New House majority leader, a commercial space supporter, opposes a tool that supports commercial space

Last week House Republicans elected Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as their new majority leader, replacing Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), who was upset in a primary election earlier this month. This should be welcome news for the commercial space industry, as McCarthy has expressed support for the industry in recent years, including sponsoring legislation to “streamline” [...]

Is ULA going its own way for an RD-180 replacement?

Although legislation making its way through both the House and Senate would support the development of a large hydrocarbon rocket engine that could, in principle, replace the Russian-built RD-180 used on the Atlas V, United Launch Alliance (ULA) appears to be moving to take matters into its own hands. The company announced late Monday that [...]

Commercial remote sensing industry wins change to resolution limits

In recent years, the commercial remote sensing industry has been lobbying the federal government to change rules that prevented companies from selling imagery with resolutions sharper than 50 centimeters per pixel. DigitalGlobe in particular argued that its current and planned satellites could already provide imagery with better resolutions than that, and that the capabilities of [...]

National Academies’ report endorses Mars goal for human spaceflight, but says more funding is needed

A report being released today by a committee of the National Research Council endorses Mars as a long-term “horizon” goal of NASA’s human spaceflight efforts, but suggests that more funding, and perhaps a human return to the Moon, are necessary to achieve that goal.

The report, by the Committee on Human Spaceflight, is being released [...]

What will be the significance of the NRC’s human spaceflight report?

The National Academies announced Friday that it will release the long-awaited report on human spaceflight, titled “Pathways to Exploration—Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration”, on Wednesday morning, with a briefing by committee members scheduled for 11 am Eastern time Wednesday. The emphasis here should be “long-awaited”: the report was requested [...]

Shelton: time for “pause” in RD-180 debate

A week after Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin ignited a firestorm with a claim that Russia would ban the use of RD-180 engines for launching American military payloads, the head of Air Force Space Command said that operations were proceeding as usual and urged a “pause” in the debate.

“There have been no official [...]

European Mars mission caught in US-Russia tensions

Since the start of the Ukraine criss, the United States and Russia have exchanged space-related sanctions and other measures in recent weeks. Canada, meanwhile, pulled several small satellites that were scheduled to launch in June on a Soyuz. (Russia has subsequently delayed the overall launch for “organizational reasons.”)

Europe has not followed, though, in part [...]

Final export control rule offers some tweaks, but no major changes

Lost in yesterday’s news from Russia was a major milestone for the commercial space industry: after more than a decade of effort, the State Department issued its interim final rule for the revised Category XV of the US Munitions List, which covers satellites and related components. Like the proposed Category XV list released nearly a [...]

Russian official announces ban on military use of RD-180 engines (updated)

The saga of the use of the RD-180 engine in the United States took a new turn on Tuesday when Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin indicated that RD-180 engines exported to the US for use on the Atlas V could not be used for launches of military payloads. “Russia is ready to continue deliveries [...]

Deciding whether, and how, to reproduce or replace the RD-180

In this week’s issue of The Space Review, I provide an overview of the current debate about the RD-180 engine, including a blow-by-blow of the injunction briefly in place that blocked payments to the engine’s manufacturer, NPO Energomash, as well as the provision in the House defense authorization bill that would start work on a [...]