Today’s Tidbits: September 28, 2021

Today’s Tidbits: September 28, 2021

Here are’s tidbits for September 28, 2021: CR update, VP Harris hails Landsat 9 launch, UK vows to become Galactic Britain in new space strategy. Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

CR Update

Congress is still trying to figure out how to keep the government funded when FY2022 begins just over 48 hours from now. None of the FY2022 appropriations bills has cleared Congress, so many government activities will have to stop as September turns to October at midnight Thursday if a Continuing Resolution (CR) is not enacted by then to keep the money flowing.

As we’ve previously reported, Democrats want to link the CR with a suspension of the debt limit through December 2022. Republicans are not cooperating. They refuse to vote for a suspension or raising of the debt limit even though a good part of that debt was incurred when a Republican was in the White House and Republicans controlled all or part of Congress (the 2017 tax cuts and the initial COVID relief bills). The debt has already been incurred due to prior congressional spending decisions. It is unrelated to legislation that is still under consideration like the infrastructure bills.

Last week the House passed a CR that includes the debt limit suspension, but Senate Republicans are preventing its consideration on that side of Capitol Hill. In the Senate, 60 votes are required instead of a simple majority like the House so at least 10 Republicans would have to agree. So far, none do.

No one wants a government shutdown. This is political brinksmanship and it looks as though the Democrats will blink first. Tomorrow (Wednesday) the Senate reportedly will vote on a “clean” CR that funds the government and nothing else. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Congress today that October 18 is the final date by which the debt limit must be raised or suspended, so it can be dealt with later.

Assuming the clean CR passes the Senate, it must then go back to the House. They can make quick work of it if they wish. Then it must be signed by President Biden, which seems a sure bet.

It’s not over till it’s over, but a shutdown does not appear likely. That’s good news for everyone, but especially NASA which has some important launches coming up: the Lucy spacecraft to the Trojan asteroids on October 16 and Crew-3 to the International Space Station on October 31.

VP Harris Hails Landsat 9 Launch

Landsat 9 was successfully launched by a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base, CA yesterday afternoon. It is the ninth in a series of land remote sensing satellites since 1972 (one of which, Landsat 6, did not reach orbit) providing data that allows scientists to track changes in the Earth’s land surface.

NASA builds and launches the satellites, while the U.S. Geological Survery (USGS) operates them and distributes and archives the data. Karen St. Germain, the head of NASA’s Earth science program, explained the importance of the Landsat series.

“For nearly 50 years, Landsat satellites observed our home planet, providing an unparalleled record of how its surface has changed over timescales from days to decades. Through this partnership with USGS, we’ve been able to provide continuous and timely data for users ranging from farmers to resource managers and scientists. This data can help us understand, predict, and plan for the future in a changing climate.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, who chairs the White House National Space Council, has not been very active on space issues yet (publicly, at least), but she did tweet her congratulations to the Landsat team.

UK Vows to Become “Galactic Britain” in New Space Strategy

The United Kingdom just released its first National Space Strategy vowing that it will now take the lead in space endeavors instead of only contributing to the work of others.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote the foreword to the report setting the aspirational tone with “Global Britain becoming Galactic Britain.”

And so the home of Bell Burnell, Hawking and Payne-Gaposchkin, a country that has done so much to expand and enhance humanity’s understanding of the cosmos, has remained largely earthbound. When it comes to getting off the ground we contribute to the work of others rather than taking the lead ourselves.

This strategy is about changing that. About tapping our vast pools of talent and enthusiasm, putting the UK firmly in the front rank of the global space industry, and harnessing the technology of space to solve problems and improve public services back down on Earth.

It’s a plan that will level up the UK by bringing opportunity to every part of it, with satellites being propelled into orbit from as far afield as Cornwall and Sutherland as soon as next year. A plan that will create more jobs by putting rocket boosters the size of a Saturn V’s F1 under British space businesses. And a plan that will see us take a leading role on the international stage, Global Britain becoming Galactic Britain as we work with other nations to pursue exciting missions and with the UN to set the standards that will ensure space is used responsibly and safely.

The days of the UK space industry idling on the launch pad are over – this government has the Right Stuff, and this strategy marks the start of the countdown.

Virgin Orbit, part of the Virgin Group owned by Britain’s Sir Richard Branson, is planning a spaceport in Cornwall for its air-launched LauncherOne rocket.  Johnson visited the facility at the time of the G-7 summit earlier this year wearing a Virgin Orbit jacket.

Another spaceport has been proposed for Sutherland, Scotland, for Orbex Prime.

The report spells out the U.K.’s interests in commercial, civil and national security space and lists five goals:

  • Grow and level up our space economy
  • Promote the values of Global Britain
  • Lead pioneering scientific discovery and inspire the nation
  • Protect and defend our national interest in and through space
  • Use space to deliver for UK citizens and the world


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