What's Happening in Space Policy March 14-18, 2016

What's Happening in Space Policy March 14-18, 2016

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of March 14-18, 2016 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Welcome to Daylight Savings Time in the United States.  Not all countries offset their clocks for summer time and those that do may not make the change at the same time as us, so be sure to check your time zone calculator if you are, for example, planning to watch a launch taking place in another country.  Like one or both of the two interesting launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) is scheduled for liftoff tomorrow (Monday) morning.  The global time standard is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the launch is at 09:31 GMT.   Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) is GMT-4, which makes it 5:31 am EDT.  ExoMars TGO is an orbiter, but includes an Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) demonstrator named Schiaparelli in preparation for the second part of the ExoMars program — a lander scheduled for launch in 2018.  ESA’s first attempt to land on Mars was in 2003.  Its Mars Express orbiter carried a small British lander named Beagle 2.  It separated from Mars Express as planned, but did not transmit after landing (NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted it on the Mars surface in January 2015).  Mars Express itself successfully entered Mars orbit and continues to operate today.  It will be joined by ExoMars TGO in October 2016 if the launch goes as planned tomorrow.  ESA will webcast the launch beginning at 4:30 am EDT.

On Friday, three new crew members will launch to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard Soyuz TMA-20M.  NASA’s Jeff Williams and Roscosmos’s Oleg Skripockha and Alexey Ovchinin will launch at 5:26 pm EDT and dock with ISS at 11:12 pm EDT.   Launch and docking will be broadcast on NASA TV.   The crew is scheduled to stay until September.  This is the third ISS visit for Williams who will set a new U.S. record for CUMULATIVE time in space if all goes as planned.  (Scott Kelly has the record now and he will retain the U.S. record for CONTINUOUS time in space.)

In between the wee hours of Monday morning and Friday night, there’s a lot going on.   Various congressional committees will hold hearings on the FY2017 budget requests for NASA, NOAA and national security space programs, there’s a Senate committee markup of the FAA reauthorization bill, and much more.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden will testify to two House committees this week about the FY2017 budget request.   First is the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.   Second is the Space Subcommittee of the House, Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee on Thursday.   The Senate CJS hearing was last week, which leaves only the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee as a potential hearing venue.   The subcommittee that oversees NASA is chaired by Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who is a little busy right now, so when or if that hearing will take place is unclear. 

Separately, the full Senate Commerce committee will mark up its version of the FAA reauthorization bill (S. 2658) on Wednesday.  Among its many provisions are one requiring a GAO report on the existing system of FAA-licensed spaceports and another requiring a rulemaking to implement an amendment added by the bill regarding navigable airspace analysis for commercial space launch site runways.  The text of the bill is posted on the committee’s website.

NOAA Administrator Kathy Sullivan will have a chance to explain NOAA’s FY2017 budget request to the House SS&T Environment Subcommittee on Wednesday afternoon. Subcommittee chairman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) is particularly interested in NOAA purchasing commercial weather data, so that may be one theme at the hearing.

On the national security space front, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will hold its annual hearing on national security space programs on Tuesday afternoon.  SASC held its hearing last week, but it was closed.  This one will be open — initially at least.  HASC will hold a broader hearing on the budget requests for the military departments (e.g. Air Force) on Wednesday and SASC’s annual DOD posture hearing is on Thursday.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday afternoon are shown below.  Check back throughout the week for additional events we learn about as the week progresses and are added to our Events of Interest list.

Monday, March 14

Tuesday, March 15

Tuesday-Wednesday, March 15-16

Wednesday, March 16

Wednesday-Thursday, March 16-17

Thursday, March 17

Friday, March 18


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