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The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)

is the world's largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession.

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    Issues and Advocacy - Space


    The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) represents the aerospace endeavor and the technical professionals which supports it.  The AIAA Strategic Plan provides four core charges for its advocacy programs:


    • To foster AIAA as the voice of, and advocate for, the aerospace profession;
    • To contribute to society by acting as a catalyst for information flow and creative exchange
    • To create high value to our members; and
    • To strengthen the profession by stimulating workforce development and retention


    AIAA meets these goals by its advocacy on behalf of issues that impact the nation’s space programs and the professionals those programs and the associated industries employ.

    Policy Priorities

    Address the Growing Threat of Orbital Debris
    Current tracking systems only identify objects bigger than 10 cm. Active spacecraft with propellant reserves can maneuver away threatening objects given sufficient warning, but collisions with objects smaller than 10 cm cannot now be avoided. Without debris mitigation and remediation, the expected life of spacecraft before a debris collision could eventually become too short. Furthermore, because LEO spans all geographic boundaries, debris is also an international legal challenge. There are no international regulations that limit actions that create debris; retired spacecraft and resulting debris remain the sovereign property of the nations that launched the spacecraft; no means exists to raise the long-term funding to develop and implement methods of debris mitigation.

    Assuring Strategic and Sustainable Direction for Space Policy
    The NASA human spaceflight programs and space technology development efforts are both at critical crossroads. There has been much recent debate on the following points: The level of reliance on commercial suppliers for new means of human transportation to Earth orbit; reassessment of the targeted human exploration destinations and time tables; the transportation means to use for human exploration missions; the level of resources to be made available for development of new technology required to effectively and cost-efficiently pursue goals of reformulated and/or redirected space programs. While the Congress has now passed an authorization bill that sets a new framework for NASA programs over several years beginning with fiscal year 2011, many critical details are still vague, leaving much uncertainty about the strategic objectives and sustainability of the planned space initiatives.

    Information Papers

    Facilitating Assured, Cost-Effective Human Access to Space
    With the retirement of the Space Shuttle, the U.S. has no current means for human access to space.  Presently, the only means for U.S. crew to get to the International Space Station is the Russian Soyuz, at costs that increase substantially with each new service procurement contract.  After significant shifts in policy in recent years regarding U.S. human space access and goals, work is now in progress on both government specified and commercially conceived concepts for reestablishing U.S. means for access to space, but initial operational availability of those systems is years away on schedules driven by NASA funding contraints.


    Challenges Facing U.S. Leadership of Space Life and Physical Sciences
    Disruption of a key national research segment consisting of fundamental and applied biological and physical science research has resulted in the U.S. being poorly positioned to take full advantage of the scientific opportunities offered by the now fully equipped and staffed International Space Station laboratory, and to effectively pursue the scientific research needed to support the development of advanced human exploration capabilities. More directly related to the U.S. economy, the reduction in research funding has greatly reduced Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) opportunities across the U.S. In 2004, there were over 1,800 students engaged in this research, while today there are only 144 across the U.S. The present research segment, managed only by NASA, has contracted to below critical mass and now lacks global preeminence and the commitment of resources to attract researchers to accomplish real advances in space and ground research.


    February 2010
    Enabling U.S. Leadership of Human Spaceflight
    Human spaceflight is an inspiring undertaking and a pinnacle of technological achievement. It has captivated the public imagination, inspired national pride, and enabled generations to see limitless possibilities in the new frontier. However, routine access to space remains technically challenging and costly. While the Vision for Space Exploration provided programmatic direction to NASA in the wake the 2003 Challenger accident, that “vision” of resumed human exploration beyond Earth orbit was never funded at a level that would make it sustainable. With the Space Shuttle’s planned retirement in less than a year, the immediate space transportation concern is how to expeditiously obtain new, safe and reliable U.S.-supplied means for access to Earth orbit. A multi-year capability gap is now a certainty. This situation forces reliance on Russian launch vehicles for International Space Station (ISS) crew rotation. Also, with the proposed cancellation of the Constellation program, government sponsorship of projects to enable extension of human spaceflight capability beyond Earth orbit is uncertain. The new NASA budget proposal outlines a research program that has robust propulsion and technology development components, but no clearly defined exploration mission, nor any specific achievement milestones. When funding proposals are not accompanied by specific human exploration schedules and objectives, the lack of a framework within which to define and accomplish necessary technological advances invites programmatic drift.

    February 2009
    Meeting ISS Cargo and Crew Sustainment Needs
    The American gap in servicing the International Space Station (ISS) with crew and cargo due to the retirement of the space shuttle is both a risk and an opportunity. The risk is a loss of national prestige in the ability to carry out such missions – especially manned missions –and the longer the gap, the more severe the loss in prestige and confidence in American leadership in space capabilities. The opportunity is for the new administration and congress to set clear space priorities with appropriate funding to promote and accelerate both government and commercial space endeavors, to honor our commitments to the ISS, and to boldly lead future space commercial and scientific development.

    February 2009
    Recapturing American Leadership in Space Life and Physical Sciences
    NASA’s decision to reduce funding by 85% to fundamental biological and physical sciences research has contributed significantly to the loss of U.S. leadership in this arena. The affected research laboratories have lost the ability to train the next generation of scientists and engineers for space research. Foreign competitors are reaping the scientific and technological benefits from US investment in the International Space Station. In addition to the lack of a ground and flight basic research program, the U.S. International Space Station National Laboratory lacks hardware, up mass and down mass access, designated ground support, and an organizational entity to direct the science to enable full utilization.

    February 2009
    Sustaining Human Spaceflight Leadership
    After the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2010 the US and the world’s spaceflight community will be dependent on Russian spacecraft for piloted and cargo access to the International Space Station, until a new US spacecraft becomes operational, hopefully in 2014. Also, while preliminary studies of additional systems needed for renewed US human exploration beyond earth orbit have begun, no commitment has yet been made to develop these capabilities. Given the stated plans of India, China, and Japan to establish lunar bases in the 2020-2030 period, failure to establish a robust US lunar presence would become a further symbol of the decline of US society, economy, and polity.

    January 2007
    Robust Implementation of Lunar Settlements with Commercial and International Enterprise [MOON BASE 2015]
    To implement the President’s Vision for Space Exploration, the United States must commit to early establishment of a Moon base by 2015. This Lunar base will be an ideal test bed for opening new frontiers to human exploration by maximally employing commercial and private products and services. The AIAA/SCTC recommends that specific RDT&E goals be implemented. This will be accomplished by establishment of the scientific and industrial capabilities of a permanent Lunar settlement and development of the commercial revenue sources on the Moon.

    Legislative & Regulatory Action

    Repeals the prohibition on the availability of certain funds for the termination or elimination of any program or activity of the architecture for the Constellation Program of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    Strengthening America's Satellite Industry Act

    Reasserting American Leadership in Space Act or REAL Space Act

    Space Shuttle Retirement Act

    Johnson Space Center Workforce Stability Act of 2011


    14 September 2012
    Recent Developments in NASA’s Commercial Crew Acquisition Strategy
    The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will host a hearing to examin the current acquisitions strategy in place for the NASA Commercial Crew Vehicle development.  The hearing can be viewed on the hearing web page.


    12 September 2012
    Examining NASA’s Development of the Space Launch System and Orion Crew Capsule
    The U.S. House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics will hold a hearing on "Examining NASA's Development of the Space Launch System and Orion Crew Capsule." The hearing will examine the SLS program and the Orion Capsule, including program milestones, mission timelines, and mission flexibility. This hearing can be viewed on the hearing web page.


    12 September 2012
    The Path from LEO to Mars
    The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce Science, and Transportation will hold a hearing on "The Path from LEO to Mars."  The hearing will examine NASA's exploration portfolio beyond low-Earth orbite to the sruface of Mars.  This hearing can be viewed on the hearing web page.


    18 March 2011
    1st Biennnial Congressional Aerospace Policy Retreat
    As the aerospace industry embarks on the post-shuttle era, how will the future look and who will shape its direction? In partnership with The George Washington University Space Policy Institute, the Satellite Industry Association, the Space Enterpirse Council, the Space Foundation, and the Space Transportation Association, AIAA hosted a day of panel discussions ranging from the history of space exploration to the dangers of space debris. The Congressional Aerospace Policy Retreat was intended to introduce new members of Congress and their staff to the issues, industries, and people that play a crucial role in America's aerospace endeavor and policy.

    2 November 2009
    Debating America's Next Steps in Human Spaceflight
    As the nation faces significant choices about its human space exploration program, this half-day event provided informed perspectives from various stakeholders about future options and decisions; ample time was provided for dialogue between the participants.

    27 July 2009
    SPACE: Stimulating Economic Growth Today and Tomorrow
    A panel discussion on the current and future impact of space technology and development on the economy.


    30 March 2011
    Jim Maser, AIAA corporate membership committee chair and president of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Canoga Park, CA, remarks before the House Subcommittee on Science, Space and Technology's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, "A Review of NASA's Exploration Program in Transition: Issues for Congress and Industry."

    29 October 2010
    Robert Dickman, AIAA Executive Director, remarks at the Space Policy Institute, "Implementation Issues and U.S. Industry Panel."

    9 September 2010
    Robert Dickman, AIAA Executive Director, remarks at the Space Transportation Association Roundtable on Capitol Hill, "An Engineering Assessment of the Way-Forward in Human Spaceflight."

    10 December 2009
    David W. Thompson, AIAA President, testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology. The hearing, Decisions on the Future Direction and Funding for NASA: What will they mean for the U.S. Aerospace Workforce and Industrial Base? focused upon what the implications could be for the aerospace community stemming from the recommendations from the Augustine Commission report.

    3 February 2010
    Thompson's Responses

    7 May 2008
    Robert Dickman, AIAA Executive Director, testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation concerning the Reauthorizing the Vision for Space Authorization.

    Letters to Congress

    3 June 2008
    AIAA President George Muellner issued a statement on HR 6063, the “NASA Authorization Act of 2008” – "I applaud the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science for the commitment they have made in this legislation toward meeting our nation’s crucial priorities in aerospace research and development. In an ever more competitive world, the course we chart now will affect our ability to maintain both our national security and our economic leadership. This bill will permit NASA to continue to support cutting-edge aerospace technology R&D, to meet the schedule of our national Vision for Space Exploration, and to help develop the next generation of aerospace professionals we will need for future technology development and for future mission vision and support."