What’s Happening in Space Policy June 13-20, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy June 13-20, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week (plus a day) of June 13-20, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Congress will be busy this week with hearings and markups on space topics. On the Senate side, the Senate Appropriations Committee has a Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee hearing on NASA’s budget request (Tuesday) and a full committee hearing on DOD’s budget request (Thursday). The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will mark up the nominations of Pam Melroy to be Deputy Administrator of NASA and Rick Spinrad to be Administrator of NOAA  (Wednesday).  Both are expected to be easily approved and once reported from committee could come up at any time on the floor for confirmation. The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved Frank Kendall’s nomination to be Secretary of the Air Force already, so keep an eye on the floor schedule for when any of these might be considered.

Over on the House side, the House Armed Services Committee will hold a full committee hearing on the budget request for the Air Force on Wednesday. The Space Force is part of the Air Force, so both will be discussed.  The House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee will markup the “National Science Foundation for the Future” and “Department of Energy for the Future” bills (Tuesday). Those bills are not “space” bills so are not on our Calendar, but the Senate’s NSF bill morphed into the massive U.S. Innovation and Competition Act that incorporated a NASA Authorization bill and the space situational awareness SPACE Act. We don’t expect that to happen in the House, but we’re keeping an eye on the NSF and DOE bills to see what trajectory they end up on and whether that affects the fate of the NASA and SPACE bills.

Perhaps the most intriguing hearing this week, however, will be held by the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee on Wednesday. The witness list isn’t posted yet, but it has a headline-grabbing title: “Starships and Stripes Forever–an Examination of the FAA’s Role in the Future of Spaceflight.”

With SpaceX’s ongoing and distance-expanding Starship tests and a slew of upcoming suborbital and orbital space tourist flights, including yesterday’s $28 million winning bid for the first seat on Blue Origin’s New Shepard, this is a timely subject. The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST) oversees commercial spaceflight. Committee jurisdiction over that office is unsettled in the House. Historically House SS&T has held jurisdiction, but House T&I, which oversees the rest of the FAA, occasionally shows an interest. The current chairman of the full T&I committee, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), derailed the Space Frontier Act at the end of the 115th Congress because he felt his committee was not sufficiently consulted on the FAA/AST provisions including the issue of how to better integrate space launches and reentries into the National Airspace System. We’ll find out Wednesday where the committee’s interests are right now.

Off the Hill, and we mean WAY off the Hill, over in St. Petersburg, Russia, the week-long International Astronautical Federation’s Global Space Exploration (GLEX) conference begins tomorrow (Monday). The theme is celebrating the 60th anniversary of human spaceflight, which began on April 12, 1961 when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made one orbit of the Earth.

GLEX has a really great line-up, but the agenda, not surprisingly, is in Moscow Time, 7 hours head of EDT. So the sessions will be for early risers or the very dedicated on this side of the Atlantic. There is not just one but two “Heads of Agencies” panels on Tuesday at 5:05 am EDT and 7:05 am EDT. Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin will participate in both as will moderator Pascale Ehrenfreund, IAF President and former head of Germany’s space agency DLR. Some agency heads will be there in person and others virtually. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson will participate virtually on the second panel (at 7:05 am EDT) along with the heads of ESA and the space agencies of the UAE, Norway, Turkey, Canada, and Italy. Lots of other really good panels and presentations during the rest of the week. GLEX will be livestreamed, but one must register in advance to get the link.

Rogozin plans to meet with potential partners in the Russia-China International Lunar Research Station during the course of GLEX, but in private. Those side meetings probably will be the most “newsy,” but how much the outside world learns, and when, remains to be seen.

Closer to home there are, as usual, a number of very interesting meetings and webinars. NASA’s Planetary Science Advisory Committee meets tomorrow. Separately NASA will hold a press conference tomorrow about two upcoming spacewalks at the International Space Station. The spacewalks themselves are on Wednesday and Sunday. Since the one on Sunday begins before we post our next “What’s Happening,” we’re including it today.  And far too many more to summarize here, unfortunately, as fascinating as they sound.

We will note, however, that there are rumors China will launch the first crew to the Tianhe space station module this week. China has not said so officially, but experts who closely follow China’s space program and share information on Twitter think the Shenzhou-12 launch could happen on June 17.  If China makes an official announcement, we’ll add it to our Calendar.

All the 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, June 14

Monday-Friday, June 14-18

Tuesday, June 15

Wednesday, June 16

Wednesday-Friday, June 16-18

Thursday, June 17

Friday, June 18

Sunday, June 20


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