What’s Happening in Space Policy June 19-25, 2022

What’s Happening in Space Policy June 19-25, 2022

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of June 19-25, 2022 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Panel members for The Color of Space at Space Center Houston, March 25, 2022. Photo Credit: Bill Stafford.

Today (Sunday) is Juneteenth, the commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. NASA TV is airing the online premier of a 50-minute documentary, Color of Space, three times today: 12:00, 5:00 and 9:00 pm ET. It is based on a March 25 panel discussion at Space Center Houston with Vanessa Wyche, Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and seven current or former Black NASA astronauts. Wyche is the first female Black Center Director.

The seven astronauts are (current) Stephanie Wilson, Victor Glover, and Jeanette Epps, and (retired) Leland Melvin, Bernard Harris, Robert Curbeam, and Bobby Satcher. The documentary also has taped interviews with Guion ‘Guy’ Bluford, the first Black man in space; Charlie Bolden, retired astronaut and first Black NASA administrator; former astronauts Alvin Drew and Joan Higginbotham; and Ed Dwight, America’s first African-American astronaut candidate. An invitation-only in-person screening took place yesterday at Howard University.

Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday last year and since it’s on a Sunday this year, it will be observed tomorrow and government offices will be closed.

The SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I uncrewed test flight back at Launch Complex 39B.  June 16, 2022. Photo credit: NASA/Sean Cannon

But not for the people working the Artemis I Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) test. NASA resumed the three-day test of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft yesterday. It culminates tomorrow with fueling the rocket and two practice countdowns to within 9.3 seconds of launch. Three tries in April were scrubbed for a variety of reasons and the Artemis I “stack” went back to the Vehicle Assembly Building for fixes. It returned to Launch Complex 39-B on June 6 to get ready for a fourth try.

NASA TV will provide live coverage with commentary tomorrow (unlike in April when all they did was occasional tweets) beginning at 7:00 am ET. The 2-hour window for the test opens at 2:40 pm ET if all goes according to plan. Note that the coverage is on NASA TV’s MEDIA CHANNEL, not the Public Channel. Be sure to select the correct one. There will be a post-test media telecon on Tuesday morning that will air on NASA Live.

Congress will be busy this week marking up FY2023 authorization and appropriations bills.

The House Armed Services Committee will mark up the FY2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Wednesday starting at 10:00 am ET. This markup typically runs all day and well into the night, sometimes into the next day. The subcommittees completed their markups two weeks ago and links to their recommendations are on the HASC website. The subcommittee on Strategic Forces handles most DOD space activities. (The Senate Armed Services Committee completed its markup last week and it is now awaiting floor action.)

At the very same time HASC is marking up the NDAA, the House Appropriations Committee will be marking up its Defense Appropriations bill. Remember, authorizers set policy and recommend funding levels, while appropriators are the ones who actually have money to spend. The appropriations Defense Subcommittee made its recommendations last week. The draft bill has top-level information, but we need to wait for the explanatory statement to get the details.

Later on Wednesday — at 7:00 pm ET — the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee will mark up the bill that funds NASA and NOAA. These subcommittee markups are usually pro forma with any major disputes held until full committee markup. In this case, full committee markup is a week from Tuesday on June 28. On Thursday, the House Appropriations Transportation-HUD subcommittee will markup its bill, which funds the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Full committee markup of the THUD bill is on June 30.

No word yet on what Senate appropriators will do. The past two years they gave up trying to mark up their bills and ultimately the committee chair (Republican Richard Shelby in 2020, Democrat Patrick Leahy in 2021) simply released draft bills and used them to negotiate with the House (three of the 12 bills got through committee last year, but not CJS, Defense, or THUD). We’ll see what happens this year. Election years are particularly challenging, but both Shelby and Leahy, who trade off being chair or vice-chair depending on which party controls the Senate, are retiring this year. Perhaps they’ll want to leave a legacy of getting their committee work done.

FYI, Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, are in line to be chair and vice-chair next year, depending on which party controls the Senate. It would be the first time women are in the two top leadership positions on that committee. The House Appropriations Committee has been led by two women since 2019, first Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY)  and Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), then Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) took Lowey’s place in this Congress after Lowey retired. If they remain as top Democrat and top Republican on the committee next year, that means all four top appropriators are female, a milestone for women in Congress. Whether it would make a difference legislatively remains to be seen.

Getting back to what’s happening this week, Wednesday certainly is a busy day. On the Hill, in addition to the HASC and HAC markups, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Energy Subcommittee has an interesting hearing. It’s not directly related to space programs, but it sounds intriguing — “Investigating the Nature of Matter, Energy, Space and Time.” Witnesses are from DOE’s Office of Science, Columbia University’s Center for Theoretical Physics, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Brookhaven National Lab’s Electron-Ion Collider project, and the Council on Radionuclides and Radiopharmaceuticals. It’s at the same time as the HASC and HAC defense markups, but the archived video is usually available on the committee’s website soon after the hearing.

Wednesday also is the first day of the two-day 4th Summit for Space Sustainability sponsored by the Secure World Foundation and the U.K. Space Agency. It’s taking place in London, which is on British Summer Time (BST), UTC+1 or EDT+5.  A virtual option is available, but watching the morning sessions here in the States will be for early risers. The afternoon sessions will be fine, though, and Richard DalBello, the new head of the Office of Space Commerce at the Department of Commerce, is speaking (virtually) at 13:30-14:00 BST (8:30-9:00 am EDT) on Wednesday. The conference has excellent panel discussions throughout. It’s tough to pick just a few to highlight, but “Ensuring Space Sustainability Through Rules-Based Order” on Wednesday and “Banning the Deliberate Creation of Debris: An Idea Whose Time Has Come,” and  “Making the Moon Work: Governance and Safety in a New Environment” on Thursday particularly caught our eye.

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, June 19

Monday, June 20

Tuesday, June 21

Tuesday-Thursday, June 21-23

Wednesday, June 22

Wednesday-Thursday, June 22-23

Thursday, June 23

Friday, June 24

Saturday, June 25 UTC

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