What's Happening in Space Policy December 14-December 31, 2015 – UPDATE

What's Happening in Space Policy December 14-December 31, 2015 – UPDATE

Here’s our list of upcoming space policy events (updated December 14 to add a link to the list of AGU sessions that will be livestreamed).  This version covers the three weeks between now and the end of the year as the number of events dwindles and thoughts turn to holidays and fresh beginnings.  The House and Senate will meet this week at least.  If they fail to reach agreement on an FY2016 appropriations bill, they might be back next week.

During the Weeks

In Washington, everyone is awaiting congressional agreement on a full-year omnibus appropriations bill that will fund the government through the end of FY2016 (September 30, 2016).   Congress extended the existing Continuing Resolution (CR) now funding the government from December 11 to December 16 in the hope that the extra 5 days is enough for negotiators to reach a compromise on what policy provisions (riders) are included.   The goal is for the bill to be introduced tomorrow (Monday) and voted on three days later (Wednesday), giving House members three days to read the bill.  The House has a rule that three days notice is required, but it is often bypassed.  New House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) wants the House to return to “regular order” — following the rules — so if the bill is not introduced tomorrow, the date for a vote could slip.   Congress may, in fact, keep extending the CR for short or long periods of time.   As members of the appropriations committees point out, it is a wasteful and inefficient way to run a government (not only can new programs not begin, but existing programs cannot be terminated under a CR), so many are motivated to reach an agreement.  We’ll see what happens.

Meanwhile, the annual American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference is taking place at the Moscone Center in San Francisco this week.   It is always a great venue for breaking news in the earth and planetary science fields and features top level industry, academic and government leaders.  For example,  Elon Musk is scheduled to be there on Tuesday morning (10:10-11:00 am Pacific Time).   Al Gore was just added to the program for a Town Hall meeting on Wednesday at 12:30 pm Pacific Time on “The Earth from a Million Miles: Advancing Earth Observations from L1.”  Gore was the initiator of what is now known as the DSCOVR program (originally called Triana), which was finally launched in February after years in political purgatory.  It is now at Sun-Earth L1 sending back scientific data and the daily views of Earth that Gore sought.  UPDATE:  Many of the AGU general sessions, Town Halls, and press conferences will be livestreamed and/or archived on the AGU YouTube channel.  A list is posted on the conference website with links.  Note that all times are Pacific Standard Time (add three for Eastern).

Musk has quite a schedule this week.  He’ll be at AGU on Tuesday and on Wednesday SpaceX will hold a static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket that will be used to launch 11 ORBCOMM OG-2 satellites “about three days later” if all goes well.   This will be the first Falcon 9 launch since the June 28, 2015 failure and the beginning of a series of four missions the company plans to launch in the next two months.

The last of those four will be the next SpaceX cargo launch to the ISS, SpaceX-8 (SpX-8).  NASA will say only that its internal plans call for a launch in “February.”   There will be six ISS crew members awaiting those supplies.  Three just returned on Friday and three more will launch on Tuesday, restoring the facility to its typical crew complement of six.

So this will be a very busy week, but if Congress gets the appropriations bill done, a two-week respite should follow. 

Here are all the events we know about as of Sunday morning.  Check back during the week for anything added to our Events of Interest list as the days progress.

Monday, December 14

Monday-Friday, December 14-18

Tuesday, December 15

Tuesday-Wednesday, December 15-16

Wednesday-Friday, December 16-18

Saturday, December 19

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