What’s Happening in Space Policy February 2-8, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy February 2-8, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of February 2-8, 2020 (plus a bonus of two more for February 9) and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Capitol Hill will be focused on the State of the Union address on Tuesday night and the expected end of the impeachment trial in the Senate on Wednesday, so things on the space front are pretty quiet.

Elsewhere, three NASA advisory groups are meeting this week, using the term loosely since two are “AGs” — “analysis” or “assessment” groups — not official advisory groups established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).  NASA has a number of them and two are meeting this week: the Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG) in Houston on Monday and Tuesday, and the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) via telecon on Friday.  Remote access is available for both.  They may not be able to formally provide advice to NASA, but they are useful mechanisms for the science community to interact with the agency and great ways for all of us to keep up to date on what’s going on.

The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), by contrast, is not just an official advisory group under FACA, but was established by Congress following the 1967 Apollo 1 fire, whose anniversary was just commemorated last week.  It reports both to Congress and NASA.  ASAP meets quarterly and holds brief public sessions to report out its findings and concerns.  The next one is on Thursday at Kennedy Space Center.  ASAP has been cautioning NASA for some time to be sure schedule pressure doesn’t negatively impact the safety of the Boeing and SpaceX commercial crew systems because everyone is so anxious for them to start flying.  One can anticipate similar advice this time as GAO and NASA’s IG’s office keep pointing out that U.S. presence on the International Space Station (ISS) will be sharply restricted until these systems are up and running.

Indeed, three ISS crew members return home earlier that day: Russia’s Alexander Skvortsov, ESA’s Luca Parmitano, and NASA’s Christina Koch, who is setting a new record — 328 days — for the longest continuous spaceflight by a woman.

That will leave three people on ISS, one Russian and two Americans: Oleg Skripochka, Jessica Meir and Drew Morgan.  They will be replaced in April by a crew of two Russians (Tikhonov and Babkin) and one American (Cassidy). The ISS crew size will be limited to no more than three until the commercial crew systems are flying, restoring the U.S. ability to launch crews to ISS that it lost when the space shuttle program was terminated in 2011.  NASA has relied on Russia to provide crew transportation services since then.  Cassidy’s seat is the last one NASA has paid for because the expectation was that SpaceX and/or Boeing would be ready by now.  NASA is negotiating with Russia for one more seat on a Soyuz spacecraft this fall and perhaps another in the spring just in case there are further delays, but at the same time Russia is cutting back production of Soyuz since fewer will be needed once the commercial crew systems are available.

However many people are aboard ISS, they need supplies, and new scientific experiments must be delivered.  The next cargo ship will launch a week from today: a Northrop Grumman Cygnus from Wallops Island, VA.  Though it’s beyond the time frame of this “What’s Happening” issue, we’re including it anyway because it’s exactly a week away.

For the same reason we’re including Solar Orbiter.  The launch date has slipped a few days, but currently is set for very late Sunday night Eastern Standard Time.  It’s an ESA mission, but one of the 10 instruments was provided by NASA and it is launching on a U.S. rocket — United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V.  NASA and ESA will hold two pre-launch briefings on Friday.

Speaking of studying the Sun, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine will release its mid-term review of the 2012 Solar and Space Physics Decadal Survey tomorrow. Decadal Surveys identify the key scientific questions for the next 10 years (a decade) of research and recommend missions to answer them for each of NASA’s science disciplines. Other agencies are often involved as well. Half-way through each decade, Academies committees conduct mid-term assessments of how NASA is responding to the recommendations.  The co-chairs of this mid-term review, Tom Woods and Robyn Millan, will participate in a webinar tomorrow afternoon to discuss their findings.  Anyone may participate.  Instructions are on the event’s website (follow the link in our Calendar entry).

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning (February 2) are shown below.  Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar.

Sunday-Wednesday, February 2-5 (continued from January 30)

Monday, February 3

Monday-Tuesday, February 3-4

Monday, February 3 – Friday, February 14

Tuesday, February 4

Tuesday-Thursday, February 4-6

Wednesday, February 5

Wednesday-Friday, February 5-7

Thursday, February 6

Friday, February 7

Sunday, February 9




User Comments

SpacePolicyOnline.com has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.