Speech by Rep. Dave Weldon at the 2003 Space Congress

Status Report From: Rep. Dave Weldon
Posted: Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Thank you, Bud, for that introduction and "thanks" to the Florida Space Business Round Table for once again inviting me to address this audience. Of course, this year is a landmark for this Congressional banquet, it marks the first time for a two-person keynote address and the introduction of the Feeney-Weldon Space Advocacy Association!

It has certainly been a heart-wrenching year since the last Space Congress. The loss of the Columbia and her crew was a tremendous blow, but we will recover.

I want to voice a personal note of thanks to Tom Feeney for his support of the KSC family during this difficult time. Your help, your leadership is very much appreciated.



I also want to say how impressed I have been with the level of professionalism and dedication everyone at NASA and the contractor community has exhibited since February 1. I am anxious to review the Gehman Report when it is released later this summer. The Congress stands ready to work with NASA to get the Shuttles flying again and to complete ISS.

There have been some voices that wish to "solve" the Columbia issues before all of the studies have been completed. In fact, those voices were heard within hours of the tragedy. Voices in the media, in academia and even, if you can believe it, in Congress!

I believe a more reasoned approach is to wait for the final Gehman report. Let us take full advantage of the tens-of-thousands of man-hours expended in analysis of this tragedy by countless technicians, engineers and panel members. Let us analyze their conclusions, not jump to conclusions.

Let me again add how proud I am of the way the agency, its leaders and the team here at KSC have pitched in, without hesitation or complaint, to do all that is possible to assist in the search for truth, wherever it may lead. Let me just say "thank you" for that!

Orbital Space Plane

I am also pleased to see NASA proceed, concurrent with the Columbia investigation, to pursue the Orbital Space Plane program. In light of the Columbia accident, it is clear that we need a back up system for the Space Shuttle. Total reliance on the Russians is unacceptable.

The planned deployment of the OSP in the early part or middle of the next decade is also unacceptable. We went through Mercury, Gemini, and the Apollo lunar landing in less time. It may take money, but we need to accelerate the OSP program. We need to field a system that does not require an inordinate amount of R&D and it must be a system that is not overly expensive to develop, operate and maintain.

My studying of space policy and history have led me to consider the conclusion that an expendable, capsule system akin to the Apollo Command Module may be the best way to do this. Now, I am aware that some people cringe when I say that because they are concerned that a new capsule system is a "throw back" to an earlier time. Many feel that NASA should be pushing forward with a new kind of reusable system to build on the work and experience we gained with Shuttle. For those of you here tonight who think my approach a little too "flat earthed," please hear me out.

Why must this system be reusable? Frankly, I believe this is a flawed conclusion and an unnecessary requirement. If one goes back and reviews the documents and reports during the origins of the Shuttle program, the whole premise was that a reusable system would be cheaper than an expendable system only if the flight rate was high enough to amortize the very substantial development costs. The initial NASA-published Shuttle requirements called for a system that would fly no less than 25 times per year. A well-known study in 1971 showed that a reusable system was economically justified when there are around 30 flights per year. In contrast, the envisioned flight plan for OSP has it flying a little more than half a dozen times a year.

The capsule option has several other attractive elements: It would be cheaper and easier to implement an upgrades program. It could fly unmanned for test & evaluation, and also do re-supply missions. Flights could be more responsive and less costly with the elimination of the post-flight turn around maintenance and reconfiguration that a reusable system requires. A flight certified capsule system that is proven to be robust, can be modified to go to the Moon or even as the return vehicle for Near Earth Asteroid or Mars missions.

Now with all that said, I have an open mind and would enjoy hearing the arguments for a reusable runway lander. Bottom line - we need a system sooner than what is being planned.


We are all painfully aware that the launch rate for our commercial missions has not matched the heady expectations of the mid 1990's. Also, the supposed "growth market" of space tourism is on hold indefinitely. I would like to simply state something that hopefully will start to get others thinking in new ways about space.

In a 1950's RAND study on the possible uses of space: communication, navigation, intelligence collection, and meteorological observation were listed as likely applications.

The good news is, we've realized all of those opportunities in space today. The bad news is no one has come up with anything radically new since then. Entrepreneurial thoughts are the first step to helping pick up the commercial space business. I know there are efforts underway to bring down the cost of launch and it is my belief that that will have an exciting stimulus effect on the commercial market.

Also with the economy picking up, people will start spending money on new satellite systems, especially in the developing world. I am confident that we will weather this current spell and come out even better. Actually, adversity tends to stimulate innovation!


Air Force and Space

Around 18 months ago, Secretary Rumsfeld designated the Air Force to be custodian for overall DoD space operations and development. I am happy to say that the DoD space budget has gone from a FY 2001 budget of $14.3 Billion to a FY 2004 Bush request of $20.4 Billion and is projected to reach $28.6 Billion in 2008. I remain concerned about a few programs that are under the Air Force, and I want to say a few quick words about some of those.


As always, the ranges continue to be an area of concern. We have the brand new EELVs, yet we will still have an outmoded range to handle them. I am also concerned with the funding problems continuing in the out years. I would like to see the USAF, now that RSA is in a "strategic pause" reevaluate range modernization and come up with an out of the box solution.


I want to congratulate Boeing and Lockheed Martin on successful missions and inaugurating a new era in American space launch - the EELV. Sadly, the business model that was the corner stone of EELV, the commercial industry, as I mentioned earlier, has not materialized. This is resulting in higher costs of operation for industry.

I have communicated to Jerry Lewis, chairman of DoD appropriations, that Congress needs to work with the Pentagon and industry on this issue. If this burden remains, it could force one of the providers out of business. We cannot go down to just one launch provider in this country.

I think EELVs could very well become the backbones of a robust, lower cost space capability for not just DoD but civilian efforts as well. Obviously we are already talking about launching the Orbital Space Plane on an EELV. I believe there may be other missions for the EELVs that we can develop in the years ahead.

GPS- 3

I would hope we could accelerate the deployment of GPS-3. I am concerned that while we fail to deploy GPS-3, the European/Chinese efforts for Galileo will be encouraged and they will field a competing system. GPS is the world standard and provides us a measure of space control and dominance unmatched. To cede this could be tragic.

In viewing this competition, I am reminded of the Joint Strike Fighter and the Euro Fighter. The Europeans tried to develop a pan European fighter to reduce reliance on American planes. Well, we proceeded with JSF and were able to bring the British along with our development efforts and now that our fighter is moving along, some European countries are leaving the Euro Fighter effort.

I feel we could do the same thing for GPS-3. I think we should just proceed and invite the UK, the Italians, Spaniards and eastern Europeans along.

SBIRS - High

Despite some problems, overall it seems that the program is proceeding well. This system will be able to detect with much greater accuracy, than the current DSP satellites, most kinds of rocket launches. This is a capability many rogue nations would not want us to have.

Space Based Radar

Space Based Radar will enable us to do, on a global level, what J-STARS does on the tactical level. We will be able to monitor actions by other nations in real time. The axiom that "motion is the first derivative of the battlefield" is even more appropriate with this ultimate high ground viewing post. While this program has also suffered from delays and overruns, I remain supportive and optimistic.


Well it has been said that Operation: Desert Storm was the first space war. With Operation: Iraqi Freedom, I think we have seen military space operations evolve into the next stage of maturity. In fact, I think it is fair to say that space has been so well integrated into the battlefield commander's capabilities as to be almost taken for granted.

Just put yourself in the middle of the battlefield: You will see commanders communicating up the chain of command exchanging massive amounts of valuable, secure data on a real time basis via satellite. Highly sophisticated weapons are being directed with pinpoint accuracy through the use of satellites. Troops know when weather conditions at their location and at the target are just right for engagement of the enemy because of satellites. And, enemy movement, size and equipment are revealed through the use of our surveillance satellites.

Our tremendous success in Operation: Iraqi Freedom can be credited to the tremendous work of our men and women in uniform and the weapons, tools and equipment they were able to bring to bear in that conflict. Our Space capabilities were part of that and all the people involved in supporting our military space programs can be proud of that accomplishment.

American Space Power & Control

Space is a strategic venue. In fact, the greatest strategic venue of all. Russia knows it. Europe knows it. China knows it. Japan knows it. India knows it.

Each of these powers is setting out in an attempt to gain some measure of space control and space power. As recently as April 15th, Jacques Chirac stated for Europe, "the domination of space was a strategic challenge."

As of now, none of these nations come close to the level of space operations as the United States or the amount of funds spent on space. Those of us who care about space, support space, promote space, work in the space business, those of us who have a shared vision of America in space, it is our job to preach the gospel, if you will, of American Space Power & Control.

The easiest thing to do is to communicate an analogy.

The analogy that everyone recognizes is the need for air supremacy and having the best navy in the world in order to protect our people, our allies, and as well to protect free trade. No one questions that premise, nor does anyone question that the United States basically controls the airways and seaways.

As said earlier we spend the most on space and do the most in space, but it is no guarantee that we have the same degree of control in space as we do in the air and on the oceans.

Implementing a new doctrine of American Space Power & Control would be the best for obviously our interests and the interests of the world, for freedom and commerce.

I ask you, would the world be a better and safer place with a European, Chinese, or Russian space power and control regime? I do not think so. The doctrine of American Space Power & Control needs to start being articulated and articulated often.

There are some people who would like to see us never fully develop our capabilities to utilize space in the defense of freedom. Many of these folks are obviously driven by a desire to see our nation weakened. But some claim to be patriotic Americans who nonetheless hold to a foolish notion that space is somehow some type of sacred environment that must never be exploited strategically.

A weak and ineffective America is bad for the cause of world peace. Ask some of those Iraqis living in freedom today if they would prefer to go back to the days of living in poverty while Saddam lives in palaces and his sons rape their women.

Ask them if they would have preferred that we did not have precision GPS guided JDAM munitions, that we would have instead bombed the Saddam regime with conventional weapons with their horrible tendencies to cause collateral damage

It is estimated that more than 1 million North Koreans have died of starvation needlessly and deliberately at the hands of Communist dictatorship, and this same regime, while starving and brutalizing it's own people, makes threats against the safety and security of not only the South Korean people but also the people of the United States.

The North Koreans are aggressively developing their ICBM and nuclear capability to better enable them to threaten the world. Our best option to neutralize the capabilities of this regime is through the further exploitation of the Space Environment. It would be inappropriate to deny ourselves this advantage simply because of romantic notions of some that space is some type of sacred place.

We must adopt a doctrine that states that, we as a nation will vigorously pursue the ability to project power to, through and from space against any aggressor.

We need to start making the doctrine of American Space Power & Control rank right alongside the universally accepted concepts of air dominance, and naval superiority.


Thank you again for time and your work and commitment to our space program. Our efforts in space will be one of the true, lasting measures of our great civilization.

Thank you.

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