What’s Happening in Space Policy December 8-14, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy December 8-14, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of December 8-14, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

House and Senate negotiators reached agreement on the final FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Friday.  At the Reagan National Defense Forum yesterday, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) said conferees will sign the conference report tomorrow (Monday) afternoon, the bill will be introduced in the House tomorrow night, and brought to the House floor for a vote on Wednesday.  The Senate is expected to quickly follow suit.

The bill does authorize establishment of a Space Force as a sixth military service, although Rogers did not provide any details on what compromise was reached between the House and Senate versions of what it should look like.  The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday a deal was made to go ahead with the Space Force in exchange for paid parental leave for the federal workforce, but Rogers said Space Force was not one of the last minute “peripheral” issues to be resolved and agreement was reached on its structure “a couple months” ago.  Asked if he was happy with how everything turned out, Rogers said he has been “glowing for the past day.”  Rogers and Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) were the bipartisan duo who originated the idea of a Space Corps in the House two years ago, which picked up momentum after President Trump began advocating for a Space Force in 2018.  There were a lot of twists and turns along the way, as recounted on this website many times, but the end of the beginning appears close at hand.  Implementation, of course, will be the key to success.

Separately on the Hill this week, the Senate Commerce Committee will meet on Wednesday morning to markup a bunch of bills including S. 2909 (Wicker), the NASA Enhanced Use Leasing (EUL) Extension Act.  This arcane-sounding legislation will allow NASA to continue leasing underutilized NASA property to the private sector, state and local governments, and academic institutions and use the money for facilities maintenance, etc.  It first received this authority in 2003, but it must be renewed periodically.  Congress did that last year, but only to December 31, 2019.  This bill extends it to December 31, 2021.  Other agencies have similar authority and apparently there is a general concern about ensuring the government gets best value from them, hence the desire for close monitoring.  A companion bill (H.R. 4304, Palazzo) was introduced in the House in September.  Wicker and Palazzo also sponsored the EUL extension last year and said then it would give Congress time to consider a long-term reauthorization, but it appears “long-term” is just two years instead of one. [UPDATE:  The House schedule released today (Sunday) shows that it will vote on H.R. 5213, an EUL extension act introduced by Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK), tomorrow on the suspension calendar.  It also would extend the authority by two years. Palazzo is a co-sponsor.]

Also in Washington this week, Space News will hold its third annual awards luncheon on Tuesday and the annual Eilene M. Galloway Symposium on Critical Issues in Space Law is on Wednesday. Space News already announced its “Reader’s Choice” winners, but the “Space News” awards will be announced at the luncheon.  As for the Galloway symposium we’ve seen a draft agenda and it looks terrific as usual.  The kickoff speaker is Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK), chair of the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and the luncheon speaker is Charles Beames, Chairman of the SmallSat Alliance.  Lots of interesting panels and other speakers throughout the day.

Elsewhere in the country, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine holds a news conference tomorrow morning at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) near New Orleans where the core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) is built.  Dubbed “Artemis Day,” media and social media influencers will have a chance to see the core stage outfitted with its four RS-25 engines (repurposed from the space shuttle program) before it is shipped to the nearby Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, MS in preparation for the Green Run tests sometime next year.  Bridenstine will start things off with an update on the Artemis program that will be broadcast on NASA TV.  Artemis, of course, is the Trump Administration’s program to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024.  SLS is “mandatory” to accomplish that according to the new head of NASA’s human spaceflight program Doug Loverro.

The annual American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting takes place all week.  This is the AGU’s centennial year and the conference is returning to the Moscone Center in San Francisco, which was its home for 40 years and has just completed a massive renovation.  The AGU meeting is the “largest international Earth and space science meeting in the world.”  NASA has a major presence there and will hold a number of press conferences throughout the week that will air on NASA Live.  AGU will livestream those, too, as well as other press conferences.

Down near Houston, the 1st International Orbital Debris Conference will take place Monday-Thursday.  It has a top notch agenda starting with keynotes from Curtis Hernandez from the White House National Space Council; Donald Kessler, former NASA Senior Scientist for Orbital Debris after whom the “Kessler Syndrome” is named (where space debris spirals out of control because collisions beget more and more collisions); and Heiner Klinkrad, former head of ESA’s space debris office.  No indication is provided if any of the sessions will be livestreamed.  If we get any info on that, we’ll add it to our Calendar item.

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.

Monday, December 9

Monday-Thursday, December 9-12

Monday-Friday, December 9-13

Tuesday, December 10

Wednesday, December 11

Wednesday-Thursday, December 11-12

Thursday, December 12

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