What’s Happening in Space Policy February 6-12, 2022

What’s Happening in Space Policy February 6-12, 2022

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of February 6-12, 2022 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session for at least part of this week.

During the Week

Will there be any action on FY2022 appropriations this week? Good question. The current Continuing Resolution (CR) doesn’t expire until February 18, but the House is not scheduled to be in session between this Thursday, February 10, and February 28. There are some “committee work days” in there, but the House itself will meet only in pro forma sessions. That could always change, of course, but at the moment they’ll need to do something by Wednesday and it looks as though that’s going to be passing another CR. The question remains how long this next one will last, weeks or months. Publicly, Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on top line numbers for defense and non-defense, but a lot can be happening behind the scenes. The Senate also plans a recess for the week of February 21, so a CR through early March wouldn’t be surprising, but it’s always hard to guess what Congress will do.

Speaking of which — last week we noted that the Senate Commerce Committee was scheduled to take up the nomination of Gigi Sohn to be the fifth FCC Commissioner, giving Democrats a 3-2 majority for the first time since President Biden took office. We also said the nomination is controversial and committee chair Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) must have thought she had the votes or she wouldn’t put it on the agenda, “but the agenda could change, of course.” Well, change it did and for a sad reason. Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) had a stroke and will be absent from the Senate for several weeks. If only Democrats on the committee will vote for Sohn, Cantwell needs Luján there. Interestingly, Cantwell has now scheduled a second nomination hearing for Sohn this Wednesday. We’ll see if that is a positive development because she has another chance to win over more Senators or the opposite.

It’s not on the committee’s website and we haven’t seen a press release about it, but two congressional sources list another Senate Commerce Committee hearing, this one before the Space and Science Subcommittee, on Wednesday afternoon. The topic is “NASA public private partnerships, focusing on models for collaboration and lessons learned.” We’ll update this once we find out who’ll be testifying. It’s certainly an interesting topic.  UPDATE: The five witnesses are from NASA, GAO, and GW’s Space Policy Institute. See our Calendar entry for details.

Off the Hill, the big event this week will be an update by Elon Musk on Starship/Super Heavy. He tweeted last week that the update would be Thursday at 8:00 pm “Texas time,” which is Central Time, or 9:00 pm Eastern. SpaceX’s Starbase, where Starship and Super Heavy are tested, is in Boca Chica, TX. No other details were provided.

Interest in Starship was pretty high to begin with, but increased susbtantially after NASA picked it as the Human Landing System for the first astronaut return to the lunar surface, now expected in 2025 just three years from now. Musk has said for some time that the first orbital test launch would happen this year as soon as he gets regulatory approval from the FAA, but he’s also complained about difficulties building the Raptor engines. Super Heavy needs 29 of them (later versions will have 33) and Starship needs another six. He’s known for his optimistic timeline estimates, but it will be useful to hear his latest assessment of where everything stands.

One other event we’ll mention here is CSIS’s webinar tomorrow (Monday) previewing DOD’s FY2023 budget request. By law, tomorrow — the first Monday in February — is the day the budget request should be sent to Congress, but that deadline is rarely met. This year is no exception and since Congress still hasn’t finished FY2022 appropriations, it’s understandable. So Todd Harrison at CSIS is gathering together colleagues from four other think tanks and they will all share their expectations of what will be in the request whenever it does come out. Sounds like fun.

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

Monday, February 7

Tuesday, February 8

Tuesday-Thursday, February 8-10

Wednesday, February 9

Wednesday-Thursday, February 9-10

Thursday, February 10


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