Jun 18, 2018

New Trump directive seeks to avert major space debris problem

SpaceX nighttime rocket launch on March 6, 2018. Credit: SpaceX

As private companies plan to send thousands of satellites into space to expand broadband internet services and for other uses, the Trump administration is taking steps to ensure that space debris doesn't get out of control.

Why it matters: We are beginning to see a large uptick in the number and diversity of satellites being launched into space by governments and private companies, such as Elon Musk's SpaceX. If no one modernizes the rules governing space, then there's the potential for overcrowding at various altitudes above Earth. This overcrowding could hold back the burgeoning space industry, and threaten national security.

What's next: On Monday, the president signed a space policy directive that gives various government agencies clearer roles in governing space.

“The space operating environment are becoming increasingly crowded. Orbital debris poses a growing threat to space operations."
— Scott Pace, the executive secretary of the National Space Council, on a call with reporters.

The details: The new policy directive requires that updates be made to orbital debris mitigation practices, as well as new guidelines for designing and operating satellites.

  • Under the directive, the Pentagon will continue to maintain the official catalog of all space-based assets, while the Commerce Department will take on new responsibilities in fostering the development of the private sector space industry.
    • For example, Commerce will be the agency that the public can go to for information on satellites currently in space or planned to be launched (unless they're classified military missions).
  • Commerce, which houses an eclectic mix of agencies, such as the Census Bureau and NOAA, will also be one of the main agencies for private sector space companies to go to for oversight of their planned launches.

What they're saying: “We’re basically getting everyone in their lanes," Pace said of the new division of oversight between departments.

President Trump, when signing the directive, alluded to the billionaires whose companies are launching rockets to space, such as Musk and Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin, saying: "I always said, rich guys seem to like rockets. All of those rich guys dying for our real estate to launch -- we won't charge you too much, just go ahead."

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Top Trump ally sounds 2020 election alarm over coronavirus response

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

There is growing concern among top conservative leaders that the Trump administration isn't addressing the long-term economic impact of the coronavirus, several sources tell Axios. One top adviser said if the recovery is bungled it could cost President Trump the election.

What we're hearing: "The next 4-8 weeks is really going to decide whether Trump gets reelected," Stephen Moore, Trump's former nominee for the Federal Reserve board, told Axios. If the administration mishandles its economic recovery efforts, he said, Trump is "in big trouble."

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,600,427 — Total deaths: 95,506 — Total recoveries: 354,006Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 465,329 — Total deaths: 16,513 — Total recoveries: 25,410Map.
  3. Public health latest: U.S. has expelled thousands of migrants under a CDC public health orderDr. Anthony Fauci said social distancing could reduce the U.S. death toll to 60,000.
  4. Business latest: The Fed will lend up to $2.3 trillion for businesses, state and city governments — After another 6.6 million jobless claims, here's how to understand the scale of American job decimation.
  5. 2020 latest: Top conservative leaders are concerned the Trump administration isn't addressing the virus' long-term economic impact.
  6. States latest: FEMA has asked governors to decide if they want testing sites to be under state or federal control.
  7. World latest: Lockdowns have led to a decline in murders in some of the world's most violent countries — Boris Johnson is moved out of the ICU but remains in hospital with coronavirus.
  8. In Congress: Senate in stalemate over additional funding for small business relief program.
  9. 1 SNL thing: "Saturday Night Live" will return this weekend in a remotely produced episode.
  10. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredPets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  11. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Federal court temporarily blocks coronavirus order against some abortions

Gov. Greg Abbott. Photo: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Thursday that clinics in Texas can immediately offer medication abortions — a pregnancy termination method administered by pill — and can also provide the procedure to patients nearing the state's time limits for abortions.

Driving the news: The decision comes after federal appeals court ruled 2-1 on Tuesday in favor of an executive order by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibits abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy