What’s Happening in Space Policy July 31-August 6, 2022

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 31-August 6, 2022

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of July 31-August 6, 2022 and any insight we can offer about them. The Senate is in session this week. The House has begun its summer recess and is not scheduled to return for legislative business until mid-September, but that could change.

During the Week

President Biden may sign the CHIPS and Science Act, which includes the 2022 NASA Authorization Act, this week.

President Biden could sign legislation this week that includes the 2022 NASA Authorization Act. The CHIPS and Science Act (H.R. 4346) cleared Congress on Thursday. The NASA Authorization Act is Title VII. The bill was enrolled on Friday during a televised ceremony with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the last step before being sent to the White House. Once the bill is presented to the President, he has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to sign it. Biden  is eager to do so, but signing significant pieces of legislation like this one usually is done with the President and key members of Congress together at the White House, so the date could be impacted by the decision yesterday that Biden needs to isolate after testing positive for COVID again. Or not. A ceremony isn’t required, just traditional.

The House began its summer recess on Friday and is scheduled to meet only in pro forma sessions through September 13 (though committees will meet September 6-8). The breaking news of agreement among most Senate Democrats on a so-called “climate” bill (though it’s a lot broader than that) could change those plans, however. If the bill passes the Senate before it begins its recess at the end of this week, the House may briefly return to consider it rather than waiting until September. All 50 Senate Democrats have to vote for it and one, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-AZ, has not yet agreed so whether it will pass the Senate is still a question mark. Once known as the Build Back Better Act, the bill (H.R. 5376) has changed significantly and no longer includes the $1.1 billion for NASA infrastructure in the version that passed the House last year. Now called the Inflation Reduction Act, NASA is not mentioned.

Also on Capitol Hill this week, a Senate Commerce subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Future of Spectrum on Tuesday afternoon. None of the witnesses are from the space sector, but the hearing should be of interest nonetheless. All spacecraft require spectrum since that’s how they communicate back to Earth. Spectrum is a finite natural resource and battles are raging as to who gets what frequencies.

The FCC assigns spectrum to non-goverment users (NTIA does it for the government). It will hold an open Commission meeting on Friday and one of the topics on the agenda is related to assigning spectrum to fixed geostationary satellites. But another item seems a bit unusual for the FCC. It will consider a Notice of Inquiry “that would examine opportunities and challenges of in-space servicing, assembly and manufacturing” and “seek input on steps the Commission might take to facilitate ISAM missions.” It’s not immediately clear what it has in mind. Should be an interesting discussion.

Off the Hill, NASA has two briefings this week teeing up the Artemis I launch. Both will air on NASA TV. NASA is targeting August 29 (September 2 and 5 are backup days) for this first flight of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft on an uncrewed test flight around the Moon. Wednesday’s “mission overview” briefing includes NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and other high ranking NASA officials. Friday’s “detailed mission briefing” features other NASA officials and one from the European Space Agency, which provides Orion’s Service Module.

Sylvie Espinasse, head of ESA’s Washington Office, will be a guest on the Space Foundation’s “Start Here for Space” series on Tuesday.

Speaking of ESA, the head of ESA’s Washington Office, Sylvie Espinasse, is the guest on the Space Foundation’s “Start Here for Space” series on Tuesday afternoon. She’s the first of several Washington representatives of non-U.S. space agencies who will be guests each Tuesday this month: JAXA’s Masami Onoda (Aug. 9), CSA’s Jill Smyth (Aug. 16), CNES’s Nicholas Maubert (Aug. 23), and ISRO’s Krunal Joshi (Aug. 30). DLR’s Marc Jochemich will be on in September (date TBA).

Start Here for Space is part of the Space Foundation’s “Symposium 365” suite of virtual events throughout the year. There are really a lot of very informative webinars including the monthly “Space Matters” with Jim Bridenstine, Carissa Christensen, and Bob Walker as regulars and usually a fourth participant. Space Matters airs this week, too, on Thursday, with Patricia Cooper joining the line-up.

National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) Director Chris Scolese, who spent a fair amount of his career at NASA including as Director of Goddard Space Flight Center, is the guest on the Mitchell Institute’s Schriever Spacepower Forum at 10:00 am ET Thursday morning.

That’s quite a busy morning as it turns out. Two launches are scheduled before his talk.

ULA will launch the sixth and last of DOD’s Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) geosynchronous satellites, SBIRS GEO-6, during a 40 minute launch window that opens at 6:29 am ET. SBIRS is a constellation of satellites in geosynchronous and highly elliptical orbits that look for missile launches and other heat sources, such as reentering space objects like China’s Long March 5B rocket stage. It’s been a long haul for SBIRS. The program began in 1996, but the first satellite wasn’t launched until 2011 and the ground-processing capabilities to take full advantage of the sensors weren’t available until 2019 according to GAO. DOD is developing the Next Generation Overhead Persistent InfraRed (Next Gen OPIR) system to augment and eventually replace SBIRS. A 2021 GAO report gives a succinct summary of the cost overruns and schedule delays that plagued SBIRS with recommendations on how to avoid them this time.

Then at 9:30 am ET (8:30 am local time at the West Texas launch site), Blue Origin will send another six passengers to space. This group, New Shepard-22 (NS-22), includes the first Egyptian (Sara Sabry) and the first Portugese (Mário Ferreira) to reach for space. And British-American moutaineer Vanessa O’Brien will “become the first woman to reach extremes on land, sea and air, completing the Explorers’ Extreme Trifecta,” according to Blue Origin.

New Shepard-22 (NS-22) passengers. Credit: Blue Origin

The annual Small Satellite Conference at Utah State University begins on Saturday. We’ll have more about that in our next edition.

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.

Tuesday, August 2

Tuesday-Wednesday, August 2-3

Wednesday, August 3

Thursday, August 4

Friday, August 5

Saturday-Thursday, August 6-11

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