What's Happening in Space Policy June 8-12, 2015-UPDATE

What's Happening in Space Policy June 8-12, 2015-UPDATE

UPDATE:  The Planetary Society’s telepresser on Wednesday re LightSail has been added.

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of June 8-12, 2015 and any insight we can provide about them.  The House and Senate are in session.

During the Week

The House and Senate will start off the week by continuing debate on the FY2016 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) appropriations bill and the FY2016 National Defense Authorization  Act (NDAA) respectively.  Last week, an amendment was adopted by the House to the T-HUD bill adding a small amount of money for FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation ($250,000, compared to the $1.5 million increase requested by the Administration and rejected by the Appropriations Committee). 

The Senate Appropriations Committee will markup the FY2016 bills for Defense and for Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS, including NASA and NOAA).   Subcommittee markup for Defense is on Tuesday, subcommittee markup for CJS is on Wednesday, and the full committee will markup both of those plus one more on Thursday.

One may wonder what the point is of moving the appropriations bills and the NDAA (which passed the House in May) through the committee process considering that the President has vowed to veto all of them because of the larger dispute over budget caps. Congressional Republicans are using what many call a “gimmick” to add money for defense in an off-budget account to which budget limits  — “caps” — agreed to in the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) do not apply while leaving non-defense spending subject to the caps.   Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) indicated last week that he and his fellow Democrats will not allow any of the appropriations bills to reach the Senate floor for debate until Republicans are willing to negotiate a solution. There is a widespread expectation that eventually Republicans and Democrats will reach a compromise similar to the one engineered in 2013 by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray (the Ryan-Murray agreement) to provide more flexibility.   Of course, back then Democrats controlled the Senate and Republicans had the House, while today both chambers have Republican majorities so the politics are quite different now.  Time will tell how it all turns out, but it looks like it will be a long appropriations season.

On Thursday, three International Space Station (ISS) crew members will return to Earth, just about a month later than originally planned.  NASA’s Terry Virts, ESA’s Samantha Cristoforetti, and Roscosmos’s Anton Shkaplerov will undock from the ISS at 6:20 am ET and land in Kazakhstan at 9:43 am ET.  NASA TV will provide coverage.  Their return was delayed while Russia investigated the April 28 Progress M-27M failure.  Russian experts have concluded it was caused by a “design peculiarity“related to frequency-dynamic characteristics between the robotic Progress spacecraft and its Soyuz- 2.1a rocket.   In a bit of a surprise, Russia launched a Soyuz-2.1a rocket carrying a military satellite on Friday, perhaps as a demonstration that they are confident the problem will not recur.  The same day, Russia and NASA confirmed that the ISS crew will return on June 11.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday afternoon are listed below.

Monday-Wednesday, June 8-10

Tuesday, June 9

Tuesday-Thursday, June 9-11

Wednesday, June 10

Wednesday, June 10 – Friday, June 19

Thursday, June 11

Thursday-Friday, June 11-12

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