What’s Happening in Space Policy April 19-25, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy April 19-25, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of April 19-25, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them. Congress is in recess, except for pro forma sessions, until at least May 4.

During the Week

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have decided to delay the return of their chambers to Washington from April 20 until at least May 4 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That doesn’t mean they are not working hard or that we won’t see legislative action on critical legislation until then. The pro forma sessions, which are scheduled every three business days, usually are quiet affairs, but in this unprecedented situation are being used to try and get COVID-19 relief bills passed on a unanimous consent or voice vote basis so all members do not have to make the trip back to D.C.  That means getting bipartisan agreement in advance since just one member can stop a unanimous consent request. That has happened in both chambers already, but word is that they are close to reaching agreement on a fourth COVID-19 bill and could take it up this week.  One House member, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), adamantly objects to the House passing legislation in that manner.  When the House passed the third COVID-19 bill at the end of March, his opposition meant a quorum (218) of House members had to make the trip, but when he demanded a recorded vote, even his own party did not support him. He could not get a “sufficient second” to require a recorded vote and they ended up with a voice vote nonetheless.  He was harshly criticized, including by President Trump who tweeted that Massie should be kicked out of the Republican party, but he was unswayed and is expected to continue to object. That means a quorum of the House may be in town this week, but no legislative action on other topics is expected and no hearings are scheduled.

Most of the work on legislation takes place behind the scenes anyway and that is continuing. How far they can get without the public hearings that get Administration officials on record and the usual in-person give-and-take that characterizes negotiations will be interesting to watch.

Meanwhile, the space community has made what seems to be an effortless transition to virtual meetings. There are more and more of them, so for this issue of “What’s Happening,” at least, we are returning to a one-week list instead of two. These types of meetings are great for information exchange, even if lacking the richness of personal interactions.

Doug Loverro, the head of NASA’s human spaceflight program, will discuss LEO commercialization in an AIAA members-only webinar tomorrow (Monday).  Attention has been focused on NASA’s human spaceflight plans for the Moon and Mars recently, but the future of human spaceflight operations in LEO may get renewed attention with the launch of SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission to ISS on May 27.  And while the title is about LEO commercialization, the description says he will also discuss the FY2021 budget request, NASA’s exploration plans, and how NASA will achieve the Artemis goal.  Perhaps he’ll say when NASA will announce the winners of the Human Landing System (HLS) contract(s) or reveal more about the new Artemis architecture. Inquiring minds want to know. One must be an AIAA member to listen. The event’s website has a link to learn more about AIAA and join if one wishes.

NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) meets virtually on Thursday.  Those meetings have been especially valuable recently in keeping the public up to date on safety issues in the commercial crew program (e.g. Boeing’s Starliner Orbital Flight Test). Their views on Demo-2 readiness and on any impacts of COVID-19 on the safety of NASA’s activities should be interesting.

Russia’s antisatellite (ASAT) test last week and the recent space threat assessment reports from CSIS and the Secure World Foundation (SWF) are spurring discussion in national security space circles. Several events are on tap this week, including a Space News webinar on Thursday that starts with a one-on-one conversation between Space News’ Sandra Erwin and U.S. Space Force Vice Commander Lt. Gen. David “DT” Thompson. That will be followed by a panel with three authors of those reports (Todd Harrison and Kaitlyn Johnson of CSIS and Brian Weeden from SWF) along with JT Venable from the Heritage Foundation and Col. Bill Woolf (Ret.). SWF will hold its own webinar specifically on the ASAT test on Friday with Weeden and Victoria Samson, Director of SWF’s Washington Office, along with Chris Newman of Northumbria University, Pavel Podvig of the Russian Nuclear Forces Project, and Michael Thompson, an amateur satellite analyst.

Although Russia’s test apparently was against a point in space, not a satellite, and did not produce any debris, space debris is an ever-present worry these days.  Despite congressional objections, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is issuing new space debris rules.  Astroscale, a Japanese company offering space debris removal services, will hold a virtual panel discussion on Thursday to discuss the implications of the FCC’s rules. Speakers are Astroscale’s Charity Weeden, Dan Oltrogge from Analytical Graphics, and Marlon Sorge from the Aerospace Corporation, with Therese Jones from the Satellite Industries Association as moderator.

Last week we wrote about several anniversaries occurring right now, including the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which is this Wednesday.  Another is the 30th anniversary of the launch of the beloved Hubble Space Telescope. That’s on Friday.  A number of events were scheduled, but had to be cancelled or postponed because of COVID-19 so the celebration will take place virtually.  On one of the websites, anyone can view an image that was taken on their birthday (month and day), which is quite fun. Here is what Hubble was looking at a few years ago on your SpacePolicyOnline.com editor’s birthday.  Lovely.

Hubble Space Telescope image of spiral galaxy NGC 1313, 14 million light years away in the constellation Reticulum. Credits: NASA, ESA and A. Pellerin (STScI).

The Aerospace Corporation is continuing its “Space Policy Show” webinars on Tuesdays and Thursdays through the end of the month, but the topics have been changing with little notice, so be sure to check their website for up-to-date information.  At the moment, the topic this Tuesday is the “History of the Future of Space” with Jim Vedda and on Thursday, “Outpacing the Threat with an Agile Defense Space Enterprise” with Malina Hills, Dave Eccles, and Karen Jones.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning are shown below.  Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar, or changes to what is now listed.

Monday, April 20

Tuesday, April 21

Wednesday, April 22

Thursday, April 23

Friday, April 24

Friday-Saturday, April 24-25


User Comments

SpacePolicyOnline.com has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.