What’s Happening in Space Policy August 15-28, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy August 15-28, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the next TWO weeks, August 15-28, 2021, and any insight we can offer about them. The House will be in session for legislative business on August 23-24, a change from its prior schedule. The Senate is in recess, except for pro forma sessions, until September 13.

During the Weeks

At last we get a bit of a summer break this week, with the Starliner OFT-2 launch postponed indefinitely. Not that there are no space policy events, but fewer than usual and both the House and Senate are in recess. That’s just for one week, though. It starts getting busy again next week with the Space Foundation’s much-anticipated Space Symposium and a surprise return of the House for two days.

The Senate stayed in town longer than planned to pass the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and a blueprint for a yet-to-be-written $3.5 trillion 10-year “human infrastructure” package. House leadership decided to take up the blueprint — the FY2022 budget resolution — immediately rather than wait until its planned return on September 20 (committees will meet before that, but there weren’t going to be any votes till then). Votes now are scheduled for August 23 and 24. Nine moderate House Democrats have let it be known they will oppose the budget resolution unless the House first passes the  infrastructure bill, however, so we’ll see how all of this plays out. All Republicans are expected to oppose the budget resolution, so Democrats need to be almost united in their support for it to pass. The Democrats’ margin in the House is so close that it will fail if just four Democrats vote no.

Does any of this affect space activities? NASA Administrator Bill Nelson still hopes to get money from all of this  — $15.7 billion, including $10.032 billion for HLS and $5.4 billion to repair aging facilities. As far as we can tell there is none in the $1 trillion package. As for the $3.5 trillion budget resolution, it doesn’t get into those details. It only sets forth spending limits for the next 10 years by budget function (NASA’s space activities are in function 250; aeronautics in function 400) and directs committees to craft legislation to authorize certain amounts. How it all comes out in the wash is TBD. So yes, the space policy community should keep up to date on what’s happening with these bills because even though the real action won’t take place in public for a while, there undoubtedly is a lot going on behind the scenes.

More immediately, this week offers the first meeting of the steering committee for the National Academies’ Decadal Survey on Biological and Physical Sciences Research in Space and the 18th meeting of the steering committee for the Decadal Survey on Planetary Science and Astrobiology. (The Academies prepare “Decadal Surveys” every 10 years — a decade — for each of NASA’s five science disciplines. The others are Astronomy and Astrophysics, Earth Science and Applications from Space, and Solar and Space Physics.)

The Biological and Physical Research (BPR) meeting is Monday-Tuesday, with open sessions both days. Note that times on the agenda are shown in red and black — red to denote Pacific Time; black for Eastern.  (Our eyes seem to focus on the times in red by mistake.) Monday features discussions with folks from NASA headquarters. Tuesday has a panel with stakeholders from Congress and industry. The Planetary Science meeting is three days, but there is only one open session, on Wednesday, to discuss radioisotope power systems.

There also are three days (Monday-Wednesday) of technical sessions of the annual ISS Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) and a two-day (Wednesday-Thursday) Lunar Surface Science Workshop on Fundamental and Applied Lunar Surface Research in Physical Sciences.

Next week is the Space Symposium, delayed from last year and earlier this year because of COVID. Everyone is so excited for this to finally take place, in person, at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs as usual, but COVID continues to disrupt plans. Yes, there still is an in-person event, but there’s a prominent notice to Bring Your Masks:In consultation with our government and industry stakeholders, Space Foundation is currently directing that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks at indoor settings that are part of the 36th Space Symposium.” A virtual option is available for registrants not able to travel.

The agenda for the symposium is as amazing as always. The symposium begins late Monday afternoon (August 23), with the associated Space Generation Fusion Forum starting two days earlier. Tuesday features talks by VIPs including Gen. Jay Raymond (Chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force), Bill Nelson (NASA), Sen. Jerry Moran, Frank Kendall (Secretary of the Air Force), Chris Scolese (Director of NRO), Gen. James Dickinson (Commander, U.S. Space Command), and Josef Aschbacher (Director General, ESA). Chirag Parikh, just appointed as Executive Secretary of the White House National Space Council, speaks on Wednesday, followed by the international “Heads of Agency” panel. The list goes on and on with all the top people from government and industry, domestic and international.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning are shown below.  Check back throughout the weeks for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar.

Monday-Tuesday, August 16-17

Monday-Wednesday, August 16-18

Wednesday, August 18

Wednesday-Thursday, August 18-19

Saturday-Monday, August 21-23

Monday-Thursday, August 23-26

Wednesday, August 25 – Friday, September 3

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