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March 5, 2015

Posts in "Space"

March 3, 2015

Fun Fact: ‘Supernova Mikulski’

At least a couple stories on Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski’s, D-Md., announcement of her retirement on Monday remind us that a supernova was named in her honor a few years ago.

From Reuters: “In 2012, when NASA researchers in Baltimore discovered the fleeting glimmer of an exploding star, they named it ‘Supernova Mikulski,’ after one of their chief congressional patrons.”

A 2012 story by The Associated Press reported some details about the supernova and more:

Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski is known for her outspoken support of space exploration.

On Thursday, she will have a supernova named after her at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

From a 2012 Heard on the Hill post:

The astronomers found Supernova Mikulski using the Hubble Space Telescope. About 7.4 billion light-years from Earth, it is not visible to the naked eye.

Space researchers have an affinity for Mikulski, which should come as no surprise because she’s the Senate appropriator charged with the NASA budget.

The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore will also be renamed in Mikulski’s honor. Data collected by both the Hubble and Webb telescopes will be held at the institute.

Mikulski is the longest-serving woman in Congress, the first woman to helm the Senate Appropriations Committee and has been the top Democrat on the Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee for years.

March 2, 2015

The Week Ahead: American Cable Association Summit and Budget, Cybersecurity Hearings

The American Cable Association holds its summit and congressional committees hold cybersecurity hearings as well as budget hearings on NASA, the Federal Communications Commission and the Commerce Department this week.


Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology discusses net neutrality at the American Enterprise Institute.

The Center for Strategic & International Studies hosts a panel event on the Internet of Things and the transportation industry.

The German Marshall Fund of the United States hosts an event titled “Internet Freedom 2.1: Lessons from Asia’s Developing Democracies.”


A House Appropriations subcommittee holds a Commerce Department budget hearing.

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee has a cybersecurity hearing.


The American Cable Association holds its summit, which continues on Thursday.

The Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Innovation Alliance, the Medical Device Manufacturers Association, and the National Venture Capital Association host a patent event.

A House Appropriations subcommittee holds a NASA budget hearing.

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee holds a hearing titled “Reauthorization of the Federal Communications Commission: The FCC’s FY 2016 Budget Request.”

A House Homeland Security subcommittee holds a hearing titled “Industry Perspectives on the President’s Cybersecurity Information Sharing Proposal.”

New America hosts an event on technology and disability.


The House Intelligence Committee holds a cybersecurity hearing.

A Senate Appropriations subcommittee holds a hearing on NASA’s fiscal 2016 budget request.


USTelecom hosts a cybersecurity event.

February 23, 2015

The Week Ahead: FCC Vote on Net Neutrality Rules and More

It’s a big week in Washington with the Federal Communications Commission’s vote on net neutrality rules. A slew of events and congressional hearings are also on tap. Get ready for a busy, busy week, folks.


New America hosts a day-long event titled “Cybersecurity for a New America: Big Ideas and New Voices.”


COMPTEL hosts a day-long policy summit.

The Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy hosts an event on rewriting the 1934 Communications Act.

The Hudson Institute hosts an event titled “American Broadband Under Title II.”

A subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee holds a space exploration hearing.

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation hosts an event on cross-border data flows.


A House Appropriations subcommittee holds an oversight hearing on the Justice and Commerce Departments and NASA.

A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee holds a hearing on the net neutrality proposal before the Federal Communications Commission.

The House Homeland Security Committee holds a hearing on the President’s cybersecurity information-sharing proposal.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing titled “FCC Process: Examining the Relationship Between the FCC and the White House.”

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation hosts a panel discussion on net neutrality and network management.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee holds a hearing titled “Preserving the Multistakeholder Model of Internet Governance.”


BakerHostetler hosts a day-long symposium on Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

The Federal Communications Commission votes on net neutrality rules and an order addressing two municipal broadband petitions.

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee holds a hearing on patent demand letters, which allege someone is infringing on a patent.

The House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the U.S. Copyright Office.

The heads of the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology testify beforeHouse Science, Space and Technology subcommittee on their fiscal 2016 budget requests.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker testifies beforeSenate Appropriations subcommittee on the department’s fiscal 2016 budget request.


A House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee holds a hearing on NASA’s commercial crew program.

February 6, 2015

Weekly Wrapup: Net Neutrality, President’s Budget Request and That DeLorean on the Hill

The big news this week, of course, was Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler’s unveiling of his proposal for net neutrality rules. Technocrat’s posts this week included that big topic as well as President Barack Obama‘s fiscal 2016 budget request, why you might have seen a DeLorean around the Hill, and more.

Wheeler Announces Net Neutrality Proposal

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler says he’ll circulate to fellow commissioners this week a proposal for net neutrality rules that would treat Internet providers as common carriers, using Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, the same portion of law the agency uses to regulate phone companies and other common carriers.

Q&A: AAAS’ Matt Hourihan

President Barack Obama recently released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2016, and Technocrat chatted with Matt Hourihan of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences about some science and research issues proposed in previous budgets that have and haven’t been embraced by lawmakers.

Obama’s Budget on Cybersecurity, Digital Service Teams and Commercial Crew:

Here’s a look at some of the Obama administration’s fiscal 2016 budget proposal to Congress on the issues of cybersecurity, digital service teams and NASA’s commercial crew program…

What Was The Deal With That DeLorean You Might Have Spotted Today?

You might have spotted a DeLorean around the Hill on Thursday and if you’re wondering why, it’s part of a campaign by Americans for Tax Reform to bring attention to their call for an update to tech laws they say are outdated.

Should Computer Science Be Counted as a Foreign Language Class?

Some states have been proposing or advancing legislation to let computer science classes be counted as a foreign language either to meet high school graduation or college admissions requirements. You can add Washington to the list of states looking at this matter.


February 2, 2015

Obama’s Budget on Cybersecurity, Digital Service Teams and Commercial Crew

Here’s a look at some of the Obama administration’s fiscal 2016 budget proposal to Congress on the issues of cybersecurity, digital service teams and NASA’s commercial crew program:

  • CQ Roll Call’s Shawn Zeller reports that President Obama’s budget request on Monday “raises the ante” in protecting government, business and consumers from cyberattacks.

He reports (subscription): “The administration pledges $14 billion — $1 billion more than the current year — toward securing government computers, working with the private sector to protect its technological infrastructure and conducting more research on how to stop hackers from stealing information.”

  • The NASA budget proposed a very small increase for the overall agency, but a big boost for its commercial crew program. The agency proposed $1.2 billion for the commercial crew program, which would be $439 million, or 55 percent, more than the fiscal 2015 level.

In September, NASA announced contracts for Boeing and SpaceX to complete development of systems to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. After certification, the companies will conduct between two and six crewed missions to the space station.

NASA has been relying on the Russia Soyuz vehicle to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station and the agency has been trying to aid development of U.S. private companies’ capabilities to transport the agency’s astronauts to the space station instead.

NASA Chief Financial Officer David Radzanowski told reporters on Monday that the funding level requested for commercial crew reflects contracts with those companies and milestones laid out in them. If the companies achieve them, then NASA would need $1.2 billion, he said.



January 30, 2015

Weekly Wrapup: Internet of Things, Internet Governance and NASA Budget

Among the news this week, the Federal Communications Commission changed its definition of what constitutes advanced Internet access and Google Fiber announced four more metropolitan areas where it would deploy. At Technocrat, we had posts for you on the Internet of Things, Sen. John Thune’s speech at the American Enterprise Institute and more.

  • The Federal Trade Commission released a staff report on the Internet of Things. Among the takeaways was the report’s determination that it’s “preemptive” to enact legislation specific to this area of technology.
  • If you’re lucky enough to go to the Super Bowl, the Federal Aviation Administration reminds you not to fly your drone.

Let’s Look Back at Previous Budget Requests for NASA

The President releases his annual budget request to Congress on Monday and Technocrat’s going to be keeping an eye out for what the administration proposes for NASA. In advance of Monday, let’s take a look back at some of the notable, controversial, or just eye-catching elements of previous budget requests for the agency.

Fiscal year 2015: The administration proposed a significant boost for the commercial crew program while slashing funding for an airborne observatory program called the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. The NASA budget also proposed funding for initial work for a potential new mission to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.

Fiscal year 2014: The administration proposed funding for a mission to capture and move an asteroid. It hasn’t gone over particularly well with Republicans.

Fiscal year 2013: The budget request sought significantly less money for the Mars robotic exploration program and  NASA said it would put the brakes on 2016 and 2018 joint Mars missions with the European Space Agency.

By Anne L. Kim Posted at 11:14 a.m.

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.

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