What’s Happening in Space Policy July 9-15, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 9-15, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of July 9-15, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Congress is back this week with a busy schedule as they try to accomplish a lot before the August recess that begins in just three weeks. There even are rumors the House may begin work on a Continuing Resolution (CR) since they don’t return until September 12 and that’s getting pretty close to the October 1 deadline.

This week the House plans to take up the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Rules Committee meets on Tuesday to decide which amendments (1,502 of them are posted on the Rules Committee website at the moment) will be considered on the floor and other rules for the debate. The bill could go to the floor anytime after the committee files its report.

HASC Chair Mike Rogers (R-AL) chairs a hearing on the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act, April 27, 2023. The NDAA will be debated by the full House this week.

The most prominent space issue in the NDAA is where to permanently locate U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM), Colorado or Alabama, as we’ve written about many times. Two Colorado Republicans, Doug Lamborn and Lauren Boebert, submitted amendments to remove the provision in the bill that prohibits spending money to construct or modify facilities for the temporary or permanent headquarters of USSPACECOM until the Secretary of the Air Force submits a report on the justification for selecting a permanent headquarters. Both subsequently withdrew them, however. Lamborn did the same thing during committee debate when it was clear he didn’t have enough support. He said he agrees with committee chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) that the Air Force needs to make a decision after two-and-a-half years of waiting, but views freezing that money as harming national security. Similar language is in the defense appropriations bill. We’ll see if Lamborn and or/Boebert bring it up when that reaches the floor.

There are a handful of other space-related amendments on the Rules Committee list, but most just require reports from DOD on various topics.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will chair a full committee markup on Thursday that includes the Commerce-Justice-Science bill that funds NASA and NOAA.

Another big item this week is mark up of the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) funding bill by the Senate Appropriations Committee. CJS is the bill that includes NASA and NOAA. It’s one of three bills on the agenda for Thursday. Committee chair Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Vice Chair Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) are determined to mark up all 12 bills, the first time in three years the committee would accomplish the feat.

The Senate committee is using the total amount of discretionary spending allowed in the Fiscal Responsibility Act for its markups, which basically holds total nondefense spending to the FY2023 level and defense spending to the level requested by President Biden for FY2024. The House committee has decided to use lower limits for nondefense spending, essentially FY2022 levels. How that spending will be apportioned to specific agencies like NASA and NOAA is what the committees are deciding. The House Appropriations committee hasn’t marked up the CJS bill yet. Its schedule isn’t posted as of this morning (Sunday), but it’s possible they also will take up CJS this week. They’ve completed six of the 12 bills so far. With the House and Senate using very different top line nondefense spending caps, reaching agreement by the end of year, never mind by October 1 when FY2024 begins, will be extremely challenging. If they can’t reach agreement by January 1, 2024, the Fiscal Responsibility Act requires an across-the-board one percent cut for both defense and nondefense spending.

Karina Drees, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and chair of COMSTAC, will testify to House SS&T on Thursday on U.S. leadership in commercial space.

Also on the Hill this week, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on “Continuing U.S. Leadership in Commercial Space At Home and Abroad.” Committee chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) has been saying since the beginning of the year that passing commercial space legislation is one of his priorities for this Congress. With legislative time already growing short in 2023 it likely will have to wait until next year (the 118th Congress doesn’t end until January 3, 2025), but this hearing is a start.

Witnesses are Karina Drees, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and Chair of the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) and formerly CEO of Mojave Air & Space Port; Jim Dunstan, General Counsel of TechFreedom, a veteran technology and space lawyer who recently authored an amicus brief on why NEPA does not apply in outer space with regard to SpaceX’s Starlink system; and Caryn Schenewerk, President of CS Consulting and COMSTAC member who previously worked at SpaceX and Relativity Space (and at OMB and for former Rep. Gabby Giffords).

By the way, the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation has a number of job openings and will hold a virtual information session — Find Your Place in Space — on Thursday for anyone who might be interested in applying. And COMSTAC meets briefly on Tuesday.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will vote on the nominations of three FCC Commissioners on Wednesday. The FCC has not had its full complement of five commissioners since the beginning of the Biden Administration. It typically has three from the President’s party and two from the other party, but has been stuck at two Democrats (Chair Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks) and two Republicans (Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington) because Biden’s first nominee for the open slot, Gigi Sohn, could not win confirmation. She withdrew and Biden now has nominated Anna Gomez. He also nominated Starks and Carr for additional 5-year terms. The vote on Wednesday will be on sending the nominations of Gomez, Starks and Carr to the full Senate for confirmation. The nomination of Fara Damelin to FCC Inspector General also is on the docket.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown will testify to SASC on Tuesday on his nomination to be the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Finally in terms of action on the Hill, on Tuesday the Senate Armed Services Committee will consider the nomination of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C. Q. Brown to be the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Brown has been nominated to succeed Gen. Mark Milley (USMC) when Milley’s term expires in October. SASC continues to report out military nominations even though Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is blocking all top military promotions until DOD changes its policy to pay travel costs for service members to get an elective abortion if they are not available where they are stationed. Tuberville’s stance is opposed not only by Democrats but by many Republicans in the Senate, especially on SASC (of which he’s a member), who assert it harms national security. He dismisses those concerns and remains undeterred. It’s not uncommon for Senators to place holds on one or a few nominations over (often-unrelated) policy disputes, but until now the tactic was rarely used against an entire class of nominees.

Off the Hill it’s also busy, busy, busy. For brevity’s sake we’re only going to mention two events.

First, this week is the 1-year anniversay of the first full-color images from the James Webb Space Telescope. Hard to imagine it’s been a year already since the final commissioning of JWST after the nail-biting months of launch and deployment. A new image from JWST will be released at 6:00 am ET on Wednesday as part of the celebration. Later in the day NASA will focus on JWST during a NASA Science Live broadcast. On Friday, “visitors of all ages” can hear talks about JWST and engage in other activities at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore  (JWST is operated by the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore).  Speaking of JWST images, Paul Byrne @theplanetaryguy just tweeted this spectacular set of images of Jupiter (top left), Saturn (top right), Uranus (bottom left) and Neptune (bottom right) as seen through JWST’s infrared eyes.

In conjunction with the anniversary, the Space Telescope Science Institute is holding a conference to talk about the connection between JWST science and the Habitable Worlds Observatory that was recommended by the National Academies 2020 Decadal Survey on astronomy and astrophysics. HWO or HabWorlds will come after the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope that’s planned for launch in 2027. The conference has an impressive week-long schedule ending with a “tech day” on Friday. Talks will be livestreamed on YouTube.

Finally, on Friday India will launch Chandrayaan-3, its second attempt to land on the Moon. In 2019, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost contact with the Chandrayaan-2 lander/rover just as it was about to reach the surface. Chandrayaan-3, a 1752 kilogram lander that includes a 26 kilogram rover, is headed for the Moon’s South Pole, arriving in late August.  Hopefully this time will be the charm for these comparatively small, inexpensive spacecraft. Two others tried and failed, an Israeli nonprofit (SpaceIL) and a Japanese commercial company (ispace). The launch is at 5:05 am EDT (2:35 pm India Standard Time). If we get a livestream link we’ll add it to our Calendar entry.

Chandrayaan-3. Photo credit: ISRO

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-Thursday, July 10-13

Monday-Friday, July 10-14

Tuesday, July 11

Tuesday-Thursday, July 11-13

Wednesday, July 12

Wednesday-Thursday, July 12-13

Thursday, July 13

Thursday-Friday, July 13-14

Friday, July 14

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