What’s Happening in Space Policy December 29, 2019 – January 11, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy December 29, 2019 – January 11, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the next TWO weeks, December 29, 2019-January 11, 2020.  The Senate begins the second session of the 116th Congress this Friday, January 3. The House resumes work on Tuesday, January 7.

During the Weeks

We’ve all got a few more days of R&R before 2020 kicks off with a bang.  The Senate will be in session on Friday, though no votes are planned until Monday, January 6.  The House returns on January 7.  We haven’t seen any hearing schedules yet, so keep checking back to see what gets added to our Calendar as the weeks progress.

Outside of Washington, two of the major annual space-related conferences will take place next week. (Usually there are three that end up meeting during the first week in January, but the third, the American Meteorological Society, isn’t until January 12-16 this year.)

The American Astronomical Society’s (AAS’s) winter meeting is in lovely Honolulu, Hawaii from January 4-8.  Hawaii is a good place for an astrophysics conference.  Mauna Kea, a 14,000-foot dormant volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii, is home to a dozen or so of the key ground-based telescopes in the world, including NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF).  The AAS winter meeting is the annual gathering of astrophysicists and other scientists from around the world where they discuss the latest discoveries in their fields. NASA’s three astrophysics “PAGs” will meet in conjunction with the conference: Exoplanet Exploration Program Analysis Group (ExoPAG), Physics of the Cosmos Program Analysis Group (PhysPAG), and Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group (COPAG).  The three will meet separately as well as jointly with NASA astrophysics program director Paul Hertz.

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) will hold its annual “SciTech” forum January 6-10 in Orlando, FL.   The theme this year is “Driving Aerospace Solutions for Global Challenges.”  AIAA will livestream plenary and Forum 360 sessions.  Among the plenary speakers is former NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot, now Vice President, Strategy and Business Development for Lockheed Martin, who will speak about “The Next Giant Leap” on Tuesday, January 7.   Apparently it won’t be livestreamed, but Bobby Braun, who is transitioning from serving as Dean of Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder to JPL, will present the Durand Lecture for Public Service on Monday.  His topic is “Space Technology: An Investment in Our Future.”  Braun was NASA’s Chief Technologist from 2010-2011 and laid the groundwork for creating NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

On a different note, SpaceX is planning its In-Flight Abort (IFA) test of Crew Dragon for January 11.  The date has changed a number of times so put it on your calendar in pencil, not pen, but it is a key milestone for the company before it commits to putting astronauts aboard the spacecraft. As you may recall, a Crew Dragon spacecraft was destroyed in April during preparations for this test, but SpaceX believes it understands what went wrong and has fixed it.  The test is to demonstrate that if something goes awry after the rocket leaves the launch pad, the Crew Dragon spacecraft can separate from the Falcon 9 rocket and safely return the crew to a water landing. Our understanding is that SpaceX will initiate the abort when the rocket reaches MaxQ, which is just over a minute after launch from Kennedy Space Center, FL.  If the weather is clear, it should be quite a sight. SpaceX would be well advised to engage in an extensive public relations campaign (a video simulation would be nice) to ensure everyone knows no one is aboard this Crew Dragon and exploding the rocket is intentional.  Otherwise it might be too reminiscent of the January 28, 1986 space shuttle Challenger tragedy.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning, December 29, 2019, are shown below. Check back throughout the weeks for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar.  Enjoy these last few days of rest!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Friday, January 3

  • Senate convenes for Second Session of the 116th Congress (no votes are expected)

Friday-Saturday, January 3-4

Saturday, January 4

Saturday-Wednesday, January 4-8

Monday-Wednesday, January 6-8

Monday-Friday, January 6-10

Tuesday, January 7

  • House convenes for the Second Session of the 116th Congress

Thursday, January 9

Friday, January 10

Saturday, January 11

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