What’s Happening in Space Policy August 9-15, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy August 9-15, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of August 9-15, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them.  The congressional schedule is uncertain.

During the Week

The House and Senate planned to be in recess the rest of this month and through Labor Day, but their schedules are in flux as debate continues over another coronavirus relief package. Congressional-White House negotiations broke down Friday night and yesterday President Trump issued four executive orders to circumvent Congress. His actions are stirring a lot of controversy. One fellow Republican, Senator Ben Sasse, called them “unconstitutional slop.” Sasse was reacting broadly to the use of executive orders and specifically to the one yesterday deferring payroll tax withholding, but it wouldn’t be surprising for the charge to made about others that involve spending money Congress hasn’t appropriated, like extending augmented unemployment benefits. Under the Constitution, only Congress has the power of purse and agencies that spend money that hasn’t been appropriated may be in violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act.

Whether Trump’s actions motivate Congress to reach a different deal and/or lead to court challenges remains to be seen.

In any case, the House is scheduled only to have pro forma sessions (i.e., no recorded votes), but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said on July 31 that the House is expected to meet during August to pass a coronavirus relief bill. He promised adequate notice if Members must return to D.C.  The Senate is still in session and meets tomorrow (Monday), but there are no committee meetings and no roll call votes. Senators also were told they’d get adequate notice to return if needed. Nominations and legislation can pass by unanimous consent in the Senate, though, so things can happen with only a few Senators present. Greg Autry’s nomination to be NASA’s CFO conceivably could come up. It’s been placed on the “privileged calendar” of non-controversial nominations.They are considered under expedited procedures that bypass the committee approval process. The same procedure was used for NASA’s previous two CFOs.

Some Senators had been trying to get the NASA authorization bill (S. 2800) passed by unanimous consent, but, as Politico reported on Friday, it hit a snag because of objections to language Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) added during committee markup and now probably won’t be considered until September.  One Gardner amendment requires GAO reviews of NASA contracts with “any NASA contractor that benefits from significant financial assistance from China” to determine if they are being “leveraged” by the Chinese government with regard to transfers of intellectual property or technology. The other requires NASA, when awarding contracts or other agreements, to “take into account” the “implications” of any benefit received by the “commercial or non-commercial entity (or any other commercial or non-commercial entity related through ownership, control, or other affiliation to such entity)” through a significant loan or other financial assistance from China. Politico cites an unnamed House staffer who said the House is considering similar language and used Elon Musk’s SpaceX as an example of a company that could be impacted because Musk also owns Tesla which has a manufacturing facility in China. But other aerospace companies do business with China.  FYI, the bill also includes language similar to the “Wolf amendment” that is incorporated into NASA’s annual appropriations bills restricting bilateral space cooperation with China, but that does not appear to be controversial.

Apart from whatever does or does not happen in Congress, this coming week is thankfully quieter than the last few.

Space Tech Expo|USA is taking place virtually Monday-Thursday. Each day has a specific theme (note times on the agenda are Pacific Time; add 3 for Eastern). Monday is opening day with a keynote by Virgin Orbit and two fireside chats on topics with titles far too long to restate here, but look interesting. Tuesday is devoted to Smart and Additive Manufacturing, Wednesday is Software & Security, and Thursday is Servicing, Assembly and Manufacturing in LEO and Beyond.

On Wednesday afternoon, Astroscale and the Secure World Foundation (SWF) offer a virtual class about on-orbit servicing. Astroscale describes it as a series of 15-minute lectures followed by a Q&A session with the lecturers moderated by Loren Grush of The Verge. Those lecturers are Bhavya Lal from STPI, Ben Reed from NASA, Jeremy Schiel from CONFERS and Orbit Fab, Carissa Christensen from Bryce Space and Technology, Charity Weeden from Astroscale, and Pamela Meredith from KMA Zuckert. They will be joined by Peter Martinez, Executive Director of SWF, and Brian Weeden, who also works for SWF but is participating in his capacity as Executive Director of CONFERS.

The Aerospace Corporation has its next Space Policy Show on Thursday. This week’s event is about positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) systems like GPS. “Responsible Use of PNT for National Resilience” features two Aerospace Corp. experts, Tom Powell and Lori Gordon, talking with Jim Platt of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about President Trump’s February 2020 Executive Order on that topic. Platt is the Department Lead for PNT, Electromagnetic Pulse and Space Weather at DHS.

The Mitchell Institute has a webinar on Thursday about the need for specialized acquisition offices featuring the heads of the Space Rapid Capabilities Office and the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. The live event is by invitation only, but they promise to post a recording the same day.

And that’s all we have for this week at the moment. Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar.

Monday-Thursday, August 10-13

Wednesday, August 12

Thursday, August 13

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