What's Happening in Space Policy May 11-15, 2015

What's Happening in Space Policy May 11-15, 2015

Here is our list of space policy related events for the week of May 11-15, 2015 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Two important markups and a House floor vote are on tap this week.  The first markup is the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) consideration of the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Unlike its House counterpart (HASC), which holds its markups in the open, SASC and most of its subcommittees — including the Strategic Forces subcommittee that handles military space programs — meet in closed session where they can discuss classified matters.  Many question why the SASC meetings can’t be open like those in the House, including the reporters who cover Capitol Hill.  The Standing Committee of Correspondents wrote to SASC Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) asking him to reconsider, but as of today, the Strategic Forces subcommittee and full committee meetings remain closed.

HASC completed markup of its version of the bill on April 30.  The bill is scheduled for floor consideration in the House this week beginning on Wednesday.

The second markup is of four commercial space bills.  The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will take them up on Wednesday at 2:00 pm ET.  Included is the long awaited update of the Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA) that addresses a wide range of issues, including two legal provisions that will expire if Congress does not act.  One is the so-called “learning period” for commercial human spaceflight whereby the FAA is not allowed to issue new regulations that might stifle this nascent industry before it has a chance to get off the ground (so to speak).  The existing prohibition expires on September 30 and commercial spaceflight advocates want it extended at least until they have some experience (not a single U.S. commercial human spaceflight has occurred yet despite promises that such flights would begin years ago).  The bill (which does not have a number yet) would extend the learning period to 2023 and encourage the development of voluntary industry standards as a possible alternative to legislation. George Nield, who heads the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation and usually is an ardent proponent of the commercial space industry, disagrees with industry on this one, insisting that sufficient experience with human spaceflight exists already through government programs to inform regulations needed to ensure safety for passengers and crews.  The bill covers many other topics, including extending until 2023 the government’s authority to indemnify commercial space launch companies against certain amounts of third-party liability in the event of accident (existing authority expires next year).  The other three bills deal with establishing property rights for U.S. commercial companies that mine asteroids (H.R. 1508),  facilitating NOAA’s issuance of commercial remote sensing licenses (unnumbered), and a bill to rename NOAA’s Office of Space Commercialization as the Office of Space Commerce and expand its authorities (unnumbered).

Also scheduled this week is the return of three ISS crew members on Soyuz TMA-15M.  NASA’s Terry Virts, ESA’s Samantha Cristoforetti and Roscosmos’s Anton Shkaplerov are supposed to come home on Wednesday, although Roscosmos was proposing changes to the ISS crew rotation schedule because of the problems with its Progress M-27M spacecraft.  No changes have been announced as of this writing, however.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday afternoon are listed below.

Monday, May 11

Tuesday-Wednesday, May 11-12

Tuesday-Friday, May 12-15

Wednesday, May 13

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