What’s Happening in Space Policy March 31 – April 6, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy March 31 – April 6, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of March 31-April 6, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

This is one of those weeks with a dizzying array of congressional hearings and other meetings on multiple aspects of space policy.  It’s tough to pick just a few to highlight here, so be sure to see the complete list below.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will hold a Town Hall meeting with NASA employees tomorrow (Monday) and testify to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on Tuesday. Vice President Pence’s “humans-on-the-Moon-by-2024” announcement last week is likely to be the major topic of conversation.  The Town Hall meeting will be broadcast on NASA TV.  The hearing will be too, as well as webcast on the committee’s website.  Bridenstine testified to the House Appropriations CJS subcommittee last Wednesday, but offered no details on how the agency will fulfill that directive, but the hearing took place only about 24 hours later.  The agency now has had a few days to catch its breath, so hopefully he will have more information.  One thing Bridenstine did confirm at the CJS hearing — though it hardly needed to be said — is that the existing FY2020 budget request does not support it.  The overall request is a cut from NASA’s current funding level (Bridenstine keeps saying it’s an increase, but that’s because he compares it to last year’s request, not what Congress appropriated) and proposes deferring work on the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) and 2nd mobile launcher. He told the subcommittee last week that both are needed to meet Pence’s goal.

NOAA’s Acting Administrator Neil Jacobs will testify to the Senate Appropriations CJS subcommittee on Tuesday afternoon.  He testified to the House Appropriations CJS subcommittee last week and did not receive a warm reception.  Very little came up about NOAA’s satellite programs, but those members made no secret of their dismay at the cuts being proposed to other parts of NOAA.  NOAA had not submitted its detailed request to Congress at the time of that hearing.  It is not posted on the NOAA website today, either, so it is difficult to know what’s being proposed for satellites other than the numbers that are in the Department of Commerce’s “budget in brief.”  It shows a reduction for NESDIS’s PAC account, where spending for new satellites is located, but it is difficult to parse what it means.  Some of the programs have passed their funding peaks so a reduction would be expected and the NESDIS PAC program is being revamped based on the National Satellite Observing and Architecture (NSOSA) study rolled out last year.  Jacobs said at the hearing NOAA will now organize around “observation portfolios rather than individual missions.”  It will be interesting to learn the details.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is up before the House Appropriations CJS subcommittee the next day.  Whether he will talk about satellites or the Bureau of Space Commerce he wants to establish ($10 million is requested) remains to be seen since it is a tiny part of the Department’s budget, but Ross does seem to be a space enthusiast so he might bring it up in his statement at least.

Speaking of that Bureau of Space Commerce proposal, on the commercial space front, the Senate Commerce Committee will mark up the new version of the Space Frontier Act (S. 919) on Wednesday. Last year’s bill passed the Senate, but was defeated in the House.  S. 919 includes authorization language for the Bureau and authorizes $10 million for FY2020 and each of the subsequent four years. The Bureau initially would be comprised of a merger of NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce and Office of Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs, elevating them within the Department and reporting directly to the Secretary of Commerce.  The Administration has big plans to expand its role into space situational awareness and space traffic management as well as regulating non-traditional commercial space activities, but  Congress has not agreed with that expansion.  It continues to debate whether Commerce or the FAA is the right place for those responsibilities. Like last year, the bill punts on that.  Last year’s bill was defeated largely because of complaints that it did not address how to integrate commercial space launch and reentries into the National Airspace System to reduce disruption to air travel. The new bill requires a report on that within 90 days of the bill’s enactment.

The Commerce Committee will also markup the new version of the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act (which passed the Senate last year, but did not reach the House floor) and vote on the nomination of Barry Lee Myers to be NOAA Administrator.  Myers’ nomination was too controversial to win approval in the last Congress, but the White House apparently believes it will succeed this time.

National security space is also busy this week.  The Air Force FY2020 budget request is $14.1 billion for space activities.  SecAF Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein will be on the Hill together three times to talk about the request and the Space Force proposal (Tuesday morning for HASC, Tuesday afternoon for HAC-D, Thursday morning for SASC).  Gen. Jay Raymond, Commander of Air Force Space Command and the nominee to additionally command U.S. Space Command once it’s established, will testify to the HASC Strategic Forces subcommittee on Wednesday along with DOD Assistant Secretary Kenneth Rapuano and GAO’s Cristina Chaplain on national security space priorities.  Raymond will also speak at the Mitchell Institute’s space breakfast event on Friday.

And that’s not all!  Here is the list of all the events we know about as of Sunday morning.  Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar.

Monday, April 1

Monday-Wednesday, April 1-3

Monday, April 1 – Friday, April 12

Tuesday, April 2

Wednesday, April 3

Wednesday-Friday, April 3-5

Thursday, April 4

Friday, April 5

Friday-Monday, April 5-8

Saturday, April 6

  • The Next Big Thing Panel of the Space Generation Fusion Forum, Colorado Springs, CO, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm MOUNTAIN TIME

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