What’s Happening in Space Policy August 20-September 8, 2017

What’s Happening in Space Policy August 20-September 8, 2017

Here is our list of space policy events for the next THREE weeks, August 20-September 8, 2017, and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in recess until September 5 (except for pro forma sessions).

During the Weeks

Mother Nature is sponsoring the BIG EVENT for this period of time — a total solar eclipse that will cross the contiguous United States on Monday, August 21.  As we wrote last week, NASA and the astronomical community have done a great job of getting the word out not only about the scientific aspects of the eclipse, but the safety implications. DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN UNLESS YOU HAVE A PAIR OF CERTIFIED ECLIPSE GLASSES. The American Astronomical Society has information on how to ensure that the eclipse glasses you may have bought are not counterfeit.

North America and South America and parts of Europe and Africa will be able to see the eclipse, but totality, where the Moon completely blocks out the Sun, will be visible only in portions of 14 states:  The website timeanddate.com has a useful interactive map that tells when and what percentage of the eclipse will be visible from wherever you are.

If you aren’t in the path of totality or can’t see it for other reasons, like weather, NASA will have four hours of programming from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm Pacific Time (12:00-4:00 pm Eastern) on many of its media platforms from NASA TV to Facebook with views from research aircraft, balloons, satellites and telescopes.   NASA’s Eclipse Live website provides details.  More information is on its Eclipse 2017 website.

Have fun — but do it safely!

Last week’s edition of “What’s Happening” discussed other interesting events through September 1 that we knew about at the time.  Since then, we learned that NOAA’s Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing (ACCRES) will meet on August 24 at George Washington University.   The committee has come to life this year after a long quiescent period, perhaps in response to growing congressional interest in reforming how commercial remote sensing satellites are regulated.  Concern about how long it can take for companies to get a decision on a license application despite a law that says the government has no more than 120 days is one of of the catalysts for legislation that cleared the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.  It addresses not only commercial remote sensing satellites, but new types of commercial space activities. The agenda for the ACCRES meeting still has not been posted on the committee’s website. We’ll add a link in our calendar entry when it is.

This edition of What’s Happening adds the week of September 4-8, 2017.   Congress returns on September 5.  We’ll have more to say about that in next week’s issue — they’ve got a LOT to do, starting with raising the debt limit and doing something about FY2018 funding.

But for now we want to bring to your attention a September 6 event that is of special interest. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has scheduled a really interesting day-long seminar on “How to Organize Military Space.”   It features a veritable who’s who of people who have first hand experience in doing that and others who are pushing for reform.   The House and Senate Armed Services Committees (HASC and SASC) have very different ideas. Representing HASC will be Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), chairman of the Strategic Forces subcommittee. He wants to create a Space Force within the Air Force analogous to the Marine Corps within the Department of the Navy and a U.S. Space Command as a subunit of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM).   Not everyone on HASC agrees, but the House-passed version of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act includes that direction despite White House opposition. SASC also does not agree.  It has a completely different idea — creating a Chief Information Warfare Officer (CIWO) with responsibility for space, cyber and information.  SASC’s viewpoint will be presented by committee staffer Daniel Lerner.

Providing the DOD/Intelligence Community insider’s view will be a former commander of STRATCOM and Air Force Space Command (Gen. C. Robert Kehler, Ret.), the former deputy commander of the original U.S. Space Command that existed as its own unified combatant command from 1985-2002 ( VADM Lyle Bien, Ret.), former Secretary (Deborah Lee James) and Under Secretary (Lisa Disbrow) of the Air Force, a former director of the National Reconnaissance Office (Marty Faga), the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy (Doug Loverro) and too many others to mention here.  It is really an impressive list.  Kehler already has made it clear that he opposes HASC’s proposal.

Those and other events we know about as of Saturday afternoon are listed below. Check back throughout the weeks for others that we learn about later and add to our Calendar.

Sunday, August 20

Monday, August 21

  • Solar Eclipse, various times, various locations, NASA programming available 9:00 am – 1:00 pm Pacific Time (12:00-4:00 pm Eastern)

Tuesday, August 22

Thursday, August 24

Monday-Wednesday, August 28-30

Thursday, August 31

Saturday, September 2

  • Soyuz MS-04 return to Earth, Kazakhstan, undocking 6:02 pm ET (NASA TV coverage begins 5:30 pm ET); landing, 9:22 pm ET (NASA TV coverage begins 8:00 pm ET)

Sunday-Thursday, September 3-7

Wednesday, September 6

Wednesday-Thursday, September 6-7

Friday, September 8


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