What’s Happening in Space Policy February 19-23, 2018 – UPDATED

What’s Happening in Space Policy February 19-23, 2018 – UPDATED

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of February 19-23, 2018 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in recess this week (except for pro forma sessions). [Updated February 19 with more information about Wednesday’s Space Council meeting.]

During the Week

The week starts off with a federal holiday — Washington’s Birthday is the official designation although George Washington was born on February 22, not February 19.  Many refer to it as “Presidents’ Day,” coming as it does on the Monday between the birthdays of two renowned presidents, Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Washington.

Congress is taking the week off, but there’s still plenty of space policy business on tap, especially the second public meeting of the White House National Space Council.  It will be on Wednesday at Kennedy Space Center, FL.  We have been trying to find out who will be speaking and which Council members are expected to attend, but no luck so far.  We have been told that the topic is regulatory reform, it will follow the same format as the first meeting in October 2017, and will be webcast (we do not have the link yet either).   [UPDATE, February 19, 11:40 am: the White House and NASA announced that the meeting will begin at 10:00 am ET and be broadcast on NASA TV and the agency’s website — www.nasa.gov/nasalive.  The title is “Moon, Mars, and Worlds Beyond: Winning the Next Frontier” and “will include testimonials from leaders in the civil, commercial, and national security sectors about the importance of the United States’ space enterprise. ” A list of speakers has not been released yet.]

The October meeting began with Vice President Mike Pence, chairman of the Council, making a speech followed by three panels of witnesses. The meeting will be preceded by a reception on Tuesday evening that caused a bit of a kerfuffle according to the Washington Post.  [The Washington Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, who also owns Blue Origin, one of the commercial space companies whose activities could be impacted by Space Council decisions.]

The Space Council meeting is sure to steal the headlines that day, but NASA’s Planetary Science Advisory Committee (PAC) is also meeting at the same time.  Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green is scheduled to speak at 10:15 am ET and Sarah Noble is next at 11:30 am ET to talk about the “lunar program.”  Presumably that’s the Lunar Discovery and Exploration program, a new initiative in the FY2019 budget request that will “support innovative approaches to achieve human and science exploration goals by funding contracts for commercial transportation services and the development of small rovers and instrument [sic] to meet lunar science and exploration needs.”  The request for FY2019 is $218 million, with notional funding at the same level for the next four years.  A “working lunch” is scheduled from 12:30-1:30 pm ET with Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen.  Should be interesting.

The PAC meeting continues through Friday.  Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson speaks on Thursday at 2:30 pm ET.  His office got a nice bump-up for FY2019 to pay for the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), with a request of $90 million for FY2019.  DART will demonstrate “the kinetic impact technique to change the motion of an asteroid in space” with the double asteroid Didymos as the target.  NASA has a nice write-up of DART and how it is part of what’s been happening in planetary defense over the past 5 years since the Chelyabinsk event.

Two of NASA’s “AGs” — analysis groups — are meeting this week:  MEPAG (Mars) and OPAG (Outer Planets).  The MEPAG meeting is a two-hour telecon on Tuesday in preparation for the next in-person meeting in April.  OPAG is an in-person meeting Wednesday-Thursday in Hampton, VA near NASA’s Langley Research Center followed by a “technology day” on Friday to identify technologies to support near-, mid-, and far-term outer planetary system missions.

Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot will talk to the Space Transportation Association (STA) on Tuesday morning about the FY2019 NASA budget request.  The breakfast is by invitation only.  Contact STA President Rich Coleman for more information (rich@spacetransportation.us).

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 19

Tuesday, February 20

Wednesday, February 21

Wednesday-Thursday, February 21-22

  • OPAG, Hampton, VA (WebEx/telecon)

Wednesday-Friday, February 21-23

Friday, February 23






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