What’s Happening in Space Policy May 16-22, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy May 16-22, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of May 16-22, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

NASA-related activity is ramping up a bit on Capitol Hill this week.

Even though President Biden still has not sent the complete FY2022 budget request to Congress (that’s now expected on May 27), the Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday on what they know so far about his plans for NASA.

Full committee chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) is shooting for finishing committee action on all 12 appropriations bills in June and getting them passed by the House in July, so they don’t have time to wait. Biden did send top-line numbers for the discretionary part of the budget to the Hill last month and the committee is proceeding with hearings for many agencies based on that. Biden proposed a 6.3 percent increase for NASA and a few details were provided. New CJS subcommittee Chair Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA), returning subcommittee Ranking Member Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and the other members will have to use that as the basis for their questions to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. It will be Nelson’s first time at the witness table (virtually speaking) other than his confirmation hearing. Cartwright is new as chair of the subcommittee, but was vice-chair under Rep. José Serrano, who retired, so is familiar with the issues. He has expressed support for NASA in the past, and Artemis, but not the 2024 deadline.

The next day on the other side of the Hill, the Senate Commerce Committee will take up the nomination of former astronaut Pam Melroy to be Nelson’s Deputy. At the same hearing, it will consider the nomination of Rick Spinrad to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of NOAA. The hearing begins at 10:15 am ET, a somewhat unusual time because at 10:00 am ET the committee will vote on the nomination of Eric Lander to be Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

The space subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee has a hearing on NASA’s Earth science and climate change programs on Tuesday with Karen St. Germain, the head of NASA’s Earth science division, Gavin Schmidt, Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Acting Senior Climate Advisor at NASA HQ, Riley Duren from the University of Arizona and CEO of Carbon Mapper, Inc., and Robbie Schingler of Planet.

Separately, seven House SS&T bills are scheduled for floor action on the suspension calendar tomorrow (Monday)  covering STEM education, support for early-career researchers, combating sexual harassment in science, and ocean acidification. Only one specifically mentions NASA (Rep. Bonamici’s COAST Act that addresses ocean acidification research).

It’s very busy off the Hill, too.

The United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs and the Office of Outer Space Affairs will hold three webinars this week — Monday, Wednesday, and Friday — as part of a Dialogue on Responsible Behaviour in Outer Space.  Each is two hours long: 9:00-11:00 am ET. They are part of the response to U.N. General Assembly Resolution 75/36 (A/Res/75/36), adopted on December 20, 2020. Originally proposed by the United Kingdom, among other things it encourages U.N. member states to study existing and potential threats and security risks to space systems and share ideas on “norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours and on the reduction of the risks of misunderstandings and miscalculations.”

Gen. Jay Raymond, head of the U.S. Space Force, and others in DOD and elsewhere have been stressing the need for norms — not a treaty — to express an international consensus on issues like how close one country’s satellite can come to another country’s. In recent years Russian satellites have come very close to U.S. military satellites, including one type that ejects a smaller satellite that then ejects a torpedo-like projectile. Russia claims they are just observing other satellites. The projectiles have not hit anything. There are no internationally-recognized rules or norms on which to lodge a complaint and the UK and others, including the United States, want to change that. The Secure World Foundation (SWF) has a very useful fact sheet on the Russian tests along with fact sheets  on what other countries are doing. Victoria Samson, Director of SWF’s Washington Office, is one of the opening speakers at tomorrow’s U.N. webinar.  The entire series looks very interesting.

Among the reporters covering those issues is Sandra Erwin, national security reporter for Space News. She and three other space journalists — Emre Kelly (Florida Today), Miriam Kramer (Axios), and Michael Sheetz (CNBC) — will be on a panel moderated by Jeanne Meserve (formerly CNN and ABC) on Wednesday. It is part of the Space Foundation’s Space Symposium 365 webinar series. Their perspectives on all that’s going on in national security, civil and commercial space should be fascinating in this busy, busy, busy time.

We will also mention that rumors are that China will launch a cargo ship to its Tianhe space station module this week.  China acknowledges the Tianzhou-2 launch is coming up soon, but did not provide the launch date or time or whether it will provide live coverage. If we get any of that information we’ll add it to our calendar. Meanwhile, experts on Space Twitter say it likely will be on Wednesday, May 19 UTC. Tianzhou spacecraft are launched on Long March-7s, not the Long March-5B, so there shouldn’t be any reentry drama this time.

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 17

Tuesday, May 18

Wednesday, May 19

Wednesday-Thursday, May 19-20

Thursday, May 20

Friday, May 21

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