What’s Happening in Space Policy February 10-16, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy February 10-16, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of February 10-16, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and  Senate will be in session for at least part of the week.

To quote Yogi Berra, it’s like déjà vu all over again.  Another week with the threat of a government shutdown looming.  The Continuing Resolution (CR) for departments and agencies funded by seven of the 12 regular FY2019 appropriations bills — including NASA and NOAA — that was signed on January 25 expires on Friday. A House-Senate conference committee has been working on the Homeland Security bill that contains funding for border security to reach a compromise satisfactory to both parties, both chambers and the President.  Reporters and pundits were expressing optimism as recently as yesterday that Congress, at least, was close to a deal and the question was whether President Trump would sign it.  Today, however, Sen. Richard Shelby, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, reportedly told Fox News that the talks are stalled.

The House and Senate have the rest of this week to pass something. Both will be in session although the House will not meet for legislative business on Tuesday so Members may attend the funeral for John Dingell, the longest serving Member of Congress who passed away last week.

To recap, five of the 12 appropriations bills, including DOD, already are enacted, but the other seven, including Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) that funds NASA and NOAA, are pending.  Only one, Homeland Security, deals with the controversial issue of border security, but all seven are being treated as a package so the fate of all — so far at least — depends on a border security deal.  The Senate passed a CR on December 19 to keep all of the government funded temporarily while agreement was reached on border security.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thought he had the support of the House, then under Republican control, and the President.  But ultra conservative House Republicans and media voices convinced Trump to change his mind.  The House then passed a version that had no chance in the Senate resulting in a 35-day partial government shutdown that ended when Trump finally agreed to sign essentially the same bill that cleared the Senate on December 19.  Hopefully if the current conference committee can reach agreement, both the House and Senate will vote for it this time.  Then it will be up to Trump.  As Yogi also said, it ain’t over till it’s over.

Not much is happening yet on Capitol Hill in terms of space-related hearings.  The House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee scheduled its first hearing of the year, on climate change, for Tuesday, but that has been postponed because the House will not be in legislative session because of the Dingell funeral. [UPDATE: The hearing has been rescheduled for Wednesday, February 13.]

The big space event this week is the Commercial Space Transportation 2019 (CST2019) conference at the Reagan Building in D.C. on Tuesday afternoon and all day Wednesday.  Hosted by the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF), among the speakers is newly-elected Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK), the new chair of the House SS&T Space and Aeronautics subcommittee.  This will be the first chance to hear her views in that capacity.  She is quite familiar with the issues already, having worked for the Space Foundation from 2005-2008.

Also on tap this week is a NASA media/industry event to talk about building reusable human-capable lunar landers in partnership with the commercial sector.  It’s on Thursday and will air on NASA TV and NASA social media sites.  NASA already has an initiative — Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) — for small robotic lunar landers and is planning mid-sized robotic landers, but the question remains about who will build the landers to take astronauts to and from the surface.  NASA initially said it would build such landers itself, but would reconsider if the commercial sector was ready to take it on.  NASA published a request for proposals on February 7, with replies due March 25: “NASA will fund industry-led development and flight demonstrations of lunar landers built for astronauts by supporting critical studies and risk reduction activities to advance technology requirements, tailor applicable standards, develop technology, and perform initial demonstrations by landing on the Moon.”

Over in Vienna, Austria, the Scientific and  Technical Subcommittee of the U.N. Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) begins its annual two-week meeting.  NASA is using its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to image China’s Chang’e-4 farside lunar lander in a rare case of U.S.-China space cooperation. NASA said any “significant findings” will be shared at this meeting.

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, February 11 – Friday, February 22

Tuesday, February 12

Tuesday-Wednesday, February 12-13

Thursday, February 14

Thursday-Sunday, February 14-17



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