Today’s Tidbits: January 3, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: January 3, 2018

Here are our tidbits for January 3, 2018:  two new Senators sworn in; NASA readies 60th anniversary celebrations; Zuma ready for launch — again.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Two New Senators Sworn In Today

The second session of the 115th Congress began today with two new Senators being sworn into office:  Doug Jones (D-Alabama) and Tina Smith (D-Minnesota).

Jones was elected to complete the term of Jeff Sessions, which runs through 2020.  Sessions is now Attorney General.  Alabama officials certified Jones as the winner of the bitter contest against Roy Moore on December 28.   Smith, until today Minnesota’s Lieutenant Governor,  was appointed to temporarily fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Al Franken over sexual misconduct allegations.  A special election will be held in November to fill out the remainder of Franken’s term (through 2020).  Smith plans to run in that election.

With Smith now in office, there are a record 22 women in the Senate: 17 Democrats and five Republicans.

With Jones replacing Sessions, Republicans now control the Senate by only one vote.  There are 51 Republicans (instead of 52), 47 Democrats (instead of 46), and two Independents (Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine) who usually vote with the Democrats — effectively a 51-49 split.

That could make a difference on actions that require 51 votes to pass, such as nominations and legislation considered under the “reconciliation” process, like the tax bill that was just enacted.  The 51-49 split means Republicans can afford to lose only one of their own votes, yielding a 50-50 tie that would be broken by the Vice President of the United States (Mike Pence), who is also the President of the Senate.  Pence has already cast a number of tie-breaking votes on nominations and that was when there were 52 Republicans.

Many other measures, like appropriations, require 60 votes, at least under current Senate rules.  That means some degree of bipartisanship will be required to keep the government operating (the existing Continuing Resolution expires on January 19) and achieve the many other legislative priorities of both parties.  In an election year, with control of the House and Senate at stake, that will be quite a challenge.

NASA Readies 60th Anniversary Celebrations

NASA turns 60 this year and to kick off the celebrations it released a 60th anniversary logo today.

The agency says it depicts “how NASA is building on its historic past to soar toward a challenging and inspiring future.”  A full description is posted on a NASA website [].

NASA was created by the 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act, which was signed into law on July 29, 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  It opened its doors on October 1, 1958.

Zuma Ready for Launch — Again

SpaceX’s launch of the mysterious Zuma satellite is now scheduled for Friday.  It was supposed to be launched in November, but was delayed several times for weather and technical problems. Publicly, no one knows what Zuma is other than a military satellite built by Northrop Grumman. Its existence only surfaced in October 2017.

Whatever it is, the launch is on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-4O) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS).  The launch window in November was 8:00-10:00 pm ET and it appears to be the same now.  The launch weather forecast for Friday is 90% favorable.    The Falcon 9 first stage will return to land at Landing Zone 1 on CCAFS.

SLC-40 is a change of venue from November.  At that time, Zuma was to launch from Launch Complex-39A (LC-39A) at the adjacent Kennedy Space Center because SLC-40 was still under repair.  Now SLC-40 is back in business, and LC-39A is getting ready for the first launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket.

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