Surprise! NASA’s ’23 budget request asks for more money!

In releasing its budget request this week to Congress for the 2023 fiscal year, NASA did what it routinely does each year, ask for more money, this time asking for an 8% increase from what Congress appropriated last year.

NASA’s FY2023 budget request is $25.974 billion versus the FY2022 appropriation of $24.041 billion. NASA had requested $24.802 billion in large part to pay for the Artemis program to return astronauts to the lunar surface, but Congress wasn’t willing to allocate that much. While supportive of Artemis and NASA’s many other science, aeronautics and technology programs, there is a limit as to how much Congress is willing to invest.

NASA is requesting not just another boost in FY2023, but in the “out years” thereafter, rising to $28 billion in FY2027, though much of that purchasing power likely will be lost to inflation.

…In essence, the agency wants more money for everything it is doing.

The budget request also asks again for Congress to terminate the SOFIA airborne telescope, which NASA contends is not producing enough science to justify its $80 million annual cost. Congress has repeatedly refused to do so in past years. As should be expected, Congress will likely not cancel SOFIA again, as it likes to spend money we don’t have.

The goal of the increased funding for Artemis is also to continue the SLS program for many years to come. Expect Congress to also fund this in the coming few years, though the long term future of SLS remains in doubt, especially if SpaceX’s Starship begins flying. Artemis won’t be cancelled by our spendthrift Congress, but Congress will likely decide to shift that spending to Starship and other private rockets rather than SLS as those private rockets come on line.

All in all, expect Congress to give NASA more cash, but not as much as the agency requests.

NASA solicits proposals for second commercial manned lunar lander

Having received a budget boost from Congress for its manned lunar lander Artemis program, NASA yesterday announced that it is soliciting proposals from the private sector for a second lunar lander, so that the agency will not be reliant only on SpaceX’s Starship.

To bring a second entrant to market for the development of a lunar lander in parallel with SpaceX, NASA will issue a draft solicitation in the coming weeks. This upcoming activity will lay out requirements for a future development and demonstration lunar landing capability to take astronauts between orbit and the surface of the Moon. This effort is meant to maximize NASA’s support for competition and provides redundancy in services to help ensure NASA’s ability to transport astronauts to the lunar surface.

As part of this revised program, NASA also is negotiating a revision to its contract with SpaceX. It appears that this change will have SpaceX fly an additional manned mission with Starship, after which NASA would open up competition to everyone on future flights. The press release however is not entirely clear on this point.

This new competition will of course be a boon to the losers in the first manned lunar lander competition, Blue Origin and Dynetics. Both will certainly submit bids, as will others.

FAA administrator, a Trump holdover, announces resignation

FAA administrator Steve Dickson yesterday announced that he will officially resign from the agency on March 31, 2022.

Dickson was appointed by President Trump in 2019 to a five year term, so his resignation now cuts his term short by two years.

Dickson gave as his reason for resigning a desire to spend more time with his family, the go-to explanation for every Washington official’s resignation. While this may be true, I can’t help wondering if friction and pressure from the Biden administration contributed to his decision.

For example, though Dickson’s record with private enterprise has been mixed, his record in connection with commercial space was mostly good, working to help the new launch industry prosper by keeping out its way as much as possible. This record was especially obvious with SpaceX’s operations in Boca Chica, where there was little regulatory effort to slow that work until Biden became president, and even then relatively little. It could be the Biden administration was unhappy with this approach, and was trying to force Dickson to regulate SpaceX more.

A new administrator, appointed by Biden, will certainly be less friendly. Based on most Biden appointees in the past year, the administration will likely want to put someone in place who is hostile to capitalism, favors a communist agenda, and wants to impose strong government control. Thus, this resignation almost certainly puts another nail in the coffin of SpaceX’s desire to launch Starship test flights from Boca Chica.

Then again, that new administrator would have to be approved by the Senate, and right now, based on the Senate’s 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans, it will be difficult for the Biden administration to get a radical leftist approved. This difficulty will be further magnified by Biden’s horrible poll numbers as well as similar polls suggesting a bloodbath for Democrats in the mid-term November elections. For them to force through an extremist in this position now will not help those poll numbers.

I therefore predict the nominee put forth by Biden will likely mouth empty support for private enterprise during the confirmation hearings. If the Senate Republicans are fooled by this disingenuousness (something that has happened frequently), when confirmed that person will immediately act to impose the government’s will on most commercial operations, especially those by SpaceX.

House Democrats attempt end-around of filibuster to pass election law using NASA bill

A bill initially written to give authorization to NASA lease its property to others and and passed by the Senate has been stripped entirely of that language by House Democrats and replaced with their proposal to federalize elections nationwide.

H.R. 5746 was introduced in October by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), chair of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee. The bill extended NASA’s authorization to enter into what are known as enhanced use leases, or EULs, of agency property to companies, government agencies, or educational institutions, for 10 years. The House passed the bill by a voice vote Dec. 8.

The Senate amended the bill, extending the EUL authorization by only three months instead of 10 years, and passed it by unanimous consent, sending it back to the House.

The Democratic leadership of the House, in an unusual move, then took the Senate-amended bill and stripped out the NASA provisions, replacing it with the text of two voting rights bills and now called the “Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.” They did so because H.R. 5746 had already passed the House and Senate, so the amended version could go directly to the Senate floor without the threat of a filibuster from Senate Republicans, who oppose the voting rights legislation. [emphasis mine]

The level of corruption exhibited by this Democratic Party action is beyond words. The Senate approved one bill. The House Democrats have now turned it into another bill that the Senate did not vote on initially.

In the past, such a corrupt action by the House would never have been attempted because the House would have known that the entire Senate would have rejected this tactic immediately as an insult to its legislative rights. Today however the Democrats care nothing for legalities or law or legislative rights. All they care about is power, and they are willing to do anything to get it. You can expect for certain that all but two Democrats in the Senate will support this crooked action.

That vote’s passage however rests with those two Democrats. Since this tactic is a direct attack on the filibuster, and if successful would forever make it null, we must wonder if Senators Kysten Sinema (D-Arizona) and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) will vote against it. If they don’t, their high-minded claims that they will not end the filibuster rule will be proven to be empty words.

Senate Democrats trying to sneak $10 billion payoff to Bezos’s Blue Origin in military budget

Senator Majority leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) and Senator Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) have inserted a $10 billion subsidy to Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space company in a $250 billion budget bill they are pushing that they claim will address things like the semiconductor chip shortage and the supply chain issues.

The bill, called the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, or USICA (pdf available here), is of course mostly filled with payoffs to the friends of Democrats, and will likely achieve nothing that is promised. It is also like all the budget bills being pushed by the Democratic Party in that it treats money as if it grows on trees. They can spend as much as they want, with no consequences at all.

Worse, Schumer and his cronies are trying to hide this pork bill by making it part of the annual military budget bill, dubbed NDAA.

To prove that this is nothing more than corrupt payoffs we need only look at the $10 billion subsidy to Blue Origin. This is a company being directly financed, in the billions, by Bezos himself. It has no shortage of cash. It not only doesn’t need government subsidies, it has never even looked for private investment capital. Bezos has provided it billions from his own pocket, far more cash than SpaceX has ever had on hand.

Yet Bezos is lobbying Democrats for this subsidy, aimed at financing his failed manned lunar lander project that NASA simply doesn’t have the cash to build and also doesn’t want to build because it was a generally weak proposal. From the bill:

This section would require the NASA Administrator to maintain competitiveness within the human landing system by funding design, development, testing, and evaluation for at least two entities. It would also authorize, in addition to amounts otherwise appropriated for the Artemis program, for fiscal years 2021 through 2026, $10.032 billion to NASA to carry out the human landing system program.

In other words, force NASA to award that second manned lunar lander, with Blue Origin almost certainly the winner.

Whether Schumer’s games here will pay off for Bezos remains unknown. I expect most senate Republicans will oppose it (other than the typical RINO fools like Romney). Already Democrats like Bernie Sanders have expressed opposition, as well as at least one children’s lobbying group that appears more aligned with the left than the right.

And even if it passes in the Senate, the House will have to approve, and we can expect ample opposition there from both parties.

VC of Joint Chiefs: Not one, not two, but “hundreds” of Chinese hypersonic tests!

If I did not have confirmation of my skepticism about the claims by the military and anonymous sources that China this summer completed a successful hypersonic test flight, I have it now.

Today the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Hyten, made a speech demanding that the military stop building expensive gold-plated satellites and emulate SpaceX’s methods of frequent testing and quick development.

Hyten has been very correctly pushing for this change in strategy for years. However, in his remarks he said this:

China, he said, has performed “hundreds” of tests of hypersonic weapons in the last five years, compared to nine the United States has performed.

…[He also] implied this morning, but did not state categorically, that China has built and tested what appears to be a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS).

FOBS technology is not new, but Hyten described it “as highly destabilizing.” And China’s reported use of a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) as the pointy end of the stick would be a twist. The Soviets deployed a FOBS — which combines a low-flying missile and nuclear warhead that reaches Low Earth Orbit, but does not remain in space for a full turn about the Earth — from 1969 to 1983. China began an effort in the early 1970s, but suffered test failures with its launcher, and gave up. [emphasis mine]

As I say, Hyten’s goals — fast testing, fast development, and not fearing failure — are all correct and laudable. But to suddenly turn a questionable story about a possible single successful Chinese hypersonic test flight, based entirely on anonymous sources, into “hundreds” of flights, strongly confirms to me that the original story was planted by the military to create fear in Congress and the public so that both would eagerly give the military more money.

The result will be that Hyten won’t get what he really wants. His use of exaggeration and possible disinformation will only cause Congress to balloon the military’s budget for new programs, which will then be used to feed the Pentagon’s insatiable appetite for endless and slow-moving test programs that only function as jobs programs, the very thing Hyten rails against.

Senate committee: NASA must choose two companies to build manned lunar lander

We’re here to help you! Despite offering NASA only $100 million more for the program, the Senate Appropriations committee has directed the agency to award a second manned lunar lander contract, in addition to the one it gave SpaceX in April.

On Tuesday (Oct. 18), the Senate Appropriations Committee — the largest U.S. Senate committee that oversees all discretionary spending legislation in the Senate — released a draft report of nine appropriations bills for the fiscal year 2022 which included funding for NASA, according to SpaceNews.

The appropriators, in the report, state that NASA’s HLS program is not underfunded, despite the agency’s previous claims to the contrary. As shown in the report, the bill includes $24.83 billion for NASA, which is just slightly more than the $24.8 billion that NASA requested, and a $100 million increase in funding for HLS.

“NASA’s rhetoric of blaming Congress and this Committee for the lack of resources needed to support two HLS teams rings hollow,” the report states. The committee added that “having at least two teams providing services using the Gateway should be the end goal of the current development program,” referencing NASA’s Gateway, a planned lunar space station.

It might be possible for the increase in funding to cover a second contract, if that contract was awarded to Blue Origin. Jeff Bezos has made it clear that he would be willing to waive as much as $2 billion of the price for the contract, using his own ample funds to make up the difference. Whether that is enough to build it, with the $100 million the Senate appropriated, is unclear.

This bill of course has to pass the Senate, be approved as written by the House, and then signed by the President. These directives and budget changes thus might not end up in the final appropriations bill.

California environment overregulation sole cause of shipping backup

California environment regulations that ban the use of any truck more than three years old, essentially banning half of all fleet trucks and practically all small private truck companies, is the real cause of the shipping backlog that is piling up outside the ports of Los Angles and Long Beach.

This banning was established by a deal the EPA made with California in October 2020, when Trump was still president.

In effect, what this 2020 determination and settlement created was an inability of half the nation’s truckers from picking up anything from the Port of LA or Port of Long Beach. Virtually all private owner operator trucks and half of the fleet trucks that are used for moving containers across the nation were shut out.

In an effort to offset the problem, transportation companies started using compliant trucks (low emission) to take the products to the California state line, where they could be transferred to non-compliant trucks who cannot enter California. However, the scale of the problem creates an immediate bottleneck that builds over time. It doesn’t matter if the ports start working 24/7, they are only going to end up with even more containers waiting on a limited amount of available trucks.

Essentially, California is now holding the entire nation hostage. The backlog is only going to get worse. Moreover, the deal as designed favored big operations, such as Amazon, Walmart, UPS, FedEx, Samsung, The Home Depot and Target, because they can afford the extra costs of shipping to alternative ports. The small companies are essentially shut out.

So much for protecting the little guy, Mr. Trump. This highlights again Trump’s primary failure. He did not clean house when in office, and thus allowed the bureaucracy — clearly operating as agents of the Democratic Party — to double cross and stymie him at every opportunity.

Biden signs budget continuing resolution, preventing shutdown

At the very last second Congress and President Biden passed and signed another budget continuing resolution that will keep the federal government operating till December and thus preventing another shutdown.

From NASA’s narrow perspective, the action means that the asteroid mission Lucy will likely launch in October as planned. From the perspective of the nation, this last second action merely illustrates the overall failure of the federal government and the elected officials who have been tasked to run it. They are all incompetent, and wouldn’t last five seconds in a real job outside the government.

That the voters keep re-electing them also speaks poorly of America today. We all should be ashamed.

Government shutdown threatens Lucy asteroid mission

Government marches on! The possibility that the federal government could shut down because of the inability of Congress and the Biden administration to pass a funding bill or raise the debt limit now threatens the launch of the Lucy mission to the asteroid belt.

If no budget agreement is reached the government will shut down on October 1st. If the debt limit isn’t raised that shutdown could follow soon thereafter, even if a budget is passed.

The launch window for the mission is from October 16 to November 7, 2021. If the spacecraft does not launch in that window the science team says it will likely require a major rethinking of the entire project, as it will be difficult to find another opportunity to visit the same set of asteroids.

Right now the chances of a shutdown are very high, as the Democrats are pushing big spending bills without any negotiations with the Republicans. In answer, the Republican caucus has said that none of its members will support raising the debt limit. Without the latter any passed spending bill will soon be moot, as the debt limit will soon be reached, blocking further government spending.

Though I personally would be very saddened if Lucy was prevented from launching, that loss would be well compensated for by having the federal government out of business. The evil and corruption promoted by it far outweighs the good work done by several minor space missions.

DC swamp moving to cancel Trump effort to cut red tape at FAA?

The inspector general of the Department of Transportation has instigated an investigation into the FAA’s recent effort, inaugurated during the Trump administration, to reduce the air space shuttered during launch operations in order to allow more launches with less interference with commercial air traffic.

“Over the past 5 years, FAA has gone from licensing about one commercial space launch per month to now licensing more than one launch every week,” Matthew Hampton, the assistant inspector general for aviation audits, said Wednesday in a memo announcing the probe.

The audit was requested by the ranking members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and its Subcommittee on Aviation, Hampton said in the memo. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words are important. The “ranking members” in the House are Republicans. It appears members of the party supposedly in favor of free enterprise have decided to panic after the relatively minor flight deviation due to high winds that occurred during the Virgin Galactic suborbital flight in July, and are now working to shut down the FAA’s effort to launch more rockets while keeping commercial aviation functioning.

The recent decision to begin shrinking the restricted air space around launches results from the increasing sophistication of rockets. Though new rockets — such as the recent launch failures of Astra’s Rocket-3 and Firefly’s Alpha — do fail and require self-destruction during launch, the launch and flight termination technology today works quite well in better controlling the rocket. When something went wrong during both of these recent launches, the rockets compensated so that they were able to continue to fly to a much higher altitude, where the range officer could more safely destroy them. In the past, failing rockets such as these would have gone out of control, threatening a larger area both in the air and on the ground.

Thus, there now is less need to restrict as much space, unless you have the fantasy that you must rig things so that nothing can ever go wrong.

This fantasy has fueled the entire Wuhan flu panic. It rules the minds of many Washington bureaucrats and politicians, from both parties, who repeatedly declare that “If we can save one life, we must!” Meanwhile this vain effort fails in its main task, since things still go wrong, and the overwrought effort to overly protect people ends up doing more harm than good by squelching all achievement.

It now appears there are Republicans on both the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and its Subcommittee on Aviation who believe in this fantasy. No wonder the Democrats always win in legislative battles. They have many hidden Republican allies.

Report: NASA’s bad management of infrastructure projects routinely leads to cost overruns and delays

A report released today [pdf] by NASA’s inspector general has found that NASA’s management of its infrastructure projects — designed to replace or upgrade existing facilities — is badly organized and routinely leads to cost overruns and delays.

According to the report, NASA has been spending about $359 million per year on its infrastructure for the past five years, about $1.8 billion. And what have we gotten from this spending? This quote from the report sums it up nicely:

Of the 20 [Construction of Facilities] projects we reviewed, 6 incurred significant cost overruns ranging from $2.2 million to $36.6 million and 16 of the projects are 3 months to more than 3 years behind their initial schedules. Costs increased primarily because requirements were not fully developed by the Agency before construction began, requirements were not fully understood by contractors, and contract prices were higher than originally estimated. Delays occurred because projects faced postponed start times and changing requirements, among other reasons. Finally, NASA did not provide effective oversight to determine whether the Agency’s portfolio of [Construction of Facilities] projects met cost, schedule, and performance goals. [Facilities and Real Estate Division] has failed to consistently keep up with oversight requirements of approved and funded projects and current oversight guidance does not align with Agency facility goals. [emphasis mine]

But don’t worry. Congress is about to pour several more billion dollars into NASA’s coffers for infrastructure work. I am sure the agency will figure out ways to go overbudget and behind schedule with this money as well.

For more than twenty years I have seen government-run projects fail miserably, across the board, Whether it be big rockets, high speed trains, military actions in foreign countries, foreign intelligence, or health policies in response to new viruses, our government routinely fails, its effort quickly falling far behind schedule while costing many times its initial budget. Worst of all, the final product is often useless or completely unable to achieve its initial stated goals.

And yet, Americans don’t seem to notice. We still turn first to government for everything. Too many of us depend on the CDC for our health advice, though its advice has been repeatedly mistaken, inconsistent, or just plain wrong for years. Others think NASA is the only one who can build and launch a manned space mission, though almost all of its in-house manned projects have been disasters for decades.

And above all, we must use our military to shape and reshape nations worldwide, though our military has done poorly in almost every war it has fought since World War II.

There are exceptions to all this, but the overall pattern is clear. As Tucker Carlson said recently, “We are led by buffoons.”
» Read more

House NASA budget cuts all funding for lunar lander but adds billions for “infrastructure”

The House science committee is about to propose a NASA budget that would cut all funding for a lunar lander but add $4 billion so that NASA can build new buildings and facilities.

An updated draft of the bill, dated Sept. 4, offers good and bad news for NASA. It includes $4 billion for “repair, recapitalization, and modernization of physical infrastructure and facilities” across the agency. The bill does not assign amounts to specific projects or centers.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson had made funding for agency infrastructure a priority in any budget reconciliation package, seeking more than $5 billion earlier this year. “There’s aging infrastructure that is dilapidated,” he told House appropriators in May. “They’ve got holes in the roof where they’re putting together the core of the SLS” at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Michoud suffered additional damage from Hurricane Ida last month.

However, the draft bill includes nothing for the other priority identified by Nelson, the agency’s Human Landing System (HLS) program. Nelson said in May he wanted $5.4 billion for HLS to allow NASA to select a second company alongside SpaceX to develop and demonstrate a lander capable of transporting astronauts to and from the lunar surface.

Congratulations America! This is the Congress we have voted for. They want a space agency tasked with finding ways to explore the solar system but will only fund the “repair, recapitalization, and modernization of physical infrastructure and facilities” on Earth.

In other words, NASA will have gold-plated buildings in which they will be able to do nothing but shuffle paper because Congress has given them no funding to fly anything in space.

What a joke. But then, as I said, this is the Congress Americans have chosen, so that means not only is Congress a joke, so are the American people.

Evidence proves lockdowns bad; Democrats scream, “We must have more lockdowns!”

Modern science!
How Democratic Party policy makers interpret data!

Almost a year and a half since the Wuhan panic swept across the world, the evidence continues to show that the policy decisions by our so-called “intellectual” class of experts to impose mandates and lockdowns were almost all stupid, producing disaster after disaster while completely failing to achieve any of their goals.

First we have Sweden, which refused to impose any lockdowns and now has practically no COVID-19 deaths at all.

An Imperial College model suggested that 85,000 people would die without a lockdown, and an Uppsala University team projected that 40,000 people would die from COVID-19 by May 1, 2020 and nearly 100,000 by June.

But by May, Sweden reported roughly six deaths for every one million people, according to the Financial Times, with 48.9% of its initial coronavirus deaths taking place in nursing homes, according to an analysis by the Swedish Public Health Agency. More than a year later, Sweden recorded 1.1 million coronavirus cases with 1.07 million people having recovered from the virus, and 14,620 coronavirus-linked deaths, according to woldometers.info as of Aug. 8, 2021.

Of the currently 12,248 people who have tested positive for COVID-19, 12, 219 are experiencing mild symptoms (99.8%) and 29 (0.2%) are in serious or critical condition, according to woldometers.info.

In other words, the models were so ridiculously wrong they weren’t even in the same galaxy as the results in the real world. Sweden’s population very quickly reached herd immunity and is now relatively immune from the virus and its later variants.

Moreover, Sweden’s economy has suffered little during the epidemic, and is doing nicely. Not so much in the U.S., where power-hungry politicians with their lockdowns have caused the destruction of 40% of all small businesses.

Nor is Sweden the only data point. A new study of 43 countries as well as all 50 U.S. states has found that lockdowns were worthless.
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Democrats introduce Senate bill demanding companies censor social media

Democrats: No soapbox free speech allowed
Democrats: No soapbox allowed! Photo: GeorgeLouis

Blacklists are back and the Democrats got ’em! Two Democrats, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-New Mexico), yesterday proposed a new law that would force social media companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter to immediately remove any posts on their platforms that includes medical information those Democrats disagree with.

If the companies do not do so, they will be held liable for those posts.

As has become typical of Democrats, they label any information they disagree with as “misinformation.” To make sure their definition is sustained, their bill would have the federal government determine what is correct and not correct. That definition would then be used to justify silencing any other opinions.

Such a law would essentially repeal the First Amendment of the Constitution. Free speech will be banned. Only government-approved speech in connection with health will be allowed. If such a law was upheld by the courts (a very distinct possibility in today’s legal culture), it could quickly be expanded to cover all speech on any subject.

There is some irony in this Democratic Party proposal. » Read more

The future of SLS?

In this long NASASpaceflight.com article describing the building the second core stage for NASA’s SLS rocket (the stage scheduled to take astronauts around the Moon in September 2023) was also additional information about the status of later core stages, still not entirely funded.

The key tidbit of information is this:

Core Stage-3 is the first build under the new “Stages Production and Evolution Contract” that was initiated in 2019; the contract is not yet completely finalized, with the latest estimate for definitization being early in Fiscal Year 2022 (which begins on October 1st, 2021).

Both NASA and Boeing are proceeding under the assumption that this Congress will approve full funding for later SLS rockets after flights one and two. While the signs strongly suggest that funding for at least two more rockets will arrive, that funding still depends largely on the success of the first unmanned SLS test flight, tentatively scheduled for November-December 2021.

It also depends on the political winds, and when Starship starts reaching orbit somewhat regularly (and cheaply). When that happens, all bets are off on the future of SLS. At some point it will become obvious that it can’t compete against that SpaceX rocket, and Congress will shift its funding appropriately.

Sadly, knowing Congress and the corrupt DC culture, this change will likely only happen after a lot of taxpayer money is wasted on a rocket that is simply too expensive and too cumbersome, and thus not practical for making space exploration possible.

House slams military for not reforming contracting for space missions

Government marches on, to nowhere! The House Appropriations Committee has issued a report strongly criticizing the Air Force and the new Space Force for its failure to reform in any way its contract acquisition management, even though that was the prime reason Congress created the Space Force in the first place.

The report dedicates an entire page to detailing the committee’s dissatisfaction with what it sees as foot-dragging on space acquisition reform — which was one of the primary congressional rationales for the creation of the new space service in the first place. Indeed, the [appropriations committee] reiterates: “The Committee believes the Space Force was established to bring greater attention and focus to fixing its acquisition issues because previous attempts to do so did not produce lasting results.”

The [committee’s] concerns include that that Department of the Air Force — which oversees the Space Force much as the Navy oversees the Marine Corp — still has no clear plan for creating a separate management chain for space acquisition. Similar concerns were voiced at a May hearing by both the chair and ranking members of the HAC defense subcommittee, Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., respectively.

None of this should be a surprise. The reason the Space Force was advocated by some reformers was to get it out from under Air Force control and allow it to decide for itself what it needed. The belief was that this would streamline contracting and project development.

The fear, which I expressed repeatedly, was that the swamp in Washington would instead use this as an opportunity not to streamline operations but to create a whole new bureaucracy. That is standard operating procedure for government bureaucracies. Any time Congress has mandated a new agency designed to reduce bureaucracy it has for more than a century instead led to a larger bureaucracy, with nothing streamlined.

It appears the latter is what is now happening with the Space Force.

NOAA struggles with concept of letting private commercial space build its satellites

Capitalism in space? An article today in Space News, “NOAA to take first step toward a small satellite constellation”, describes at great length NOAA’s recent effort to rethink how it builds its weather satellites, shifting from large and expensive single satellites launched years apart to constellations of smallsats that provide more redundancy and are cheaper and easier to replace.

What the article misses, as does NOAA apparently, is that this shift should not be designed by NOAA at all. During the Trump administration there was pressure on this agency to do what NASA had, stop designing and building its satellites but instead become a customer that hires private satellite companies to do it instead.

Not much came of that pressure. NOAA hired one private company to study the idea of building a private satellite to observe the Sun. It also awarded three companies experimental contracts to provide NOAA weather data from already orbiting smallsats.

That was it. NOAA made no other attempts to encourage private companies to design and build weather satellites for it, even as it struggled to get its own satellites off the ground. The second new GOES satellite in a constellation of four for providing global weather coverage failed almost immediately after launch in 2018. Overall, that constellation is expected to cost $11 billion, $4 billion more than initially budgeted. And it is years behind schedule.

What the article above suggests is that, with the Trump administration gone, NOAA has now abandoned the effort to transition to privately-built weather satellites. Instead the article describes at great length the effort by NOAA to redesign its satellites from big, rare, and costly to small, frequent, and cheap.

This effort will fail. Government agencies like NOAA are incapable of accomplishing such a task. They do not think in terms of profit, and keeping costs down to maximize those profits. Instead, such government institutions see high costs as beneficial, as they pump more money into their operations.

Until elected officials force NOAA to change, it will not, and its weather satellites will continue to be late, expensive, and untrustworthy. Sadly, the elected officials we have today, especially in the Biden administration, are not going to do that. They are as satisfied with the present situation as NOAA is.

Today’s blacklisted American: Christian nonprofit denied tax exempt status by IRS because such teachings are “partisan Republican”

Moses: A Republican Party lobbyist, according to the IRS
Moses: A Republican Party lobbyist, according to the IRS.

Blacklists are back and the IRS has got ’em! The IRS has denied a Christian nonprofit tax exempt status because it has deemed such “Bible teachings are typically affiliated with the [Republican Party]” and are therefore partisan.

From the IRS denial letter:

“Specifically, you educate Christians on what the Bible says in areas where they can be instrumental including the areas of sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, biblical justice, freedom of speech, defense, and borders and immigration, U.S. and Israel relations,” read a letter from IRS Exempt Organizations Director Stephen Martin to Christians Engaged, a nonprofit group seeking tax-exempt status. “The Bible teachings are typically affiliated with the [Republican Party] and candidates. This disqualifies you from exemption under IRC Section 501(c)(3).”

Heh. Well, at least the IRS has now admitted the satanic nature of the Democratic Party. According to this IRS official, only the Republican Party supports such biblical teachings as the ten commandments. The Democratic Party is opposed to this, which makes being Christian or Jewish a partisan political position.

Of course, the IRS itself is very partisan, as the article at the link notes:
» Read more

Today’s blacklisted American: Black Congressman blacklisted by Congressional Black Caucus

Banned for not being black or lefitst enough
Congressman Byron Donalds, banned by the
Democratic Party’s Congressional Black Caucus
for not being the “right kind” of black.

Blacklists are back and the Democrats’ have got ’em! Congressman Byron Donalds (R-Florida) has discovered that simply being black is insufficient to qualify for the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Apparently he must also be a Democrat and flaming leftist who supports Marxist causes and the racist agenda of Critical Race Theory.

From the first link:

“Since starting in Congress, our office and the Congressman have engaged with several CBC members expressing his interest in joining, but all we’ve gotten is the cold shoulder,” Donalds’ Communications Director, Harrison Fields, told the Daily Caller. The CBC is denying Donalds entrance, individuals familiar with the caucus’s plans reportedly told Buzzfeed News.

From the second link, this statement from the CBC gives their vague explanation why Donalds has been blackballed:
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“The Endless SLS Test Firings Act”

The Senate passes a law! In the NASA authorization that was just approved by the Senate and awaits House action was an amendment — inserted by Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) — that will essentially require NASA to build an SLS core stage designed for only one purpose, endless testing at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

The Stennis-specific provision says NASA should “initiate development of a main propulsion test article for the integrated core stage propulsion elements of the Space Launch System, consistent with cost and schedule constraints, particularly for long-lead propulsion hardware needed for flight.”

So what exactly is a “main propulsion test article,” and why does NASA need one? According to a Senate staffer, who spoke to Ars on background, this would essentially be an SLS core stage built not to fly but to undergo numerous tests at Stennis.

My headline above is essentially stolen from the Eric Berger article at the link. Because this ground test core is not funded, at best it would likely not be ready for testing prior to ’27 or ’28, at the earliest. By then who knows if SLS will even exist any longer, replaced by low-cost and far more useful commercial rockets. Thus, if this Wicker amendment survives, Stennis might be testing a core stage endlessly for a rocket that no longer exists.

And even if SLS is flying, what point is there to test a core stage that never flies? None, except if you wish to create fake jobs in Mississippi for your constituents, as Wicker obviously is trying to do.

Fortunately the bill is merely an authorization, and has not yet passed the House. Much could change before passage, and even after passage money will need to be appropriated to create this fake testing project.

Unfortunately, we are discussing our modern Congress, which has no brains, can’t count, and thinks money grows on trees. I would not bet against this fake testing program becoming law.

Senate passes NASA authorization that calls for second lunar lander contract

The Senate today passed a new NASA authorization that requires the agency to award a second manned lunar lander contract in addition to the one it gave SpaceX for its Starship spacecraft.

The bill also recommended a $10 billion increase over five years in this specific lunar lander program to pay for that second contract.

None of this is law yet, as the House must agree also. In addition, as this is an authorization, not an appropriation, the extra money has not been appropriated, which means it does not yet exist. And should it be approved at these recommended numbers, it means that NASA will be forced to stretch out the creation of both lunar landers, as the money appropriated is still less than required to build either.

I suspect that this budget shortfall will not delay SpaceX’s Starship significantly, as that company has obtained sufficient private funding to build it regardless. More likely the second lunar lander will face longer delays, unless its builders decide to do what SpaceX has done, and obtain private capital to get it done fast.

Note too that this recommendations follows Congress’s general policy of imagining money grows on trees and that there is an infinite supply. While it might be a good idea to pay for two landers, the country’s debt suggests otherwise. Maybe a wiser course would be for the government to only offer a tiny percentage of the capital, and demand the builders find their own funding, as SpaceX has done.

Today’s blacklisted Americans: Biden administration working to blackball fossil fuel companies from obtaining financial services

Disagree with John Kerry? No more bank services for you!
Disagree with John Kerry?
No more bank services for you!

They’re coming for you next: The Biden administration, under the leadership of its “climate envoy” John Kerry, is apparently working behind the scenes to force banks to blackball fossil fuel companies from obtaining financial services.

Not surprisingly, the initial news stories from the mainstream press in mid-March describing this effort were written to hide the Biden administration’s goals. For example, Politico described a number of meetings arranged by Kerry and the Biden administration both with climate activist groups as well as financial institutes aimed at making those financial institutions “put your money behind your climate PR,” but the article only hinted at what the goals were.

Kerry has pitched banks on creating a U.S. net-zero banking alliance following the climate commitments from six major Wall Street banks, according to two people familiar with the discussions. Citi, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs all set 2050 net-zero goals and JPMorgan Chase has said its lending would be aligned with the Paris agreement although Kerry and his team are pushing for more specific financial commitments as part of this effort.

Kerry also wants clear near-term actions from banks by 2030, which would align with the Biden administration’s timeline for the new emissions target it intends to submit as part of the Paris Climate Agreement process. [emphasis mine]

Doesn’t meeting “net-zero” goals for climate change sound wonderful? But what does it mean?
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Viasat asks FCC to block further launches of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites

Capitalism in space? The geosynchronous communications satellite company Viasat has demanded the FCC freeze any further launches of SpaceX’s quickly growing constellation of Starlink satellites.

The company claims a recent modification of SpaceX’s FCC license should not have been granted without a new environmental review of the 4,000+ satellite constellation’s impact.

Viasat is asking the FCC to hit pause on further launches until federal courts can review the legality of the license modification.

Carlsbad, California-based Viasat, which provides broadband services from geostationary orbit (GEO), had petitioned the FCC to conduct an environmental review before granting the license modification as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which currently categorically exempts satellite systems, but says this did not happen despite megaconstellations bringing new considerations for regulators.

Some astronomers had also requested an environmental assessment, worried about how the constellation’s reflectivity affects ground-based telescope observations.

What is really happening here is that Viasat, having discovered its market share is seriously threatened by a competitor, is trying to use the government to squelch that competition. Viasat doesn’t really give a twit about the environmental issues. It is launching its own new three-satellite geosynchronous constellation next year to provide broadband services globally, and Starlink’s success threatens to cut into its profits.

The article also reveals one interesting tidbit about former NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. During his short three-year tenure heading NASA he aggressively moved to encourage provide competition and private enterprise by transferring the design, construction, and ownership of rockets and spaceships from NASA to the commercial sector.

Now that he is out of the government however he — like most Washington swamp creatures — has discovered his true calling: using his influence to squelch private competition:

In April, former NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine joined Viasat’s board of directors. Bridenstine told SpaceNews in an interview at the time that the threat of megaconstellations to space safety, and the overall space access environment, were among issues on his radar.

Like a ventriloquist’s dummy, Bridenstine upon leaving NASA immediately began mouthing the manufactured concerns of his new patrons at Viasat. To hell with allowing real competition and freedom. It is much more important to manipulate the power of the government to prevent Viasat’s competitors from succeeding. And earn a nice big salary at the same time.

Bernie Sanders throws a wrench into Senate bill forcing NASA to award two lunar lander contracts

Capitalism in space? Senator Bernie Sanders (Socialist/Democrat-Vermont) has submitted a new amendment to the new NASA authorization bill, now being debated in the Senate, that eliminates the earlier changes added by senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) that required NASA to award a contract to a second company for building its manned lunar lander.

This earlier amendment, submitted by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), modified NASA’s Artemis Program. Cantwell’s amendment, in part, called for $10.03 billion in additional funding for NASA to carry out the Human Landing System program. This legislation was filed as Blue Origin and Jeff Bezos were urging Congress to add $10 billion to NASA’s budget—enough money to fully fund the development of a second Human Landing System. It was passed 11 days ago without any debate by the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Sanders’ terse amendment seeks to excise the Cantwell language that provides additional funding for a Human Landing System.

While Sanders’ amendment probably makes more sense based on the money that Congress has actually appropriated for this task, he didn’t do it for that reason. More likely he did it as a petty attack on Jeff Bezos, whose company Blue Origin was likely expected to win that second contract.

Nothing is settled yet of course. The bill still has to pass the Senate and also be approved by the House, then signed by the president. Much will change before then.

Regardless, isn’t nice how NASA’s modern space effort is so well designed by our senators and congressmen? What would we do without them?

Senate revises NASA authorization to protect lunar lander award to SpaceX’s Starship

Even as the full Senate today begins its review of NASA’s newest authorization, the bill has been modified to grandfather in the contract award that NASA gave to SpaceX to build its manned lunar lander using Starship.

An earlier version of the bill had included language inserted by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) demanding NASA award within 30 days a contract for a second lunar lander. The modified bill extends that timeline to 60 days, but also specifically protects SpaceX’s contract award:

The Administrator shall not, in order to comply with the obligations referred to in paragraph (1), modify, terminate or rescind any selection decisions or awards made under the human landing system program that were announced prior to the date of enactment of this division.

The revised bill still puts NASA in a ridiculous position. Combined with Cantwell’s amendment, the agency will now be forced to name a second lunar lander contract within sixty days. Though it recommends doubling the money for this program ($10 billion over five years instead of ten), it does not actually appropriate it. Moreover, that new budget recommendation is still about one half of what NASA had originally requested in order to fund the construction of two lunar landers.

Not surprisingly, the entire bill [pdf] has become a pork-laden collection of spending put together without any concern for the needs for the nation. Instead, ithe 1,445-page long bill “is the proverbial ‘Christmas tree’ with a Table of Contents that alone is 15 pages” that different senators keep adding items to, making it a hodge-podge of incoherence.

The bill itself however still has to be approved by both the Senate and the House. While this should act as a corrective to make it more sane, don’t expect that. Instead, the more likely result will be that the two houses of Congress will combine together their own personal earmarks into one humongous bill.

Senate committee mandates NASA award 2nd lunar lander contract

More crap from Congress: A Senate committee has approved a new NASA authorization that requires the agency to award a second lunar lander contract — in addition to the one given to SpaceX — even though that authorization gives NASA no additional money to pay for that second contract.

This provision was inserted by senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington). Washington state also happens to be the state where one of the rejected companies, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, is located. I wonder how much cash Bezos’ has deposited in Cantwell’s bank account.

This provision not only does not give NASA any cash to build two lunar landers, what NASA dubs the Human Landing System (HLS), it forces NASA to violate other laws.
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Bill Nelson: now an advocate of private commercial space?

Though this is certainly not a firm rule, I rarely pay much attention to the nomination hearings in the Senate that take place whenever a new administration from another party takes over and nominates a new set of Washington apparatchiks to run various government agencies. Almost always, you can glean most of what you need to know by reading the nominee’s opening statement as well as later news reports. Saves a lot of time.

Last week came the nomination hearing of former senator Bill Nelson as NASA’s new administrator. As I had expected, based on all reports the hearing was a lovefest, with almost all questions friendly and enthusiastic. This is generally what happens when a Democrat gets nominated, as the Democrats have no reason to oppose the nominee and the Republicans generally don’t play “we oppose all Democrats, no matter what.” It also always happens when the nominee is a former member of that exclusive senatorial club, as Bill Nelson was.

The first news reports also mentioned that Nelson seemed surprisingly enthusiastic towards commercial space, given his past hostility towards it. This report by Mark Whittington today at The Hill provides a much deeper look, and notes that, as his report’s headline states, Nelson is now “a born-again” believer in the idea of capitalism in space, with NASA now merely being the customer. This is a major change from his position when he was a senator, when he tried repeatedly to strangle commercial space and give its money to SLS.

Nelson also announced that he was totally committed to continuing the Artemis program and timetable as laid out by the Trump administration:
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Today’s blacklisted American: Democrat wants IRS to shut down conservative organization

The future show trials desired by Democratic Party Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
Show trials are what Sheldon Whitehouse and the Democrats really want

Blacklists are back and the Dems’ have got ’em: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) has demanded that the IRS strip the conservative college organization Turning Point USA of its non-profit status because it had held large events in the last year (similar to many Black Lives Matter protests during the same time period).

According to Whitehouse, the Turning Point USA events were “superspreader” events and a threat to public health. Apparently he also believes that the coronavirus can’t appear at comparable Black Lives Matter protests, nor does he appear interested in finding out if any such superspreader events actually occurred following the Turning Point USA gatherings (they did not). From Whitehouse’s letter:
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NASA’s choice of Starship proves government now fully embraces capitalism in space

Five years ago, before Donald Trump had even announced he was running for president, before Elon Musk had proposed his Starship/Superheavy rocket, and even before SpaceX had successfully begun to dominate the launch market, Jerry Hendricks at the Center for for New American Security (CNAS) asked me to write a policy paper on the state of the American launch industry, providing some background and more importantly, some recommendations that policy makers in Washington, dependent on that launch industry, could use as guidance in the coming years.

CNAS is a Washington, D.C., think tank that was founded in the middle-2000s by two political Washington insiders, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, with a focus on foreign policy and defense issues and the central goal of encouraging bi-partisan discussion. Hendricks’ area of focus was defense and aerospace matters, and at the time he thought the changes being wrought by SpaceX’s with its partly reusable Falcon 9 rocket required in-depth analysis. He had heard my many reports on this subject on the John Batchelor Show, and thought I could provide him that analysis.

The result was my 2017 policy paper, Capitalism in Space: Private Enterprise and Competition Reshape the Global Aerospace Launch Industry. In it I reviewed and compared what NASA had been getting from its parallel rocket programs, the government-designed and owned Space Launch System (SLS) rocket versus the privately-designed commercial rockets of SpaceX and Orbital ATK (now part of Northrop Grumman). That review produced this very simple but starkly revealing table:

SLS vs Commercial space

From this data, combined with my extensive knowledge as a historian of American history and culture, resulted in the following fundamental recommendations:
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