What’s Happening in Space Policy June 26-30, 2017

What’s Happening in Space Policy June 26-30, 2017

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of June 26-30, 2017 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Congress is racing to complete action on a number of things before the July 4 recess.  Among them is making progress on legislation at the top of congressional priorities — appropriations bills for FY2018 (which begins on October 1) and the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

By the end of the week, both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees will have completed their markups of the NDAA, positioning them for floor action once Congress returns — one more step along the legislative path.  As we reported last week, the HASC Strategic Forces subcommittee wants to create a Space Corps within the Air Force and a U.S. Space Command within U.S. Strategic Command.  Its Senate counterpart will markup its version of the bill tomorrow (Monday), but it is closed so we may not know whether it takes a position on that issue until the end of the SASC process later this week. The full HASC will mark up the bill, H.R. 2810, on Wednesday.   HASC markups are usually marathon sessions that last into the wee hours of the night.  They are open and webcast.

SASC, by contrast, does everything behind closed doors.  All of the subcommittee and full committee markups begin tomorrow and hopefully finish by Thursday, but they have Friday in reserve if needed.  The markups all take place in the same room and the first three subcommittees, including Strategic Forces, are scheduled just 30 minutes apart, suggesting that they already have decided what they are going to do and the markups are pro forma. Full committee markup, on the other hand, is a multi-day event.

The NDAA is an authorization bill, of course, that sets policy and recommends funding levels, but money only comes from appropriations committees.  The House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee will mark up the defense appropriations bill this week as well.  The overall budget battle over how much to add to defense and what cuts will be made to non-defense programs is far from over, but the committee is determined to move forward anyway. It already has approved the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) bill.

Traditionally (but not necessarily) the House acts first on appropriations bills and, indeed, the Senate Appropriations Committee is still in the hearing phase.  The Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee will hold its hearing on the FY2018 NASA budget request on Thursday morning.  Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot is the only witness.  At exactly the same time, the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on in-space propulsion.   NASA Associate Administrators for Human Exploration and Operations (Bill Gerstenmaier) and Space Technology (Steve Jurczyk) will be joined at the witness table by former astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz (of VASIMR engine fame), Mitchell Walker representing the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Joe Cassady from Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Anthony Pancotti of MSNW LLC, which is developing the NASA-funded Electrodeless Lorentz Force (ELF-250) thruster and the ElectroMagnetic Plasmoid Thruster (EMPT).

Lots and lots of other really interesting events going on, including the Space Weather Enterprise Forum in DC; the NewSpace 2017 conference in San Francisco; the IAA’s Future of Space Exploration — Towards Moon Village and Beyond in Torino, Italy; and Asteroid Day on Friday, June 30, with events worldwide and a 24-hour broadcast from Luxembourg beginning at 01:00 GMT (which is 9:00 pm ET June 29).

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 Events of Interest list.

Monday, June 26

Tuesday, June 27

Tuesday-Thursday, June 27-29

Tuesday-Friday, June 27-30

Wednesday, June 28

Wednesday-Thursday, June 28-29

Thursday, June 29

Friday, June 30

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