Summary: S.3270 — 110th Congress (2007-2008)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Reported to Senate without amendment (07/16/2008)

(This measure has not been amended since it was introduced. The summary has been expanded because action occurred on the measure.)

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008 - (Sec. 3) Authorizes appropriations to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for FY2009 for: (1) science; (2) aeronautics; (3) exploration; (4) education; (5) space operations; (6) cross-agency support programs; and (7) the inspector general.

Authorizes additional appropriations to accelerate the initial operational capability of a U.S.-owned human spacecraft capability.

(Sec. 4) Affirms congressional support for the broad goals of U.S. space exploration policy, utilization of lunar exploration, activity related to Mars exploration, and international participation and cooperation (as well as commercial involvement in exploration).

(Sec. 5) Revises requirements for a compliance report on replacement of the Space Shuttle Orbiter. Limits authority of the NASA Administrator to retire the Space Shuttle and requires a report on recertification of continued flightworthiness through FY2015.

Expresses the sense of Congress concerning contributions of the commercial space sector. Requires, with respect to the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) project: (1) an assessment of the effects of increased funding under this Act upon development of project capabilities; and (2) a competition for completion of the COTS crewed vehicle demonstration project by the end of FY2011, or as soon thereafter as is practicable.

(Sec. 6) Requires the Administrator to: (1) submit a plan to Congress for disposition of the remaining Space Shuttle Orbiters and related hardware and facilities after retirement of the fleet; and (2) establish a Space Shuttle Transition Liaison Office to assist communities affected by termination of the Shuttle program.

(Sec. 7) Requires an analysis of facilities and human capital resources that will become available as a result of the retirement of the Space Shuttle program and identify programs and projects that could use such facilities and resources.

(Sec. 8) Requires a report on a plan to support the operations of the International Space Station (ISS) beyond FY2015 for a period of not less than five years.

(Sec. 9) Requires the Administrator to report a plan for continuing the activities described in the operation plan of the ISS National Laboratory submitted to Congress in May 2007 and a budget plan that reflects the anticipated use of such activities and the amount projected to be required for FY2010-FY2020 to accomplish the objectives of such activities.

Requires establishment of an International Space Station Utilization Advisory Committee and development of an implementation plan for a structure for management of national laboratory research. Establishes in the Treasury an International Space Station Research Fund.

(Sec. 10) Requires the planning and carrying out of an additional Shuttle mission for the scientific utilization of the U.S. portion of the ISS as a National Laboratory by the delivery of launch-ready scientific payloads, such as the alpha magnetic spectrometer, as soon as the assembly of the ISS is completed.

(Sec. 11) Expresses the sense of Congress concerning use of the Space Life Sciences Laboratory at Kennedy Space Center as an asset in ISS National Laboratory capability.

(Sec. 12) Reaffirms congressional support for well-balanced scientific research support by NASA and for nanotechnology research and development and application. Expresses the sense of Congress concerning emphasis on fundamental and basic research and the transition to application development and concerning use by NASA's nanotechnology policy for ongoing research and development in green nanoscience and nanomanufacturing.

(Sec. 13) Expresses the sense of Congress concerning aeronautics research and the impact of sonic booms.

Requires the following research initiatives: (1) development of technologies to achieve the environmental goals delineated in the Energy and Environment component of the National Plan for Aeronautics Research and Development and Related Infrastructure submitted to the President in accordance with Executive Order 13419; (2) alignment of the fundamental aeronautics research program to address high-priority technology challenges described in the 2006 report of the National Research Council entitled "Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics"; (3) sonic boom impact research; (4) independent review of NASA aviation-safety related research; and (5) implementation of the Climate Change Research Initiative as described in the report of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program for FY2008 entitled "Our Changing Planet."

Requires research and development activities performed by the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate with the primary objective of assisting in the development of a flight project in another Mission Directorate of the Agency to be funded by the Mission Directorate seeking assistance.

Requires the Administrator to award grants to institutions of higher education to establish one or more Centers for Research on Aviation Training under cooperative agreements with appropriate NASA Centers.

(Sec. 14) Requires the Administrator to develop an enhanced-use lease policy that is based upon sound business practices and lessons learned from the demonstration centers and establishes controls and procedures to ensure accountability and protect the government's interests. Revises procedures for the retention of cash consideration received by NASA field centers. Requires studies on the leasing practices of all field centers and project assignment and work allocation at such centers.

(Sec. 17) Requires establishment of an interagency commission to study the establishment of a space launch range and facilities dedicated to commercial space missions.

(Sec. 18) Expresses the sense of Congress concerning appointment by the President of members to the National Space Council in accordance with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 1989.

(Sec. 19) Requires the Administrator to review and report on NASA suborbital mission capabilities.

(Sec. 20) Requires the Administrator to initiate discussions with appropriate representatives of other space-faring countries to determine an appropriate framework under which information intended to promote safe access into outer space, operations in outer space, and return from outer space to Earth free from physical or radio-frequency interference can be shared.

(Sec. 21) Requires the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to study the impact of current export control policies and implementation directives on national security, the U.S. aerospace industry, and the ability of federal agencies to carry out cooperative activities in science and technology and human space flight, including the impact on research carried out under the sponsorship of such agencies.

(Sec. 22) Reaffirms the policy set forth in the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 relating to surveying near-Earth asteroids and comets. Affirms support of the Near-Earth Object Survey program required by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005. Expresses the sense of Congress that near-Earth object program activities will provide benefits to NASA scientific and exploration activities. Requires the Administrator to issue requests for information on missions for: (1) rendezvous with and characterization of the Apophis asteroid; and (2) detection of near-Earth objects equal to or greater than 140 meters in diameter.

Requires the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to: (1) develop a policy for notifying federal agencies and relevant emergency response institutions of an impending near-Earth object threat, if near term public safety is at risk; and (2) recommend an agency or agencies to be responsible for protection of the United States from a near-Earth object that is expected to collide with Earth and implementing a deflection campaign, should one be necessary.

Requires maintenance of a planetary radar comparable to the capability provided through the Deep Space Network Goldstone facility.

(Sec. 23) Requires development of a plan for utilizing the International Space Station in support of educational activities in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Requires establishment as a goal the funding of sounding-rockets, high-altitude balloon, suborbital flight, and small satellite payload opportunities directly linked to programs that provide significant hands-on training, learning, and research opportunities for students and instructors in higher education.

Requires continuance of a program of unmanned aerial vehicle development and applications.

Authorizes not less than $20 million in FY2009 for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research and not less than $32 million for the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program.

(Sec. 24) Requires establishment of an Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation.

(Sec. 25) Requires an inventory of natural methane stocks and fluxes in the Polar Region of the United States.

(Sec. 26) Prohibits NASA from initiating or implementing a reduction-in-force of permanent, non-Senior Executive Service, civil servant employees.

(Sec. 27) Limits the number of term positions.

(Sec. 28) Expresses the sense of Congress that NASA should not dilute, distort, suppress, or impede scientific research or the dissemination thereof. Requires the Comptroller General to: (1) determine whether regulations concerning release to news and information media are effective in ensuring that the sense of Congress expressed in this section is being observed; and (2) report to Congress with respect to establishing and carrying out a policy that addresses both the dissemination of scientific research and agency media policy.