What’s Happening in Space Policy February 5-9, 2018 – Corrected

What’s Happening in Space Policy February 5-9, 2018 – Corrected

Here is our list of space policy events for February 5-9, 2018 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate will be in session Monday-Wednesday, but the schedule is unclear for the rest of the week.

During the Week

The two big events this week could not be more different.  One is another round of congressional debate over funding the government as appropriations are set to expire on Thursday at midnight and there will be another government shutdown if all parties do not agree on something to avoid it.  The other is SpaceX’s much awaited first launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center, FL.

The status of federal funding has been explained exhaustively on this website over the past weeks and nothing has changed except the dates when the successive Continuing Resolutions (CRs) expire.  The current one (the fourth) was approved on January 22 and ends on February 8 at midnight.  Rumors abound as to (1) how close congressional Republican and Democrats are to agreement or (2) how far apart they remain.

At the moment, a vote on a new CR is on the House schedule for Tuesday or thereafter. It reportedly would extend funding to March 22, but there is a lot of opposition to yet another CR, especially for DOD.  The House passed a stand-alone DOD appropriations bill last week.  Whether the Senate will try to pass that plus a CR for everyone else, or a CR for everyone, or whatever, is very much up in the air.

One complication for Democrats is that their annual retreat — the counterpart to the Republican retreat that just concluded — takes place at the end of the week.  If no agreement is reached on appropriations, they may have to change their plans and stay in town.  Government employees will be on pins and needles waiting to find out if another government shutdown lies ahead.  The last one was for three days, two of which were over a weekend (January 20-22).

Lots of other people, in the space community at least, will be on pins and needles anticipating the Falcon Heavy launch.  It is currently scheduled for Tuesday between 1:30 and 4:30 pm ET from Launch Complex 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center, which SpaceX leases from NASA.  Launch delays for any rocket are quite common, so it would not be surprising for this to slip, but February 6 is the plan.  A static fire test of the 27-engine rocket was successfully conducted on January 24.   Falcon Heavy is designed to place 63.8 metric tons (MT) into low Earth orbit (LEO), almost twice the capability of the largest U.S. rocket today — the United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy, at 28.4 MT to LEO.  As widely reported, Elon Musk decided to launch the “silliest” thing he could think of on this test launch. It’s his cherry red Tesla roadster.  SpaceX tweeted photos of it being placed into the FH fairing.  If the launch is successful, it will be in heliocentric orbit for billions of years.   SpaceX is expected to webcast the launch.

If the launch goes as planned, it will be the perfect lead-in to the annual Commercial Space Transportation conference, which is February 7-8 at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC.  Sponsored by the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, it has a terrific line-up of speakers from entrepreneurial and traditional space companies and the government. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who chairs the Senate Commerce subcommittee that oversees NASA and commercial space, is scheduled to speak at the end of the first day.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the launch of its Columbus laboratory module to the International Space Station and the first launch of its Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) that was used to resupply the ISS (five ATVs were launched from 2008-2014).  On Thursday it will hold an event to commemorate the occasion at its ESTEC technical center in The Netherlands.  It will be webcast.

Those and other events we know about as of Saturday afternoon are shown below.  Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar.

Monday-Wednesday, February 5-7

Monday-Thursday, February 5-8

Monday-Friday, February 5-9

Tuesday, February 6

Wednesday, February 7

Wednesday-Thursday, February 7-8

Correction:  The Mather lecture is on February 7, not February 8 as published in an earlier version of this article.


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