Tag Archives: Jim Bridenstine

NASA administrator in talks about commercializing ISS

In a wide-ranging news article today, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine revealed that the agency is in discussions with many private corporations about the possibility of privatizing ISS.

Bridenstine declined to name the companies that have expressed interest in managing the station, and said he was aware that companies may find it “hard to close the business case.” But he said there was still seven years to plan for the future of the station, and with the White House’s budget request “we have forced the conversation.”

Bridenstine’s approach to ISS’s future seems reasonable to me. At some point the federal government needs to face the station’s future, and now is a better time to do it then later.

The article however confirmed my generally meh opinion of Bridenstine. First, he reiterated his born-again new belief in human-caused global warming, a belief that seemed to arrive solely for him to gain the votes to get him confirmed in the Senate.

Second, he said this about LOP-G, NASA’s proposed international space station that would fly in lunar space.

Known as the Lunar Orbiting Platform Gateway, the system would be built by NASA in partnership with industry and its international partners, he said.

“I’ve met with a lot of leaders of space agencies from around the world,” he said. “There is a lot of interest in the Gateway in the lunar outpost because a lot of countries want to have access to the surface of the moon. And this can help them as well and they can help us. It helps expand the partnership that we’ve seen in low Earth orbit with the International Space Station.”

But the first element of the system wouldn’t be launched until 2021 or 2022, he said. [emphasis mine]

The highlighted words illustrate why Bridenstine seems like a lightweight to me. LOP-G might be flying near the Moon, but nothing about it will provide anyone any access to the lunar surface. Not only will it not be operational in any manner for more than a decade, at the soonest, but it doesn’t appear designed to make reaching the lunar surface any easier. Instead, it mostly seems designed to justify SLS and Orion, and provide that boondoggle a mission.

Still, Bridenstine has in the past been generally in favor of commercial space, and that position appears to be benefiting NASA’s commercial crew partners. Prior to Bridenstine’s arrival the decisions of NASA’s safety panel acted to repeatedly delay the launch of the manned capsules being built by SpaceX and Boeing. Now that safety panel seems to have seen the light, and is suddenly more confident in these capsules. I suspect Bridenstine might have had some influence here.

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Bridenstine confirmed as NASA administrator

After an eight month delay, caused partly by the refusal of any Democrats to vote for a Trump nominee, Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) was today confirmed as NASA’s administrator.

The vote passed 50-49, and only finally occurred because Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) decided to stop opposing Bridenstine.

I don’t think this nomination will matter much. The people who are really in charge of the U.S. space effort don’t work for NASA, and in fact are not even in the government. They also have enough financial power that they probably can force NASA to do what they want, over the long run. Bridenstine will I think carry water for them.

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NASA’s interim administrator to retire in April

NASA’s interim administrator, Robert Lightfoot, has announced that he plans to retire in April.

Lightfoot’s retirement leaves NASA without any leadership, as the Senate has shown no interest in confirming Trump’s candidate for the position, Congressmen Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma).

All 49 Democrats in the Senate are expected to vote against to Bridenstine’s confirmation, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) is also reportedly also opposed, Space News reported. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) is not in Washington as he undergoes treatment for cancer, leaving Bridenstine short of the 50 votes needed for confirmation.

Bridenstine is not a perfect choice, and I have reservations about his commitment to commercial space, but the reasons for the Democratic opposition is, as far as I can tell, the same as all their other opposition to every other Trump or Republican proposal: pure spite. “We hate it because of YOU!”

The lack of a politically appointed administrator at NASA however is not necessarily a bad thing, considering that the important stuff happening right now is not at NASA but in the private sector. Having NASA adrift for awhile might actually work to weaken NASA’s pork projects, SLS and Orion, that are in direct competition with private space.

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Factional bickering dominates nomination hearing for NASA administrator

Quite boring. Factional bickering yesterday between Democrats and Republicans dominated the nomination hearing of Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) for NASA administrator.

Today’s contentious nomination hearing for Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to be NASA Administrator was split along partisan lines. Democratic Senators questioned his credentials and viewpoints about climate change, sexual harassment and other issues that could affect how he runs the agency and its personnel. Republicans defended him and chafed at the tenor of the hearing. The committee could vote as early as next week on whether to send the nomination to the full Senate.

I did not watch the hearing because I knew this would be what I’d see and I didn’t want to be bored for two hours. It ain’t news anymore to find Democrats opposing anything proposed by the Republicans. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter. Bridenstine will almost certainly be approved along partisan lines in the Senate, and nothing I have read about him suggests he is going to do anything significant or radical. He has made it clear, both in recent interviews and articles as well as his testimony yesterday as reported by numerous articles that he does not wish to rock the boat. He supports all of NASA’s current programs, commercial space, SLS/Orion, climate research, everything. I do not expect him to make any radical changes in the direction NASA is going.

In fact, the people who will change NASA are not even in the government. I expect the actions of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to have far greater impact in the coming years, with politicians and bureaucrats in NASA forced to follow them, as they have been forced to follow Musk during the past half decade.

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Trump nominates James Bridenstine as NASA administrator

As expected for months, Trump late yesterday nominated Congressman James Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) as the new administrator of NASA.

He will still have to be confirmed by the Senate. Interestingly, both Florida senators, a Democrat and a Republican, have announced their opposition to the nomination.

Bridenstine is somewhat in favor of private space, but previous analysis of his past proposals by myself and others has not been encouraging. What he will do as head of NASA however remains unknown. Based on his past statements, I would be surprised if he cut back on either commercial space or SLS.

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