Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin made clear Thursday he’s still no fan of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
During a House Science Committee hearing on the Space Leadership Preservation Act, a long-shot piece of legislation that would create a board of directors for NASA who would nominate future administrators for 10-year terms, Griffin was asked by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) for his take on a provision that would let the board develop its own budget proposal and submit it directly to Congress.
Griffin: “Anything that can be done to ameliorate and control the influence of the OMB on the [budget] process would be welcome. The OMB is a haven for largely unelected, unappointed, not very well qualified staff who seek to exercise a level of power and control in their area that their accomplishments have not earned.”
Beyer: “You’re not doing anything to help OMB morale right now,” said Beyer.
Griffin: “You know, that’s really too bad.”
SpaceX postponed the launch of the SES-9 satellite last night for the second straight day. Launch controllers halted the countdown with a little over 90 seconds remaining because of issues completing the loading of liquid oxygen propellant into the Falcon 9. The upgraded version of the Falcon 9 uses supercooled liquid oxygen to improve performance, but also creates some handling challenges. A launch attempt Wednesday night was postponed because SpaceX wanted to get the liquid oxygen as cold as possible. The company has not announced a new launch date. [SpaceNews]
Frustrated with Russian delays, Iridium is changing launch plans for its next-generation satellites. Iridium has planned to launch the first two Iridium Next satellites on a Dnepr rocket in April, checking them out in orbit before launching the remaining 70 on seven Falcon 9 missions. Iridium now says it will launch the first 10 on a Falcon 9 in July, with the rest launching in October and every two months thereafter, because of continued delays by Russia in granting the licenses need for the Dnepr launch. Iridium said it may yet use the Dnepr launch later in the sequence of Falcon 9 missions. [SpaceNews]
A House committee discussed a bill Thursday that seeks to restructure NASA’s management. The Space Leadership Preservation Act would create a board of directors for NASA, appointed by Congress and the president, who would select nominees for NASA administrator and independently develop an agency budget proposal. The administrator would serve a 10-year term. The bill’s supporters said during the House Science Committee hearing that the measure is needed to provide stability for the agency, but critics warned that real stability comes from a regular appropriations process, and that the bill could, in fact, make NASA more partisan. [SpaceNews]
Arianespace is adding another launch of Galileo satellites to its 2016 manifest. The company said Thursday it will launch two more Galileo satellites on a Soyuz in May. The additional launch is intended to speed up deployment of the system, which includes a series of Ariane 5 launches starting late this year. The Soyuz launch brings the total number of Arianespace missions planned for 2016 to 12. [Spaceflight Now]
Astronaut Scott Kelly says that while he could spend another year on the space station, he is glad to be heading home soon. Kelly said Thursday he is in good shape on the ISS as his nearly one-year stint there comes to an end, other than some vision problems that other astronauts on extended spaceflights have experienced. “I could go another year if I had to,” he said. Kelly is scheduled to return from the station late Tuesday night. [SPACE.com]
Canada’s MDA. Corp. is preparing to compete for U.S. government satellite business. The company said it is working to obtain U.S. government certification for Space System Loral’s California factory, allowing it to seek government business. The company, which has traditionally relied on commercial and international government business, now sees the U.S. government as its best opportunity to grow. MDA says its pipeline for U.S. government business, based on bids submitted or initial contracts awarded, is now nearly $1.5 billion, up from zero when MDA puchased SSL in 2012. [SpaceNews]
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Satellite operator SES reported growth in revenue and profit in 2015. The company announced Friday its revenues and profit rose by 5 percent in 2015, when expressed in euros, but declined by more than 3 percent when accounting for changes in exchange rates. SES also announced it is acquiring RR Media, a provider of digital media services for broadcast and media companies, for $242 million. SES will merge RR Media’s operations with those of SES Platform Services. [SES]
DigitalGlobe said its revenue and earnings rose in 2015. The company said Thursday that revenues rose by more than 7 percent to $702.4 million for the full year, and adjusted earnings increased 24 percent to $355.7 million. The company credited decreased operational costs for its improved financial performance. DigitalGlobe is projecting $670-700 million in revenue for 2016. [DigitalGlobe]
An engineer who recently said he still felt guilt over the Challenger accident 30 years ago now has some relief. NPR last month broadcast the story of Bob Ebeling, one of the engineers who unsuccessfully argued against launching Challenger given the cold weather conditions. Ebeling said at the time of that broadcast he still felt a burden of guilt for failing to stop the launch. Letters from listeners prompted by that story, and a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, have since eased his mind. “I can’t say it’s totally gone,” the 89-year-old Ebeling said of his burden of guilt, “but I can certainly say it’s reduced.” [NPR]