What’s Happening in Space Policy July 16-22, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 16-22, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of July 16-22, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session.

During the Week

It’s another busy week in Congress and elsewhere, but let’s not forget to celebrate the 54th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on Thursday. The Moon Village Association led the effort to get July 20 proclaimed as International Moon Day by the United Nations and there are events around the world. Check out the IMD website to find one near you.

Buzz Aldrin stands next to the Apollo 11 lunar lander on the Moon. Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became the first humans to land on the Moon on July 20, 1969. Photo credit: NASA

Congress is striving to get as much done as possible in the next two weeks before summer break begins. The Senate will be out for five weeks, the House for six. When they get back there won’t be much time left to do something about appropriations before the fiscal year ends on September 30. The 5-year authorizations for the FAA and for the Farm Bill (which sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry policy) also expire that day.

Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) at the House T&I Committee markup of the FAA reauthorization bill, June 13, 2023. The House plans to take up the bill on Wednesday and Thursday.

The House will take up the FAA reauthorization bill — the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act — this week. Committee jurisdiction over the FAA in the House is shared by the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee and the House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee.

The bill originally introduced by House T&I (H.R. 3935) included a number of provisions about FAA’s commercial space actvities that House SS&T considers to be under its purview and part of what it will address in a separate commercial space bill. Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), who serves on both committees and chairs the House SS&T space subcommittee, offered a series of amendments during House T&I markup to strike those sections. He withdrew most of them after committee chair Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) promised to work with him to find a resolution. It looks like they did. The version the Rules Committee will take up on Tuesday does not appear to include them. There are several commercial space provisions, but within T&I’s jurisdiction. House SS&T oversees FAA’s research and development programs and reported out its own FAA R&D Act (H.R. 3559). Those two bills are being combined. The House will take up the merged bill on Wednesday and Thursday if the Rules committee sends it forward as expected.

We’ll have to wait till House SS&T introduces a commercial space bill to find out what their plan is for most of what the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation does, like whether Congress will extend the “learning period” for commercial human spaceflight. The restrictions on the FAA promulgating additional regulations expires on September 30. House SS&T held a hearing last week, but it is extremely unlikely they could get legislation done by then unless it’s just a sentence in another bill (like this one or a Continuing Resolution) as a placeholder.

The Senate will be busy with its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The House passed its bill on Friday. The provisions directly related to space activities weren’t controversial, but the bill overall changed considerably between the time it was approved by the House Armed Services Committee and Friday. It was reported from committee with a strong bipartisan vote of 58-1, but passed the House on primarily party lines 219-210. Only four Democrats voted for it after a number of “culture war” amendments were adopted. The Democratic-controlled Senate almost certainly will reject any attempts to add such language to their bill, but eventually the two sides of Capitol Hill will have to agree on a compromise version to send to the President. HASC and SASC are proud they’ve been able to get a bill approved every year since the first in 1961 despite fractious political environments. This year will be quite a test.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was the deciding vote in SASC adding a provision about U.S. Space Command HQ to the FY2024 NDAA that the Senate will consider this week.

The Senate bill as reported includes the same provision as the House bill prohibiting spending any money on U.S. Space Command headquarters, and the expenditure of 50 percent of the Secretary of the Air Force’s travel funds, basically until a decision is made on whether the permanent HQ will be in Colorado or Alabama. It was added to the Senate bill during committee markup on a 13-12 vote. The 12 Republicans on the committee (including Alabama’s Tuberville) were joined by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) in voting yes. The other 12 Democrats voted no. Neither of Colorado’s Senators are on SASC.  It wouldn’t be surprising to see an amendment on the floor to strike that language. The Senate moves much more slowly than the House so whether they get done with the bill this week or not is uncertain, but there’s clearly a desire to get it through both chambers before recess so conference discussions can get underway.

Appropriations bills also are moving. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees both will mark up the Transportation-HUD bill this week (on the 18th and 20th respectively) that includes funding for the FAA and its Office of Commercial Space Transportation. The House has another bill on the schedule for full committee markup (Interior) already and it’s possible it could add others as it did last week. The only others that haven’t been through full committee markup are CJS and Labor-HHS.

In addition to THUD, the Senate committee will mark up Energy-Water and State-Foreign Ops. Word has it the committee will take up the rest of its bills (Defense, Homeland, Interior, and Labor-HHS) next week. If all that works out, it would mean all 12 appropriations bills will have at least gotten reported from both committees before the summer recess. We can’t remember when that last happened. Quite some time ago.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) will chair a hearing on NOAA’s budget on Thursday.

A Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee will hold a hearing on NOAA’s budget this Thursday. NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad and Rear Admiral Nancy Hann, Director of NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and Director of NOAA’s Commissioned Officer Corps, will testify. NOAA operates the nation’s civil weather and space weather satellites, but that is only a small part of what it does so it’s not clear how much of the hearing will be about satellites or NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce.

Senate Commerce is an authorizing committee that sets policy and recommends funding levels, but only appropriators have money to spend.  NOAA just learned what its Senate appropriators have in mind for FY2024. The Senate Appropriations Committee marked up the Commerce-Justice-Science bill last week. The total for NOAA satellite Procurement, Acquisition and Construction (PAC) is $1.533 billion, which is $146 million less than the request, but $203 million more than FY2023. NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce was held to its FY2023 level of $70 million, compared to the request of $88 million. We’ll see on Thursday if the authorizers have anything to say about those funding levels and what the priorities should be.

Elsewhere, the American Astronautical Society’s John Glenn Memorial Symposium in Cleveland, Ohio starts tomorrow and runs through Wednesday. Virtual participation is an option. The annual conference is closely tied to activities at Glenn Research Center and the theme this year is “Powering Innovation from Earth to Mars.” Two  sessions that caught our eye are “Space Law: Legal Challenges and Opportunities for New Activities” on Monday and “Policy–Enabling Objectives” on Wednesday, but there are others on Gateway, lunar surface power, lunar and cislunar infrastructure, and many more. The final luncheon on Wednesday features a trio of VIPs from the three Mission Directorates at NASA HQ involved in the Artemis program: Jim Free from Exploration Systems Development, Joel Kearns from Science, and Trudy Kortes from Space Technology.

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.

Monday-Wednesday, July 17-19

Tuesday, July 18

Tuesday-Friday, July 18-21

Wednesday, July 19

Wednesday-Thursday, July 19-20

Thursday, July 20

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