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January 26, 2015

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January 21, 2015

Obama’s Tech Talk in SOTU

President Barack Obama’s call for lawmakers to pass legislation to address “cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information” in his State of the Union address wasn’t a surprise given his announcements last week in advance of Tuesday night’s speech, but he also mentioned net neutrality, surveillance and space in his speech. Below are some of his science and tech-related mentions:

  • “I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.”
  • “21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet.”
  • “No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information.”
  • “So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I haven’t. As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse. And next month, we’ll issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.”
  • “I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs — converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay. Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars. In two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space. Good luck, Captain — and make sure to Instagram it.”

January 16, 2015

Weekly Wrapup: Net Neutrality, Obama and Space Debris

Get ready for a double feature of net neutrality hearings from the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over telecom next week. This week, the GOP chairmen the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee laid out a net neutrality proposal in a Reuters op-ed and released legislative text as well.

In case you missed them, other Technocrat coverage included posts on space debris, stress and technology and more:

  • The Pew Research Center released a report on stress and technology. Here’s our takeway from the report: if you’re stressed out and you think it’s because of all that texting and tweeting, don’t blame it on frequent use of Internet and social media itself. There is, though, something to be said about social use of technology and knowing about stressful events in others’ lives.
  • Technocrat also had a roundup of a few stories on issues covered in President Barack Obama’s multiple tech-related announcements this week that either give you a sense of stakeholder reaction, the current landscape or another announcement made in one particular state.
  • Among the findings in a recent Government Accountability Office report: the government watchdog contends that there are several reasons why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s estimate of a minimum three-month potential gap in satellite data could occur sooner and last longer than anticipated. One of those reasons has to do with space debris.

One Reason GAO Says Satellite Gap Could Last Longer Than NOAA Expects: Space Debris

 Among the findings in a recent Government Accountability Office report on the nation’s polar orbiting weather satellite is that the minimum three-month gap in data between the satellite currently in use and it’s replacement might start sooner and last longer than anticipated. And one of the reasons for a longer gap has to do with space debris.

“The program’s gap assessment does not factor in the potential for satellite failures from space debris that are too small to be tracked and avoided,” the report says.  The current Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership, known as S-NPP, will be replaced by the Joint Polar Satellite System, or JPSS.

From the report:

As an example of the potential impact that small debris can have on JPSS satellites, an initial risk assessment of JPSS-1’s propellant tanks indicates that, without shielding there was a 29 percent risk of failure over the mission’s life time, which could be reduced to as little as 0.5 percent risk of failure with shielding. However, S-NPP does not have shielding to protect it from debris smaller than 2 centimeters.

On top of that, even if the satellite had shielding, the program “would have limited options” when it comes to addressing larger space debris (between two and five centimeters), the report states.

“Thus, the S-NPP mission could end earlier than its 5-year design life, resulting in a gap period that occurs sooner and lasts longer than expected,” the report states.

Earlier in the report, the document notes that NOAA and NASA move spacecraft to avoid debris that the Defense Department tracks, which for the JPSS orbit is generally bigger than five to 10 centimeters. But it’s “more difficult to address debris smaller than five centimeters,” according the report. This earlier section of the report, which looks at risks the JPSS program has identified and efforts to decrease these risks, notes that the program is trying to mitigate against the risk of damage from very small space debris (smaller than two centimeters) on its upcoming JPSS-1 satellite, “such as using shielding to protect propellant tanks, batteries, and other critical components.” But it notes that the currently orbiting satellite doesn’t have such shielding. And, the program doesn’t have a way to protect its satellites from larger debris between the sizes of two and five centimeters, it states.

By Anne L. Kim Posted at 10:27 a.m.

January 9, 2015

Friday Q&A: ASU Law Professor Adam Chodorow

Adam Chodorow (Photo courtesy Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law)

Adam Chodorow (Photo courtesy Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law)

Adam Chodorow, a tax professor at Arizona State University’s law school, wrote a piece in Slate earlier this week about the “most pressing” problem he sees facing humans potentially traveling to and living on Mars: the issue of income tax.

Technocrat asked him about his reason for writing the piece and he said there’s an ongoing debate about whether the U.S. should continue with its current system of taxation or switch to a territorial system. He said it dawned on him that expatriation and inversions occurring as what he called a “symptom of what may be ailing our current system” are magnified when discussing Mars colonization.

He thought the piece would be a “fun way” to get at the “underlying serious tax issues” but handle it with a “light touch,” he said.

In his piece, he proposes moving to the territorial tax system and simultaneously doing away with an existing space-based sourcing rule. He writes: “Not only will this stem the current tide of personal and corporate expatriations and perhaps the other benefits promised by proponents, but it will also open the doors to our colonizing Mars, the first step toward interstellar space.”

Below is some more of Technocrat’s conversation with Chodorow (edited for length).

Full story

By Anne L. Kim Posted at 1:42 p.m.

December 22, 2014

December 15, 2014

Changes in Store for Republican Rosters of Senate Commerce and Judiciary Panels

It looks like changes on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will happening on the Republican side of the panel as well next Congress.

On Monday, Senate Republicans announced committee assignments for the next Congress that starts in January, which the Republican Conference and the Senate will need to give formal approval.

The Senate Commerce panel’s Republican roster will add Jerry Moran of Kansas as well as the following new senators: Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Steve Daines of Montana. Dan Coats of Indiana, and Tim Scott of South Carolina, are leaving the panel.

The Commerce Committee’s jurisdiction includes telecom and space issues.

A few changes are set for the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary panel as well, which has jurisdiction over intellectual property and some tech issues. David Vitter, R-La., will be added to the panel as well as new lawmakers David Perdue of Georgia and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. It looks like the Republicans who are currently on the panel will stay on the committee.

December 11, 2014

Commercial Space Accidents: What Some Experts Have to Say

Experts say that two accidents in the commercial spaceflight industry this year won’t have much effect on its increasing expansion, CQ Roll Call’s Rob Margetta reports.

Within the course of a week this past fall, an Orbital Sciences rocket that was on its way to take cargo to the International Space Station exploded shortly after lift-off and Virgin Galactic’s suborbital craft known as SpaceShipTwo, which is intended for space tourism,  had a deadly accident during a test flight.

Margetta writes in this Roll Call Policy Focus that so far, lawmakers haven’t “jumped on the incidents as a reason to clamp down on the industry”:

After the Orbital Sciences explosion, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said, “space flight is inherently risky,” but commercial space ventures “will ultimately be successful.” He expressed similar thoughts on the Virgin Galactic accident.

“Experts are hoping other lawmakers take similarly deliberative approaches; some have expressed frustration about the way the recent accidents have been reported,” Margetta writes.

He goes on to report that Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at The George Washington University, and “some others who study space travel say though the timing was unfortunate, comparing the two accidents is unfair and possibly misleading.”

You can find the rest of the story here.

December 8, 2014

The Week Ahead: Human Space Flight, the Sharing Economy and Surveillance

It could be the last week of the 113th Congress (maybe?) and with the December holidays fast approaching, it promises to be a packed with congressional hearings on intellectual property nominees, drones and human space flight and events on issues from surveillance to the sharing economy.


The Advisory Committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus hosts a panel discussion on the sharing economy.

The Direct Marketing Association and Venable LLP hold an event titled the “The Dynamic State of Data: A Policy Briefing for the Data-Driven Marketing Community.”

The Personal Connected Health Alliance’s mHealth Summit on mobile and connected health continues into the week.


The Atlantic holds a panel event on science, technology, education and math careers.

National Consumers League holds a panel discussion on legislation on data security standards.


The American Enterprise Institute holds an event on surveillance, specifically on “legal intercept.”

The Brookings Institution holds an event on mobile technologies and developing economies.

BSA | The Software Alliance holds a panel discussion on data.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association and The American Antitrust Institute hold an event on patent assertion entities.

A House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee holds a hearing on NASA’s heavy rocket and and crew vehicle.

A House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee holds a hearing on drones.

The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee holds a cybersecurity hearing.

The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the nominations of Michelle K. Lee, to head the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and Daniel H. Marti, to be the White House’s intellectual property enforcement coordinator.


The Federal Communications Commission holds its December open meeting.


The Cato Institute holds a day-long surveillance conference.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds a panel discussion on the Internet of Things.

December 5, 2014

Weekly Wrapup: Sports Blackouts, Intellectual Property Panel Chairman, Orion Test Flight

A Senate hearing on sports blackouts, the announcement of the next chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee with jurisdiction over intellectual property issues and NASA’s Orion crew capsule’s first flight into space was among the news this week.

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on sports blackouts and CQ Roll Call’s Rob Margetta reported (subscription) that senators and the National Football League exchanged threats over the issue.
  • A coalition of groups and companies, called the Stop Mega Comcast Coalition, opposing the Comcast Time-Warner merger was announced. The coalition includes satellite television provider Dish Network, Public Knowledge, Writers Guild of America, West, and NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, and others.
  • House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., announced Darrell Issa, R-Calif., as chairman of the Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Subcommittee.
  • NASA’s Orion crew vehicle had its test flight which the Wall Street Journal described as “virtually flawless.” Technocrat had a preview here.
  • The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Pennsylvania resident Anthony Elonis, who was convicted in 2010 of a felony for making violent comments on Facebook and Technocrat had a roundup here.
  • Technocrat reported that Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.,  said there was “such potential for conflicting regulatory directives” from agencies when it comes to the Internet of Things and that the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee had a responsibility to “really look at the big picture and ensure that agencies aren’t conflicting with each other, that what is being done makes sense and… allows for future innovation that we can’t even anticipate right now.”

December 3, 2014

Tomorrow: NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Scheduled For First Test Flight

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket carrying NASA's Orion crew vehicle sits on its launch pad as it's  prepared for launch on Thursday in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket carrying NASA’s Orion crew vehicle as it’s prepared for launch on Thursday in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

While you’re having your morning coffee Thursday here on Earth, NASA’s Orion crew vehicle is scheduled to launch into space in its first test flight from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

While the capsule is intended to ultimately carry astronauts into space, the test flight won’t have any people on board. According to NASA, the test flight will take about four-and-a-half hours, orbit Earth twice, reach an altitude of roughly 3,600 miles and land in the Pacific Ocean.

Orion is intended to ultimately launch from NASA’s own heavy rocket called the Space Launch System, but for this test flight, it’ll launch from a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket.

A NASA fact sheet says the flight will test systems like “heat shield performance, separation events, avionics and software performance, attitude control and guidance, parachute deployment and recovery operations.”

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said on The Kojo Nnamdi Show on Wednesday that in the long-term context, the goal was to demonstrate a continuance on what’s been a “40 year journey to try to get humans to Mars.”

You can watch the live stream of the test flight tomorrow here.

By Anne L. Kim Posted at 2:16 p.m.

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