What’s Happening in Space Policy January 28-February 3, 2024

What’s Happening in Space Policy January 28-February 3, 2024

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of January 28-February 3, 2024 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Capitol Hill remains pretty quiet in terms of space-related issues although progress is being made on FY2024 appropriations. Politico reported yesterday that the chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), have agreed on the “302(b)” allocations.

The House and Senate majority and minority leaders agreed on top-line spending earlier this month. The next step was for the leadership of the two committees to divide it up among their 12 subcommittees. That’s what just happened. The 302(b) reference is to a section of the 1974 Congressional Budget Act that created this process.

The House and Senate committees did this last year to craft the bills that already have been under consideration, but they were using different top-line numbers. The Senate used what then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden negotiated in the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA). The House used lower amounts. Now that they have bipartisan, bicameral agreement on the total amount they can spend, they’re going through the process again.

With the 302(b) allocations determined, each subcommittee now must decide again how to allocate the money to the departments and agencies under their jurisdictions. It’s a step-by-step process and there’s still a long way to go, but it is progress. The bigger challenge may not be the funding figures, but the social policy provisions on abortion, LGBTQ, and diversity that House Republicans want to add that Democrats strongly oppose. The deadlines for doing something to avoid a partial shutdown are March 1 (for four bills including the one that funds FAA) and March 8 (the other eight including Defense, NASA and NOAA).

Elsewhere, Intuitive Machines (IM), SpaceX and NASA are getting ready for the next U.S. attempt to land on the Moon. For whatever reason, none of them will say what the potential launch dates are. They just keep saying “mid-February.”  Spacecraft can only be launched to the Moon a few days per month when the Moon and Earth are correctly aligned so they must know which days they are, but they’re not sharing the information. NASA and IM are having a media teleconference on Wednesday to discuss the NASA payloads that will be aboard. Perhaps we’ll find out then.  IM’s Nova-C is the second launch for NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. The first, Astrobotic’s Peregrine, suffered a propulsion failure. NASA has said all along they understand the risks and a 50-50 success rate for CLPS as a whole is OK.  Hopefully Nova-C will even it out. As JAXA’s Small Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) showed, landing on the Moon isn’t for the faint of heart, even when you get to claim success in the end.

Brig. Gen. Kristin Panzenhagen, Commander of Space Launch Delta 45, will speak at the Space Mobility Conference on Tuesday.

Commercial Space Week is taking place in Orlando this week. It’s a collection of three conferences: the Global Spaceport Summit tomorrow (Monday), the U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command’s Space Mobility Conference (Tuesday), and Spacecom|50th Space Congress (Tuesday-Thursday).

Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is the kick-off speaker for GSA on Monday where he will “share his unique perspective on the future of space operations and the role of spaceports in enabling commercial space activities.” Tuesday’s Space Mobility Conference features Brig. Gen. Kristin Panzenhagen, U.S. Space Force’s Program Executive Officer for Assured Access to Space as well as commander of Space Launch Delta 45, Director of the Eastern Range, and Director of Launch and Range Operations for Space Systems Command. White House National Space Council Executive Secetary Chirag Parikh is the opening speaker that day. Spacecom|50th Space Congress has an extensive list of speakers available to peruse.

NASA’s Day of Remembrance was last week, but the anniversaries of the three tragedies it commemorates were yesterday, today and Thursday.

NASA Associate Administrator Jim Free, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery on NASA’s 2024 Day of Remembrance, January 25, 2024. Photo credit: NASA/Keegan Barber

Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chafee were killed on January 27, 1967 when fire swept through their Apollo capsule during a pre-launch test when an electrical arc ignited the 100 percent oxygen atmosphere.

The crew of Apollo 1: Virgin “Gus” Grissom, Ed White, Roger Chaffee. Photo Credit: NASA

Today (Sunday, January 28) is the anniversary of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy that killed NASA astronauts Dick Scobee, Mike Smith, Ron McNair, Ellison Onizuka and Judy Resnik; Teacher-in-Space Christa McAuliffe; and Hughes Aircraft payload specialist Greg Jarvis. Aerodynamic forces tore the shuttle apart 73 seconds after liftoff because an “O-ring” in one of the two Solid Rocket Boosters failed due to very cold temperatures and led to the failure of the other SRB and External Tank.

Space Shuttle Challenger crew: from left – front row Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair; back row, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, Judy Resnik. Photo credit: NASA

Thursday, February 1, is the anniversary of the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster that killed NASA astronauts Rick Husband, William McCool, David Brown, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, and Michael Anderson, and Israeli Air Force Pilot Ilan Ramon. They were returning from a 16-day science mission when hot gases entered the shuttle’s wing through a hole created by foam falling from the External Tank during liftoff. Every year Israel celebrates Israeli Space Week around this time and holds the Ilan Ramon International Space Conference. Because of the Israel-Hamas war, the conference will be limited in scope this year and take place only on January 30. There is an online option, though the time zone difference is a challenge. It starts at 12:30 am Eastern Standard Time and ends at 10:00 am.

Space Shuttle Columbia crew: from left – David Brown (NASA), Rick Husband (NASA), Laurel Clark (NASA), Kalpana Chawla (NASA), Michael Anderson (NASA), William McCool (NASA), Ilan Ramon (Israeli Air Force). Photo credit: NASA.  This week’s Ilan Ramon International Space Conference will be one-day only (Tuesday) and held in a limited format because of the Israel-Hamas war.

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 or changes to these.

Sunday-Thursday, January 28-February 1

Monday, January 29

Monday-Friday, January 29-February 2 (continues next week)

Tuesday, January 30

Tuesday-Thursday, January 30-February 1

Wednesday, January 31

Thursday, February 1

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