What’s Happening in Space Policy August 8-14, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy August 8-14, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of August 8-14, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them. The Senate is in session for at least part of this week. The House is in recess except for pro forma sessions for the rest of the month.

During the Week

Boeing and NASA are still troubleshooting the Starliner propulsion system to determine what happened last week that led to the scrub of the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) launch on Tuesday. A new launch date has not been set.

Northrop Grumman is getting ready to launch its next cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) though. That launch, NG-16, is scheduled for Tuesday from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, VA. A pre-launch briefing will take place tomorrow (Monday) afternoon. If launch goes as planned, NG-16 will arrive at the ISS on Thursday.  NASA TV will cover it all.

Up on Capitol Hill, the House is off on its summer recess. The Senate was supposed to be in recess by now, too, but is still in session and according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will stay that way until they pass the $1 trillion infrastructure bill. They met yesterday and are in session today and could take until Tuesday before time runs out from a procedural standpoint. So far enough Republicans have supported the bill — referred to as the “bipartisan” infrastructure bill — that it should pass, but one knows to never count one’s chickens before they hatch. Many amendments are pending. We haven’t seen any that include the funding NASA Administrator Bill Nelson is hoping for, but this is just the beginning of the process. The House will have to pass something, too, and then the two sides must negotiate a final deal that will win White House support. The Senate also plans to take up a $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” bill that has only Democratic support, but could pass with just the 51 Democratic votes they have (including Vice President Harris) under a special process called reconciliation. Some think that also will pass before they take their summer break, but all of this changes hour-by-hour.

Two major conferences are taking place this week. The annual SmallSat conference, usually in Logan, Utah, is virtual again this year because of the pandemic. It officially began yesterday and runs through Thursday. If there’s a way to see the agenda without registering (we sent in our request late), we haven’t found it, but this conference is usually excellent. We do know that Lt. Gen. John Shaw, Deputy Commander of U.S. Space Command, is the keynote speaker tomorrow.

AIAA’s annual Propulsion & Energy Forum also is virtual again. It takes place tomorrow through Wednesday. There are excellent sessions every day, but Tuesday is especially rich in space-related presentations. The day starts off with Bhavya Lal, Senior Advisor to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, followed by two sessions on “Expanding the Horizons of Sustainability from Earth to Space” — one on launch and recovery, the other on space operations (including NASA ISS Program Director Robyn Gatens), plus a “happy hour” on Making Interplanetary Propulsion Practical.

AIAA also is holding its annual Spotlight Awards gala this week. The virtual event is on Thursday from 5:00-7:00 pm ET and attendance is free. The gala had to be cancelled last year so awards for both 2020 and 2021 will be presented for the AIAA Goddard Astronautics Award, Reed Aeronautics Award, Guggenheim Medal, Distinguished Service Award, International Cooperation Award, Public Service Award, Lawrence Sperry Award, Engineer of the Year, and Educator Achievement Award.  (Your faithful SpacePolicyOnline.com editor is immensely honored to be among the awardees this year, receiving the 2021 AIAA Public Service Award. It’s truly humbling to see my name listed on the same page as people like Bob Cabana, Ellen Pawlikowski, Shiela Widnall, Jaiwon Shin, and all the other amazing people AIAA is recognizing at this event.)

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 — perhaps news about the Starliner OFT-2 launch?

Sunday-Thursday, August 8-12 (continued from August 7)

Monday, August 9

Monday-Wednesday, August 9-11

Tuesday, August 10

Tuesday-Wednesday, August 10-11

Thursday, August 12

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