What’s Happening in Space Policy April 28-May 4, 2019 (Updated)

What’s Happening in Space Policy April 28-May 4, 2019 (Updated)

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of April 28-May 4, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.  [Updated to reflect a new agenda for the joint ASEB/SSB meeting on April 30.]

During the Week

Will this be the week we get to see how much the Trump Administration thinks it will cost to get “the next man and the first woman” on the lunar surface by 2024?  A revised NASA budget request has been anxiously awaited since Vice President Pence announced the Moon 2024 plan on March 26.

That was just two weeks after the Administration submitted its original FY2020 request, which proposed cutting NASA’s budget by half a billion dollars and deferring work on the SLS Exploration Upper Stage and the 2nd Mobile Launcher.  NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine since has said both are critical to landing on the Moon. Not to mention the money that will be needed for descent/ascent vehicles to ferry between the Gateway and the surface, and, importantly, lunar surface spacesuits, which hardly ever get mentioned.  Bridenstine keeps pointing out the pitfalls in trying to pay for one program, like human spaceflight, by taking the money from others, like science, so coming up with a budget proposal that will win support not just this year but the next many years is no easy task.

Meanwhile, the congressional appropriations process moves on.  The Senate Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee, which funds NASA, will hold a hearing on the budget proposal — whichever one they have — on Wednesday afternoon. It will be webcast by the committee and broadcast on NASA TV.  The House Appropriations Committee is beginning markups of its 12 appropriations bills.  CJS is not one of the three it will take up this week, but May is typically the month when they act on their bills. So there is no time to waste in coming up with the new budget proposal, difficult though it may be.

Bridenstine is the keynote speaker tomorrow (Monday) morning at the 6th IAA Planetary Defense Conference in College Park, MD.  Perhaps he’ll say something about it there, though it is only related to the topic of the conference in the sense that the budget also funds NASA’s planetary defense program.   Speakers from NASA and international space agencies will provide updates on their efforts to detect and track asteroids and comets — Near Earth Objects (NEOs) — that might pose a danger to Earth.  They will also conduct a table-top exercise on how to cope with a hypothetical situation where a NEO might collide with Earth.  The conference will be webcast and Bridenstine’s speech also will be broadcast on NASA TV.  (Your SpacePolicyOnline.com editor will be at a media workshop being held this afternoon in advance of the conference to get a preview and will report anything newsworthy.)

If he doesn’t say anything about the budget there, he’ll have another chance tomorrow afternoon at a STEM event he is holding at NASA headquarters, or Tuesday morning when he speaks to a joint session of the Space Studies Board (SSB) and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  The Boards are meeting this week in Washington, DC both separately and in a joint session on Tuesday.  The Tuesday session offers a who’s who of the government’s national security, civil and commercial space sectors. In addition to Bridenstine, the speaker’s list includes Mike Griffin, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering; Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of OSTP; Kevin O’Connell, Director of the Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commerce; and Kelvin Coleman, Deputy Associate Administrator of the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation.  UPDATE:  An updated agenda no longer lists Griffin or Bridenstine as speakers.  Ryan Whitley from the National Space Council has been added.  Instructions to participate remotely are at the end of the new agenda.

The head of NASA’s human exploration program, Bill Gesternmaier, is also on the SSB/ASEB agenda.  It is noteworthy that the meeting of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) committee that advises Gerstenmaier postponed its meeting that was scheduled for Tuesday-Wednesday.  The notice in the Federal Register said it was  “due to scheduling conflicts of the key participants.”  It seems unlikely this is the scheduling conflict in question.  One can imagine a number of issues he and others on the HEOMD team need to focus on right now like the SpaceX anomaly last week, the SpX-17 launch on Wednesday (rescheduled from Tuesday), or crafting a Moon 2024 plan that is achievable both technically and budgetarily.  Or it could be something entirely different.  In any case, it will be interesting to see if he is able to be at the SSB/ASEB meeting. UPDATE: The updated agenda still lists Gerstenmaier as speaking at 1:15 pm ET. 

As for NAC committees, three others will be meeting this week: Technology, Innovation and Engineering on Tuesday; Regulatory and Policy on Wednesday; and STEM Engagement on Thursday.

Up on Capitol Hill, in addition to the Senate Appropriations CJS hearing on Wednesday, there are three others of interest.  Two also are on Wednesday.  The  Senate Intelligence Committee will hold  a hearing on Chris Scolese’s nomination to be Director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).  Scolese is currently Director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and has had a long career at the agency, prior to which he was a Naval officer working in Rickover’s Naval Nuclear Reactor program.  The House Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee will hold a hearing that day on DOD’s FY2020 budget request, with Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and others.  On Tuesday, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Environment Subcommittee will hold a hearing on NOAA’s FY2020 budget request.

Also this week the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) will hold the first of several events to highlight the upcoming International Astronautical Congress (IAC) that will be held in Washington, D.C. in October.  The  IAC is held in different locations around the world every year, but the United States especially wanted the 2019 event to be here since it is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. AIAA is holding a kick-off reception on Tuesday on Capitol Hill to get the word out.

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.

Monday, April 29

Monday-Friday, April 29-May 3

  • IAA 6th Planetary Defense Conference, The Hotel at College Park, College Park, MD (livestream)
    • Monday, April 29, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, 9:20 am ET (livestream and NASA TV)
    • Wednesday, May 1, NASA Chief Scientist Jim Green and Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye, 7:00 pm ET (livestream)

Monday-Wednesday, April 29-May 1

Tuesday April 30

Wednesday, May 1

Thursday, May 2

Friday, May 3

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