What’s Happening in Space Policy August 16-22, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy August 16-22, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of August 16-22, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them. The Senate is in recess, except for pro forma sessions, until September 8.  The House schedule is uncertain.

During the Week

For August, it’s still rather busy thanks largely to the plethora of webinars that have become the hallmark of the pandemic era. But the political scene is also busy with the Democratic presidential convention this week (August 17-20) and the Republican convention next (August 24-27).

Not sure if the space program will get much of a mention at the conventions, but one never knows. President Trump has been talking up (in greatly exaggerated terms) his role in NASA’s space activities, and former President Obama and Vice President Biden have been reminding everyone that the commercial crew program started on their watch, so both parties seem to think there’s political capital to be made. With the conventions dramatically shortened and mostly virtual this year, though, they will have to be selective about what topics are on the agenda. Usually it’s the areas of disagreement that get the limelight. Except for the schedule for returning humans to the Moon and the importance of earth science research, there’s not much difference on the civil/commercial space side of things. On the national security side, Trump is clearly proud of Space Force. We haven’t seen anything from the Biden campaign on that topic.

Apart from the good news of the Mars Perseverance launch and the Demo-2 return, space is not at the top of most people’s minds at the moment. The pandemic and the future of the U.S. Postal Service, particularly just weeks before the election, are above the fold.  Although the Senate officially is on its August recess, the House is in limbo with Members advised they could be called back to town for votes at any time if needed. Both chambers have only pro forma sessions scheduled between now and September 8 (the day after Labor Day), but in practice either could decide to return if events warrant.  Just a week ago it was contemplated that a deal might be reached soon on the next coronavirus package requiring Members to be present for votes. While those hopes seem to be dashed for now, the Postal Service crisis could take its place as an urgent issue needing action before next month. Stay tuned.

For the space policy crowd, this week has several really interesting webinars as well as a meeting of one of NASA’s science advisory panels.

NASA’s Planetary Science Advisory Committee (PAC) meets tomorrow (Monday) and Tuesday. Planetary Science Division Director Lori Glaze is first up tomorrow morning. Briefings on Mars and lunar programs as well as the Planetary Defense Coordination Office are tomorrow afternoon.  The many PAC-associated program analysis groups–PAGs–report on Tuesday.

Dennis Andrucyk, the (relatively) new director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, will be the virtual luncheon speaker for the Maryland Space Business Roundtable on Tuesday. The MSBR website doesn’t say what time it is, but a reliable source tells us it’s at 1:00 pm ET. It will be livestreamed on Goddard’s Ustream channel.

AIAA is sponsoring a series of virtual summits leading up to its big ASCEND virtual conference in November. The first “ASCENDxSUMMIT” is on Space Science and Technology and takes place Wednesday.  It starts with a keynote by Thomas Zurbuchen, the head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, then splits into five parallel tracks: science & technology; telecommunications; LEO research and development; the human element; and national security space.  Will be tough to choose among them. We do find it interesting that the session on “Cislunar Logistics: Motivations, Markets & Users” is part of the national security track and led by DOD’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). Cislunar logistics is usually discussed in the context of NASA/commercial/international exploration and utilization, not military operations, but DIU’s recent report and the Space Force Doctrine make clear that DOD has expansive plans way beyond Earth orbit.  FYI, the next ASCENDxSUMMIT, in September, is solely on national security space.

Several other webinars are on tap this week. Many are recorded and available for later viewing, which is a good thing since they often conflict with one another.

The Secure World Foundation itself has two webinars at the same time on Wednesday that clash with the ASCENDxSUMMIT.  One is the next in its series with Space Enabled on how space data is relevant to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This week’s is SDG-8, Decent Work and Economic Growth.  The other is joint with the Brazilian space agency on “opportunities and benefits in space resources utilization.”

Then on Thursday, there are two about NOAA (albeit different aspects of its work) at the same time. Space News will talk about NOAA’s future satellite architecture with Steve Volz and Vanessa Griffin, while Aerospace Corp hosts Kevin O’Connell from NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce to discuss the future of commercial space.

On Thursday and Friday, the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) hosts its first Space Warfighting Industry Forum with a who’s who of guests from DOD, Space Force, Space Command, Congress, and industry.  It’s virtual, of course. Note that all times on the online agenda are in Mountain Daylight Time (add 2 for Eastern), though there is a program booklet you can download that has them in both MDT and EDT. Among the speakers are Lt. Gen. David Thompson, Vice Commander of U.S. Space Force (just nominated for promotion to General); Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Commander of Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center; and Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, Deputy Commander of U.S. Space Command. Dickinson was just confirmed as Commander of U.S. Space Command to succeed Gen. Jay Raymond, but the change of command ceremony hasn’t happened yet. Raymond is currently dual-hatted as head of Space Command and Space Force. Those are just a few of the notable names on the program.  It really is an impressive line-up. Congressional speakers are Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA), and Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH).

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-Tuesday, August 17-18

Tuesday, August 18

Wednesday, August 19

Thursday, August 20

Thursday-Friday, August 20-21

  • Space Warfighting Industry Forum (NDIA), virtual (note that times on the online agenda are in Mountain Daylight Time, add 2 for Eastern, or download the program booklet which has both)


This article has been updated.

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