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U.S. Congress Passes NASA Authorization Act, Defense Trade Cooperation

By | October 1, 2010
      [Satellite TODAY 10-01-10] U.S. Congress passed the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and defense trade cooperation treaties between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia on Sept. 30 – two key pieces of legislation for the aerospace and satellite industries.
          The NASA Authorization Act of 2010, originally drafted by the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee authorizes appropriations for NASA’s 2011, 2012 and 2013 fiscal years, which are largely in line with President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget request announced earlier this year, which called for more investments in U.S. commercial space companies.
          The bill requires NASA to develop portfolio that includes aeronautics, Earth and space science and education, covering investments in technology and robotic capabilities. The bill also includes a sustainable exploration program with new technologies and in-space capabilities; building future exploration off the workforce, assets and capabilities of the Space Shuttle and other efforts.
          The bill authorizes one final Space Shuttle flight, based on an independent safety review, to provide necessary support for the extension of the International Space Station to at least 2020. The bill also shifts focus to commercial crew and cargo services, with the goal of providing cheaper access to the ISS and reducing U.S. reliance on Russia for access to the ISS after the Space Shuttle retires
          Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) President and CEO Marion Blakey enthusiastically hailed the bill’s passing and said the law will be crucial to maintaining a robust U.S. human spaceflight program. “The uncertainty over NASA’s future has led to job losses in the private sector as contractors react to mixed signals on the direction programs will take.  In many cases the loss of talent is irreversible as laid-off workers move into other, more stable fields.  Enacting NASA’s authorization begins the process of putting our spaceflight endeavors on a stable course.”
          Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham expressed his approval of the bill’s passage and said the legislation enacts a roadmap that establishes a clear path forward for the nation’s space agency. “America’s civil space program has been in costly and divisive turmoil since Congress received the President’s FY11 budget proposal. Although the Senate-crafted direction for NASA is an imperfect compromise, its passage, with the President expected to sign the bill into law, should help stabilize the space agency and industry for the near term.”
          In a statement, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden thanked congress for its confidence in the agency’s future. “The plan invests more in NASA; extends the life of the International Space Station; launches a commercial space transportation industry; fosters the development of path-breaking technologies; and helps create thousands of new jobs. Passage of this bill represents an important step forward towards helping us achieve the key goals set by the President.”
          Congress also passed defense trade cooperation treaties, which aim to the licensing system for defense exports from the United States to the United Kingdom and Australia. The treaties were part of the Obama administration’s plan to modernize export controls and adjust outdated restrictions on American companies to equip allies with military technology.
          “Ratifying these treaties will provide important benefits to both our national security and our economy. AIA has long advocated that we should do everything possible to ensure that their troops and our troops are able to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the best equipment available,” said Blakey.
           Ian Godden, chairman of the U.K. aerospace, defense and security trade organization ADS, welcomed the passage of the treaties and said the acts should deliver clear benefits for allied troops. “The United Kingdom is the largest international supplier of defense equipment to the United States and is second only to the United States in the global defense export market. Therefore, the long-term significance of this new defense export control regime should not be underestimated.”
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