What’s Happening in Space Policy June 18-24, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy June 18-24, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of June 18-24, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

The week begins tomorrow (Monday) with a federal holiday, Juneteenth, a celebration of the end of slavery in the United States.

The House and Senate will be back to work on Tuesday with a lot on their plates before they begin a two-week break that includes the July 4 holiday.

The House Appropriations Committee will continue markups of FY2024 bills including full committee markup of Defense Appropriations on Thursday. Subcommittee markup was last week. The Commerce-Justice-Science bill that includes NASA and NOAA isn’t on the schedule yet.

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) will chair the House Appropriations Committee markup of the FY2024 Defense Appropriations bill on Thursday.

The appropriations process in the House is extremely contentious this year. House Republican leadership including Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), who chairs the Appropriations Committee, decided to limit spending to FY2022 levels instead of the FY2023 levels agreed to by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden in the Fiscal Responsibility Act. Democrats charge Republicans are reneging on the agreement. Republicans assert the agreement merely set a “ceiling, not a floor” on how much they are willing to spend and they are free to appropriate less.

The news broke last week when Granger released her subcommittee allocations — how much money each of the 12 subcommittees can spend for FY2024. The Senate Appropriations Committee is meeting this week to set its subcommittee allocations. Usually a routine, relatively non-controversial step in the annual appropriations process, the meeting on Thursday is expected to attract a lot of attention. They’ll also mark up two bills, MilCon-VA and Agriculture.

So far the Senate has not been as intent on drastic budget cuts as House Republicans so it will be quite interesting to see what their spending numbers are. Defense spending is exempted from cuts, but the Fiscal Responsibility Act limits the total for FY2024 to what President Biden requested — $886 billion. Some Senate Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) think that’s too low and are calling for supplemental funding on top of whatever is approved in the regular appropriations bill. The new Chair and Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), have vowed to work together and ensure regular order this year. They have their work cut out for them.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Alabama) will chair the House Armed Services Committee markup of the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday.

More action is on tap for the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), too. The House Armed Services Committee subcommittees marked up their portions last week. Those markups are pretty pro forma with controversial topics deferred until full committee markup. That will take place this Wednesday. It starts at 10:00 am ET and typically runs through the entire day and into the next. It’s open and webcast on the committee’s website. One of the more controversial space topics is expected to be where U.S. Space Command should be headquartered.

The Senate Armed Services Committee also acts on the NDAA this week. They’re hoping to make quick work of it. The subcommittees and the full committee are scheduled to do it all on Tuesday and Wednesday, though Thursday and Friday are being held in reserve if needed. Unlike HASC, SASC markups are closed with the sole exception of the Personnel Subcommittee. So we’ll have to wait till the end to find out what they did.

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel will testify to a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday along with the other FCC commissioners.

The House Energy and Commerce’s Communications and Technology subcommittee will hold an oversight hearing on the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday. FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel is really interested in space activities and recently created a new Space Bureau to handle the reams of applications from companies planning to operate not only communications satellites in Earth orbit but a host of other space applications as well as communications on and from the Moon.  Hard to tell how much of the hearing will be about space, but it’d be surprising if there wasn’t some discussion about it. The committee has already approved several space-related spectrum bills this year and three passed the House.

All four current commissioners will testify: Rosenworcel, Brendan Carr, Geoffrey Starks, and Nathan Simington. The FCC is supposed to be run by five commissioners, three from the President’s party and two from the other party, appointed for 5-year terms. It’s been short one Democrat since the beginning of the Biden Admistration because Biden’s first nominee, Gigi Sohn, could not win enough support to be confirmed. She withdrew and Biden has now nominated Anna Gomez. Two of the current commissioners, Carr (R) and Starks (D), are up for reappointment. On Thursday, the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a nomination hearing for Gomez, Carr and Starks as well as Fara Damelin to be FCC’s Inspector General.

Lots of interesting events elsewhere, too.  In Europe, the Paris Air Show is taking place at Le Bourget, France all week, and ESA will hold a pre-launch briefing for the Euclid mission on Friday.

The Paris Air Show returns to its usual venue at Le Bourget for the first time since COVID. It’s always quite an extravaganza. ESA will have a substantial presence and some of its events will be livestreamed.

Euclid will observe the universe from the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point (same place as JWST) searching for clues about dark matter and dark energy. It’s scheduled for launch on July 1 on a SpaceX Falcon 9, a rare case of ESA launching on a U.S. rocket necessitated by the split between Europe and Russia following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Euclid was supposed to launch on a Russian Soyuz from Kourou. Friday morning’s briefing (EDT) is in English. Briefings in other languages are available at other times.

Illustration of ESA’s Euclid cosmology spacecraft. A pre-launch press conference is on Friday.

The Euclid launch isn’t for two weeks, but this week will see the next-to-last launch of a ULA Delta IV. It’s scheduled to blast off early Wednesday at 3:29 am ET from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station carrying a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office, NROL-68. The United Launch Alliance is phasing out the Delta IV and Atlas V rockets over the next several years. They’ll be replaced by ULA’s new Vulcan rocket once it starts flying (a new date for the inaugural launch hasn’t been set yet). ULA will webcast the NROL-68 launch starting 20 minutes in advance.

There’s another spacewalk up on the ISS this week, too. Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin will make their fifth spacewalk together on Thursday “to replace Roscosmos science and communications hardware and then photograph the condition of the Zvezda Service Module.” NASA TV will cover it as usual.

Two Russian cosmonauts will photograph the Zvezda module on Thursday to assess its condition. Here, a Russian Progress cargo resupply spacecraft approaches Zvezda (right) on February 15, 2018. Photo credit: NASA

Zvezda will celebrate its 23rd anniversary in space in July. It’s not the oldest module up there, but it’s pretty old. Russia recently agreed to continue operating ISS until 2028, stopping short of 2030, the commitment adopted by the other partners (U.S., Europe, Canada, Japan). Roscosmos often expresses concern about how long its modules will last. The very first ISS module, Zarya, was built by Russia, but paid for by the United States so counts as a U.S. module. It was launched in 1998 as was the first U.S.-built module, the Unity node.

We’ll also quickly note that NASA Administrator Bill Nelson is hosting a ribbon-cutting event at NASA HQ on Wednesday for the new Earth Information Center that opens to the public next Monday. The exhibit “includes large, awe-inspiring videos, as well as interactive media, stories, and narratives” according to NASA. The ribbon-cutting will air on NASA TV.

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.

Sunday-Friday, June 18-23

Monday, June 19

Monday-Sunday, June 19-25

Tuesday, June 20

Tuesday-Wednesday, June 20-21

Wednesday, June 21

Wednesday-Friday, June 21-23

Thursday, June 22

Friday, June 23

Saturday, June 24


This article has been updated.

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