What's Happening in Space Policy June 2-6, 2014

What's Happening in Space Policy June 2-6, 2014

Here is our list of upcoming space policy related events for the week of June 2-6, 2014 and any insight we can offer about them.  The Senate is in session this week; the House is in recess.

During the Week

The Senate Appropriations Committee will markup its version of the FY2015 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill this week.  Subcommittee markup is on Tuesday and full committee markup is on Thursday.   The House passed its version after two long days of debate last week, though little of it was about NASA or NOAA satellite programs, and only two minor amendments were adopted that affect NASA.  Overall the House bill would give NASA $435 million more than President Obama requested for FY2015, a significant increase especially in these budget constrained times.   We’ll see what the Senate has in mind this week.  NOAA’s satellite programs fare pretty well in the House-passed bill, although it denies funding for the new SIDAR program — a free-flyer that would take three instruments (TSIS, A-DCS, SARSAT) into orbit that cannot fit on the JPSS spacecraft.  Last year this was called the Polar Free Flyer and Congress zeroed funding for it and told NOAA to come up with a new plan.  SIDAR is that plan.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also will begin action on the FY2015 Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) appropriations bill this week.  The T-HUD subcommittee will markup the bill on Tuesday morning and full committee markup is on Thursday (along with the CJS bill).  The T-HUD bill funds the Federal Aviation Administration and its Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST).  The House Appropriations Committee recommended a cut in AST funding in its version of the bill, from $16.605 million to $16.000 million.

Also of particular note this week is Wednesday’s release of the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) report on the future of the U.S. human spaceflight program.  The report was requested by Congress in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, but Congress directed NASA to contract with the NRC for the study in FY2012, not at the time the bill became law in 2010.   Consequently, the study did not begin until late in FY2012 and the first meeting was in December 2012.   The report is entitled:  Pathways to Exploration:  Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration.  The NRC committee was co-chaired by Cornell space scientist Jonathan Lunine and Purdue University President (and former Indiana Governor) Mitch Daniels.

This week’s meeting of the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) Advisory Board might also be interesting.   PNT is the official term for what GPS does.  GPS is one of several space-based PNT systems around the world that collectively are referred to as Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS).  On Tuesday, the State Department’s Ken Hodgkins is slated to give an update on U.S. GNSS International Engagement that hopefully will shed some light on Russian Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin’s recent threat to turn off 11 GPS stations located in Russia on June 1 (today) unless the United States allows GLONASS stations in the United States.  Russia’s ITAR-TASS news service reported today that Russia has, in fact, changed the status of those 11 stations though it is difficult to discern exactly what has changed.   As far as we’ve been able to determine so far, the 11 GPS stations in Russia have nothing to do with the operation of the GPS system but are so-called “differential” stations that improve the accuracy of a received GPS signal in a local area.  In this case they are being used by Russian scientists.  Brad Parkinson, the “father” of GPS, gave an interesting interview to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) on May 14 explaining what those stations do — or don’t do.  They are not related to GPS operations at all.  The only impact of turning them off is on the scientific research.   By comparison, the GLONASS monitoring stations Russia wants to put on U.S. soil would improve the accuracy of the GLONASS system itself, so it seems to be an apples to oranges comparison.  The issue of putting the GLONASS stations here became very controversial last fall and the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act prohibits placing the GLONASS monitoring stations here unless approved by the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense.

Those and the other space policy-related events we know about as of Sunday afternoon are listed below.

Monday, June 2

Monday-Wednesday, June 2-4

Tuesday, June 3

Tuesday-Wednesday, June 3-4

Wednesday, June 4

Thursday, June 5

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