In The News

Rep. Jim Bridenstine recognized for leadership on space issues

By RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer

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Washington, August 31, 2015 | comments
 In the 1st District, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine is known for his iconoclastic conservatism and willingness to challenge the status quo.

In Washington, he is known as one of the few people paying much attention to the nation’s space satellite programs.

It’s a technical subject, unglamorous and unlikely to make headlines in anything except a few wonky niche publications. As Bridenstine says, “This is the kind of stuff that won’t get you elected and folks back home don’t care about.”

But it might decide a war or determine whether people die in a hurricane or tornado.

“Space is no longer uncontested,” Bridenstine said. “It’s being contested, and it’s congested.

“We are seeing the Russians and Chinese attempt to deny space to us. The Russians are launching things into space that are not being registered with the agencies they would normally be registered with.”

As a Navy pilot with some background in aerospace, Bridenstine said he decided rather quickly after reaching Congress in 2013 to concentrate on the military and space.

“There aren’t a lot of members of Congress who delve into (those areas),” he said. “I made the decision after about four months that this would be an area where I could make a difference.”

Through his membership on House Armed Services and Science, Space and Technology subcommittees, Bridenstine has become a key figure in shaping the nation’s military communications networks and imaging and data collection used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for weather prediction.

Last week the industry publication SpaceNews named Bridenstine one of “Five Space Leaders Making a Difference,” ranking him with the likes of Alan Stern, who headed the recent Pluto flyby mission New Horizons, and the United Arab Emirates Space Agency, which says it plans a manned Mars mission in 2021.

Bridenstine was included in the list because of his efforts to integrate the use of commercial satellites into government activities, and especially weather forecasting and military communications.

That has caused some observers to speculate that Bridenstine wants to eliminate government-owned and operated satellites altogether, especially for weather forecasting.

He says that’s not true.

“There has to be that government infrastructure backbone,” Bridenstine said.

From necessity, the Department of Defense began incorporating commercial communications satellites into its operations years ago. The problem is that DOD satellites and commercial satellites essentially speak different languages.

To address this, Bridenstine has pushed to fund something called protected tactical waveform, which would allow for easier communications while also countering attempts to disrupt signals.

“We’re seeing some unsophisticated but effective efforts to take away the electromagnetic spectrum,” Bridenstine said.

Perhaps of more tangible interest to Oklahomans is Bridenstine’s effort to get NOAA to begin buying commercially produced weather data.

There are no commercial weather satellites per se, but weather data are being collected through a process that involves timing GPS radio signals through the Earth’s atmosphere. Bridenstine said a California-based consortium has put up $80 million to develop and promote the technique, prompted by a potential lapse in NOAA coverage between the failure of an aging polar-orbiting satellite and the launch of its replacement.

Bridenstine said he believes encouraging commercial weather satellites will lead to better data, better reliability and lower costs.

“What the commercial space industry is producing is amazing,” Bridenstine said. “We need to take advantage of it.”

Original Article on TulsaWorld.com
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