What’s Happening in Space Policy May 1-7, 2022

What’s Happening in Space Policy May 1-7, 2022

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of May 1-7, 2022 and any insight we can offer about them. The Senate is in session this week. The House is in recess except for pro forma sessions.

During the Week

The House is taking another week off, which is not unusual in an election year. In fact the House left town a day early last week, on Thursday instead of Friday, which is why the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee hearing on Space Situational Awareness (SSA) was cancelled at the last minute. It’s the second time that hearing’s been canceled despite broad agreement that it is a critically important issue. At least Secretary of Commerce Raimondo named a new Director of the Office of Space Commerce last week during the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the department’s FY2023 budget. Richard DalBello will report for duty on May 9 and take charge of the Department’s SSA responsibilities.

Perhaps a bit more progress will be made on SSA this week in the Senate, which is expected to finish agreeing to the terms of the House-Senate conference on legislation that includes Sen. Wicker’s SPACE Act, as well as a NASA authorization act. The Senate calls it the U.S. Competition and Innovation Act (USICA). The House version is the America COMPETES Act. They are using the House bill, H.R. 4521, for conference purposes. These days most people just call it the “chip act” since its main purpose is helping the U.S. semiconductor industry compete with China, but there are lots of other titles on unrelated topics like the SPACE Act. It would codify the Department of Commerce’s role in SSA and create a grant program for Centers of Excellence to advance scientific, technological, transdisciplinary, and policy research in SSA.

The Senate passed H.R. 4521 with an amendment replacing the House language (which says almost nothing about space) with what is basically the language of USICA. So the House and Senate versions of H.R. 4521 are very different and they are getting ready to go to conference to work out a compromise. The Senate agreed to the conference with the House last week.

This week, the Senate will vote on a series of “Motions to Instruct” their conferees on particular provisions that must stay or go. We haven’t heard any objections to the SPACE Act, but Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is determined to remove a provision in the NASA authorization act that allocates $10 billion over 5 years for a second Human Landing System for the Artemis program. He’s convinced that second contract is intended for Blue Origin, owned by Jeff Bezos, whom he adamantly opposes. As he explains in this clip, he does not want Bezos or Amazon to get ANY government contracts.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) agreed that Sanders would get a vote on whether to instruct the Senate conferees to remove that section of the bill. Sanders is no fan of Elon Musk either, by the way, and had this to say about NASA and public-private partnerships in The Guardian: “I am concerned that Nasa has become little more than an ATM machine to fuel a space race not between the US and other countries, but between the two wealthiest men in America – Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who are worth more than $450bn combined.” Sanders chairs the Senate Budget Committee.

Schumer said the Senate will vote on the Motions to Instruct on Tuesday and Wednesday. There are 28 in all, eight from Democrats, 20 from Republicans. We don’t know when the Sanders motion will come up.

It will be interesting to see how the vote goes. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) is the sponsor of the language. Blue Origin is headquartered in her state and she chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, which has oversight over NASA. Her language does not direct that Blue Origin get the contract, however. Sanders is just assuming that’s the intent. The whole thing started when Blue Origin was protesting the selection of SpaceX as the sole HLS contractor because Congress did not give NASA enough money to pick two. A lot has changed since then, but a policy statement in law that there should be more than one HLS contractor would be significant. The amount of money really isn’t that important. This is only an authorization bill, not an appropriation.

Speaking of appropriations, the Senate Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee will hold a hearing on NASA’s (and NSF’s) FY2023 budget request on Tuesday morning at 10:00 am ET. That’s the exact same time its Defense subcommittee is holding a hearing on DOD’s request and the Senate Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on the Department of Transportation’s request, including the FAA and its Office of Commercial Space Transportation. The Senate Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing on the Department of the Air Force request (which includes the Air Force and Space Force) at the same time, too, although it starts a bit earlier at 9:30 am ET.

Four Senate hearings on space-related topics all at the same time. Yikes!

Not to mention the NASA/Boeing media teleconference at 11:00 am ET on Boeing’s upcoming retry for the Starliner Orbital Flight Test-2 launch. The media telecon will air on NASA Live. OFT-2 is currently planned for May 19.

AND the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) Science Committee’s two-day meeting begins on Tuesday at 9:00 am ET. There are lots of good presentations both days, but while the hearings and briefing are underway, Science Mission Directorate head Thomas Zurbuchen will give an update on SMD’s portfolio and Joel Kearns, head of SMD’s Exploration Science Strategy and Integration Office, will talk about “Managing Commercial Delivery of Services.”

AND the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee’s (COMSTAC’s) two-day meeting begins on Tuesday. We don’t have a detailed agenda yet, but at least it doesn’t start on Tuesday until 1:00 pm ET when the hearings are over. You can watch it on YouTube.

Crew-3 (L-R): Raja Chari (NASA), Thomas Marshburn (NASA), Matthias Maurer (ESA/Germany), Kayla Barron (NASA). Photo credit: Robert Markowitz

AND Crew-3 is getting ready to come home from the ISS.

On Tuesday at 2:25 pm ET, they will give farewell remarks and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn will turn command of the ISS over to Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev in the traditional change of command ceremony.

Wednesday could be the day they undock to begin their return home, but the schedule isn’t set. NASA tells us: “Teams are assessing weather for multiple opportunities in this timeframe and will pick the best option based on the highest priority being crew safety. We’ll issue our coverage advisory as soon as Monday, May 2.”

There really are far too many events to even begin summarizing them here, but we will quickly mention that NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana will give a keynote address at the Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium (LSIC) meeting at 11:00 am ET on Wednesday in Laurel, MD, and an hour later Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy will speak at the Science Objectives for Human Exploration of Mars workshop in Denver, CO. LSIC will be webcast both days. Only the opening plenary of the Mars meeting, which includes Melroy’s remarks, will be webcast.

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, or changes to these.

Monday, May 2

Monday-Tuesday, May 2-3

Monday-Wednesday, May 2-4

Tuesday, May 3

Tuesday-Wednesday, May 3-4

Tuesday-Thursday, May 3-5

Wednesday, May 4

Wednesday-Thursday, May 4-5

Wednesday-Friday, May 4-6

Thursday, May 5

Thursday-Friday, May 5-6

Friday-Sunday, May 6-8

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