I hope you had a good Thanksgiving holiday. It’s been a quiet holiday in the space policy arena, as NASA and NOAA digest their final FY2012 budget and make plans for the next fiscal year. A few highlights from the federal and state level from recent days:
An amendment to a Senate appropriations bill would prevent the FCC from approving LightSquared’s plans for a terrestrial wireless network until any potential interference with the GPS system is resolved. Aviation Week reports that Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) introduced the amendment to the financial services appropriations bill, similar to one in the House version of the spending bill. Concerns that LightSquared’s terrestrial system—intended to augment its satellite system—would overwhelm the much weaker GPS signals in nearby regions of spectrum has led to an ongoing series of tests scheduled for completion this week.
Last week the office of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell released a report on potential improvements to the commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Virginia. The report calls for more capital investment in the spaceport and a long-range strategy that includes making sure MARS is a “multi-use facility”. The Daily Press newspaper in Hampton Roads, Virginia, points out a lesser-known recommendation: that Orbital Sciences should no longer have a vote on the spaceport’s board of directors. Orbital is MARS’s biggest user, developing launch facilities for its Taurus 2 rocket, but the report found that the company’s seat on the board “is perceived as a conflict of interest by potential customers/potential competitors.” Orbital used to have two seats on the board, but is now down to one; that seat, currently held by what the Daily Press describes as “a very vocal Jeffrey Windland”, can’t be changed until MARS and Orbital amend their existing agreement about using the spaceport.
Representatives of a number of “space states” are in Orlando today and tomorrow for a closed-door meeting, Florida Today reports. The meeting is by invitation only and includes “experts and state and federal officials in the space sector”, although no list of attendees or agenda has been released by the host organization, Space Florida. The meeting is described as “a first-of-its-kind event”, although the report doesn’t note that representatives of space-minded states have met in the past through the Aerospace States Association and the now-defunct National Coalition of Spaceport States.