What’s Happening in Space Policy July 19-25, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 19-25, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of July 19-25, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

A busy week starts today (Sunday) with the launch of the United Arab Emirates’ Hope spacecraft, one of three making the trip to Mars this year. The launch was delayed last week by bad weather at the launch site in Tanegashima, Japan, but it’s looking OK now.  Liftoff is scheduled for 5:58 pm EDT (which is July 20, 6:58 am in Japan) and will be webcast.

A second Mars probe, China’s Tianwen-1, may launch on Thursday, though China has not officially announced the launch date.  We’ll post any information we get on the calendar entry for this event.

The third, NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter, won’t launch until next week (July 30), but the Space Foundation is hosting a VIP panel to talk about it tomorrow. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, NASA Science Mission Directorate head Thomas Zurbuchen, JPL Director Mike Watkins, and Mars Helicopter Project Manager MiMi Aung will join the Space Foundation’s Tom Zelibor and Thomas Dorane for a webinar that will air on NASA TV and NASA Live as well as the event’s website.  NASA will host its own Mars Perseverance webinar on Wednesday as part of its NASA Science Live series, with a focus on the rover’s “Search for Ancient Life.”  That also will be broadcast on NASA TV.

On Capitol Hill, both the House and Senate will debate the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) starting tomorrow.  The Senate is resuming action that began before the two-week recess and will proceed with a set of agreed-upon amendments.  The House is beginning consideration of its bill.  The Rules Committee cleared it for floor action on Friday with 407 amendments approved for debate. An amendment to extend operations of the International Space Station until 2030 was not approved for consideration (a similar attempt to add this to the Senate version of the NDAA also failed).  But there are a number of interesting space-related amendments, including one that requires the Space Force to use the same ranks as the Navy (e.g. Admiral) instead of the Army or Air Force (e.g. General).  That would be akin to how they do ranks for the Marine Corps — the opposite of the parent Department.  Although it is part of the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps uses the ranks of the Army and Air Force.  Presumably that helps everyone keep track of who’s who within a Department. [Not to mention it matches a lot of science fiction characters — grin!]

House leadership expects the NDAA to take just two days to pass and will begin debate on appropriations bills later in the week. First up is a “minibus” of four including State-Foreign Ops, Agriculture, Interior and Milcon-VA.  The House Appropriations Committee cleared all 12 FY2021 regular appropriations bills over the past two weeks.

We’re not sure when it will happen — or even if because one never knows what Congress will do — but during the American Astronautical Society (AAS) John Glenn Memorial Symposium last week, Senate Commerce Committee space staffer Joel Graham said the space weather bill is going through the process to get approved by the Senate by unanimous consent, so it could come up at any time. His House counterpart, Pam Whitney, was on the same panel and indicated it might get House action soon, too. The Senate Commerce Committee approved its bill (S. 881) more than a year ago.  The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee approved a somewhat different version (H.R. 5260) in January, but last week it sounded as though they’ve reached common ground. Stay tuned.

The Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) begins tomorrow in a virtual format this year because of COVID-19.  Calling itself FIA Connect, there are some interesting space sessions including one on “Why Mars” with ESA Director General Jan Woerner tomorrow.  On Tuesday, sessions on commercial microgravity and a space industry roundtable. On Wednesday, “UK Space Agency: International Space Programme” and “Launch UK-The UK’s Spaceflight Programme.”  And more throughout the week. Remember all times on the agenda are British Summer Time (subtract 5 for Eastern Daylight Time, unlike GMT, which at this time of year is only 4 hours ahead).

NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel meets publicly on Thursday. The meeting is scheduled for two hours, which is a bit longer than usual.  These meetings are always interesting, albeit hard to follow sometimes because they are audio only and the panel members clearly are reading from written texts so the words zip by at lightning speed.

Up in orbit at the International Space Station, a fourth battery-replacement spacewalk by Bob Behnken and Chris Cassidy is scheduled for Tuesday, and Russia will launch another Progress cargo spacecraft on Thursday. Progress MS-15 (Progress 76 in NASA’s numbering system) will take the ultra-short two-orbit route to ISS, docking less than four hours after launch.

As usual, lots of other very interesting events on tap including the Secure World Foundation’s webinar on Capacity-Building for Space Sustainability that was postponed from earlier this month. It’s got three panels of representatives from government, industry, and civil society respectively to discuss “the most pressing challenges…in terms of building capacity for implementing international space sustainability guidelines.”  A really stellar line-up.

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 19

Sunday-Monday, July 19-20

Monday, July 20

Monday-Friday, July 20-24

Tuesday, July 21

Wednesday, July 22

Wednesday- Thursday, July 22-23

Thursday, July 23


This article has been updated.

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