What’s Happening in Space Policy June 23-29, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy June 23-29, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of June 23-29, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

It’s another busy week, from Washington, D.C. to Earth orbit.

Tomorrow (Monday) three International Space Station (ISS) crew members return to Earth less than an hour before the first night launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket with 24 satellites aboard.

The three returning crew members are NASA’s Anne McClain, Canada’s David Saint-Jacques and Russia’s Oleg Kononenko.  They will undock from the ISS in their Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft at 7:25 pm ET and land in Kazakhstan at 10:48 pm ET (July 25, 8:48 am local time at the landing site.)  NASA TV will cover it all beginning at 3:30 pm ET with farewells and hatch closure.

At 11:30 pm ET tomorrow, SpaceX will launch its third Falcon Heavy on DOD’s Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) mission.  It will deliver a total 24 satellites to orbit. Among them are the Air Force’s DSX, four NASA technology payloads (including JPL’s Deep Space Atomic Clock), six NOAA COSMIC-2 satellites, and five cubesats including The Planetary Society’s LightSail -2.  SpaceX calls it “among the most challenging launches” in its history with “four separate upper-stage engine burns, three separate deployment orbits, a final propulsive passivation maneuver and a total mission duration of over six hours.”  The Falcon Heavy side boosters are “flight proven,” having first been flown on the previous Falcon Heavy launch (Arabsat-2).  This is DOD’s first use of the Falcon Heavy and the first time it will be using flight proven hardware.

NASA is holding a “technology TV show” today (Sunday) about its STP-2 technology payloads and the Air Force and SpaceX will have a pre-launch press briefing at 4:00 pm ET tomorrow.  NASA TV has to split its time between the Soyuz MS-11 landing and the STP-2 launch, so the STP-2 activities will be carried on the media channel only.

Meanwhile, back here in Washington, DC, Congress will be trying to get a lot done this week since it will be in recess next week for the July 4 holiday.

Tomorrow the House will resume consideration of a package of five FY2020 appropriations bill (“Minibus-2”) that includes the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that funds NASA and NOAA, and Transportation-HUD (THUD), which includes the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST).  The House completed debate on the CJS portion of the bill last week and adopted several amendments to the NASA and NOAA sections.  Most are relatively inconsequential, but it did agree to transfer the money for the Office of Space Commerce and Office of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs  ($3.6 million total) from NOAA to the Department of Commerce’s Management account.  If the Senate agrees, that will permit the two offices to merge and be elevated to the Office of the Secretary of Commerce as requested by the Trump Administration. The House Appropriations Committee specifically rejected that request, but the House adopted a Babin amendment to allow it.  The amendment does not, however, provide the additional $6.4 million (for a total of $10 million) that was requested for the combined entity, which the Trump Administration sees as the nucleus for a new Bureau of Space Commerce.

Tomorrow the House will debate the THUD portion of the bill (Division E).  An amendment Rep. Spano plans to offer would increase funding for FAA/AST by $8 million.

House leadership had hoped to get all 12 regular appropriations bills passed by the end of June and it looks like they’ll get close, but not all the way.  The House passed the first bundle (Minibus-1) of four bills, including Defense, last week.  If they pass Minibus-2 plus Financial Services this week, they’ll have 10 of them done.  The remaining two are especially controversial: Leg Branch because it would raise the pay of Members of Congress and Homeland Security because of the border wall issues.

The big sticking point on FY2020 appropriations is that there is no agreement yet between Republicans in Congress and the White House, never mind between Republicans and Democrats, on how much money can be spent in FY2020. The 2011 Budget Control Act is still the law of the land and if Congress appropriates more than allowed by the budget caps set in that law, across-the-board cuts called sequestration automatically go into effect on October 1, the beginning of FY2020.  The battle lines are the same old ones we’ve written about too many times already.  They have until midnight September 30 to figure it all out. If past is prologue, that’s just about how long it will take.  The key is that as these appropriations bills pass, no one should be counting any chickens before they hatch.

Across the Hill, the Senate will resume work on the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act.  They are still going through procedural steps, but hopefully will get to the substance of the bill early in the week.  Sen. Cruz wants to attach the Space Frontier Act and Sen. Burr wants to attach the Intelligence Authorization Act to the NDAA.  Stay tuned to see if that happens.

Lots and lots of other interesting events this week, several of which have very similar names so one must pay close attention to know which is which.   Among them, in D.C., the Secure World Foundation’s Summit for Space Sustainability Tuesday-Wednesday morning and the Department of State/Department of Commerce Space Enterprise Summit Wednesday afternoon-Thursday are on related topics. SWF and DOS/DOC coordinated their efforts so there’s a brief break between the two to allow interested audience members to move from the first venue (the National Press Club) to the other (the State Department) on Wednesday.  That’s good, but they also are at the same time as the annual Space Weather Enterprise Forum, a NOAA two-day “emerging technologies” workshop, a House hearing on NASA’s aeronautics program, the Defense One Tech Summit, and MilSatCom USA.

And that’s just here in D.C.  The Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) is taking place near Seattle (today-Friday), NASA’s Small Bodies Assessment Group is meeting in College Park, MD (Monday-Tuesday), the 2nd IAA/AAS SciTech Forum is in Moscow, Russia (Tuesday-Thursday), and the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science is all week in Lyon, France.

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.

Sunday, June 23

Sunday-Friday, June 23-28

Monday, June 24

  • Soyuz MS-11 Return to Earth with Three ISS Crew Members
    • Farewell and hatch closure (4:10 pm ET), NASA TV coverage begins 3:30 pm ET
    • Undocking (7:25 pm ET), NASA TV coverage begins 7:00 pm ET
    • Deorbit burn (9:55 pm ET) and landing (10:48 pm ET), NASA TV coverage begins 9:30 p m ET
  • STP-2 (Falcon Heavy)

Monday-Tuesday, June 24-25

Monday-Friday, June 24-28

Tuesday-Wednesday, June 25-26

Tuesday-Thursday, June 25-27

Wednesday, June 26

Wednesday-Thursday, June 26-27

Thursday, June 27



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