What’s Happening in Space Policy March 1-7, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy March 1-7, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of March 1-7, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Hearings on the Trump Administration’s FY2021 budget request kick off in earnest this week.

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees (HASC and SASC) and the House Appropriations Committees all have hearings on military space programs.  HASC will hear about Air Force and Space Force readiness on Tuesday, and the FY2021 budget request for the Air Force on Wednesday.  SASC has an Air Force Posture Hearing on Tuesday and a DOD Posture Hearing on Wednesday.  The House Appropriations Defense subcommittee will talk about the organizational plans for the U.S. Space Force on Wednesday.

The Senate Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee will hear from Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Thursday.  How much they will get into NOAA’s satellite programs or the goal of creating a Bureau of Space Commerce remains to be seen since there are so many other issues to discuss.  However, for FY2020, appropriators did not approve merging the Office of Space Commerce (OSC) and the Office of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs (CRSRA) or add more money and elevate them to report directly to Ross (currently they are part of NOAA) as requested because the Department declined to send any witnesses to explain why that was a good idea.  Ross appears enthusiastic about expanding his Department’s role in space as laid out in Space Policy Directives-2 and -3, so this would be a good time to make that case.  We’ll see if he does.  The request is $15 million for a combined OSC and CRSRA, up from $4.1 million in FY2020.  Last week, OSC’s Chief Counsel, Diane Howard, referred to the “urgent need” for adequate funding if the Department is to move forward on Space Situational Awareness.

We are not aware of any specific NASA-related hearings this week, although the House Appropriations CJS subcommittee will hold its “Member Day” on Wednesday.  Every year, each subcommittee provides an opportunity for Members of Congress to come before them and express whatever opinions they have about activities within their jurisdiction. The committee does not list who intends to appear, but it is always possible someone could come to talk about NASA or NOAA space programs.

The big NASA space policy event this week is Friday’s update on the review of the problems encountered during the Boeing CST-100 Starliner Orbital Flight Test (OFT) in December.  Boeing’s John Mulholland gave his own outbrief this past Friday, but said the joint NASA/Boeing Independent Review Team (IRT) is still working on some of the issues.  This Friday’s meeting, which is a teleconference (audio will be available on NASA Live), will have even more current information and from both NASA and Boeing.

The NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations committee (NAC/HEO) was supposed to meet this week, but was canceled.  It’s a disappointment since expectations were high that Doug Loverro, the new head of human exploration at NASA, would lay out a more detailed plan for getting astronauts back on the Moon by 2024.

But perhaps we will hear something from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine when he speaks at CSIS on Thursday.  His topic is “Strategic Implications of NASA’s Moon to Mars Plan.”  The meeting will be webcast.

On the launch front, Astra still has not launched its rocket from Kodiak, Alaska as part of DARPA’s Launch Challenge.  According to the rules, it had to launch between February 25 and March 1 to win the first part of the prize ($2 million) and then again within a short period of time to win another $10 million.  But DARPA said that the time frame could change if there were not four good weather days during that time period and the weather has been lousy. As of this morning, Astra plans to try tomorrow (Monday, March 2).  Because the launch date is so uncertain, we don’t include it on our calendar, but whenever it does happen (around 11:30 am Alaska Standard Time — add four for EST), it will be webcast on the DARPA Launch Challenge website (darpalaunchchallenge.org) beginning 30 minutes in advance.

On the opposite side of the United States, SpaceX plans to launch its next cargo mission to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral just before midnight on Friday.  There’s a “What’s on Board” science briefing on Thursday and a pre-launch press conference on Friday afternoon, both of which will be webcast, as will the launch itself.  NASA TV coverage of the launch begins at 11:30 pm ET.

The coronavirus outbreak is affecting meetings world-wide, so whatever you may be planning to attend, check to make sure it hasn’t been cancelled.  As of today, the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers conference is still taking place in Broomfield, CO through Wednesday.  It tweeted reassurances today.

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.

Monday, March 2

Monday-Wednesday, March 2-4

Tuesday, March 3

Wednesday, March 4

Thursday, March 5

Thursday-Friday, March 5-6

Friday, March 6

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