What’s Happening in Space Policy February 23-29, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy February 23-29, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of February 23-29, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

It’s Leap Year and we reap the benefit of that this week with an extra day added on to the month.  And the extra day is a Saturday — even better!

Before we get there though, Congress returns to work this week and will kick off hearings on the FY2021 budget requests for various agencies.   Nothing for NASA or NOAA specifically this week, but Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), will testify to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee on Thursday about the request for federal research and development (R&D) broadly.  Though the White House National Space Council is in charge of space policy these days, not OSTP, it wouldn’t be surprising for the proposed 12 percent increase in NASA’s budget to come up particularly in the context of cuts to other science and R&D programs.

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will begin its look at the DOD request, including for the new U.S. Space Force, this week.  Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley will testify to the full committee on Wednesday about the overall DOD request.

The next day, the HASC Strategic Forces subcommittee will hear from the new Chief of Space Operations, Gen. Jay Raymond, who is also Commander of U.S. Space Command.  Joining him at the witness table will be Adm. Charles (Chas) Richard, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, and John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.  President Trump basically fired Rood last week, demanding his resignation, which is effective Friday. Rood’s terse resignation letter said: “It is my understanding from Secretary Esper that you requested my resignation from serving as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Senior administration officials appointed by the President serve at the pleasure of the President, and therefore, as you have requested, I am providing my resignation effective February 28, 2020.”  Various reasons have been reported in the press for why he was asked to leave, but this will be his last chance to share his views with Congress in his current capacity.

Off the Hill, Virgin Galactic Holdings, now a publicly traded company, will hold a telecon on Tuesday to discuss its 4th quarter 2019 and full year 2019 financial results (most publicly traded companies hold these types of telecons every quarter).  Its stock (NYSE:SPCE) has been soaring in recent weeks. Will be interesting to hear what they have to say.  Audio of the telecon, which begins at 5:00 pm ET (2:00 pm Pacific) will be webcast.

Right after that, George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute and the Space Generation Advisory Council will hold a panel discussion in D.C. on “Emerging Issues in Space Governance.”  They have a very interesting international panel, with the Japanese space agency’s (JAXA’s) Masami Onoda; Luxembourg’s Ambassador to the U.S. Gaston Stronck; Brazil’s Science, Technology, and Innovation attaché Lauro Beltrão; and the U.S. Office of Space Commerce’s Deputy Director Patrick Sullivan.  [Update: Josef Koller from The Aerospace Corporation will be substituting for Sullivan.] The panel discussion begins at 7:20 pm ET (preceded by a reception that starts at 6:30 pm).

Lots of international meetings going on this week as well, but note that the Galaxy Forum: International Moon Landings and Astronomy from the Moon conference that was to be held on Hainan Island, China this week has been postponed to next year because of the novel coronovirus outbreak.  By the way, the notices of NASA advisory committee meetings published in the Federal Register now include a paragraph asking that people who have been in China recently NOT attend the meetings in person, but virtually.

Also this week, Astra, the lone company still competing in DARPA’s Launch Challenge, is supposed to launch its rocket from the State of Alaska’s Pacific Spaceport Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska.  We don’t have it on our calendar because we don’t exactly when it will launch.  The competition requires that it lift off between February 25 and March 1.  Whatever day it goes, the launch should be about 11:30 am Alaska Standard Time (add 4 for EST).  The competition requires that Astra launch a second time from a second location within a couple of weeks to demonstrate flexibility and responsiveness to military requirements. That one will also be from Kodiak, but a different launch pad.  If the payloads reach orbit, Astra will win $2 million for the first launch and $10 million for the second. DARPA plans to webcast the launches.  It’s quite a small rocket, with a payload capacity of just 25 kilograms (55 pounds) to Sun Synchronous Orbit, but with today’s cubesats, DARPA believes it could launch useful satellites in a crunch.

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.

Tuesday, February 25

Tuesday-Wednesday, February 25-26

Tuesday-Friday, February 25-28

Wednesday, February 26

Thursday, February 27

Thursday-Friday, January 27-28

Friday, February 28

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