental review process” for the proposed Spaceport Camden along the Atlantic coast.
“Spaceport Camden would be the closest launch facility to populated areas ever approved by the FAA,” Warnock wrote. But he noted that “the new, small rocket application states that 20 percent of rockets launched from Spaceport Camden are expected to fail. This is a dramatic increase over the 2.5-6 percent failure rate disclosed to the public” in a draft environmental impact statement.
He also raised the potential for serious environmental damage. “Further, the FAA has stated in the past that a rocket failure could trigger uncontrollable wildfires on Cumberland and Little Cumberland Islands,” the freshman senator wrote. “Yet the FAA did not address the risk of wildfire to the National Seashore, park visitors, wildlife, or private property.”
“This is not the time to cut corners on environmental review or cut out public participation in the evaluation of this project,” he added. “The incoming FAA leadership should be given the opportunity to evaluate fully these issues with the benefit of public input before moving forward with a final decision.”
A final environmental impact statement is slated to be completed this month.
BIGGER BUT BETTER? The Government Accountability Office on Thursday issued its latest assessment of NASA’s major development programs. And you guessed it.
“This marks the fifth year in a row that cumulative cost and schedule performance deteriorated,” the independent congressional watchdog found. “Since our last report, NASA’s portfolio of major projects in development increased its estimated costs by $1.1 billion and delayed its collective schedule by more than 3 years. These year-to-year cost overruns and delays — most of which were not a result of Covid-19 — were driven by seven projects.”
Some of the main culprits: You won’t be surprised to learn that the Boeing Space Launch System and Lockheed Martin Orion spacecraft were big drivers. Another major driver was the Exploration Ground System program, which aims to modernize the infrastructure at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in part to launch the SLS and Orion.
“About 90 percent of the portfolio’s annual cost growth and nearly half of its schedule delays experienced in the past year were from two programs — SLS and EGS,” GAO found.
Overall, the cumulative cost growth for the agency’s top 20 programs has been $9.6 billion — $7.1 billion of which stems from the James Webb Space Telescope and SLS. Moreover, “these two projects account for about half of the cumulative schedule delays,” GAO maintains.
And the portfolio of major programs is about to get bigger. “The number of projects in development is expected to grow further as the agency plans for eight of the 13 major projects currently in formulation — including six Artemis projects — to set baselines in 2021,” GAO states.
‘SCIENCE IS BACK’: Eric Lander was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, moving his nomination to the full Senate.
Lander, a top geneticist and director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, is the last member of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet awaiting confirmation.
“Biden has elevated the top OSTP post to a Cabinet-level position for the first time in history, in a bid that demonstrates his mantra of ‘science is back,’” as POLITICO’s Julia Arciga and Benjamin Din report.
“The president tapped Lander to lead the office in early January, following his stint as co-chair of the Presidential Council of Advisers on Science and Technology during the Obama administration — where he briefed both then-Vice President Biden and President Barack Obama on science-related issues,” they write.
‘I CAN’T IMAGINE’: You’d have to be living on another planet to not come across at least something in the news or on social media this week about UFOs — or as the Pentagon now prefers to call them, UAPs, or unidentified aerial phenomenon.
From a deep dive that aired on CBS’ “60 Minutes” to comments from former President Barack Obama this week, UFOs are hovering right into the center of the Washington policy debate as the public eagerly awaits an unclassified report to Congress that is due next month.
The latest to weigh in: Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, a member of the Intelligence Committee. He says he has never seen any alien bodies retrieved from the Roswell Incident in 1947, but “I can’t imagine that what has been described, or shown in some of the videos, belongs to any government that I’m aware of.”
Chris Johnson, who served as president of Boeing Satellite Systems International, has joined Maxar as senior vice president of space programs delivery and will oversee design, manufacturing, integration, test and delivery for the company’s portfolio of space platforms and space-based robotics systems.
Katy Summerlin, who previously served as NASA’s deputy press secretary, has joined Maxar’s marketing and communications division, where she will focus on government and commercial space offerings.
Congratulations to Colin Alberts, senior counsel at Freedom Technologies, for being the first to correctly answer that the first non-super power astronaut in space was Vladimír Remek of Czechoslovakia. And that he has recently been the focus of controversy for his communist views and pro-Russian slant as Czech ambassador to Moscow.
THIS WEEK’S QUESTION: Another two-fer: Which former American president reported a UFO sighting? And which former U.S. senator and presidential candidate reported being cursed out by Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay when he asked to see purported UFO artifacts at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base?
The first person to email [email protected] gets bragging rights and a shoutout in the next newsletter!
— South Korea may soon join the Artemis program: Space News
— What I learned in space about the climate emergency: Scientific American
MONDAY: The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on national security space programs.
MONDAY: The Space Force Association hosts a discussion with Space Force Col. Jennifer Krolikowski of the Space and Missile Systems Center.
TUESDAY: The three-day Mars Innovation Forum kicks off virtually.
TUESDAY: The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research holds a discussion on space and nuclear weapons as part of its two-day “Nuclear Risk” conference.
WEDNESDAY: The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a budget hearing on national security space programs.
This Article firstly Publish on www.politico.com