What’s Happening in Space Policy August 2-8, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy August 2-8, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of August 2-8, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them. The Senate is in session this week. The House schedule is uncertain.

During the Week

The week kicks off today with the anticipated landing of the Demo-2 crew, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola this afternoon. Everything is on schedule as this is being written Sunday morning, with splashdown expected at 2:48 pm EDT.  Hurricane Isaias was downgraded to a Tropical Storm, but may regain strength, though still is forecast to remain in the Atlantic. A final decision on bringing Demo-2 down will be made later today.  Although they undocked from ISS last night, they have three days of supplies on board so could wait until the next splashdown opportunity 48 hours later.

A post-splashdown news conference is planned today (Sunday) at 4:30 pm EDT, half an hour earlier than originally scheduled, with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and others. The crew will have their own news conference on Tuesday.

The Small Satellite Conference (SmallSat) began yesterday and runs through Thursday. It is virtual this year, but still has many side events and Space News has arranged webinars each day Monday-Thursday. So it’s just as busy as always. Note that all times on the agenda are Mountain Daylight Time (MDT). Add 2 for Eastern Time. The bulk of the conference is Monday-Thursday and the keynote address by National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) Director Chris Scolese is Monday at 1:00 pm MDT (3:00 pm EDT).  There are far too many events to summarize here, but we have a few in the list below.

Back here in Washington, it’s August and that usually means August recess for Congress, but the Senate is scheduled to be in session one more week. The only space-related hearing we know about is the Senate Armed Services Committee’s nomination hearing on Tuesday for Shon Manasco to be Under Secretary of the Air Force and John Whitley to be DOD’s Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE). It wouldn’t be surprising to see a bunch of nominations considered by the full Senate before recess begins.

The House more-or-less began its recess Friday, but Members were advised they may be called back on short notice if a deal is struck on the next COVID-19 relief package.

The recess is through Labor Day, which is late this year — September 7. The Republican and Democratic conventions will take place during recess (August 17-20 for the Democrats; August 24-27 for the Republicans). When Congress resumes in full force on September 8, they will have to figure out something to do about FY2021 appropriations. The new fiscal year starts on October 1.  Everyone we know is expecting a Continuing Resolution (CR) at least until after the November elections, but until a deal is done, a shutdown is always possible.

So far the House has passed 10 of the 12 regular appropriations bills, but the Senate has not acted on any. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee that funds NASA and NOAA, told Politico last week that he “hopes” to mark up his bill in September, but there have been rumors for weeks that the Senate will not act on any appropriations bills before the elections. At least if the subcommittee completes markup, NASA and NOAA will have an idea of what they can expect when the dust settles. Moran was not optimistic about giving NASA all it wants for Artemis because “[i]n order to prioritize the lunar landing, things would have to be reduced that also are a priority.”

This year’s International Space Station Research & Development Conference (ISSRDC) is virtual.  Instead of trying to accomplish everything in one week, the American Astronautical Society, which organizes the conference for NASA and the ISS National Lab/CASIS, has sessions intermittently in July, August, September and October. Plenary sessions begin on August 27, but two technical sessions (or “seminars”) are on tap this Tuesday and Thursday (Organoids and Microphysiological Systems, and Stem Cells).

The annual Space and Missile Defense symposium also is virtual and only one day this year — Tuesday.  It features updates from VIPs from U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Space Command, Army Space and Missile Defense Command, and the Missile Defense Agency in the morning, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense and U.S. Northern Command in the afternoon, plus sessions on topics like hypersonics.  Note that all times on the agenda are in Central Daylight Time (add 1 for Eastern).

Also on the national security space side of things, the Aerospace Corporation’s Space Policy Show this Thursday should be especially interesting. The topic is “Space Force: How Did We Get Here” and features Doug Loverro.  Loverro had a long career in national security space and was a leading advocate for creating a Space Force, but readers of this website also know him as the former head of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate who abruptly resigned in May.  For this event, he’ll be chatting with Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Marty Whelan who is now Aerospace’s Senior Vice President. As the description says, it promises to be an “historic and exciting journey through the years leading up to the Space Force.”

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.

Sunday, August 2

Sunday-Thursday, August 2-6 (continued from August 1)

Monday, August 3

Tuesday, August 4

Wednesday, August 5

Thursday, August 6


Update: The original version of this article rhetorically asked whether the Senate might pass the space weather bill this week, but it actually passed last week (July 27).  Also, the ISS R&D virtual conference sessions run through October, not September.

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