What’s Happening in Space Policy May 13-19, 2018

What’s Happening in Space Policy May 13-19, 2018

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of May 13-19, 2018 and any insight we have about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Tomorrow (Monday) we get to learn more about what Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) inadvertently disclosed about Europa at last week’s markup of the funding bill for NASA.  He is an ardent advocate for sending probes to explore Europa — a moon of Jupiter with an icy crust over what is believed to be a liquid ocean that might support microbial life.  At the markup, Culberson verbally summarized and handed a copy of an article from Nature Astronomy to committee chairman Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen with exciting news about something scientists recently discovered in data obtained by NASA’s Galileo probe.  Galileo passed by Europa a number of times during the eight years (1995-2003) that it orbited Jupiter.  However, the article is embargoed until tomorrow morning and hence should not have been distributed or discussed yet.   Nature Astronomy did not provide SpacePolicyOnline.com with an embargoed copy so we are under no obligation to observe its embargo date.  Culberson spoke about it in an open setting and others have reported on it.  But it seems to have been an honest mistake on someone’s part and waiting until tomorrow does not seem to be an onerous burden, so we will wait to write about it until tomorrow.  The embargo is lifted at 11:00 am ET and NASA will have a “Science Chat” about it at 1:00 pm ET that will be available on the agency’s website and several social media outlets (see our Calendar item for a list and links.)

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross will speak at the National Press Club tomorrow.  Whether his department’s growing role in regulating nontraditional space activities will come up or not is an open question.  It did not during his testimony to the Senate Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee last week.  The Commerce Department has very broad responsibilities and subcommittee members were interested in trade, spectrum, and fish, not space.  No telling what Ross will choose to talk about during his speech tomorrow or what will arise in Q&A, but if you’re not listening to the Europa Science Chat, you may find it interesting.  It will be webcast.

It’s a big week in Washington for the International Space Station (ISS), with meetings of NASA’s ISS Advisory Committee, a roundtable discussion of ISS utilization, and two congressional hearings on the future of ISS and human presence in low Earth orbit.

NASA’s ISS Advisory Committee is meeting tomorrow afternoon for one hour in public session.  The audio will be available by telecon.  On Wednesday at lunch time, the Space Transportation Association (STA) will have a roundtable discussion on use of the U.S. National Lab segment of ISS that is managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS).  That’s by invitation only so contact STA in advance if you want to attend.

The STA event will be followed an hour-and-a-half later by a hearing on ISS before the Senate Commerce space subcommittee chaired by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). It is the first of two on ISS that the subcommittee is planning. Cruz represents Johnson Space Center (JSC), home of the astronauts and Mission Control.  The head of NASA’s human spaceflight program, Bill Gerstenmaier, and NASA’s Inspector General, Paul Martin, are the witnesses.  Martin’s office has issued audits of the ISS Commercial Resupply Services (commercial cargo) contracts and on CASIS’s management of the ISS National Lab this year.  In September 2016, it issued an audit of the commercial crew program.

The next day, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold its own hearing on “America’s Human Presence in Low Earth Orbit.”  It’s a full committee hearing, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith, who’s from central Texas, while Rep. Brian Babin, who chairs the space subcommittee, represents JSC.  Gerstenmaier will testify there, too, along with Bhayva Lal from the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) at the Institute for Defense Analyses, and Betsy Cantwell from Arizona State University.  STPI did a lot of work that fed into NASA’s ISS Transition Report, including a 2017 assessment of the viability of privately owned LEO platforms.  Cantwell co-chairs the Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

On the national security space side of things, Gen. Jay Raymond will speak to the Washington Space Business Roundtable on Tuesday.  He is Commander of Air Force Space Command and Joint Force Space Component of U.S. Strategic Command.  With all the talk about reorganizing how the Air Force and DOD manage and conduct space activities, the topic is bound to come up.  The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) just approved a provision in its version of the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act to create a U.S. Space Command as a sub-unit of U.S. Strategic Command, and there still is a lot of debate about creating a Space Force as part of or in addition to the Air Force.  Rockets.  Satellites. Congested and contested space.  Definitely lots to talk about.

On Saturday afternoon, NASA’s twin GRACE Follow-On satellites will be launched as a ride-share with five commercial Iridium-NEXT satellites on a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Vandenberg.  NASA will have a pre-launch press briefing about GRACE-FO on Thursday.  And while strictly speaking it’s not until next week, Orbital ATK will launch its ninth cargo mission to the ISS early on Sunday, so we thought we’d include it in this week’s list.  It’s at 5:04 am ET from Wallops Island, VA.

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.

Sunday-Wednesday, May 13-16, 2018

Monday, May 14

Tuesday, May 15

Tuesday-Wednesday, May 15-16

Tuesday-Thursday, May 15-17

  • Astro 2018 (Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute–CASI), Hôtel Delta Québec in Quebec City, Quebec

Wednesday, May 16

Wednesday-Thursday, May 16-17

Thursday, May 17

Friday, May 18

Saturday, May 19

Sunday, May 20


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