What’s Happening in Space Policy May 12-18, 2024

What’s Happening in Space Policy May 12-18, 2024

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of May 12-18, 2024 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

This could be the week Boeing’s Starliner Crew Flight Test actually lifts off. At the moment the launch is targeted for Friday at 6:16 pm ET, but the fact that the crew — Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams — decided to return to Houston instead of remaining at Kennedy Space Center may hint at a longer delay.

The scheduled launch on May 6 was scrubbed because of a malfunctioning valve in the Centaur upper stage of the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket. Engineers determined it had to be replaced, which cannot be accomplished on the launch pad. The rocket, with the Starliner capsule on top, rolled back to ULA’s Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) for repair. They set May 17 as the “no earlier than” launch date. We’ll see if they’re ready by then. As the saying goes, always better to be on the ground wishing you were in space than the reverse.

This also could be the week Congress finally passes the FAA Reauthorization bill (H.R. 3935). The vast majority of the bill is unrelated to space, but it does include an extension of the commercial human spaceflight “learning period” until January 1, 2025, prohibiting the FAA from promulgating new regulations until then. That restriction usually is dealt with in commercial space legislation, not the FAA bill, but they need to bridge the gap until a new commercial space bill is enacted.

The FAA has to be reauthorized every 5 years and its last authorization expired on September 30. Congress has been passing short-term extensions while awaiting agreement on a new 5-year bill. The Senate finally passed its version on Thursday based on a bipartisan agreement among the leaders of the House and Senate committees that oversee the FAA. They also passed a one-week extension (H.R. 8289) of the temporary authorization since it would have expired on Friday (the House approved it earlier).

The 5-year bill includes a provision that’s strongly opposed by the politicians who represent the DC-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) area because it increases the number of flights allowed at Reagan National Airport. The four “no” votes in the Senate were from those Senators. Their House counterparts are also likely to oppose it. Others want to add a lot of unrelated provisions because this is one of the few pieces of major legislation likely to clear Congress this year. However, it is on the House schedule on the suspension calendar, which does not allow amendments and requires a two-thirds vote for passage. House leadership apparently thinks they’ve got enough support for it to pass.

The FAA Reauthorization bill extends the “learning period” for commercial human spaceflights like those on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo until January 1, 2025. The FAA cannot promulgate new regulations during the learning period. Other pending legislation would extend it longer, but will not pass before the current expiration date.

Assuming it does pass, that only extends the learning period for a few months. Separate legislation will have to be enacted before January 1 to keep it in place. The House committee-approved commercial space bill (H.R. 6131) would extend it until 2031. A Senate bill has been introduced (S. 4064) that would extend it for 5 years from whenever the bill is enacted, but also includes a sunset provision. New regulations are permitted after that. Stay tuned for more action on those bills.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees continue to hold hearings on FY2025 budget requests. The Senate Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee will hear from the Department of Commerce on Tuesday and the House Financial Services-General Government subcommittee from the FCC on Wednesday (postponed from last week). It’s not clear how much, if any, of the discussion will focus on space.

Linda Billings, consultant, will speak at the Arizona State University/New America Space Intersections Symposium that takes place tomorrow and Tuesday in D.C. and online.

Arizona State University’s Interplanetary Initiative and New America have an event tomorrow and Tuesday that’s rather unique. The Space Intersections Symposium will discuss “How will religious and political ideologies define the future of human expansion into space.”

It’s not a typical space conference. The themes are: Ideologies and Space Expansionism, Geopolitics, and Justification of Space Expansionism. Among the speakers are Asif Siddiqi (Fordham Univ.) on “Cosmism, Atheism, and Socialism: Millenarian Cosmologies of the Soviet Space Program,” Lincoln Hines (GaTech) on “Ideology and Chinese Space Expansionism,” Lance Gharavi (ASU) on “Look to the Heavens: Religion and Space Exploration in the U.S. and Russia,” Anthony Milligan (ASU) on “Why are Shingon Buddhists Launching a Temple Satellite,” and Linda Billings (Consultant) on “Does NASA Know What’s Good for the World?”  Many more intriguing topics throughout the two days. The in-person event is at ASU’s center in D.C. and it will be livestreamed by ASU and New America.

Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman will participate in the Council on Foreign Relations event on military strategy and leadership tomorrow evening.

On a completely different note, the Council on Foreign Relations has an interesting event tomorrow evening with the military service chiefs discussing “U.S. defense priorities around the world and the state of the American armed forces.”

Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman will be there to share the U.S. Space Force’s perspective. He’ll be joined by his counterparts from the other services: U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George, U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Eric Smith, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin, and Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Linda Fagan.

We often hear jointly from Space Force and Air Force leaders, especially at congressional hearings since both services are part of the Department of the Air Force, but this will paint a broader picture and should illustrate where space fits into it. The CFR website says it starts at 5:30 pm ET, but it’ll air on YouTube and that says 6:00 pm ET.

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 13

Monday-Tuesday, May 13-14

  • Space Intersections Symposium (ASU/New America), ASU Barbara Barrett & O’Connor Washington Center, 1800 I St, NW, Washington, DC, livestreamed

Monday-Wednesday, May 13-15

Tuesday-Wednesday, May 14-15

Wednesday, May 15

Wednesday-Thurdsay, May 15-16

Thursday, May 16

Friday, May 17

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