Tag Archives: National Space Council

FAA submits its red tape recommendations to National Space Council

As requested by Vice-President Mike Pence during the first meeting of the National Space Council, the FAA has now submitted its recommendations for streamlining the launch licensing process.

“We came up with our vision for a 21st century licensing process,” [George Nield, FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation] said. That process, he said, could include licenses that cover different versions of a family of vehicles, launching from different sites on different missions, “on the same piece of paper.” Nield said other elements of that vision include “performance-based” regulations that don’t limit companies on how they can achieve a certain requirement, as well as ways to accelerate the license review process, which can take up to 180 days once a completed application is submitted.

Some of those changes, Nield said, may take longer to carry our, particularly when they involve issues like environmental reviews. He said the FAA is looking at other near-term streamlining approaches, such as the use of a mechanism called “safety approvals” that provides pre-approval of subsystems or processes — and potentially entire launch vehicles — to speed the license review process.

Nield also put in a request for additional staff for his office, which currently has about 100 people. “If we had some additional folks that could look at fixing the process rather than just having everybody having their head down cranking out these licenses, then we could make a significant improvement” in the license review process, he said. [emphasis mine]

While I do think Nield is sincere about reducing regulation, and has generally been a positive force in his job in helping the new commercial launch business, he is still a bureaucrat. The whole point here is to encourage the policy-makers to give his office the job of regulating space, so that Nield’s responsibilities grow.

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The first meeting of the National Space Council

The first meeting of the National Space Council just wrapped up. You can see highlights here. I have several thoughts.

The entire event was very carefully staged, with the planned outcomes determined beforehand. The three panels of speakers were organized to match up with the three main actions the council intended to pursue, with the questions from the various high level Trump cabinet members clearly arranged to line up with each panel. Moreover, the fact that all these panel members were there and participating in this staged event suggests that Trump himself is directly interested, and insisted they do so.

The first action was a decision to rework the country’s overall space policy, including its future goals for exploring the solar system. This action item was linked with statements by officials from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Orbital ATK, and was clearly intended to placate their desire to keep what they all called “sustained” and “reliable” funding. It was also clearly linked to Pence’s opening remarks, which insisted that the U.S. should return to the Moon, permanently, and use that as a jumping off point for exploring Mars and the rest of the solar system.

The second action was a commitment to review, in the next 45 days, the entire regulatory bureaucracy that private companies must face. This was linked to the testimony from officials from SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Sierra Nevada.

The third action was a focus on the military and national security aspects of space, focused on the development of a “space strategic framework” that will apparently link the military needs with the growing commercial space industry. This framework has been under development for several months. The council actually spent the most time questioning the national security witnesses on this issue. This focus also aligns with the main interest in space held by Trump’s nominee for NASA administrator, Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma). Interestingly, Bridenstine was in the audience, but was given no speaking opportunity, unlike the NASA acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, who Pence specifically provided a moment to speak.

Overall, this meeting indicates that the Trump administration is likely not going to do much to drain the swamp that presently dominates our space effort. Trump’s interest in reducing regulation remains strong, but it also appears he and his administration is also strongly committed to continuing the crony capitalism that is wasting literally billions of dollars in space and helping to put the nation into unrecoverable debt.

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Viewing options for first National Space Council meeting

Keith Cowing of NASAWatch has located details about the time and video viewing opportunities for Thursday’s first public meeting of the National Space Council.

The event will be streamed online on NASA TV and via Whiteouse.gov starting around 10:00 am. The event itself is only 2 to 2.5 hours long (not mentioned on the advisory).

…There is nothing online anywhere to suggest that the public can attend this event so it looks like it is going to be an expensive photo op with only a select few actually in attendance listening to pre-written statements being read before the cameras. The expense of taking over a large portion of a busy museum seems to be for the purpose of providing impressive backdrops for a meeting that is mostly show and little substance.

The advisory still provides no details about speakers.

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First meeting of National Space Council announced

A Potemkin Village: The White House has announced the date of the first public meeting of the National Space Council, set for October 5 at the Air & Space Museum.

Today, Vice President Mike Pence announced the first meeting of the National Space Council is scheduled for October 5, 2017 at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The meeting, titled “Leading the Next Frontier: An Event with the National Space Council,” will include testimonials from expert witnesses who represent the sectors of the space industry: Civil Space, Commercial Space, and National Security Space.

What this announcement tells me is that this council isn’t there to discuss and set space policy, but to sell that policy to the public. And right now, I am expecting that sales job will be trying to convince us that we must use SLS/Orion mission to build a new space station orbiting the Moon by 2023. They will use the council to pitch the idea, and then Trump will make the traditional Kennedy-like speech, with lots of astronauts standing behind him, committing this nation to putting a space station around the Moon by such-and-such a date. Whoopie!

Forgive me if I sound a bit cynical. I’ve seen this show many times before. For some reason, the opening act is great, but then it fades always away into nothingness before the second act begins.

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White House appoints first member of National Space Council

The Trump administration today announced that Scott Pace will be the executive secretary of the National Space Council, headed by Vice-President Mike Pence.

Some might immediately think I will be upset by this choice, as Pace wrote a critical and what I consider to be a weak review of my policy paper, Capitalism in Space. This however is not true. We might have disagreed on some points, but I think that Pace might be an ideal choice. He has the ear and the support of the big government space companies, but also understands the need to let private enterprise run things more, a point he himself expressed in his review of my policy paper. As Dr. David Livingston of The Space Show wrote me today in an email,

Pace was the deputy administrator when Mike Griffin formed COTS which has turned out to be a pillar program for the emerging commercial space industry. I also know Scott is grounded well in economics, policy, and realism. He is politically savvy as well and that expertise will be needed to move policy and constructive programs forward.

Pace’s connections with the contractors who have been building SLS/Orion for decades are of course a concern, but his connections with COTS is cause for celebration. We can only wait and see where this goes.

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