Today’s Tidbits: December 5, 2017

Today’s Tidbits: December 5, 2017

Here are our tidbits for December 5, 2017:  new Aerospace Corporation/Mitchell Institute report on major space policy issues;  SpX-13 launch delayed; government funding still on the brink.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter for more news and live tweeting of events.

New Aerospace Corporation/Mitchell Institute Report on Evolving Global Space Operations

The Aerospace Corporation and the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute released a new report today on “Major Policy Issues in Evolving Global Space Operations.”  Authors Jim Vedda of the Aerospace Corporation and Pete Hays of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute summarized the report at a Mitchell Institute breakfast meeting this morning on Capitol Hill.

Vedda and Hays consulted more than 30 domestic and international space policy experts (listed in the report as contributors) to get input on “how the United States may develop national space policy to address the current dynamic space environment.” Both authors have extensive experience in space policy themselves. While the report does not advocate for one solution or another, it “presents current thinking on specific options” to address the issues.

Among its key points are that “The United States and other global space actors are participants in a fundamental reordering of many tenets and assumptions that have been long-standing attributes of US national space policy and international agreements.”   Areas on which they found a strong consensus among the experts include —

  • the United States should lead by example;
  • the United States should embrace new technologies and services, not obstruct them;
  • clear roles and missions should be established where feasible, and responsibilities blended where desirable;
  • classification of space operations should be reduced, which could help international and cross-sector collaboration;
  • reform of international agreements should be approached with caution and patience; and
  • the United States should continue its policy of requiring U.S. government payloads to use U.S. launch vehicles

SpX-13 ISS Cargo Mission Launch Postponed; OA-8 Cargo Mission Ready to Depart ISS

NASA announced today that SpaceX’s launch of its next cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has been postponed from December 8 to December 12.  This is the second delay; the original launch date was December 4.   NASA’s two pre-launch briefings have been rescheduled from December 7 to December 11.

This is SpaceX’s 13th operational Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) cargo mission to the ISS — SpaceX CRS-13 or SpX-13.  It will deliver 4,800 pounds of experiments, equipment and supplies to the ISS crew.  This mission marks NASA’s first use of a “flight proven” — or used — Falcon 9 first stage.   SpaceX recovers most of its Falcon 9 first stages by landing them either on autonomous drone ships out at sea or on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) it calls Landing Zone 1.  Three Falcon 9 first stages have been reflown for other customers, but this is the first time for NASA.

This is also the first launch from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at CCAFS, which SpaceX leases from the Air Force, since the pad was badly damaged over a year ago after a Falcon 9 exploded during a pre-launch test.  The September 1, 2016 explosion destroyed the rocket and the Amos-6 commercial communications satellite attached to it.  Today NASA and SpaceX referenced “pad readiness” as one of the reasons for the SpX-13 delay.

It certainly is busy on ISS.  Orbital ATK also provides cargo resupply services for NASA and its most recent mission is just coming to an end.  The eighth Orbital ATK cargo mission, OA-8, will depart from the ISS tomorrow (Wednesday) morning at 8:10 am ET.  NASA TV will cover the event.

OA-8 was launched from Wallops Flight Facility, VA on November 12 and delivered 7,400 pounds of supplies to ISS.  It is departing with 5,500 pounds of trash.  [UPDATE, DECEMBER 6:  The crew was actually able to get 6,200 pounds of trash into Cygnus.]  After it leaves ISS, the Cygnus spacecraft — named after the late Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan — will raise its orbit and deploy 14 cubesats on December 7.  It will remain in orbit until December 18 when it will be commanded to reenter.  Cygnus and the trash will be incinerated by the heat of reentry.

Congress Still Working on Funding the Government After Friday

Funding for the government runs out on Friday when the existing Continuing Resolution (CR) that is keeping government agencies operating at last year’s levels expires.  A new CR was introduced this weekend to extend the deadline until December 22.  The House Republican leadership hoped to make quick work of passing it this week, but that is not happening.  Various factions within the Republican Party have competing demands and plans to move the CR extension to its next legislative phase (consideration by the House Rules Committee) had to be postponed today.  Not to mention that Democrats have their own demands, including trying to fix the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration issue.

Going down to the wire on government spending has become rather commonplace in recent years.  It is only Tuesday, so there is plenty of time to reach agreement and House and Senate Republican and Democratic leaders are conveying optimism.  It is important to remember, however, that this is just another stopgap bill.  It only pushes the deadline for resolving these complex  issues two weeks closer to Christmas.

Government agencies are required to submit shutdown plans just in case the worst happens.  NASA sent in its plan already. []

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