What’s Happening in Space Policy February 21-28, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy February 21-28, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week (plus a day) of February 21-28, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

It’s another jam-packed week and next Sunday a spacewalk will take place at the International Space Station early in the morning, before we publish our next installment, so we’re including that, too.

Congress is getting into a more typical routine this week with a number of hearings on both sides of the Hill.  Granted, it’s “typical” for the COVID era with the hearings either completely virtual or a hybrid with some members in D.C. and others at home and the Capitol complex still closed to the public.

Two space-related hearings are on tap.  On Tuesday, the House Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces subcommittee will hear from four experts on “Near-Peer Advancements in Space and Nuclear Weapons.”  As we wrote last week, witnesses are Gen. Robert Kehler (Ret.) now with Stanford, Madelyn Creedon from Brookings, Todd Harrison from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Tim Morrison with the Hudson Institute.

The next day, Harrison will be back at the witness table (virtually speaking) before the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.  He and Thomas Mahnken of the Center for Strategic and Budget Assessments will talk about “Future Defense Spending.”  Harrison is CSIS’s expert on defense budgets, but also head of its Aerospace Security Project, so hopefully Space Force and Space Command budgets will be part of the discussion.

No space-related Senate hearings are coming up this week, but the Senate Commerce Committee finally decided on its subcommittee structure and leadership on Friday. There’s a big change for NASA. Last Congress, NASA was part of the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space chaired by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) as Ranking Member (RM). They’ve swapped places now, with Sinema as chair and Cruz as RM, but more importantly the subcommittee they chair no longer oversees NASA. They are leading a new subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations, and Innovation.

NASA will be part of the Subcommittee on Space and Science chaired by Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), a freshman Senator. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), another newcomer to the Senate (she previously served in the House), is the RM.  Colorado is home to an extensive range of government, industry and academic space entities in all three space sectors (civil, commercial, national security). As a former Colorado Governor, Hickenlooper is already knowledgeable about the importance of space to his state and tweeted that he is “over the Moon” at the assignment.

The committee tweeted the full list of subcommittees and their chairs and RMs.

Back to this week’s events, there are as usual far too many to highlight here.  We’re going to pick just a few to keep this as short as possible, but still useful.

Tomorrow (Monday), the National Academies’ Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) will hold a press conference about its new report on “Space Nuclear Propulsion for Human Mars Exploration.”  It was released last week. Tomorrow the study committee’s co-chairs, Bobby Braun (JPL) and Roger Myers (R. Myers Consulting, formerly Aerojet Rocketdyne) will explain their findings and recommendations. Bottom line: the United States needs an “aggressive” R&D program starting right now if it wants to use nuclear propulsion for a human trip to Mars in 2039 (the baseline NASA told them to use).

On Tuesday, the Secure World Foundation (SWF) and the Caelus Foundation will hold a webinar on their new report: “Lost Without Translation: Identifying Gaps in U.S. Perceptions of the Chinese Commercial Sector.” Authors Ian Christensen (SWF), Rob Ronci (Caelus) and Kathryn Walsh (University of Denver graduate student/SWF intern) will discuss what they learned through interviews with U.S. private sector space professionals about perceptions of the Chinese commercial space sector and how that aligns or not with what is going on in China.  They will be joined by three other experts: Brendan Mulvaney of the China Aerospace Studies Institute; Ellen Chang, Director and Managing Partner of BMNT/Syndicate 708; and Blaine Curcio, Euroconsult.

Tuesday-Thursday, the 2021 Spaceport Summit features an impressive list of speakers including Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s Acting Administrator; Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s human spaceflight program; a NASA/Space Force/FAA/SpaceX/Blue Origin panel; a panel of executives from eight of the U.S. spaceports; an astronaut panel; a panel on interagency collaborations with representatives from NASA, Space Force, FAA and DARPA; and an international panel with speakers from Australia, Brazil, UK, Canada, ESA, Mexico, Italy, France and Japan.  Note that even as of today, two days before it starts, the organizers caution the agenda may change and some of the people are listed as “invited” (I), not “confirmed” (C), but it looks quite interesting in any case.

For many readers of this website, the BIG EVENT this week is the second Hot Fire test of the Space Launch System core stage on Thursday at Stennis Space Center, Mississippi. The first test last month ended after just 67 seconds instead of 485 because of the test’s conservative design parameters. NASA, Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne are ready to try again.  The nominal start time is 4:00 pm Central (5:00 pm Eastern), but Boeing’s John Shannon advised it could start as much as an hour EARLIER if preparations go smoothly. Plan your day accordingly. NASA has not announced when its live coverage of the test will begin (we assume there will be live coverage like last time).

And we can’t help but mention there’s another Mars Perseverance briefing tomorrow.  Can’t wait to see what new images they’ll release!

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 22

Tuesday, February 23

Tuesday-Thursday, February 23-25

Wednesday, February 24

Wednesday-Thursday, February 24-25

Wednesday-Friday, February 24-26

Thursday, February 25

Thursday-Friday, February 25-26

Friday, February 26

Sunday, February 28


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