There’s a bit of a lull in space policy now, after the shuttle has landed and with Congress and the administration preoccupied with much bigger, pressing issues. A few items of interest:
In the post-shuttle era, NASA administrator Charles Bolden is optimistic, reiterating that the end of the shuttle doesn’t mean the end of NASA human spaceflight. “fact, we are recommitting ourselves to human spaceflight and taking the necessary — and difficult — steps to maintain American pre-eminence. Our leadership will continue because we have laid this foundation for success,” he says in an Orlando Sentinel op-ed. “There’s no doubt that this transition period at NASA is a challenge. But we have always risen to meet such challenges, just as we did during the transition from the Apollo program to shuttle.”
While Bolden is optimistic, Johnson Space Center director Mike Coats is less so. “It’s a tough time right now. We’re going to be in a period where we can’t put humans into orbit for the first time in 50 years,” he tells Houston’s KHOU-TV. (As previously noted, there have been previous gaps in NASA’s ability to launch humans into orbit.) Coats said that probable budget cuts will make it unlikely that NASA will be able to meet the goal in last year’s authorization act of fielding the MPCV spacecraft and SLS launcher by 2016. “Given the deficit situation, and the emphasis right now on reducing government, almost across the board, especially discretionary programs, I don’t think that we’re going to have the funding that’s going to enable us to meet those dates,” he said.
On another topic of long-running interest, export control reform, an administration official said this week that many of the White House’s proposed reforms can be enacted without Congressional approval. Michael Froman, deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, said Monday that he believes “around 80 percent” of its proposed reforms can be done through “executive authority”, The Hill reports. Last year the administration put forward a plan featuring what’s been dubbed the “four singles” that would create a single export control list with multiple tiers, a single licensing agency, a single enforcement agency, and a single IT system. While the article doesn’t explicitly state it, one area that likely falls into the 20 percent that would require congressional approval is the area of greatest interest to the space industry: the potential move of commercial satellites and related components off the US Munitions List (USML); those components were put on the USML by Congress in the late 1990s.