Friday, July 14, 2017

SpaceNews This Week | Reps. Mike Rogers, Jim Cooper defend just-passed Space Corps proposal in exclusive op-ed

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Space Corps proposal has murkier path forward in the Senate

Phillip Swarts — The House of Representatives on Friday approved a controversial proposal to establish a separate Space Corps within the U.S. Air Force.

The Space Corps provision was approved as part the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 2810), a sprawling bill that sets spending levels and policy prescriptions for the entire Department of Defense.

The idea of setting up a new branch of the military has a less assured path through the Senate, where the idea has not yet garnered the support it did in the House.

Opinion | America needs a Space Corps

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) — America is so dependent on our satellites in space that we think it's time for a branch of the U.S. military designed to protect them. That why we are proposing that Congress create a new Space Corps. Our reform passed the U.S. House Armed Services Committee almost unanimously and was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that passed the House of Representatives Friday.

Imagine driving without GPS. Everything from ATM machines to Zumwalt Navy destroyers use satellites. Whether we are watching television or North Korea, we need satellites.

 Our satellites were safe until about ten years ago, when China successfully attacked one of its own weather satellites. That test proved that China could destroy many satellites, as well as create a debris field that threatens everything in orbit. Nations like Russia have also taken aggressive actions in space.

 We regret that space has become a war-fighting domain because America pioneered the peaceful development of space for many decades. For example, take space traffic control. We give the world a priceless service for free when we warn every nation if its satellites face debris. Read Full Article

Federal court dismisses Orbital ATK's satellite-servicing lawsuit

Jeff Foust — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Orbital ATK seeking to stop work on a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency satellite servicing program, concluding the company's claims had no basis in federal law.

Orbital ATK filed the suit against DARPA in February in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, arguing that the agency's Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program violated provisions of the 2010 national space policy that calls on government agencies to refrain from competing with the private sector.

Orbital ATK argued that DARPA failed to comply with the policy by making an RSGS award to another company, Space Systems Loral, to support development of a satellite servicing capability that will ultimately be commercially available. Orbital ATK is developing its own satellite servicing system, called the Mission Extension Vehicle, with its own funds.

Moon Express releases details of its lunar lander missions

Jeff Foust — Moon Express, a company developing commercial lunar landers, said July 12 its first mission is still on schedule to launch by the end of this year in a bid to win the Google Lunar X Prize.

The Florida-based company used an event on Capitol Hill to unveil the design of that lander, known as MX-1E, as well as plans for future missions that include larger landers and sample return spacecraft.

That spacecraft, capable of placing up to 30 kilograms of payload onto the lunar surface, is the building block of a "flexible, scalable and innovative exploration architecture that can help us open the moon as a frontier for humanity," said Moon Express Chief Executive Bob Richards.

White House not expected to rush development of new space policy

Jeff Foust — Two people who served on the NASA transition team for the Trump administration said July 11 they don't expect the White House to rush the development of a new national space policy.

In a panel discussion at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Propulsion and Energy Forum in Atlanta, Sandra Magnus and Chris Shank said they expected the Trump administration to use the newly-reestablished National Space Council to draft such a policy, but that it would not necessarily be a priority for it.

"There are some other pressing problems to be had there as well, as well as the annual budgeting and appropriations," said Shank, who chaired the agency review team, or "landing team," assigned to NASA by the incoming administration, and who is now senior advisor to the secretary and the under secretary of the Air Force.

OneWeb vouches for high reliability of its deorbit system

Caleb Henry — Satellite broadband startup OneWeb says no other system on its low-Earth orbit satellites will be built for higher reliability than the deorbit module it is including to prevent the creation of space debris.

"The subsystems on the spacecraft that are required to do that deorbiting operation are spec'd as the highest-reliability functions on the entire spacecraft — even above that of the revenue-generating payload," Tim Maclay, OneWeb's director of mission systems engineering, said July 10 during a Secure World Foundation panel discussion here. "That gives you a sense of the commitment that we've got to responsible operations."

NASA planning August release of Mars robotic exploration architecture

Jeff Foust — With time running out to start work on a 2022 Mars orbiter, a NASA official said July 10 the agency plans to have a "coherent Mars architecture" for future robotic Mars missions ready for presentation an at August committee meeting.

Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters, said that architecture is on track to be presented at a meeting in late August of a National Academies committee reviewing progress NASA has made implementing the planetary science decadal survey published in 2011.

"It is in August when the committee meets that they'll hear a coherent Mars architecture for what we hope to do for sample return and potentially other missions associated with that," Meyer said at a teleconference meeting of the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG). He added that he and others were working to ensure "agency endorsement" of that plan prior to the presentation.

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