Friday Flybys - 6.29.07
Yes, in light of all the buzz this week about Orbital Outfitters' new xtreme sport idea, -- or, if you prefer, backup suborbital safety feature -- (if Rick Tumlinson and Jonathan Clark do it, we'll follow), maybe I should call this post Friday Divebys? Nah...
OK, before we space dive into the weekend...
Oh, and lest I forget:
Big congratulations to Bigelow Aerospace on the Genesis II launch! To quote Mission Control in Las Vegas when it made contact with the spacecraft, “We got it!"
To our friends north of the border, happy Canada Day, July 1, 2007.
Finally, I'm not an almun but happy graduation from this Bronx girl to the hardworking kids at Bronx Aerospace High School.
Have a great weekend, all. And unless you're really, really, really bored, don't watch any silly videos of people lined up outside the Apple store in NYC waiting to buy an iPhone. But if you do get an iPhone, call me.
* * *
IMAGE: Nick Kaloterakis via PopSci. Love this.
Satellite Radio Idol
Earlier this week I noted reaction to the deal from a group of women's organizations. A few more examples this week: FamilyNet, which brings us Christian Talk on Sirius (channel 161), joined the large and growing line-up of those voicing their approval for the merger. And Americans for Tax Reform, and the 60 Plus Association, filed a joint comment with the FCC in support of the deal.
And the list goes on and on. As Orbitcast, which has both ears tuned to the proposed combination says, "the hits just keep on coming."
In fact, Sirius Buzz (a completely disinterested site of course) is keeping an "FCC comment scorecard," and according their tally (June 22): "nearly 2,600 comments have been filed, and over 2,000 of the comments are PRO Merger." And per this latest scorecard (June 27): "Daily percentages in favor of the merger were above 85% on a regular basis, and it was only this week that the volume of comments began to slow substantially." Looks like National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) members and others against the merger, who appear to be losing the comment war so far, could be picking up steam in the week before the comment period closes.
I personally have not read thousands of comments. Go right over to the FCC's XM-Sirius transaction page (MB Docket No. 07-57) for comments, pro and con (which appear to be substantially fewer than thousands), and other documents posted by the Commission to date.
Meanwhile, FCC has asked for even more comments. Yesterday the Commission released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking opinions on "whether to waive, modify or repeal the language prohibiting the combination of satellite radio providers in the Commission's 1997 Order establishing the Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service," in the event the Commission determines the proposed merger serves the public interest. (At issue is FCC's clear anti-merger language: "Even after DARS licenses are granted, one licensee will not be permitted to acquire control of the other remaining satellite DARS license. This prohibition on transfer of control will help assure sufficient continuing competition in the provision of satellite DARS service." Thus, the trick, if you're for the deal, is getting around this.
Speaking for folks who staunchly favor upholding the rule, the American Antitrust Institute concluded in its June 5 comment, "As long as the firms are likely to be viable without the merger, and satellite radio is not a natural monopoly, there is no good reason for the Commission to abandon its policy of ensuring competition in the delivery of spectrum-based services in satellite DARS."
As a matter of economics, if Professor Thomas Hazlett of George Mason University, former chief economist of the FCC were voting, he'd give the merger a thumbs up. His paper (apparently prepared for XM and Sirius) and filed with the Commission, titled "The Economics of the Satellite Radio Merger," concludes the deal "will predictably enhance consumer welfare" and the "improved economic vitality of a combined satellite radio company would drive industry innovation, promote competition and enhance programming and pricing options for customers."
Others are pondering why this merger different from EchoStar/DirecTV which got voted off the merger island in 2002. The pro-merger League of Rural Voters files this short analysis, of why it thinks "the two transactions are fundamentally different." More realistically, as Jimmy Schaeffler on Multichannel News blog says, there are "many similarities -- and some notable differences" between the deals.
If you'd rather not specifically respond to the NPRM, you still have time to file whatever comments you want. Everybody else appears to be doing so.
(Where are Simon, Randy and Paula when we need them?)
UPDATE - 6/29: More support -- the NAACP now endorces the proposed satellite radio combo. And another ol' FCC guy, former commissioner, Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth, weighs in for the companies with a pro-merger opinion. Still, don't turn up the Kelly Clarkson tunes yet...
* * *
IMAGE: Stephen Kroninger illustration courtesy of Newsweek
(Shh... Don't tell NASA boss Mike Griffin. He doesn't read blogs.)
I don't know if Shana takes comments, or posts images; the blog appears on a NASA intranet site for agency personnel only (InsideNASA). Posts are picked up by SpaceRef. (Of course Mike reads SpaceRef.) The Deputy says, "I am looking for a more direct way to communicate with people inside the agency. There is so much that goes on at headquarters and I want to be able to pull the curtain back on at least some of it and also explain what is going on with new initiatives." Good idea. (What about the rest of us?)
In the first two posts, Shana shared details of her recent visits to Europe and Russia and reported, "our ISS partners are now in a position to begin serious discussions with NASA on opportunities for human and robotic exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond." She also blogged about her efforts in connection with NASA’s budget situation and the FY 2008 appropriations for NASA (about which she is "extremely concerned"). And she posted an update regarding Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12).
All this and she watches Food Network, too.
And if Shana ever wants to try her hand at public blogging, she's always welcome as a guest here on SLP ;)
* * *
IMAGE: by Jeff Caplan via Nasa.gov; Ms. Dale "speaks during an all-hands meeting" in June 2006.
Rohrabacher Wants NEO Hearing
The Congressman finds our current tracking program which would only find 35 percent of those 100 megaton menaces, "woefully inadequate."
And his Survey Act (or, the George E. Brown Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey Act, section 321 of the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, Public Law No. 109-155) would beef things up however, naturally, NASA says funds to implement the Survey appear to be lacking.
Worse, NEO-tracking Arecibo Radio Telescope is set to be mothballed by 2011.
Rep. Rohrabacher wants action.
This is the June 20th letter sent by Rep. Rohrabacher to Rep. Mark Udall, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, requesting a hearing to look into this deep impact matter. (Via SpaceRef)
Specifically, Rep. Rohrabacher asks that "the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee convene a hearing for the following purposes:
I am all for whatever's gonna work. And let's face it, duck and cover just won't cut it.
* * *
IMAGE: Courtesy, space artist Don Davis.
UPDATE: And for more on all this, here is the text of the white paper from the AIAA 2007 Planetray Defense Conference (held in March at George Washington University).
ANOTHER UPDATE: Just in time to make Rohrabacher's point, BBC reports today that "scientists have identified a possible crater left by the biggest space impact in modern times - the Tunguska event." Yoweee. (Via Instapundit)
Women for space radio merger
And as I mentioned in the Flybys last Friday, two lawmakers have sent a letter to DOJ and FCC asking for help with some thorny antitrust questions in connection with the matter.
But we might have missed the gender angle in this satellite radio affair. That is, until last week, when the National Coalition of Women's Organizations, "a nonpartisan, nonprofit coalition of more than 200 women's organizations across the nation collectively representing over eleven million women" called upon FCC to approve the merger.
As NCWO Chair Susan Scanlan reasons, "Today, satellite radio is a mere 3.4 percent of the overall radio market --a market dominated by men. A stronger satellite offering can increase the audience for satellite radio. A more affordable and more diverse satellite radio market would be valuable not only to our members, but also to women across the United States."
(So it ain't just Howard Stern's strippers?)
Stay tuned, as we say. The off-air maneuvering can be more interesting than some of the radio programming itself. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how much the antitrust regulators take all this into consideration in deciding whether one satellite radio company is better than two.
* * *
IMAGE: Oprah Winfrey and Hugh Panero, CEO of XM Satellite Radio, ring the NASDAQ opening bell to celebrate the debut of the "Oprah & Friends" channel, September 25, 2006. Courtesy NASDAQ.
Friday Flybys - 6.22.07
Now, the Flybys...
Have a super weekend everyone. Avoid deep impacts. If you're on Cosmic Log and crash into antimatter or fall into an existing black hole, don't call a space lawyer.
And hey, have some Beam Me Up coffee with your cake! ;) (Via Hobbypace)
Hot Summer Space Law Dates
First, a few events ongoing as I post:
And of course September (at least part of it) is still in summer (at least in the northern hemisphere) . . .
My kind of summer school.
And if we dare contemplate the inevitability of October . . .
And much more to come.
As always, update me with anything I should add, and more dates or announcements you'd like to see posted on SLP.
For now, happy summer solstice 6/21/07, 18:06 GMT ;).
* * *
IMAGE: Coney Island Boardwalk, Coney Island, Brooklyn, May 28, 2006, 5:34 p.m., courtesy Bridge and Tunnel Club
New Space Act deals
Earlier this year NASA signed similar agreements with t/Space and PlanetSpace.
(Of course, unlike the approximately $500 million in COTS awards to SpaceX and Rocketplane Kistler announced last summer, these agreements are unfunded, or to use the Space Act terminology, "nonreimbursable." As we know from reading the Space Act Agreements guide -- and who hasn't read this? -- "nonreimbursable" agreements cover "NASA and one or more Agreement Partners in a mutually beneficial activity that furthers the Agency's missions, wherein each party bears the cost of its participation and there is no exchange of funds between the parties. Since Nonreimbursable Agreements involve the commitment of NASA resources, the respective contributions of each Agreement Partner must be fair and reasonable under the circumstances." And this blog is not Space Accounting Probe but yes, NASA is required to come up with the "cost estimate of the value of the NASA resources to be committed" under these agreements; if you are interested in these estimates, ask NASA.)
Friday Flybys - 6.15.07
Have a great weekend. And if you want to impress your BBQ guests, or educate them, here's how to calculate pi by throwing frozen hotdogs. (Improbable Research, via Cosmic Log.) (As a semi-recovering vegetarian I wonder if Alan can tell me if this also works with frozen tofu dogs?)
* * *
IMAGE: That's a postcard of my summer vacation. (In my dreams.) Courtesy EADS Astrium.
Taikonaut talks space law
This should be interesting. Looking forward to details.
(Of course, new space law aside, for nations worried about the space environment and those pesky "fragments," not blowing up old weather satellites in orbit might be a good way to start.)
Vignettes from Vienna
While the 50th session of the UN's Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) goes on in Vienna this week (June 6th to 15th; more on that later), COPUOS has now posted the report of the 46th session of its Legal Subcommittee, (which as you recall took place at UNOV March 26th to April 5th).
If you were holding your breath waiting for this 35-page report (and who wasn't?) (actually, the English version is 35 pages; I did not open the Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian or Spanish documents), a quickie recap highlighting issues and topics addressed this session (some old, some new; none borrowed or blue):
-- Here is this year's overview, Status of International Agreements relating to Activities in Outer Space. (No surprises; I may post separately a few details from this.)
-- Action packed report (with addendum) on recent work of friends of the Subcommittee including the Space Law Committee of the International Law Association, International Institute of Space Law (IISL) and the European Centre for Space Law (ECSL), (covering a lot of stuff we've talked about here on SLP).
-- As I've posted, the well-received symposium on Capacity building in space law took place during this session, sponsored by the IISL and ECSL.
--The Subcommittee was treated to a presentation entitled “WIPO: patents and space activities” by Tomoko Miyamoto of the World Intellectual Property Organization which is not posted; I'll try to get a copy.
-- Big news! Issue about where space begins is resolved, finally! Not. This will be on the agenda until the 5,946th session. (One theory is the Neanderthal went extinct debating it.)
-- See, Report of the Chairman of the Working Group on the Definition and Delimitation of Outer Space at Annex II, p. 27.
-- Subcommittee received a "comprehensive" status report from the observer for Unidroit. Work continues.
-- For more background on the work on the draft protocol, see this SLP post.
-- Proposal for "a General Assembly resolution on recommendations on the practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects, to be adopted in 2007;" see the working paper of the Working Group on the Practice of States and International Organizations in Registering Space Objects for text of the proposal (which COPUOS is no doubt reviewing as I post).
-- In 2006, national registries of space objects established by Brazil, Indonesia and Kazakhstan, which registered its first communication satellite, KazSat, under the Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space.
-- I will add stats we've seen on registration of space objects show clearly, as the International Law Association's Space Law Committee notes, registration of objects launched into space has been going downhill. (2006 Toronto conference report.)
-- Subcommittee "will continue examining the issue" (of course)
-- For more on these discussions, see verbatim transcripts at COPUOS/Legal/T.756-758 (which do not yet but will appear on the transcripts archive).
-- My favorite, the Subcommittee agreed to include “General exchange of information on national legislation relevant to the peaceful exploration and use of outer space proposed by the United States," starting in 2008.
-- The Subcommittee also agreed to invite IISL and ECSL to host a symposium at the next session on "Legal Implications of Space Applications for Global Climate Change." Looking forward to it.
-- Surprisingly, no specific ironclad proposal to amend, revise, renegotiate, undo, abandon or eliminate the Outer Space Treaty.
The Legal Subcommittee meets again in Vienna, March 2008.
Oh, and yes, of course. The Subcommittee called 2007 "a memorable year for the Committee and the space community, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the launching of the first artificial satellite, the fiftieth session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (General Assembly resolution 2222 (XXI), annex)." It said "in the 40 years since the adoption of the Outer Space Treaty, space activities had become indispensable for sustainable development, contributing to economic growth and improvements in the quality of life around the world."
Thanks to Kurian Maniyanipurathu of the Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA), Space Applications Section for the heads-up on the Legal Subcommittee report.
Space lawyer = Cool Career!
Cool Careers author Dr. Marty Nemko explains:
As more and more government and commercial satellites orbit Earth, disputes arise. Does a country have the right to launch a surveillance satellite that circles the globe? Who owns which rights to the moon? They're already selling tickets for commercial space flights. What sorts of contracts are needed to protect the spacelines and their passengers? Space law is, as they used to say in the 1960's, a new frontier.
Of course, other more established law specialties like tax lawyer, bankruptcy lawyer, elder lawyer, environmental lawyer and intellectual property lawyer make the cool list, too. But a few years ago space lawyer would never have appeared alongside those other practice areas other than as a joke. Now? Seriously cool.
And anyone can become a space lawyer. Don't think of it as just some fallback position for a guy or gal who can't hack it as a bounty hunter, proteomics biologist, volcanologist, wireless device or virtual reality programmer, holographer, heart-lung perfusionist, high-security diving instructor, robotic engineer, silviculturist, beer brewer or funeral director.
Thank you Dr. Nemko. (And by the way, guess which online site appears in the book as the single reference for space law information. Go ahead, guess. (See page 120.) (Marty, can I mail you a check or do you take PayPal? ;)
Chinese Space Policy at Wal-mart
(Who knew such a treatise would be available from Wal-mart? I must admit, like many New Yorkers, I have never actually been in a Wal-mart. I know it sounds amazing, since each week one-third of the US population visits the world's largest retailer. Really, we are no different from other Americans who, you know, occasionally shop. But we just don't have Wal-marts in Manhattan. This was my first time at Wal-mart.com, too. An eye opener.)
By the way, Chinese Space Policy is of course available on Amazon, but for five dollars more. (Ditto the book's publisher.) I do note that Wal-mart, unlike Amazon, has the title correct.
If you prefer a review before you buy this expensive treatise, check out the write-up by Dr. Rick W. Sturdevant, deputy command historian at Air Force Space Command, who has, assuredly, read more Chinese space policy books than me. He writes,
Handberg and Li use their analytical model to assess China’s space future. They find China’s recently demonstrated ability to keep its space-faring aspirations aligned with politically available resources both fascinating and praiseworthy. Nonetheless, the direction and success of their space program depends on how the Chinese address four issues: achieving sufficient political stability to ensure continuity in space policy; their stance toward international cooperation; transitioning from a government-dominated to a mixed program; and military space activities. For seasoned space professionals, government officials, academicians, and curious students alike, Chinese Space Policy offers substantial insight to that country’s space-related motivations and actions. (High Frontier, May 2007 at page 69)
More SLP summer reading to follow. Now if you'll excuse me, I have more shopping to do.
New COMSTAC stuff
A few selections:
Ken Wong of FAA/AST licensing and safety division gave an update of the human space flight study required by Congress (due Dec 23, 2008).
The Personal Spaceflight Federation's overview (by Brett Alexander, John Gedmark) included a section "What needs to be accomplished: Draft standard waiver and release of claims ... Pursue adoption of state legislation limiting liability" and also has a slide on the landmark Virginia law adopted this year.
Mark Timm of NASA gave a COTS program overview.
Other presentations cover market forecasts, X Prize Cup, ULA, Space Florida, Spaceport America, ISS resupply, training for commercil spaceflight, lots more. Dig in.
And minutes mavens, look for the COMSTAC meeting minutes on the minutes archive here. (Although at the moment the most recent posting is from the Oct. 2006 meetings, but that should be updated soon.)
14 space agencies
This non-binding Framework (released at the 3rd ASI/ESA International Co-operation for Sustainable Space Exploration Workshop which met this week in Sarteano, Italy) is not a treaty, and "does not propose a single global programme."
And as NASA specifies, "its contents are consistent with ongoing bilateral and multilateral discussions that NASA intends to lead to cooperative agreements for specific projects."
The Framework, "presents a vision for robotic and human space exploration, focussing on destinations within the solar system where we may one day live and work. It elaborates an action plan to share the strategies and efforts of individual nations so that all can achieve their exploration goals more effectively and safely."
And it "allows for the establishment of a voluntary, non-binding mechanism by which space agencies can exchange information on their respective space exploration plans. This coordination mechanism will play a key role in helping to identify gaps, overlaps and synergies in the space exploration plans of participating agencies."
The space agencies "have agreed to pursue the establishment of a formal Coordination Mechanism for the coordination of the Global Exploration Strategy. The specific terms of reference for such a mechanism are being defined and will be described in a separate document."
As to international space law, the Framework lists this as one of the "potential areas and activities that could benefit from coordination": "an assessment of the requirement for any relevant international legal agreements." This should be interesting.
Also, under the "Theme 3: Economic Expansion," the Framework states, "For business to be confident about investing, it needs the certainty of a long-term commitment to space exploration, the opportunity to introduce its ideas into government thinking, and the rule of law. This means common understanding on such difficult issues as property rights and technology transfer. The Coordination Mechanism foreseen as part of the Global Exploration Strategy will provide a forum to discuss these important issues." We'll certainly keep on eye on this.
By the way, if you are just tuning in, for background on the Global Exploration Strategy, review NASA's FAQ, and visit the main exploration site.
While many (and I'll quote Clark here) "strongly disagree with the hardware architecture that Griffin has chosen for initiating NASA's implementation of this strategy," there's definitely stuff here to interest space enthusiasts and global space business.
And yes, of course we have more than 14 space agencies in the world. (Actually, disregard that old SLP link, here is a newer and better list of the space agencies.)