April 29, 2016
Capitol Update

In this issue:


MForesight is announcing the “Making to Manufacturing” competition to identify innovative solutions for cost-effective, low-volume manufacturing in lot sizes of 500-10,000 units in the U.S.

The Competition is seeking technologies in hardware, software, collaborative systems and educational tools that could, with 3-5 years of additional development, lower barriers to entrepreneurs and small businesses to increase the variety and value of items manufactured.

The competition closes on June 1st, with winners in each category earning up to $10,000. Winners and high scoring applications will be invited to Washington, D.C. to present their ideas to leaders in government and industry.

For complete information about this challenge, please visit: http://bit.ly/Mfg_Challenge  or https://ideabuzz.com/a/buzz/challenge/17545/ideas/top


The House Science, Space, and Technology Space Subcommittee recently held a hearing to examine the current state of the small satellite commercial launch industry, which generates hundreds of billions of dollars of economic activity and serves both the private and public sectors. Several companies are currently working to supply the growing demand for commercial launches. Witnesses discussed various policy challenges that may need to be addressed.

Significant R&D investments are being made in the United States to create and manufacture new types of small satellite technologies and applications. One of the largest barriers that small satellite companies face is the cost of launch. A number of American companies, in various stages of development, plan to offer dedicated launch services to the small satellite industry in the next few years. These companies promise to provide more flexible launch services such as delivery to unique orbits and rapid replenishment.

One significant policy question surrounds excess intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) motors. These government-owned Cold War era rockets have the potential to provide commercial launch capabilities. However, it is long-standing national policy that excess ICBMs should not be used for commercial launch services. Witnesses discussed policy implications surrounding this issue and access to foreign launch services.

A number of companies that build and operate small satellites contend that there isn’t enough capacity in the market at a price they can afford to meet their needs. India has stepped in and offered to fill, in part, this demand and is launching smaller U.S. satellites on their Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) vehicle. Several members question the current ad-hoc policy governing U.S. commercial satellite access to Indian PSLV launches.

For more information on the hearing, including witness testimony and the archived webcast, please visit the Committee’s website at https://science.house.gov/legislation/hearings/space-subcommittee-hearing-commercial-space-launch-industry-small-satellite


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will provide up to $7 million in funding for pilot projects to benefit small U.S. manufacturers by enhancing collaboration between its Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). The goal is to test and develop approaches that will engage small manufacturers in the work of the Manufacturing Innovation Institutes in support of technology transfer efforts, collaboration, and sharing of best-practices between the institutes and MEP centers. The funding will allow MEP center personnel to be embedded in the institutes to work with their staffs on each project.

NIST anticipates funding around seven pilot project awards at approximately $300,000 to $600,000 per year for each award for up to two years. The anticipated award date is October 1, 2016.

The institutes are working to create an effective and sustainable manufacturing research-to-manufacturing infrastructure that will enable industry and academia to solve the “scale-up” challenges that are relevant to U.S. manufacturing. The pilots will help small manufacturers take advantage of the latest technological innovations and add capabilities to the MEP program by solving new or emerging manufacturing problems. In addition to assisting MEP efforts related to the transfer of technology from the institutes, the proposed pilot projects will also enhance the institutes’ ability to address the technological needs of small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers. 

Current MEP centers are eligible for this funding opportunity and must form a collaboration, teaming arrangement, or other appropriate relationship with one or more of the current institutes to embed MEP center personnel at an institute. NIST encourages project proposals involving participation from multiple MEP centers and multiple institutes, as well as other collaborating entities such as local economic development organizations, universities, community colleges, technology incubator programs and other organizations.

For more information, visit: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/manufacturing-innovation-competitiveness/


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is soliciting ideas from U.S. industry for designs of a Mars orbiter for potential launch in the 2020s. The satellite would provide advanced communications and imaging, as well as robotic science exploration, in support of NASA’s Journey to Mars.

The orbiter would substantially increase bandwidth communications and maintain high-resolution imaging capability. It also may use experimental cutting-edge technologies, such as high-power solar electric propulsion or an optical communications package, which could greatly improve transmission speed and capacity over radio frequency systems.

Under the direction of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, is conducting pre-formulation planning for this possible orbiter mission. Pre-formulation plans include the procurement of industry studies for a solar-powered orbiting spacecraft. This effort seeks to take advantage of industry capabilities to improve deep space, solar electric propulsion-enabled orbiters to accommodate scientific instruments, demonstrate capability for rendezvous and capture, and advance telecommunications capabilities. JPL plans to award concept study subcontracts of $400,000 per subcontract in June. The concept studies for the spacecraft will be completed over a four-month period.

NASA is studying how to implement this mission concept in concert with its international partners to the greatest extent possible. Historically, there have been significant international contributions to NASA Mars missions that include the Curiosity rover, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission orbiter, both currently orbiting the Red Planet. The agency will seek such partnerships for this potential future orbiter mission, as well.

To view the Mars orbiter solicitation/Federal Business Opportunities announcement, please visit: http://1.usa.gov/22RtMEC


The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power has scheduled a legislative hearing for Friday, April 29, 2016, entitled, “H.R. 4979, the Advanced Nuclear Technology Development Act of 2016 and the Nuclear Utilization of Keynote Energy Policies Act.”

Members will examine H.R. 4979, a bipartisan bill recently introduced that would provide the regulatory framework needed for safe, advanced nuclear energy technologies. The bill would require the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to work together to provide certainty for the development of advanced nuclear technology. Additionally, the subcommittee will examine a discussion draft of the Nuclear Utilization of Keynote Energy Policies Act. The discussion draft seeks to improve the NRC’s licensing, budgeting, and regulatory process.

Together the two bills seek to provide certainty for nuclear energy through improvements in licensing, budgeting, and regulating while encouraging cooperation between the two agencies tasked with overseeing our nuclear energy portfolio.”

The Majority Memorandum, a witness list, and witness testimony are available at: https://energycommerce.house.gov/hearings-and-votes/hearings/hr-4979-advanced-nuclear-technology-development-act-2016-and-hr-nuclear

For the latest energy policy news, please visit: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/


Earlier this week, the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded more than $5 million to undergraduate and graduate students in pursuit of nuclear engineering degrees and other nuclear science and engineering programs relevant to nuclear energy. The awards include 57 undergraduate scholarships and 33 graduate-level fellowships for students at American colleges and universities.

Since 2009, DOE has awarded over $33 million to more than 600 students for nuclear energy-related scholarships and fellowships. Each undergraduate scholarship provides $7,500 to help cover education costs for the upcoming year, while the three-year graduate fellowships provide $50,000 each year to help pay for graduate studies and research. Fellowships also include $5,000 to fund a summer internship at a U.S. national laboratory or other approved research facility to strengthen the ties between students and the Department’s energy research programs.

Ninety-eight percent of the students who have completed nuclear energy-related fellowships have subsequently pursued careers in nuclear energy fields at the Department’s national laboratories, other government agencies, academic institutions or private companies. Six former fellowship winners are now university professors working on nuclear energy related research.

Find additional information about the Department’s nuclear energy scholarships and fellowships awarded today at the Nuclear Energy University Program website at: https://neup.inl.gov/SitePages/Home.aspx

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