What’s Happening in Space Policy February 24-March 2, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy February 24-March 2, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of February 24-March 2, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

The BIG EVENT this week is the uncrewed test launch, Demo-1, of SpaceX’s commercial crew system. On Friday, NASA and SpaceX confirmed that the launch of Crew Dragon/Falcon 9 is “go” for the very early hours of Saturday morning, March 2.  Liftoff is scheduled for 2:48 am ET.  If that goes according to plan, Crew Dragon will dock — yes dock, not berth like the cargo version — about 27 hours later on Sunday, March 3 at 5:55 am ET.  NASA TV will cover it all.

This launch has been a long time coming and “excited” was an oft-used word at Friday’s press conference.  No living person is aboard this test launch, but an instrumented mannequin (“dummy”) will make the journey to collect data on what the human experience will be like.  NASA said there is one remaining issue to work with its Russian partner, Roscosmos, concerning why Crew Dragon does not have a separate software “box” to avoid a collision with ISS if other systems fail. NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Bill Gerstenmaier conceded that Russia raised the issue in December, but he did not follow through with them because of the 35-day partial government shutdown.  He is certain they will agree Crew Dragon’s systems are sufficiently redundant once they have all the data.

A pre-launch press conference is scheduled for this Thursday (February 28), then launch on Saturday at 2:48 am ET followed by a post-launch press conference at 5:00 am ET that day.  More events will take place on Sunday when it docks and Friday, March 8, when it undocks and splashes down in the Atlantic.  If anything goes awry for the March 2 launch date, March 5 is a backup.

Meanwhile, Congress gets back to work this week for the first time in a long time without a FY2019 appropriations Damoclean sword hanging over its head. The FY2020 budget request will not be submitted until the week of March 11 last we heard, but the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) will get a jump on the action with a hearing anticipating the needs of U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Northern Command/NORAD on Tuesday.  Their commanders, Gen. John Hyten and Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, are the witnesses.  Hard to imagine Space Force and U.S. Space Command will not come up as issues.

The House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee, now under the leadership of Rep. José Serrano (D-NY), will have a hearing the same day on climate change research featuring NASA’s Mike Freilich and NOAA’s Neil Jacobs as witnesses.  The Democratic-led Congress is making climate change one of its signature issues. There have been several hearings already this year, but this is the first we know of that focuses on the research angle.

On the space science front, the NSF-NASA-DOE Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC) will hold an in-person meeting tomorrow (Monday) and Tuesday.  NASA Astrophysics Division Director Paul Hertz is on the agenda for 9:45 am ET tomorrow.  Remote access is available.

Separately, NASA’s Mars Exploration Program Assessment Group (MEPAG) will meet via telecon tomorrow and two National Academies committees meet tomorrow through Wednesday.  The Committee on Near Earth Object (NEO) Observations in Infrared and Visible Wavelengths is meeting out at the Beckman Center in Irvine, CA, while the “mid-term review” committee for the 2012 solar and space physics Decadal Survey meets in D.C.  Some sessions of the Academies’ meetings are closed.  The NEO committee’s agenda does not indicate if there will a dial-in connection to listen to the open sessions.  The mid-term review committee agenda promises dial-in instructions will be provided, but they are not there today.  If you don’t plan to attend in person, check for an updated agenda later today or tomorrow morning.  NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen is on the agenda for 9:10 am ET and Heliophysics Division Director Nicky Fox is tentatively at 9:50 am ET tomorrow.

The 5th Annual Space Traffic Management (STM) Conference will take place in Austin, TX this year, instead of at Embry-Riddle in Florida as usual.  Diane Howard is teaming up with Moriba Jah of the University of Texas-Austin this year.  The conference, on Tuesday and Wednesday, will focus on President Trump’s Space Policy Directive-3 that would assign responsibility for civil STM to the Department of Commerce.

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 25

  • MEPAG, virtual, 2:00-4:00 pm ET

Monday-Tuesday, February 25-26

Monday-Wednesday, February 25-27

Tuesday, February 26

Tuesday-Wednesday, February 26-27

Wednesday, February 27

Thursday, February 28

Saturday, March 2

Sunday, March 3


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