Today’s Tidbits: June 28, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: June 28, 2018

Here are’s tidbits for June 28, 2018:  FY2019 defense appropriations bills make headway; House passes two space bills; and JAXA’s Hayabusa2 finally arrives at Ryugu.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

FY2019 Defense Appropriations Bills Make Headway

Before heading out on their week-long July 4 recess, the House and Senate made progress in approving their respective FY2019 defense appropriations bills.

The House passed its version today (H.R. 6157).  It provides $675 billion for defense ($607 billion in base funding plus $68 billion in for Overseas Contingency Operations).  The committee summary of the bill does not specify any of the funding directed towards space programs other than saying that $1.7 billion is for “5 space launch and capability services,” which is the same as the request.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the bill (S. 3159) today.  It provides the same total amount of funding as the House bill, though there are differences in how it is allocated. The bill and accompanying explanatory report are posted on the committee’s website.  A committee summary says this about space-related funding:

Space – $564 million in additional funding to develop enhanced offensive and defensive space capabilities, including $100 million for advanced sensors for Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared, the successor to the Space Based Infrared System and $200 million for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) development efforts.

Republican and Democratic appropriators on both sides of Capitol Hill are determined to restore “regular order” to the appropriations process and get the 12 individual bills passed in a timely manner.  For many years appropriations have been delayed well into the next fiscal year, necessitating a series of temporary Continuing Resolutions (CRs) and ultimately a giant “omnibus” bill bundling most of them together.

It is far too early to tell if CRs and an omnibus can be avoided this time, but the House and Senate have already passed three of the 12 bills (Energy & Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction/Veterans Affairs) bundled together into a “mini-bus.”  The House has named its conferees.

In summary, it’s the end of June and the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved all 12 of its bills, while the House committee has approved all but two (Homeland Security and Labor-HHS).  Three of the 12 have passed the House and Senate and are headed to conference.  One more (defense) has passed the House.

Not bad compared to recent prior years. Of course it’s a lot easier this time because in February Congress and the White House agreed to ignore budget caps set in the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) and made a lot more money available to spend in FY2018 and FY2019 — an additional $160 million for defense and $128 billion for non-defense.  Those BCA caps come back into play for FY2020 — unless they all agree to ignore them once again.

House Passes Two Space Bills

The House has been busy with other space legislation.  In addition to the civil Space Situational Awareness (SSA) bill that cleared the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee yesterday, the House passed two space bills.

H.R. 5345 is the American Leadership in Space Technology and Advanced Rockets (ALSTAR) Act, which designates NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center to provide leadership for the U.S. rocket propulsion industrial base.

H.R. 5346 is the Commercial Space Support Vehicle Act, which allows the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation to issue licenses and experimental permits for space support vehicles such as airplanes, balloons, and the aircraft portion of hybrid space launch vehicles (such as Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo).

The two bills were approved by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee in March.

JAXA’s Hayabusa2 Finally Arrives at Ryugu

It was a long journey — 4 years — but the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) Hayabusa2 spacecraft has finally arrived at its destination, the asteroid Ryugu.

Launched in December 2014, it entered orbit around Ryugu yesterday and will remain there for 18 months scouting the best place to briefly touch down and collect a sample for return to Earth.  The sample return canister will get back here in 2020.

This is Japan’s second asteroid sample return mission.   Its first, Hayabusa, brought back grains of asteroid Itokawa in 2010.

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