What’s Happening in Space Policy January 15-19, 2018 – UPDATE

What’s Happening in Space Policy January 15-19, 2018 – UPDATE

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of January 15-19, 2018 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate will be in session beginning Tuesday. [Updated January 15.]

During the Week

Tomorrow (Monday) is a federal holiday honoring the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.   Government offices will be closed.

Congress gets back to work on Tuesday, still facing a January 19 deadline to fund or shut down the government.  That’s when the existing Continuing Resolution (CR) expires.  It does not appear that Republicans and Democrats have made much progress on deciding how much money the government may spend for FY2018 (which began three and a half months ago) or how to spend it.  Government agencies that get their money through appropriations bills, like DOD, NASA and NOAA, are currently funded at their FY2017 levels.  As we’ve reported many times, Congress must agree to either stay within the spending caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) or modify the caps to avoid automatic across-the-board cuts known as sequestration.  Either continuing to fund the government at FY2017 levels or enacting appropriations bills passed by the House (which has passed of its FY2018 appropriations bills) and/or recommended by the Senate Appropriations Committee (none of which have been considered by the full Senate) would exceed the caps.  Democrats have been insisting on a resolution to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration issue before or as part of a funding agreement — featured prominently in the news in recent days — and Democrats and some Republicans are also insisting on restoring funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), so reaching a deal is complicated.  The expectation right now is that Congress will pass another CR before Friday, kicking the can down the road again.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will get an update on the commercial crew program.  NASA just released new dates for when the uncrewed and crewed flight tests of the Boeing and SpaceX vehicles are expected to take place.  Representatives of NASA and the two companies will testify at the hearing, along with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP).  The committee webcasts its hearings on its website and YouTube channel.

On Thursday, the Senate Commerce Committee will again vote on (“mark up”) the nominations of Rep. Jim Bridenstine to be Administrator of NASA and Barry Myers to be Administrator of NOAA. Their nominations had to be resubmitted by President Trump when the second session of this Congress began on January 3 as we reported earlier.  Both were approved by the committee on party-line votes last fall.  The session will be webcast as usual on the committee’s website.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is holding a day-long seminar on “Enroute to the Moon: Creating a More Resilient Civil Space Architecture.”  It begins at 10:00 am ET, a bit later than usual, because House Speaker Paul Ryan will be speaking at CSIS that morning on national security issues.  Anyone planning to attend the space seminar is invited to listen to Ryan’s speech first.  Once the seminar is underway, speakers include Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot, who will give a keynote address at 11:30 am ET, and  NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Bill Gerstenmaier.  Other speakers are from NASA, NOAA, academia, non-profits, and industry.  The event will be livestreamed.

Which is good for those who want to multitask and also listen to the Senate Commerce Committee markup at 11:00 am ET, a NASA/NOAA briefing on 2017 global temperatures and climate conditions also at 11:00 am ET, a NASA media briefing (from Las Vegas) on the Kilopower Project at 12:00 pm ET, or the third day of Embry-Riddle’s space traffic management conference.

That’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s 4th space traffic management conference at its Daytona Beach, FL campus.  Registration and poster sessions are on Monday, regular sessions Tuesday-Thursday, and tours on Friday.  The theme this year is “Seeking Sustainable Solutions.”  The Tuesday-Thursday sessions will be livestreamed.   On Thursday, unfortunately at the same time as the CSIS seminar, there will be an industry panel (9:30-11:15 am ET), a government panel (1:30 – 3:15 pm ET), an international panel (3:30-5:00 pm ET), and the State Department’s Ken Hodgkins is the keynote speaker just before lunch (11:30 am- 12:00 pm ET).

SpaceX is expected to conduct a static fire test of its Falcon Heavy (FH) rocket this week, but the date is uncertain so we do not include it on our calendar.  The window for the test opened last week, but the test was postponed several times.  This is in preparation for the first launch of the FH, with its three cores, each with nine Merlin engines — 27 engines all together.  Right now the test is scheduled for tomorrow (Monday) afternoon, but obviously they will do it whenever they feel they are ready.  NASASpaceflight.com (not a NASA website) was providing its own live coverage last week and has a very informative article about the FH and the testing.  Elon Musk decided to launch a cherry red Tesla roadster as the payload for this test flight and SpaceX tweeted photos of it being encapsulated into the fairing.

Rocket Lab has announced another window for the second flight test of its Electron rocket (“Still Testing”) opening on Saturday, January 20, New Zealand Daylight Time (NZDT).  Attempts in December were postponed by weather or technical issues.  This 9-day window has opportunities from 14:30-18:30 NZDT each day.  NZDT is 18 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST), so the first window opens on Friday, January 19, at 8:30 pm EST.  Since the date is uncertain, we also have not listed this on our calendar.  The test will be livestreamed whenever it happens.  The rocket carries three small satellites: one Dove for Planet, and two Lemur-2 satellites for Spire.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning are shown below [actually we updated this on Monday, January 15, to add Mike Griffin’s nomination hearing on Thursday.].  Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar.

Monday, January 15

Monday-Friday, January 15-19

Tuesday, January 16

Tuesday-Thursday, January 16-18

Wednesday, January 17

Wednesday-Thursday, January 17-18

Wednesday-Friday, January 17-19

Thursday, January 18


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