Head of COPUOS to speak in DC next week

Gérard Brachet, the new chairman of the UN’s Committee for the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), will speak about the organization and its aims to support international cooperation in space, this Monday at CSIS headquarters in Washington. COPUOS has kept a fairly low profile in recent years, although there are signs Brachet would like to have the organization do more, although exactly what it can, or should, do remains to be seen. That challenge can be seen in a speech given by NASA administrator Michael Griffin at the IAF Congress in Spain last week, where he made it clear that national security and technology transfer concerns have a higher priority over international cooperation in space:

The United States is firmly committed to ensuring that certain key technologies, which we possess and some others do not, not be used against us or our allies. That priority is higher for us than partnership in various space endeavors, and this fact must be understood and carefully considered by the parties involved in any putative collaboration. I recognize the bluntness of this assertion, but I believe that each of us, as spacefaring nations, must respect each otherís national priorities, and must speak openly and honestly with each other if there are differences which hamper our ability to collaborate.

Reaction to the new national space policy

Looking for some insightful commentary and analysis regarding the national space policy released late last week by the Bush Administration? Well, keep looking. There hasn’t been a lot of commentary in general about the document, and what little has been published has focused, not surprisingly, on the portions of the document dealing with security and […]

Air Force, NASA to split some Boeing settlement money

Earlier this year Boeing agreed to pay $615 million to the federal government to settle claims that Boeing used proprietary Lockheed Martin documents during the initial EELv competition in the 1990s. Now the government is figuring out where that money will go, the Wall Street Journal reports. (Subscription required; a free AP article is also […]

Griffin: NASA “lost its way” before VSE

Flight International has […]

New national space policy released

The White House released late Friday afternoon the new US National Space Policy, a document that completes the years-long review of overall space policy by the Bush Administration. (Interesting, the document states that this policy was formally authorized by President Bush on August 31; there’s no reason why the administration took over a month to […]

COBE and the NASA budget

A New York Times editorial today congratulates NASA for the COBE mission, which netted a Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this week for John Mather of NASA Goddard and George Smoot of UC Berkeley. The editorial notes, though, that COBE was a relatively small Explorer-class spacecraft, the type of mission getting squeezed out in the NASA budget. “Too bad the program that yielded these pioneering discoveries was reined in not long ago so that NASA could pour billions of dollars into resuming shuttle flights, finishing the international space station, and developing spacecraft to pursue the Bush administrationís ambitious space exploration program,” the Times writes. It’s interesting that the editorial doesn’t mention the cost overruns (or is it “undercosting”?) on the James Webb Space Telescope, which is certainly not helping the cause of small science missions.

Couric takes a jab at NASA

CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric discussed NASA yesterday (on the 49th anniversary of Sputnik) in her one-minute “Katie Couric’s Notebook” that airs on some TV and radio stations. (I heard it in the car on the way home last night.) Couric talks up the achievements of the Space Age, including that we have “orbited […]

ULA reaction from Congress

The FTC’s decision yesterday to permit the formation of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) has, unsurprisingly, been widely hailed by members of Alabama’s Congressional delegation. Manufacturing of both Atlas and Delta vehicles will be consolidated in Boeing’s Decatur, Alabama factory, adding perhaps several hundred employees. Congressmen Bud Cramer (D) and Robert Aderholt (R) both congratulated […]

ULA, at last?

That would finally seem to be the case, 17 months and one day after the joint venture was first announced. The FTC announced today that it would “intervene” in the formation of the ULA, meaning it has created a consent decree that will allow the ULA to come into being under some conditions. Those requirements include:

The ULA must cooperate “on equivalent terms” with all government satellite manufacturers (so that Boeing- and Lockeed-built satellites don’t get an unfair advantage);
Boeing and Lockheed must “provide equal consideration and support to all launch services providers” seeking government “delivery-in-orbit” contracts; and
The ULA must safeguard all “competitively sensitive information” provided by other satellite and launch vehicle manufacturers.

The second condition is interesting: it’s not clear to me what sort of “equal consideration and support” Boeing and Lockheed could give to other launch providers. Can anyone better explain that one?

Although the FTC did draft and approve unanimously the consent order, it’s clear from the press release that regulators aren’t too fond of the ULA. “The consolidation of the nationís only two suppliers of government MTH [medium-to-heavy] launch services is likely to cause significant anticompetitive harm,” the FTC notes in its press release. However, the FTC was won over by Defense Department arguments that the national security benefits outweigh the anticompetitive issues. Therefore, the FTS notes, “the order is designed to address the ancillary competitive harms that DoD has identified without interfering with the national security benefits of ULA.”

Both Lockheed Martin and Boeing issues press releases congratulating the decision, which removes the last legal roadblock to the ULA’s formation. Neither company, though, set a date for when the ULA would actually come into being.

Bush visits the Space Coast

That’s Gov. Jeb Bush, mind you, who paid a visit to Cape Canaveral last Thursday, Florida Today reports, talking up the economic development potential of Orion at KSC. That’s a topic of much concern in the area, as the shuttle program—which employs thousands—winds down, and Orion to date is only providing KSC with a few […]