What’s Happening in Space Policy July 24-28, 2017

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 24-28, 2017

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of July 24-28, 2017 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

FY2018 appropriations and the new Russia/Iran/North Korea sanctions bill top the space-related congressional agenda this week.  At the moment, the House remains scheduled to recess on Friday for 5 weeks as planned at the beginning of the year while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided to keep the Senate in session for an extra two weeks at the urging of the President.  Whether the schedule changes again may depend on what happens this week on other issues.

Although the House has not yet passed a Budget Resolution that is supposed to set spending limits, it is moving forward with a bundle of four of the 12 regular appropriations bills that it considers to be related to national security:  Defense, Energy & Water (the Department of Energy oversees the nation’s nuclear stockpile), Military Construction/Veterans Affairs (MilCon/VA), and Legislative Branch (which funds congressional operations).  Some might quibble over whether Leg Branch counts as national security, but it does pay the salaries of the Members of Congress and their staffs who write the laws that set policy and authorize and pay for those programs, so there is logic to it. The bundle is called the “Make America Secure” bill and uses the Defense Appropriations bill number, H.R. 3219.   The House Rules Committee meets tomorrow (Monday) and Tuesday to write the rule and decide which amendments will be in order for floor debate.  House action could begin late Tuesday.

Speaking of the Budget Resolution, the House Budget Committee did finally release its version.  One of the proposals to save money is by reorganizing the Department of Commerce and moving NOAA to the Department of the Interior, something the Obama Administration recommended several times. Penny Pritzker, Obama’s last Secretary of Commerce, endorsed it again in her exit memo.

Across Capitol Hill, the Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up two bills that fund space activities:  Transportation-HUD (T-HUD, including the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation) and Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS, including NASA and NOAA).  The two subcommittees will mark up their bills on Tuesday; full committee markup is on Thursday.   Audio of all three meetings will be webcast.  The House Appropriations Committee has already reported out its versions of T-HUD and CJS.

Separately, the House and Senate have agreed on a compromise measure to impose additional sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea.  The Senate passed its bill last month 98-2 after adopting an amendment that exempts NASA and the commercial sector from provisions that could have prevented them from launching satellites on rockets that use Russian components or using companies that do business with the Russian defense sector.  The compromise version is scheduled for a vote in the House on Tuesday.  The House is expected to vote as strongly in favor of the bill as did the Senate.  That would create a dilemma for the White House, which opposes it because it would prevent a President from acting alone to waive sanctions.  Congress would have to agree.  Pundits are debating whether the President will sign it anyway to avoid adding more fuel to the fire over his relationship with Russia or veto it.  Congress can override a veto with a two-thirds vote of each chamber.

The NASA Advisory Council (NAC) and its committees are meeting this week in Hampton, VA, near NASA’s Langley Research Center.   Committee meetings are tomorrow and Tuesday, while the full NAC meets Thursday-Friday.  The meetings are available remotely by WebEx/telecon.  On Tuesday, the Human Exploration and Operations Committee and the Science Committee meet together.

Three new crew members launch to and dock with the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday.  The American-Italian-Russian crew (Bresnik-Nespoli-Ryazansky) will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 11:41 am Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) and dock with ISS at 6:00 pm EDT joining the American-Russian crew members already aboard (Whitson-Fischer-Yurchikhin).

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 Events of Interest list.

Monday-Tuesday, July 24-25

Tuesday, July 25

Thursday, July 27

Thursday-Friday, July 27-28

Friday, July 28

  • Soyuz MS-05 Launch/Docking
    • launch, 11:41 am EDT (9:41 pm local time at launch site), NASA TV coverage begins 10:45 am EDT
    • docking, Earth orbit, 6:00 pm EDT,  NASA TV coverage begins 5:15 pm EDT

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