What’s Happening in Space Policy June 28-July 4, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy June 28-July 4, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of June 28-July 4, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Friday, July 3, is a federal holiday in observance of Independence Day, July 4, and federal (and many state) offices will be closed. As June turns into July, that means 2020 will be half over even though it seems like it’s lasted a century already.

The imminent July 4 recess is usually one of those congressional benchmarks where House and Senate leadership strive to get certain legislation at least out of committee if not passed.  Appropriations bills and the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) are top of the list, but in this unprecedented COVID-19 year, just about everything is far behind schedule.

The exception is the NDAA, which the Senate will debate this coming week.  With the Senate Republican policing reform bill sidelined, the FY2021 NDAA (S. 4049) came back onto the schedule at the end of last week and opening statements were made. The Senate will vote on the motion to proceed with consideration of the bill tomorrow (Monday) at 5:30 pm ET.

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will mark up its bill, H.R. 6395, on Wednesday (subcommittee markups were last week). The House COVID-19 rules for committee meetings allow for some members to participate virtually while others are in the room.  The HASC full committee markup is usually an extended affair that starts at 10:00 am ET and runs over into the next day.  It’ll be interesting to see how it all happens without the eye contact, head nods, whispers, and nudges that typically characterize legislative action.  The subcommittee markups were easy since all the controversial issues were left for full committee markup. And we hear some of the controversial issues that would be debated at full committee may be left for floor debate.  We’ll just have to see what happens.  What was approved by the Strategic Forces subcommittee and the “chairman’s mark” are publicly available.  Note that the Capitol complex is still closed to the public, so the public must watch the webcast on the committee’s website.

The House Appropriations Committee is supposed to mark up its bills next week and the week after with hopes of getting them passed before the August recess, but that’s an ambitious schedule. The Senate Appropriations Committee’s schedule is in limbo due to partisan disagreements over whether the bills should include funding for COVID-19 and policing reform.

Off the Hill, everyone continues to be as busy as a bee.  The National Academies’ Committee on Space Nuclear Propulsion Technologies will hold the next of its Monday virtual public meetings tomorrow afternoon. They’ve heard from NASA and DOE already. Tomorrow Aerojet Rocketdyne and Aerospace Corp. will brief the committee, which is charged with identifying technical and programmatic challenges, merits and risks for using space nuclear propulsion for future exploration missions. Really interesting. Some of the discussion is targeted at questions of nuclear thermal as compared with nuclear electric (not either/or, but where each fits in) and highly enriched uranium (HEU) versus High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU).  The committee is co-chaired by Roger Myers and Bobby Braun.

The Academies is starting up the next Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey. On Thursday, the chairs of that Decadal — Robin Canup (Southwest Research Institute) and Phil Christensen (Arizona State University) —  will moderate a panel to glean lessons learned by their peers on previous Decadals: Steve Squyres, who chaired the last planetary science Decadal; Waleed Abdalati and Bill Gail, who co-chaired the Earth Science Decadal; and Dan Baker, who chaired the Solar and Space Physics Decadal.

Among the webinars this week, AIAA will host NASA Associate Administrator for Space Technology Jim Reuter (Monday), Brookings will host outgoing Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein (Wednesday), and the Aerospace Corporation with talk commercial space with former NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden (Thursday).  The Secure World Foundation has a panel discussion with representatives from government, industry and civil society on Capacity Building for Space Sustainability (Thursday).

Two advisory committees are meeting, virtually, of course.  NASA’s Heliophysics Advisory Committee meets Tuesday-Wednesday. Heliophysics Division Director Nicky Fox gives an update on Tuesday followed by an update on space weather happenings by James Spann.  The National Space-Based PNT Advisory Board, often just called the GPS Board, meets Wednesday.  A detailed agenda for the GPS Board meeting isn’t posted (just the preliminary agenda in the Federal Register announcement), but with all the debate about Ligado’s  FCC-approved system interfering with GPS, there’s a good chance that will come up though the meeting is just four hours.

Meanwhile, up at the International Space Station (ISS), the second of this final group of battery replacement EVAs is scheduled for Wednesday (Cassidy, Behnken).  After it’s over, back down here on Earth, NASA will hold a press conference with the next Soyuz crew: NASA’s Kate Rubins and Roscosmos’s Sergey Ryzkikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov.  They are scheduled for launch on October 14.

And we wouldn’t want to miss highlighting that Tuesday, June 30, is the annual International Asteroid Day. Related events have greatly expanded beyond a single day, but June 30 itself is the anniversary of the 1908 Tunguska event and the official “day.”  The Asteroid Day Foundation and its partners, including ESA, are hosting a number of public awareness events including a 5-hour series of panel sessions on June 30 beginning at 1300 CEST (7:00 am ET).

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning are listed below.  Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar.

Monday, June 29

Tuesday, June 30

Tuesday-Wednesday, June 30-July 1

Wednesday, July 1

Thursday, July 2

Friday, July 3


Note: This article has been updated.

User Comments

SpacePolicyOnline.com has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.