What’s Happening in Space Policy July 11-17, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 11-17, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of July 11-17, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them. The Senate is in session this week. The House is having a “committee work week” where committees are meeting, but the House meets only in pro forma sessions.

During the Week

The week hopefully gets off to a roaring start this morning (Sunday). As we write this, the flight of Richard Branson and five Virgin Galactic employees on Virgin Space Ship (VSS) Unity is still scheduled for today although it has been delayed 90 minutes to 10:30 am EDT (8:30 am local time at Spaceport America in New Mexico) because of weather overnight.

The event is quite the extravaganza, with two busloads of reporters (our invitation must have been lost in the mail) on hand along with celebrities like Stephen Colbert who is hosting the livestream, singer Khalid who wrote a new song for the event, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield (perhaps best known for his rendition of Space Oddity while on the ISS), and even Elon Musk in attendance.  [Update: the flight went off without a hitch.]

Hoping that goes well, it will be great news for the commercial human spaceflight business, but VG and just about every other commercial space company wants government business. Even today’s flight has a NASA-supported experiment on board.

That underscores the ongoing need for congressional appropriations and this is a week of action on that front, too. The House Appropriations Committee will mark up the FY2022 bills that fund space activities at DOD, NASA, NOAA and the FAA, completing its work on all 12 FY2022 appropriations bills. The goal is for the House to pass them all by the end of this month.

The Defense Subcommittee marked up its bill last week and the full committee will act on it this Tuesday.  The Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that funds NASA and NOAA will be marked up by the CJS subcommittee tomorrow (Monday) and full committee on Thursday. The Transportation-HUD (THUD) bill that funds the FAA and its Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) will be marked up by the THUD subcommittee tomorrow (right after CJS) and full committee on Friday.

Lots of people are waiting with bated breath to see what the appropriators will provide for NASA and its Artemis program. President Biden requested an overall 6.6 percent increase for NASA compared with FY2021: $24.8 billion versus $23.3 billion. It is important to bear in mind that only a small part of that increase ($325 million) is for Artemis. The extra $5.4 billion NASA Administrator Bill Nelson talks about to pay for a second HLS provider is not in the request. He’s hoping that can be added in the jobs/infrastructure package that is on a separate track. The President’s request is only for one HLS provider, but keeps the 2024 date for astronauts to return to the Moon.  On a bipartisan basis, Congress was not convinced last year that 2024 is achievable technically or financially. We’ll see if Bill Nelson’s NASA and Biden’s White House have changed enough of their minds. Overall the biggest single beneficiary of the increase in the request is NASA’s robotic planetary exploration program (from $2.7 billion to $3.2 billion), but many other NASA science, aeronautics, technology and human spaceflight programs will get boosts if Congress agrees. [Update: the committee released the draft of the bill this afternoon (Sunday). Proposes $25.04 billion for NASA. See our story.]

Also on tap this week is a Washington Space Business Roundtable webinar with Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO). The former geologist is the new chair of the Space and Science Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. The Senate has already passed a NASA authorization bill and the SPACE Act re space situational awareness, but those efforts were spearheaded at the full committee level. Hickenlooper’s subcommittee hasn’t held any hearings yet and as far as we know this is his first public speech about space as a Senator. Should be interesting.

Off the Hill, the American Astronautical Society will hold its annual John Glenn Memorial Symposium Tuesday-Thursday starting at 11:00 am ET each day. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson gives a keynote on Wednesday.  The keynotes on Tuesday and Thursday are by NASA Associate Administrator for Space Technology Jim Reuter and Jeff Sheshol, author of Mercury Rising.  There are great sessions on a wide range of topics including space commercialization, virtual reality, STEM education, Artemis (an update on the Gateway, technology for surface exploration, surface power), nuclear propulsion, hypersonics, sustainable aviation, and space traffic management. In addition, there are presentations on Tuesday and Thursday by the student winners of the AAS Molly K. Macauley award: Alex Koenig and Paula Do Vale Pereira, both from MIT.

Among the other webinars coming up this week, the Wilson Center has one on Cybersecurity and the Final Frontier (Wednesday), the Aerospace Corporation will discuss Building Momentum–Norms of Behavior in Space (Thursday), and the Satellite Industry Association will hear about the Role of LEO Satellites for Combat Search and Rescue (Thursday).  NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel also meets on Thursday.

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, July 11

Monday, July 12

Monday-Friday, July 12-16

Tuesday, July 13

Tuesday-Thursday, July 13-15

Wednesday, July 14

Thursday, July 15

Thursday-Sunday, July 15-18

Friday, July 16

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