What’s Happening in Space Policy March 24-30, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy March 24-30, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of March 24-30, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

House and Senate hearings on the FY2020 budget request begin in earnest this week, with appropriations or authorization hearings on DOD, NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Transportation (DOT).  DOT appropriations hearings usually focus on high-level issues, so it is not likely that the FAA’s commercial space transportation activities will be discussed to any great degree, if at all, but may be of interest in any case.  In brief, on Tuesday, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Jr. will testify to HASC ; on Wednesday,  NOAA Acting Administrator Neil Jacobs in the morning, and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in the afternoon, will testify to the House Appropriations CJS Subcommittee; and also on Wednesday, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao will testify to Senate Appropriations THUD subcommittee.

In addition, on Wednesday, the House Budget Committee will hold a hearing on DOD’s request, and SASC’s Strategic Forces subcommittee will hold a hearing on military space operations, policy and programs.  On Thursday, a HASC subcommittee will have a hearing on DOD’s request for S&T programs.

On top of that, the White House National Space Council will meet in Hunstville, AL on Tuesday at noon Central Time (1:00 pm Eastern) to talk about human spaceflight. Huntsville is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, which manages the Space Launch System (SLS) program.  The SLS schedule apparently is slipping yet again.  Bridenstine raised eyebrows on March 13 when he told a Senate committee that NASA is looking at alternatives to SLS to launch Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the first test of the Orion spacecraft on a mission around the Moon. That reportedly did not please Alabama’s senior Senator, Richard Shelby, who chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, which may explain why this meeting is in Huntsville.

Vice President Mike Pence chairs the Space Council.  Its Executive Secretary, Scott Pace, told the American Astronautical Society on Thursday that the program needs a “greater sense of urgency” and Pence will provide “guidance” about that at Tuesday’s meeting. The White House is “deadly serious” about maintaining schedule commitments and avoiding “complacency,” Pace added.

Sounds like the meeting will be quite interesting.  NASA TV will cover it. Two panels of experts will testify.  Pace said the first panel — former astronauts Sandy Magnus and Eileen Collins, and Les Lyles, chairman of the NASA Advisory Council — will discuss “getting ready to fly again” with the impending resumption of  launches to low Earth orbit (LEO) of American crews from American soil on American rockets.  Then Dan Dumbacher from AIAA, Jack Burns from CU Boulder, and Wanda Sigur, Lockheed Martin, retired, will talk about “getting ready to explore again” — going beyond LEO.

Also this week, the Space Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine holds its annual Space Science Week, with individual and plenary meetings of its five standing committees plus a public lecture on Wednesday evening.  The speaker this year is Eric Rignot from UC Irvine on “Sea Level Rise from Melting Ice Sheets.”  It will take place at the National Academy of Sciences building on Constitution Avenue in D.C.  These lectures typically are webcast, although the website does not indicate that at the moment.

Lots of other really interesting events this week, but too many to highlight here.  We will just mention, however, that on Friday the first all-female spacewalk will take place at the International Space Station. NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch will be outside the station installing new lithium-ion batteries among other tasks.  The first spacewalks were in 1965: the Soviet Union’s Alexei Leonov on Voskhod 2 and American Ed White on Gemini 4.  In 1984, the first women made spacewalks: the Soviet Union’s Svetlana Savitskaya from the Soviet space station Salyut 7 and NASA’s Kathy Sullivan on the STS 41-G space shuttle mission.  Spacewalks involve at least two astronauts, but it has taken this long for two women to do one together. [UPDATE: NASA announced on March 25 that this no longer will be an all-female spacewalk.  Koch will be paired with Nick Hague instead.]

Those events and others 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.

Tuesday, March 26

Tuesday-Thursday, March 26-28

  • Space Science Week, National Academy of Sciences building, 2101 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC.
    • Plenary Session, March 26, 1:00-5:30 pm ET (available via Zoom)
    • Public Lecture, March 27, 7:00 pm ET

Wednesday, March 27

Thursday, March 28

Thursday-Friday, March 28-29

Friday, March 29


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