Science, Space, and Technology

Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

Lamar Smith

House Science Committee Demands Answers on James Webb Space Telescope Delays


WASHINGTON – The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee finished a two-part hearing today on delays and cost increases for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). “It is truly staggering to behold how this space telescope’s cost and schedule projections went from costing the same as a Space Shuttle mission—around half a billion dollars with an original launch goal in 2007—to now becoming an expenditure exceeding $9 billion with a new launch goal in March 2021,” said Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith. “That is nineteen times the original cost and a delay of fourteen years. It’s hard to get much worse than that.” Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin pointed out that the additional costs for JWST are hurting other missions. “The $803 million needed to fund the JWST cost breach could fund nearly every one of NASA’s science funding shortfalls from FY13 to FY16. These projects include Earth science and education projects greatly promoted by our Democratic colleagues on the committee.” He continued, “decisions made now can have long lasting implications on future missions. We need to know that there is not a systemic or fundamental management problem with how NASA plans and executes these larger strategic missions.” The hearing came shortly after an Independent Review Board, chaired by Tom Young, identified systemic problems in the management and execution of JWST.  The report identified five fundamental issues that contributed to the delay: human errors, embedded problems, lack of experience in areas such as the sunshield, excessive optimism, and system complexity.  “Our report contains 32 recommendations. We believe the implementation of all 32 recommendations is required to maximize the probability of JWST success,” Young told the Committee. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine provided testimony on the first panel and assured the Committee that NASA will be implementing the IRB recommendations. “NASA also recognizes that the lessons learned here have similarities to other issues we are seeing around NASA’s development programs for large, complex space systems and it is imperative for NASA to not only internalize these messages to lasting effect on Webb, but also across all of NASA’s programs,” said Bridenstine.  Wesley Bush, CEO of Northrop Grumman, the primary contractor on JWST, testified on the second panel and acknowledged that, “Northrop Grumman recognizes that we have contributed to some of the program’s challenges.” Chairman Smith pressed the issue, saying, “the U.S. aerospace industry has the highest skilled workforce in the world. Their scientists, engineers, and technicians have built incredibly challenging and complex aerospace systems. So the workplace errors and lack of discipline, auditing, and quality control described by the IRB could lead us to believe that the real issue is with Northrop Grumman.” In questioning, Smith asked whether Northrop Grumman had taken responsibility for the problems listed in the IRB report. “In Mr. Young’s report there were several instances of preventable human error that were pinpointed that led to millions of dollars in cost overruns. I’m wondering if those employees are still employed by Northrop Grumman,” Smith asked.  Bush could not confirm that anyone had been fired as a result of the human errors that have delayed JWST. Smith asked if Northrop Grumman was planning to pay the $800 million in above-cap expenses, and the answer was also no. “I wish that Northrop Grumman would take responsibility and show a little bit more good faith both for the taxpayer and for the cost overruns,” Smith said. The panels are available to watch here and here.     ### Read More

U.S. must win the race against China and Europe on quantum computing


By Rep. Lamar Smith and Sen. John Thune  For the last several decades, America's lead in cutting-edge technology has helped propel our economy and national security. America is now in a race with China and Europe to develop the next technological breakthroughs based on the power of quantum science. It's a race we must win. We have introduced the National Quantum Initiative Act of 2018 to help align and accelerate public and private research and development of quantum science. Like earlier national endeavors involving space and nuclear energy, the race to quantum computing has immense economic and national security implications for the U.S. The tiny, tiny universe of quantum physics — atoms, protons, electrons, photons — looms very, very large in our future. Quantum science explores and exploits subtle aspects of quantum physics, such as the idea that subatomic particles can exist in many possible states at the same time, known as "quantum superposition." This will lead to valuable, real-world applications. For example, conventional computing uses a series of tiny, electronic on-off switches within a processing chip. Technological advances have made possible supercomputers that can perform a series of on-off operations at astonishing speeds. But classical computing technology is nearing its limits. Quantum computing, however, is different. Rather than a series of ultra-high speed on-off switches, quantum computers rely on "qbits." These are subatomic particles that are both on and off at the same time. This property and other quantum phenomena will enable quantum computers to perform complex calculations at speeds that are potentially millions of times faster than today's most advanced supercomputers. Fully functioning quantum computers may be 10 years or more away. But the new industries and new jobs this technology will create are just over the horizon. Quantum computing promises drastic improvements in the security of data and electronic communications, precise long-range weather forecasts, and the development of new medicines and materials. Applications of this technology will have a profound impact on communication security, navigation, imaging, and many other technologies that are not otherwise possible with conventional hardware. Despite these potential benefits, however, falling behind in the race for quantum technology would have sobering national security implications. The nation that harnesses quantum communications technology first may be able to decode — in a matter of seconds — every other nations' most sensitive encrypted national security information as well as proprietary technologies and even the personal information of individuals. In testimony before Congress, expert witnesses have warned that as other nations around the world rapidly advance their own quantum programs, the U.S. faces a real threat of falling behind. China and the European Union are investing billions of dollars in new research facilities and equipment for quantum efforts. China, in particular, has stated publicly its national goal of surpassing the U.S. during the next decade. That is why our nation must devise a national quantum strategy and preserve America's lead in the race to this technology. The National Quantum Initiative Act meets challenges by creating a 10-year program to advance quantum development and technology applications in the U.S. The bill is designed to put to use the expertise and resources of U.S. industry, academia and government to move quantum information science to the next level of research and development. The legislation establishes a National Quantum Coordination Office and codifies an interagency Subcommittee on Quantum Information Science within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to oversee interagency coordination, provide strategic planning support, serve as a central point of contact for research, and promote commercialization of federal research by the private sector. The bill also supports basic research, education and standards development in multiple federal agencies. These activities will address fundamental research gaps, create a stronger workforce, and develop ways to give U.S. companies and workers an enduring competitive advantage. This bill will ensure that ongoing federal, academic, and private sector research work together to win the scientific race of the 21st century. Dallas Morning News  Read More

Full Committee Hearing - James Webb Space Telescope: Program Breach and its Implications


Full video of Panel 1 can be found here: Hearing charter  Witnesses: Panel 1 – Wednesday July 25, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. Hon. Jim Bridenstine, administrator, NASA [Truth in Testimony]  Mr. Tom Young, chairman, JWST Independent Review Board [Truth in Testimony]  Opening Statements: Full Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, Panel 1 (R-Texas) Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin, Panel 1 (R-Texas)   Panel 2 – Thursday, July 26, 2018 at 9:30 a.m. Mr. Wesley Bush, chief executive officer, Northrop Grumman Corp. [Truth in Testimony]  Mr. Tom Young, chairman, JWST Independent Review Board [Truth in Testimony]  Opening Statements: Full Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, Panel 2 (R-Texas) Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin, Panel 2 (R-Texas) Read More

Human exploration and the International Space Station can work in tandem


By Rep. Lamar Smith  For almost two decades, humanity has maintained a presence on the International Space Station. Barely 100 years after the first 12-second airplane flight, humans are now living in space. The U.S. government is now debating the fate of the ISS, humanity’s sole outpost in space. The debate centers on a single question: whether the ISS should be extended beyond 2025 or whether its existence prevents funding for human exploration of the moon, Mars and beyond. The problem is that it’s not an either-or proposition. We do a disservice to ourselves and to future generations when we force a false choice between the ISS and further space exploration. The ISS science laboratory’s objective is discovery; it has conducted more than 2,400 research investigations. Studying the effect of zero gravity on living organisms has improved laser eye surgery, increased the effectiveness of vaccines, and helped cancer research. Human space exploration should go far beyond the ISS. Scientists and engineers think that it may be possible to make rocket fuel and water from materials on the Moon’s surface. A series of robotic missions to Mars have come closer to finding signs of life on another world. But exploring other worlds with robots is slow and difficult; if we want to step up our game and make profound discoveries the time has come to send people to the moon, Mars, and beyond. This commitment to exploration involves difficult choices. As ISS funding comes under review, we will need to balance these two priorities: a presence in low-earth orbit on the ISS and human exploration of space. Some pundits reduce the debate to false choices: Either NASA continues spending billions of dollars a year on the ISS or the space station must be decommissioned. Either we commit to extending NASA spending on the ISS to 2028 or we don’t extend it at all. Either NASA keeps the ISS operating or NASA finally returns to the moon. The result of this simplistic debate is that the future of the ISS is being determined by a cosmic game of chicken. The Trump administration proposes ending direct NASA spending on ISS operations by 2025 in order to free up resources needed for a return to the moon. The administration is not proposing to end the ISS or America’s presence in low-earth orbit. Instead, the administration wants to find innovative ways to reduce the costs of both keeping a presence in low-earth orbit and sending humans back to the moon, permitting America to do both. Not only is this possible, it’s likely. The United States should operate the ISS for as long as it continues to meet our needs. We can decommission the ISS when there is a newer, more affordable platform to take its place. Industry confidence in the future of the ISS will boost confidence in value of human presence in low-Earth orbit and usher in the opportunity for private partnerships to share in the investment. As commercial industry enters the field, the competition helps drive down costs on the ISS, in turn freeing up funding for lunar exploration. That’s why fighting about all-or-nothing funding is shortsighted. It threatens the goal of obtaining the best use possible of our investment in space. By forcing a choice between the ISS and human space exploration, it sends a signal to every scientist, entrepreneur, and engineer working on the station: we’re willing to gamble with the future of America’s presence in space. Instead, let’s examine how we can increase commercial demand for the ISS and discover new efficiencies and ways to reduce operational costs. Let’s forge new partnerships with our commercial and international partners. Let’s not limit ourselves to a false choice. Let’s find ways to maintain America’s presence in low-earth orbit while committing to human space exploration. After all, ours is a nation of pioneers and innovators. NASA has a proud tradition of space exploration and with our support they can lead us to the moon, Mars, and beyond. Houston Chronicle  Read More

Smith Remarks on the New Era in Space


  WASHINGTON – Chairman Lamar Smith of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee gave remarks today at the Hudson Institute’s discussion of the New Era in Space. Smith’s remarks touched on the growing private sector presence in space and how the government can effectively collaborate with industry while spurring investment and innovation. Additionally, Smith explained how two Committee bills, H.R. 5346, the Commercial Space Support Vehicle Act, and H.R. 6226, the American Space SAFE Management Act, are designed to enable the Department of Commerce to be responsible for carrying out the supervision of space activities. “The Commerce Department is best equipped to help entrepreneurs and innovators build companies and succeed in business,” Smith said. The full text of the remarks, as prepared for delivery, is below: Thanks to the Hudson Institute and Ken Weinstein for inviting me to be here. A generation ago, space was largely an unexplored frontier. Few would have imagined a world of reusable private space rockets, global telecommunications and remote sensing, private space stations, celestial resource prospecting, or on-orbit manufacturing. A highly dynamic international security environment has changed space from a sanctuary to a congested and contested domain. At the same time, the private sector is opening up new frontiers and taking an increasingly important role in outer space. New technologies and novel strategies are lowering the costs of access to space. The standardization of space technologies and satellite platforms enable a robust human presence in the sky above us. New entrants, such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic, along with companies with a long heritage like Lockheed and Boeing, are investing significant capital in space exploration. Private equity is funding a new era of innovation that is changing the economics of space activities. With this evolution comes new challenges. The Outer Space Treaty was developed in 1967 to establish a framework for international space law. Among other provisions, the Outer Space Treaty requires national governments to be responsible for all space activities carried out by their nation, whether the missions are led by government or private companies. American space operators have long faced uncertainty about which federal agency has responsibility for approving non-traditional space initiatives and ensuring compliance with the Outer Space Treaty. In some instances, this uncertainty has constrained capital formation, driving American companies overseas. With increased commercial activity in space, this uncertainty is becoming a larger problem. Outdated and cumbersome regulations continue to hinder innovation by companies that focus on launch, remote sensing, and non-traditional space technologies. Those are some of the challenges we face. But there are solutions. Continued U.S. leadership in outer space requires us to maximize and integrate the strengths of all three groups of stakeholders: military, government research, and commercial. This will result in a new concept of national power in outer space. We must use the energy of a vibrant private sector and create laws and policies that bring all three communities together, working towards a common end: American leadership in space. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee is contributing to this effort. Two of our bills this year established the United States as the jurisdiction of choice for private space activities. The first bill, the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act, provides a legal and policy framework that simplifies the space-based remote sensing regulatory system, enhances compliance with international obligations, improves national security and removes regulatory barriers facing innovative space operators. The need for this legislation became clear during the previous Administration when serious uncertainty arose after U.S. space exploration companies sought payload approval from the Department of Transportation for non-traditional space activities. But the DOT payload approval process is only designed to prevent the launch of payloads that jeopardize American interests and safety. It does not provide for the authorization and supervision of in-space activities, as required by the Outer Space Treaty. So the Executive Branch has been unable to assure the private sector that new and innovative space missions would be approved for launch. Another important aspect of the bill is updating space-based remote sensing regulations. Hundreds of private remote sensing satellites orbit the Earth today, and we all rely on these satellites for accurate mapping, enhanced agriculture, and improved weather forecasts. But existing law governing the licensing of space-based remote sensing was enacted in 1992 at a time when there were no private remote sensing satellites. The law put the burden on the applicant to justify its operations. This is stifling private innovation and putting U.S. industry at a disadvantage. Our bill fixes this broken system by providing a streamlined licensing process aimed towards approval, not denial. This legislation will spur investment and innovation, which will create new high-paying, high-value jobs across the country. It increases American competitiveness and attracts companies, talents, and money that would otherwise go to other countries. The bill also consolidates regulatory authorities into one federal agency: the Secretary of Commerce’s Office of Space Commerce. The result is a single decision point for the authorization of activities in outer space. In short, the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act ensures the U.S. and its workforce will benefit from the new space-economy. The second Science Committee bill, the American Space SAFE Management Act, establishes a space traffic management framework built on science and technology, space situational awareness, and space traffic coordination. Today, there are eleven hundred active satellites in orbit. In a few years, there will be tens of thousands. A variety of new spacecraft soon will go into operation. They could include private space stations, on-orbit repair and refueling satellites, and celestial resource prospectors. This Act directs the Administration to coordinate its Federal research and development investments in space traffic management. It directs the Administration to work collaboratively with the private sector and establishes a NASA Center of Excellence that will develop, lead, and promote research in space traffic management. This bill also creates a civil space situational awareness (SSA) program within the Department of Commerce. Commerce will provide a basic level of SSA information and services, free of charge, to the public. While the Department of Defense retains the information gathering resources currently used to compile the catalog of space objects, Commerce will augment that with data from other sources, including the private sector and foreign partners. And the Act establishes a space traffic management framework. This framework consists of voluntary guidelines developed by the government, standards developed by industry, and a pilot space traffic coordination program. The pilot program allows the government and stakeholders to experiment and develop best practices to manage space traffic. It is a common-sense first step in what will be a long-term process of creating a comprehensive space traffic management framework. Both of these bills direct the Department of Commerce to be responsible for carrying out the supervision of space activities. The reason for that is simple: because of its longstanding mission and agency culture, the Commerce Department is best equipped to help entrepreneurs and innovators build companies and succeed in business. Many of the bills’ goals have been included in President Trump’s Space Policy Directives. And Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced a major reorganization of his Department that reflects our bills’ provisions. To ensure success, Secretary Ross is putting people, money, and expertise into a new Space Policy Advancing Commercial Enterprise (SPACE) Administration and a restructured Office of Space Commerce. We should thank the president, the vice president, and Secretary Ross for carrying out this reorganization. The momentum is building for these bills and the last step before becoming law is approval by the U.S. Senate. We need champions there to get these bills through committee and on to the Senate floor. Farsighted and determined policymakers and scientists led the charge for the first wave of space exploration. Now it is our responsibility to expand our leadership in space, working together with visionaries like Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk. The history of space exploration will feature this bipartisan, bicameral bill as having invigorated the next space age and maintained America’s leadership in space. America is the prominent actor on the global stage of outer space. We have the responsibility and the expertise to guide the world toward a peaceable, prosperous, and safe space environment. But we need to act, and act now. Read More

Full Committee Markup


S. 141, the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act, bill ordered reported as amended to the House by voice vote. Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute, offered by Mr. Perlmutter (D-Colo.), agreed to by voice vote.  Managers Amendment, offered by Mr. Perlmutter (D-Colo.), agreed to by voice vote.  Amendment 35, Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute, offered by Ms. Johnson (R-Texas), offered by Ms. Johnson (D-TX), defeated  by a vote of 13 to 19. H.R. 6468, the Improving Science in Chemical Assessments Act, bill agreed to and ordered reported to the House by a vote of 17 to 13. Opening Statements: Full Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) on Full Committee Markup Space Subcommittee Vice Chairman Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) on S.141 Environment Subcommittee Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) on H.R. 6468   Read More

Full Committee Hearing - Urban Air Mobility – Are Flying Cars Ready for Take-Off?


Hearing charter Opening Statements: Full Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) Witnesses:  Dr. Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, NASA [Truth in Testimony]  Dr. John-Paul Clarke, College of Engineering Dean’s Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology; co-chair, 2014 National Research Council Committee on Autonomy Research for Civil Aviation [Truth in Testimony]  Dr. Eric Allison, head of aviation programs, Uber [Truth in Testimony]  Mr. Michael Thacker, executive vice president, Technology and Innovation, Bell [Truth in Testimony] Ms. Anna Mracek Dietrich, co-founder and regulatory affairs, Terrafugia [Truth in Testimony]  Read More

House Science Committee Bill Reforms Chemical Assessments at EPA


WASHINGTON – The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee approved legislation today that addresses long-standing problems with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). The Improving Science in Chemical Assessments Act (H.R. 6468), sponsored by Environment Subcommittee Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), amends the Environmental Research, Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act to require that chemical hazard identification and dose response assessments previously conducted by the IRIS program be carried out by the relevant national program office within the EPA. The IRIS program has been the subject of criticism from both the National Academy of Sciences and the Government Accountability Office for a lack of transparency, deficient procedures, and improper science. These findings were confirmed in a recent Committee hearing on the IRIS program. H.R. 6468 addresses these by ensuring the underlying scientific data used in EPA’s chemical toxicity assessments is complete, relevant, and reproducible. The Biggs bill also requires the EPA to integrate all lines of scientific evidence and its office of Research and Development to certify that each chemical assessment meets the scientific standards in the legislation. Chairman Smith: “Protecting the health of Americans is a serious responsibility and it must be done with fairness, transparency, and the best available science. This bill addresses serious deficiencies identified by the Committee with the chemical assessment process at EPA. It ensures that these assessments are conducted with rigorous scientific standards.” Chairman Biggs: “Over the past decade, IRIS has been repeatedly criticized by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office and the National Academy of Sciences for its lack of transparency and reliance on faulty research. My bill ensures that future chemical assessments will be carried out only when necessary, will be subject to proper oversight, and will rely on the best available scientific methods.” The full text of the bill is available here. Read More

House Science Committee Bill Enhances Space Weather Preparedness


WASHINGTON – The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee approved legislation today to better protect lives, property, and infrastructure from the adverse effects of space weather. S. 141, the Space Weather Coordination Act as passed by the Science Committee, addresses the complex challenges posed by space weather and space weather events. This bill, as amended by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), recognizes the real threat posed by space weather by creating a comprehensive national coordinating framework and requiring the establishment and maintenance of a baseline capability for space weather observation and forecasting. It codifies, for the first time, the necessary architecture to leverage the capabilities and expertise of the government, commercial sector, academia, and the international community to advance space weather observation and forecasting and substantively address the challenges posed by space weather. While currently the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the U.S. Air Force monitor space weather, issue forecasts, and create other products to inform the public, space weather science, as a discipline, remains in its early stages. To protect our modern technological infrastructure from significant risk, marked improvement in understanding what causes space weather and the prediction and forecasting of events are needed. This bill moves the nation toward accomplishing that while also opening more opportunities for non-governmental stakeholders to be active partners. The creation of the pilot program for the purchase of quality, value-adding space weather data from the commercial sector is one such example. The pilot program—and the agility of this bill’s approach generally—ensures that innovative, cost-effective strategies can be pursued, and that our burgeoning commercial space industry will be able to help address the challenges posed by space weather. Similarly, in tasking the National Space Council with overseeing the national coordinating framework, this bill takes an approach that is consistent with the current Administration’s space strategy. Chairman Smith: “Space weather, which is the result of interactions between the sun and the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere, can affect the modern technology we rely upon daily. The electric grid, oil pipelines, passengers on commercial airlines, and satellites that provide telecommunications and GPS services can all be impacted by space weather. It is critical that we can better forecast and respond to space weather events. This legislation allows us to address the challenges of space weather while also providing opportunities for new partnerships and technologies. Improving our knowledge of space weather will enhance our national security and economic strength, and increase the resiliency of the national space enterprise as a whole. I thank Rep. Perlmutter, Rep. Brooks, and Sen. Peters for their hard work on this important piece of legislation.” Rep. Perlmutter: “Given the growing national importance and reliance on technology, it is critical we expand our scientific understanding of the interactions between the sun and Earth so we can improve forecasting and mitigate the effects of space weather events. This legislation will better coordinate federal research investments with our operational forecasters who provide warnings to impacted industries and ensure our academic and commercial partners are working hand in hand to improve space weather forecasting.” Rep. Brooks: “The topic of space weather is an important one. The potential consequences of a severe space weather event, principally catastrophic damage to America’s power grid caused by radiation from the Sun, could be far-reaching and disastrous. Having a formal observation and forecasting architecture in place, the kind the Perlmutter-Brooks amendment establishes, is vital to mitigating those consequences and protecting life and property both here on Earth and in space. The scientists and engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center in my district have been at the forefront of vital space weather research for many years. Under the Perlmutter-Brooks amendment, their research will not only continue, but they will be even better able to advance the nation’s space weather enterprise to where it needs to be.” The full text of the bill is available here.   Read More

H.R. 6468, the Improving Science in Chemical Assessments Act


H.R. 6468, the Improving Science in Chemical Assessments Act, can be found here.  Read More

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