What’s Happening in Space Policy April 23-29, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy April 23-29, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of April 23-29, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

We have 26 events on our list for the coming week already and some organizations don’t announce them till Monday or later. Yikes!  Remember that the list on our home page only shows the next 20, so click on “View All Events” to see them all or look below.

Congress continues its busy schedule with five space-related hearings and House consideration of three satellite spectrum bills that were reported from the House Energy and Commerce Committee last month. The House will also take up legislation that House Republican leadership crafted in the context of addressing the debt limit. The bill would cut federal spending back to FY2022 levels and hold increases to 1 percent per year for the next 10 years. The “Limit, Save, Grow Act” has a lot of other provisions, too, like repealing major portions of the Democrats’ signature Inflation Reduction Act from last year and prohibiting student loan relief, but the spending limits are the part that would have the most dramatic effect on space activities.

The spectrum bills are on the suspension calendar for Tuesday:

  • H.R. 675, Secure Space Act
  • H.R. 1339, Precision Agriculture Satellite Connectivity Act, and
  • H.R. 1353, Advanced, Local Emergency Response Telecommunications or ALERT Act

Bills on the suspension calendar are relatively non-controversial and get to bypass certain procedures (“suspend the rules”), but need a two-thirds votes to pass instead of a simple majority. They usually do.

Major bills like the Limit, Save, Grow Act, which doesn’t have a bill number yet, do need a rule that delineates how much time each side has for debate and what amendments can be offered. The House Rules Committee meets on Tuesday to write that rule and the bill is intended to be on the floor of the House on Wednesday. No Democrats are expected to support it, but Republican leadership apparently is confident that Republicans will vote yes and it’ll pass despite the very narrow margin (222 Republicans, 213 Democrats). The chances of it passing the Democratic-controlled Senate are as close to zero as you can get (but we know better than try to predict what Congress will do). Basically it’s the opening salvo marking what Republicans want in exchange for raising or suspending the debt limit even though it wouldn’t be for very long — only until March 2024 or the debt reaches $32.9 billion. That means the fight would have to be fought again next year during the presidential and congressional primary season.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson testified to the House Appropriations CJS subcommittee last week. This Thursday he’ll be before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Photo credit: NASA

The whole thing has major ramifications for the country, but we’re going to stick to what it means for space activities. The top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee asked the heads of each major agency to submit a letter on the impact of cutting spending back to FY2022 levels. The letters are published on the committee’s website.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said it would be “devastating” especially if defense and veterans affairs are exempted from the cuts as many expect and the full burden falls on non-defense spending like NASA. The White House calculates it would mean a 22 percent cut from FY2023 levels.

NASA’s House and Senate appropriators haven’t been shy in expressing their strong, bipartisan support for the agency, a glimmer of good news in an otherwise gloomy forecast. But appropriators for other parts of the government, especially defense, are similarly supportive of their agencies. It’s going to be a tough year for everyone.

Nelson will be testifying again to Congress this week. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee is holding a hearing on the FY2024 NASA budget request on Thursday afternoon. Committee chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK), another NASA enthuasiast, wants to pass a NASA authorization bill this year. The hearing should be a good way to find out what key issues he and others want to address.  Authorizers set policy and can recommend funding levels, but remember that only appropriators have money to spend.

It’s one of five hearings this week on civil, commercial and national security space issues that we know about so far (the Senate Commerce committee hasn’t posted a list of upcoming hearings yet). All will be webcast.

  • Wednesday, April 26
    • 10:00 am ET: House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on FAA’s FY2024 budget request (including Office of Commercial Space Transportation)
    • 2:00 pm ET: House Armed Services subcommittee hearing on National Security Space Programs
    • 2:30 pm ET: Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Department of Commerce’s FY2024 budget request (including NOAA and Office of Space Commerce)
  • Thursday, April 27
    • 12:30 pm ET: House Armed Services full committee hearing on FY2024 request for the Department of the Air Force (including the U.S. Space Force)
    • 1:00 pm ET: House Science, Space, and Technology full committee hearing on NASA’s FY2024 budget request

It’s a busy week off the Hill, too.

On Tuesday, a Japanese company, ispace, hopes to become the first commercial entity to successfully land a spacecraft on the Moon. Not only that, but the Hakuto-R M1 lander has the United Arab Emirates’ Rashid rover along for the ride. Although it’s a private company, if the landing succeeds Japan will go down in the history books as the fourth country to successfully land on the Moon and the UAE the first Arab country with a lunar rover. The Soviet Union, the United States, and China are the three who’ve done it successfully so far. Tuesday is a “no earlier than” date. Backup dates are April 26, May 1 and May 3. It’ll be livestreamed.

If it does happen on Tuesday, it’ll coincide with the spring meeting of NASA’s Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium (LSIC) at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, MD. The meeting is Monday-Tuesday and the morning sessions each day will be livestreamed according to NASA.

NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy released the Moon to Mars Architecture Definition Document at the Space Symposium last week (screengrab). This Tuesday she’ll be at the Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium meeting in Laurel, MD.

LSIC is under the purview of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and STMD Associate Administrator Jim Reuter is among those on the agenda tomorrow (Monday) morning.

On Tuesday morning there’s a panel with NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy, Stefanie Tompkins from DARPA, Matt Daniels from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and Kurt Vogel and Walt Englund from NASA. Melroy was at the Space Symposium last week and released NASA’s Moon to Mars 158-page Architecture Definition Document, which is likely to be one focus of discussion at LSIC. Back in January, she and Tompkins announced a NASA-DARPA agreement on developing nuclear propulsion. Daniels is OSTP’s Assistant Director for Space Security and Special Projects.

Meanwhile, there’s never a dull moment on the International Space Station. The UAE may not only see its Rashid rover land on the Moon this week, but UAE astronaut Sultan Alneyadi will become the first Arab to make a spacewalk. NASA will hold a news conference tomorrow afternoon to preview Friday’s spacewalk with Alneyadi and NASA’s Steve Bowen. In addition, Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin will be out on a spacewalk Tuesday afternoon continuing to outfit the Nauka module.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s happening this week. We’ll just briefly mention two other events, both on Thursday — Pam Melroy will be back on stage again at a Washington Space Business Roundtable luncheon and the Atlantic Council has a webinar on Harnessing Allied Space Capabilities. Unfortunately they clash with the HASC hearing on the Air Force and Space Force budgets and Bill Nelson’s testimony to House SS&T.  Choices, choices!

Here’s the list of all the events we know about as of Sunday morning. Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar or changes to these.

Monday, April 24

Monday-Tuesday April 24-25

Tuesday, April 25

Tuesday-Wednesday, April 25-26

Tuesday-Thursday, April 25-27

Tuesday-Friday, April 25-28

Wednesday, April 26

Wednesday-Thursday, April 26-27

Thursday, April 27

Friday, April 28

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