What’s Happening in Space Policy August 18-31, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy August 18-31, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the next TWO weeks, August 18-31, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in recess (except for pro forma sessions) until September 9.

During the Weeks

The BIG event in space policy this week is the sixth public meeting of the White House National Space Council.  It meets on Tuesday morning at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA near Dulles Airport.  Space Council members include the heads (or their designated representatives) of departments and agencies with a stake in the space program and these meetings typically include some or all of them giving updates on fulfilling their assignments from the four Space Policy Directives issued by President Trump. Officially the meeting “will address a whole-of-government effort for deep space exploration, prospective cooperation with international partners, and strengthening U.S. commercial space leadership.”

The timing of this meeting is fortuitous in that comments on the proposed new regulations for commercial space launch providers are due tomorrow (Monday). That gives Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao an opportunity to say something about what types of comments were received and what will be the next step.  The regulatory process has options for getting to a final rule (the Federal Register offers a guide for those who are interested) depending on the nature of the comments received.  Whether DOT/FAA will proceed to a final rule or issue a supplemental proposed rule remains to be seen.  Trump wants fast action, so a final rule may indeed be in the offing, but some industry representatives were quite dissatisfied with the draft and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation called for a supplemental proposed rule at a House Science, Space, and Technology Committee hearing last month.

Hopefully there will be updates on the Department of Commerce’s commercial space efforts, especially on space situational awareness; NASA’s Artemis program (a lot is happening); and DOD’s space restructuring (there is a rumor that U.S. Space Command will be officially established on Tuesday, too, but we have been unable to confirm that).  It will be interesting to see who is there to represent the Intelligence Community (IC) since Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dan Coats and Principal Deputy DNI Sue Gordon left on August 15.  One or the other attended past meetings. Joseph Maguire is the Acting DNI as of two days ago, prior to which he was director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

In addition, the Council will hear from a panel of experts on “innovative space initiatives and human space exploration.”  They are:

  • Rex Geveden, president and CEO of BWX Technologies (which is working on nuclear thermal propulsion), and former NASA Chief Engineer who later was the first NASA Associate Administrator — the top civil servant at the agency — after Mike Griffin reestablished the position in 2005;
  • Clive Neal, University of Notre Dame, an expert on lunar science (especially resource utilization) and Emeritus Chair of NASA’s Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG), who is a champion for the Resource Prospector mission that NASA has declined to develop as originally designed;
  • Saralyn Mark, founder and president of iGIANT (impact of Gender/Sex on Innovation and Novel Technologies) and SolaMed Solutions LLC, a consulting firm, who worked at NASA from 1999-2017 developing “one of the first federal policies on assisted reproductive technology coverage for the astronaut corps as well as policies on research inclusion and oversight” and launched “2 seminal studies evaluating the impact of gender/sex on adaptation to space” according to her LinkedIn profile; and
  • Elizabeth (“Zibi”) Turtle, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, whose Dragonfly mission to fly a dual-quadcopter over the dunes and seas of Saturn’s moon Titan was recently selected by NASA as the next New Frontiers mission.

All of that in just two hours (9:30-11:30 am ET)!  NASA TV and/or the White House live website have broadcast these meetings in the past. [UPDATE: We’re told it will be live on C-SPAN and NASA has announced it will be on NASA TV and NASA Live as well.]

Speaking of DOT/FAA’s regulations for the commercial space launch business, SpaceX is waiting for FAA approval to conduct its next Starhopper hover test, part of the development of the company’s Starship to take people to the Moon and Mars.  The company had a tentative set of dates beginning yesterday, but Elon Musk tweeted on Thursday that the FAA wanted “a bit more hazard analysis” so the test was postponed.  The new range of dates apparently is August 21-23 according to a road closure notice posted by Cameron County, TX, where SpaceX’s Boca Chica site is located.  Musk said earlier that he will provide an update on the Starship program from Boca Chica on August 24, but whether that takes place or not may be dependent on when the Starhopper test occurs.

The International Space Station (ISS) will be a busy place.  On Wednesday, NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Drew Morgan will make a spacewalk to install the International Docking Adapter 3 recently delivered on SpaceX’s CRS-18 cargo mission.  Later that day (11:38 pm EDT), Russia will launch the uncrewed Soyuz MS-14 mission.  No humans will be aboard, but an instrumented Russian robot, Fedor (or Skybot F-850), will make the trip.  As do many robotic space probes/devices these days, Fedor/Skybot has its own Twitter account (in Russian, of course).

Russia is switching Soyuz crew spacecraft launches from one version of the Soyuz rocket (Soyuz FG) to another (Soyuz 2.1a) and wants to test the abort system before putting a crew on-board.  Soyuz MS-14 will also test new navigation and propulsion systems for docking with ISS.  If all goes according to plan, Soyuz MS-14 will dock at ISS very early on August 24 EDT and remain for two weeks.

As we mentioned last week, India’s Chandraayan-2 lunar orbiter/lander/rover is still on track to enter lunar orbit on Tuesday.  That’s another step toward the landing, which is scheduled for September 6 EDT (September 7 in India).

It’ll be a busy week, but the following week will give everyone a chance to recoup and get ready for September.  As of now, we do not have any events for that week.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning, August 18, are shown below.  Check back throughout the weeks for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar.

Monday-Thursday, August 19-22

Tuesday, August 20

Tuesday-Wednesday, August 20-21

Wednesday, August 21

Saturday, August 24

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