What’s Happening in Space Policy April 22-28, 2018

What’s Happening in Space Policy April 22-28, 2018

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of April 22-28, 2018 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Happy Earth Day!  The Earth Day Network has chosen “End Plastic Pollution” as its theme this year, but more generally this is a day to appreciate the planet we live on and help ensure its environmental future.  NASA has been part of Earth Day from the beginning since it was Apollo photos of Earth against the emptiness of space that helped stimulate the environmental movement and the first Earth Day in 1970.  NASA remains involved and will participate in events in Washington, DC and Houston today (Sunday).

Tomorrow, Jim Bridenstine will be sworn in as NASA Administrator.  Vice President Mike Pence, chairman of the White House National Space Council, will officiate at the 2:30 pm ET ceremony at NASA Headquarters.  It will air on NASA TV and the agency’s website.

Bridenstine was confirmed on a party-line 50-49 vote last Thursday.  He is a relative unknown in NASA circles.  During his two-and-a-half terms as a Congressman from Oklahoma, he has been active legislatively in DOD, FAA and NOAA space issues chiefly from the standpoint of advocating for more commercial space.  He did give a “this is our Sputnik moment” speech in favor of lunar exploration at the end of 2016, but has stayed out the limelight since the Trump Administration took office and it became known that he was on the short list of potential NASA Administrators.  He was formally nominated in September 2017 and since then has been waiting for this day as we have recounted extensively over the past many months.  It will be quite a change for NASA.  Its last three leaders — Mike Griffin, Charlie Bolden, and Robert Lightfoot — were well known members of the NASA community.  His White House connections could work in NASA’s favor and he clearly has strong congressional support from the Republican side of the aisle, but considering the partisan nature of his confirmation vote, he apparently has some work to do with Senate Democrats. The next big question is who the White House will nominate as Deputy Administrator to pair with him.  Stay tuned.

On Tuesday, the House is scheduled to vote on the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act (H.R. 2809), which was marked up by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee last year (Bridenstine is one of the co-sponsors in fact, but he won’t be a Member of Congress anymore at the time of this vote).  It designates the Department of Commerce as the responsible agency essentially for functions required by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty to authorize and continually supervise non-government space activities (except for those already regulated by the FAA and FCC).  It also substantially reforms the licensing process for commercial remote sensing satellites to make it easier and more transparent.  (A link to the current text of the bill is in our Calendar entry.)  The bill is on the suspension calendar for that day, an expedited voting process used for legislation that is not expected to be controversial and thus easily able to win a two-thirds vote.  House proceedings can be watched live on the House’s own website or on CSPAN.

Two House Science, Space, and Technology subcommittees (Space and Environment) will hold a joint hearing on Thursday to get an update on space weather.  NOAA’s new head of Environmental Observation and Prediction, Neil Jacobs, will testify along with NASA’s Jim Spann, chief scientist of the Heliophysics Division, and Kent Tobiska from Space Environment Technologies.  NOAA runs the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder and is responsible for operational space weather satellites.  NASA does space weather research.  The Senate passed the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act (S. 141) almost a year ago (in May 2017).  A companion bill was introduced in the House (H.R. 3806), but there has been no action so far.

On the national security space front, the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold its annual Air Force posture hearing on Tuesday and the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee will hold its DOD posture hearing on Wednesday, though that one is closed.  The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) subcommittees are moving on to markups of the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), H.R. 5515.  They will all take place on Thursday.  HASC’s Strategic Forces subcommittee oversees most DOD space programs.  Its markup is at 3:00 pm ET.  The House will be in recess next week (as will the Senate), so full committee markup is not until May 9.

Outside of Washington, the annual GEOINT conference in Tampa, FL begins today and runs through Wednesday.  There is no indication that any of the sessions will be webcast unfortunately.  The same is true of several other very interesting conferences that are taking place in the United States and Europe, limiting their reach to only those who can make the journey.

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 SpacePolicyOnline.com’s Calendar.

Sunday, April 22

  • Earth Day.  Events around the world.  (NASA participates in events in Washington, D.C. and Houston)

Sunday-Wednesday, April 22-25

Monday, April 23

Monday-Wednesday, April 23-25

Monday-Thursday, April 23-26

Tuesday, April 24

Wednesday, April 25

Wednesday-Thursday, April 25-26

Wednesday-Friday, April 25-27

Wednesday-Sunday, April 25-29

Thursday, April 26



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.