Today’s Tidbits: January 16, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: January 16, 2018

Here are our tidbits for January 16, 2018:  will Congress pass a new CR to avoid a government shutdown?;  Falcon Heavy update; NASA tests SLS engine.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Another Continuing Resolution (CR), But Will it Pass?

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ). Credit: Frelinghuysen website.

Government funding runs out on Friday (January 19) when the existing Continuing Resolution (CR) that is funding the government at last year’s level expires.  Republicans and Democrats seem no closer to agreeing on FY2018 appropriations than they were on October 1, 2017 when FY2018 began.

The current CR is the third since then and this evening a fourth was introduced by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ).   It would fund the government and avoid a government shutdown through February 16.

Passage is by no means assured, however.  In order to attract votes, it has sweeteners in it for Democrats and Republicans.   Democrats and some Republicans want funding restored for the Childhood Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Frelinghuysen included a 6-year extension of the program.  For Republican defense hawks who have been consistently warning of the negative impacts on the military of short-term CRs,  the new CR, like the one in force today, makes an exception to allow more funding for “missile defeat and defense enhancements.” It also has “extensions of several health care tax related provisions,” which were not further explained in the committee’s press release.

Democrats, however, want a resolution to the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration issue before or as part of any budget deal.  As extensively reported in the national media, that goal suffered a significant setback following last week’s White House imbroglio and resulting recriminations on both sides.

Whether the new CR can win a majority of votes in the House and at least 60 votes in the Senate remains to be seen.  Some prominent members of Congress are warning that a shutdown is a real possibility.

But it is only Tuesday.  There is plenty of time for the two sides to make some sort of agreement.  Stay tuned.

Falcon Heavy Update

Many in the space community are waiting with bated breath for the first launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy (FH).  The next step is a static fire test where the rocket is loaded with fuel and the engines fire up, but the hold down clamps are not released so the rocket stays put.  When that test will take place is a moving target.  There were several days last week and today when observers thought it would happen, but it did not.  Now Friday is looking like the next opportunity.  Needless to say, SpaceX will do the test when it is ready.  The FH has 27 engines — nine in each of the three cores — so this is no mean feat.  After the test, SpaceX is expected to announce the date for the FH’s first flight.

The company has said next to nothing so far about the test, but Florida-based reporters have been tweeting updates based on their own sources.  Among them are (@NASAspaceflight and @ChrisG_NSF), (@Spaceflightnow), and Emre Kelly of Florida Today (@EmreKelly)

Will Marshall, co-founder and CEO of Planet Labs, tweeted a spectacular view from space of FH on the pad at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A.  He didn’t specify what satellite took the image.  Planet has “flocks” of its tiny Dove satellites in orbit, including four new ones just launched on an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) last week.

NASA Tests SLS Engine

NASA conducted another test of one of the engines that will power the Space Launch System (SLS) today.  The NASA tests are getting less attention than FH perhaps because the Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines are the same ones built for the space shuttle, so are not as newsy.  Not to mention that the first SLS launch is not for another two years or so.  NASA announced in November that December 2019 is the earliest possibility and June 2020 is more likely.  Still, each test is one step closer.

A complete video of the test at NASA’s Stennis Space Center is posted on Facebook.  The real action begins at about 8:03. []

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Correction:   The spelling of bated was corrected.

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