What’s Happening in Space Policy July 2-7, 2017

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 2-7, 2017

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of July 2-7, 2017 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in recess this week.

During the Week

The week got off to a disappointing start for the Chinese space program today with the failure of its Long March 5 rocket.  This was the second launch for the rocket, China’s largest.  Not only was it intended to place a new type of communications satellite into orbit, it was also a final test before China launches a lunar sample return mission, Chang’e-5, in November. That launch now seems likely to be delayed.  An investigation is underway. We will keep you updated this week as more information becomes available.

Tomorrow (Monday), SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to return to Earth, ending the SpX-11 cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS).  It was delayed one day because of inclement weather in the Pacific landing zone.   NASA TV will provide coverage of Dragon’s release from ISS at 2:28 am ET, but not of the splashdown.

Tuesday, July 4, is Independence Day in the United States.  The Federal government is closed for the holiday, along with many state and local governments and businesses.

Congress is taking this entire week off after a hectic pace last week.  The July 4 recess is one of those milestones on the congressional calendar by which they hope to get certain things done.  That may not be working out in some areas (like health care), but House appropriators made good progress on FY2018 appropriations bills, including defense (which cleared full committee) and Commerce-Justice-Science (approved at the subcommittee level).  The annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is also considered must-pass legislation and both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees approved their versions of the bill.  All that legislation still has a long way to go — especially the appropriations bills since there is no agreement yet on the total amount of money Congress will make available for defense and non-defense activities — but it’s a start.  We’ll see what happens when they return next week.  FY2018 begins on October 1.  There is little, if any, expectation that the appropriations process will be done by then.

The big space policy event this week will be Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Thursday.  President Trump signed the Executive Order reestablishing the White House National Space Council, with Pence as its chairman, on Friday.  Expectations are high that Pence will have something significant to say about the direction of the U.S. space program while he’s at KSC and perhaps announce who will be the Council’s Executive Director.  NASA TV will provide live coverage of the visit.

Rumors about who will be NASA Administrator and when the announcement will be made have gone quiet.  Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) is an oft-mentioned contender, so it was a bit of a surprise that he was not at the White House signing ceremony on Friday, but neither was Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot.  Speculation is rampant about who was on the invitation list but couldn’t make it on a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend when many people and their families were already beginning their July 4 vacations, versus those who weren’t on the list at all, and how to read those tea leaves.

Overall, it’s a light week for space policy aficionados. A much needed break.

All the events we know about as of Sunday morning are shown below.  Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Events of Interest list.

Monday, July 3

Wednesday, July 5

Thursday, July 6

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