What’s Happening in Space Policy January 12-18, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy January 12-18, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of January 12-18, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

The American Meteorological Society’s (AMS’s) annual conference in Boston this week will be the venue for scientists to report on their latest Earth science research results and analysis in which NASA and NOAA are deeply involved.  Acting NOAA Administrator (who has been nominated to take the job permanently) Neil Jacobs speaks tomorrow (Monday) on the administration’s priorities for NOAA and his vision for the agency.  On Wednesday, NOAA/NESDIS’s Steve Volz will facilitate a panel discussion on NOAA’s satellite activities.  NASA Science Mission Directorate head Thomas Zurbuchen will discuss NASA’s science and space weather activities on Tuesday followed later in the day by a panel discussion including Acting Earth Science Division Director Sandra Cauffman and other NASA Earth science experts.  That’s just a glimpse of what they have on tap.

In addition, the two agencies will release their annual assessment of global temperatures and discuss major climate trends during a media telecon at lunchtime on Wednesday. It will be available on NASA Live. That morning, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on an “Update on the Climate Crisis.”  The witnesses are all non-government, but it’s hard to imagine that the roles of NASA and NOAA won’t be part of the discussion.

NASA’s Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG) meets Tuesday-Thursday in Pasadena.  NASA Planetary Science Division Director Lori Glaze will kick off the meeting Tuesday morning with an overview of the planetary science program, hopefully including how NASA will deal with the FY2020 appropriations bill.  It reiterates Congress’s directive that NASA build both Europa Clipper and Europa Lander; NASA does not include the Lander in its budget plans.  It also continues to insist that NASA launch each of them on the Space Launch System (SLS) despite the Administration’s complaint that NASA could save at least $700 million (NASA’s estimate) or $1.5 billion (OMB’s estimate) using a commercial rocket instead.  Congress also directed NASA to proceed with the Near Earth Object Surveillance Mission (NEOSM — formerly NEOCam), allocating $37.6 million from NASA’s Planetary Defense budget, but without raising the topline for that office so something will have to give. Lindley Johnson, who heads the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), speaks Tuesday afternoon.

Also, NASA and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine have just agreed on the Statement of Task for the next Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey and will be discussed Wednesday afternoon.  This is the first time it has astrobiology in its title.  The Decadal Survey also specifically includes planetary defense this time. Updates on many missions, including JAXA’s Hayabusa2 asteroid sample return probe that recently started its trip home for a landing in Australia at the end of the year, are scheduled throughout the three days. The meeting is available remotely.  Note that times on the agenda are in Pacific Standard Time (add 3 for Eastern).

On Saturday, SpaceX plans to conduct its Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort (IFA) test.  The date for this has slipped a number of times, but this time is looking more certain.  The company successfully completed a static fire test yesterday in preparation for the launch.  A Falcon 9 with a Crew Dragon capsule — with no one aboard — will lift off from Kennedy Space Center (the time is TBA).  After about one minute, as the rocket reaches maximum dynamic pressure (MaxQ), SpaceX will trigger an abort to demonstrate that the capsule’s Super Draco engines can detach the capsule from the rocket and allow a crew to splashdown in the ocean safely if anything goes awry during a launch.  It is a critical step before putting a crew onboard and, if successful, will increase the chances of a crew launch to ISS sooner than rather later this year.  Tests are tests, so nothing is certain until it takes place, but it is a very important milestone.

Speaking of the ISS, the spacewalks to change out the batteries resume this week.  Two more are needed. The first is on Wednesday, the second next Monday.  Both will be conducted by Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, who made the first-ever all-female spacewalk in October.

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.

Sunday-Thursday, January 12-16

Tuesday, January 14

Tuesday-Thursday, January 14-16

Wednesday, January 15

Saturday, January 18


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