What’s Happening in Space Policy May 17-23, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy May 17-23, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of May 17-23, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them. The Senate is in session this week. The House will meet in pro forma session on Tuesday; the schedule thereafter has not been announced.

During the Week

A busy week got busier yesterday (Saturday) morning when the White House announced that the National Space Council will meet Tuesday morning.  This is the rescheduled meeting from March 24, which was abruptly postponed with 3 days notice.  And there was 3 days notice of it being rescheduled, so it looks 3 days public notice (and not even “business” days – a quaint tradition) is becoming a norm.

Unfortunately, it is at the same time as the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), the first under the leadership of its new chair, Charity Weeden of Astroscale. [UPDATE, May 18: COMSTAC has postponed its meeting. No new date set.]

Not to mention the first morning of the NASA-hosted COSPAR workshop on planetary protection for human missions to Mars.

The Space Council meeting is at NASA HQ, which is still in Response Phase 3 with mandatory telework except for mission essential personnel. Presumably only the Council members and mission essential staff will be there in person, but it will be livestreamed on NASA TV.  The other meetings are virtual.  If you’ve got three computers and three tape recorders, you can cover it all!

The COSPAR workshop continues Wednesday morning.  The Senate Commerce Committee is also meeting that morning in Executive Session to vote on a long list of legislation and nominations, one of which is the nomination of Neil Jacobs to be NOAA Administrator.  He’s been acting in that capacity for more than a year.  It will be webcast.

Wednesday is also the beginning of a week of NASA events leading up to the launch of the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Demo-1 was the uncrewed test flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft last year. This is the crewed test flight. The launch, scheduled for May 27, is a momentous milestone for NASA, SpaceX, and the country — the first launch of astronauts to orbit from American soil since 2011, the first launch of astronauts to orbit by a private company, and arguably the first launch of NASA astronauts where NASA is just a customer, not the owner of the system (although NASA has been a customer of Roscosmos for crew launches for many years).

The NASA astronauts are Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.  They arrive at Kennedy Space Center this Wednesday, a week in advance of their flight, and will hold a news conference at noon ET. Watch on NASA TV. The crew is in quarantine, so only people who are in quarantine with them will be in close physical proximity.

At 1:00 pm ET, NASA TV coverage begins of Japan’s 1:30 pm ET launch of the HTV-9 (H-II Transfer Vehicle-9) cargo mission to ISS.  The launch of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) Kounotori-9 spacecraft by Mitsubishi Heavy Industry’s (MHI’s) H-IIA  rocket will take place in the middle of the night at Tanegashima, but fortunately for us on the U.S. East Coast it’s mid-day here.  We get to watch a beautiful nighttime launch while eating lunch. If the launch takes placed as planned, Kounotori-9 will arrive at the ISS on May 25.  If there’s a delay for any reason, the launch window is open through June 30.  The HTV is the largest of the cargo vehicles that resupply ISS and are launched once a year.  It is carrying another set of six of those big, new lithium ion batteries for installation on the outside of the ISS by spacewalking astronauts, plus lots of other equipment and supplies.  This is the last launch of the original version of the HTV, which is being replaced by the upgraded HTV-X.

On Thursday, the Demo-2 Flight Readiness Review (FRR) takes place.  NASA will hold a press conference at about 6:00 pm ET (time dependent on when the FRR finishes).  On Friday afternoon, the crew will hold a virtual press conference.

Lots of other really interesting events, as usual.  There are too many to highlight here, but we will just mention one — the Wednesday meeting on Space Situational Awareness and Space Security.  It is the first in a series of weekly “Launch Pad” webinars “for new ideas on space security and related matters” sponsored by the U.N. Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), the Secure World Foundation (SWF), and the Fondation pour la Recherche Strategique (the French think-tank Foundation for Strategic Research).  They are hosted in Europe, so are at breakfast time here on the U.S. East Coast (pre-breakfast on the West Coast!), but will illuminate international perspectives on these issues.

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.

Tuesday, May 19

Tuesday-Wednesday, May 19-20

Wednesday, May 20

Thursday, May 21

Friday, May 22

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