U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) hails from a state that lacks a significant space constituency but has an abundance of dangerous weather, a fact the second-term lawmaker has cited to explain his early interest in satellite activities.
As a freshman, Bridenstine made his mark as a champion for companies seeking to commercialize the collection of weather data via satellite, traditionally a government function. He has since taken over the chairmanship of the House Science environment subcommittee, a bully pulpit from which he continues to press the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrate to integrate commercial data into its weather forecasting models.
Bridenstine’s support of commercial space activities isn’t limited to weather. In June, for example, he successfully attached an amendment to the House transportation spending bill that would make more funding available to the Federal Aviation Administration office that promotes and regulates the commercial launch industry.
As a House Armed Services Committee member, Bridenstine has pushed commercial initiatives in the military space arena. During a committee hearing in April, he suggested reactivating an experimental missile-warning sensor hosted aboard a commercial telecommunications satellite to track weather and wildfires. In May, he filed H.R. 1864, which would streamline the way the Pentagon buys commercial satellite bandwidth.
If Bridenstine has not introduced legislation that touches the U.S. space enterprise in some way, you can bet he has an opinion about it. He has penned op-eds in support of limiting the FAA’s regulatory power over commercial space launches and gone to bat for NASA’s commercial cargo and crew programs.
Even if none of his legislative initiatives becomes law in this Congress, it stands to reason that Bridenstine, who cruised to victory in his two elections, will be around to push them again in the next. His commercial space initiatives could be easily folded into any number of future bills — something you cannot always count on even from lawmakers with launchpads or astronauts in their districts.