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Marcia Smith, Friday, 11-21-14 November 22, 2014

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Marcia Smith, Friday, 11-21-14


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Guest:  Marcia Smith.  Topics:  U.S. space policy, budgets, Congress. Civics 101, SLS, Falcon Heavy, policy makers.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See http://www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.  For those listening to archives using live365.com and rating the programs, please email me as to why you assign a specific rating to the show. This will help me bring better programming to the audience.

We welcomed back Marcia Smith back to the show for a preview of the upcoming 114th Congress & space issues with a focus on budget issues & just how congress works with NASA & space policy.  During our 97 minute discussion, we started out with a short Civics 101 lesson on how Congress works, NASA funding, & Congressional oversight of NASA.  For those of you not that familiar with how the U.S. Congress works and funds space programs with NASA, you will find this short discussion most helpful.  Marcia explained both Senate and House roles and their appropriations and authorization committees.  As you will hear, Congress controls NASA spending and there is very little discretionary spending available to the NASA Administrator.  As for the new Congress that will be taking office in early January, the big focus will be on budget issues because by law, the sequestration returns for Fiscal Year 16.  If Congress keeps the sequestration in place, while hurtful to many government agencies and programs, it is damaging to NASA.  We also talked about a possible renewed interest in the Europa Mission as Texas Representative John Culberson will chair the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science. His Houston district is close to JSC & he’s very enthusiastic about NASA and a Europa mission.  Marcia mentioned the NASA SOFIA program as an example of Congress wanting the program despite it being eliminated in the budget proposal so it added it back in to the NASA budget.  Listeners asked about long term projects being funded for longer than a year.  Marcia addressed this issue though there is no good answer because Congress has oversight & they can change or modify positions from year to year.  Our guest was asked about Congressional policy impact on the private & entrepreneurial space industry.  Unless a public/private partnership exists or the government is a major customer of the private company, congressional policy does not overlap into the private sector.  It is also important to distinguish between regulatory and budget issues as we are talking budget issues in this program.  Several listeners wanted to know if the media and the public could impact Congress & space policy makers.  Another set of listener & Space Show comments over recent weeks addressed the 2016 presidential election, wanting to know if history bears out a change in president equaling a big change in space policy.  Don’t miss this discussion.  Later, Ralph in Phoenix wanted to know if the Falcon Heavy was very successful, would such a success impact congress & policy makers to move away from the SLS program as unnecessary.  Doug called in to clarify Ralph’s question for a more precise response from our guest.  It was clear that Doug and many other listeners believe that a FH success should and would impact SLS policy, perhaps demonstrating that SLS was not needed in light of a successful Falcon Heavy.  However, Marcia questioned that outcome. Don’t miss this important discussion.  BJohn in Sweden wanted to know if SLS, when operational, would create more space opportunities for congress to consider.  Kelly got the last email question in asking about the Space Act Agreement vs. the FAR (cost plus contracting).  He wanted to know if the changes in congress might result in more big space projects using a Space Act Agreement over the FAR.  Marcia did not think so given the FAR offers congress more oversight.  As the show was ending, I asked Marcia what we should look for as hints about space policy in the new congress.  Our guest pointed to the budget and what happens with the FY 2016 sequestration already on the books.

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog above.  You can reach Marcia Smith through me or her website, http://www.spacepolicyonline.com.


1. DDAY - November 28, 2014

Marcia was asked about the “Falcon Heavy beats SLS” argument and her puzzlement was quite appropriate. The people who make this argument usually also argue that the only reason that SLS is being developed is because of pork barrel politics. But if pork barrel politics is the raison d’etre for SLS, then why would a cheaper rocket change anything at all? Obviously the cost of the rocket is–by their own argument–irrelevant. The only way it makes a difference is if Falcon Heavy gets supported because of pork.

Also, I was at SpaceX in October and asked one of the engineers about cross-feed and was specifically told that they were not pursuing it. My suspicion is that it is not the baseline FH design and is only something that they will develop only if they determine that it is required. If you think about it, that makes sense, because if their goal is to reuse the first stages they don’t want to have to develop different first states with and without cross-feed. There are a number of things that SpaceX talks about (like reusable Dragon capsules) that they advertise, but do not actually develop or market. It’s a custom capability that only exists if somebody pays extra for it to be developed.

jimjxr - November 28, 2014

Cross feed doesn’t make a big difference (45mt vs 53mt to LEO), even without cross feed FH would still be the most powerful launcher in service, quite an achievement considering it didn’t cost taxpayer any money.

2. jimjxr - November 22, 2014

There’s no way congress would cancel SLS for FH, I doubt they even know what FH is. And I don’t think SpaceX wants to pitch FH against SLS anyway, they’re still heavily dependent on NASA funding for new development. As long as nobody touches their commercial cargo and crew funding, I don’t think they will rock the boat just yet.

I think we need to be more patient, by 2017/2018 things may be radically different. Reusability would be proven out both technically and economically, Dragon V2 would be flying astronauts, and SpaceX would be testing the Raptor engine that can rival the F1’s, together with a new president the chance of ending SLS would be much higher.

3. Michael J. Listner - November 22, 2014

Regrettably, I was unable to tune into this show live. Looking forward to listening to the podcast as Marcia is one of a the most reputable people in the space policy field that I’ve had the pleasure to meet in person.

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