What’s Happening in Space Policy May 20-26, 2018 – UPDATE 2

What’s Happening in Space Policy May 20-26, 2018 – UPDATE 2

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of May 20-26, 2018 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week. [We’ve updated this twice to reflect the successful launches of China’s Queqiao last night (Sunday) and Orbital ATK’s OA-9 early this morning.]

During the Week

Today (Sunday) at 5:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), the 3-day launch window opens for China to launch its lunar communications relay satellite, Queqiao.  That is 5:00 am May 21 Beijing time.  China is planning to send the Chang’e-4 spacecraft to make a soft landing on the far side of the Moon later this year.  No spacecraft has soft landed on the far side of the Moon so far.  Because there is no line-of-sight back to the Earth, a communications relay satellite is needed.  Queqiao will be positioned at the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrange point to serve that purpose.  Chang’e-4 was built as a backup for Chang’e-3, which landed on the Moon and deployed the small Yutu rover in 2013, and is also a lander/rover combo.  Although Yutu experienced mechanical problems, overall China considered the mission a success and decided to undertake a more risky, but unprecedented,  mission with Chang’e-4 by landing on the far side.  Chang’e-4 will also perform astronomy experiments with the Netherlands-China Low-frequency Explorer (NCLE) instrument.  Andrew Jones at gbtimes.com and on Twitter at @AJ_FL has a good summary of the mission and frequent updates.  It is not clear if China will provide a live broadcast of the Quequio launch.  If so, it might be on China’s English-language world-wide TV service, CGTN.com.   Andrew tweeted another possible source this morning.

UPDATE, May 20: Queqiao was successfully launched at 5:28 pm EDT.

And to start off the work week tomorrow (Monday) bright and early, at 4:39 am EDT Orbital ATK will launch its ninth cargo mission (OA-9) to the International Space Station from Wallops Island, VA.  NASA TV will broadcast the launch, which was postponed from today because of weather.  The forecast for tomorrow is 65 percent “go” as of this morning.

UPDATE 2, May 21:  OA-9 was successfully launched at 4:44 am EDT this morning, the end of its 5-minute launch window once the weather improved.  It is expected to arrive at ISS on Thursday.

Also tomorrow, NASA will have a pre-launch briefing for the GRACE-Follow On (GRACE-FO) mission, now scheduled for launch Tuesday afternoon from Vandenberg AFB, CA.  The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch was postponed from last week.  NASA’s GRACE-FO satellite is sharing the ride with Iridium, which will have five of its Iridium-NEXT satellites aboard.

Back here in D.C., the House is getting ready to take up the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week.  It cleared the House Armed Services Committee ((HASC) on May 10 (at 12:37 am ET).  The House Rules Committee will meet tomorrow and Tuesday to formulate the rule for the bill’s consideration by the full House, for example deciding which of the 564 proposed amendments will go forward for debate. All of them, plus the text of the bill, are posted on the Rules Committee’s website.

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) will spend this week marking up its version of the NDAA.  Unlike HASC, which allows the public to view all of its subcommittee and full committee markup sessions, SASC does them all behind closed doors.  Look for news about what they decided late in the week when they’re done.

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee will hold a hearing on NASA’s FY2019 appropriations bill on Wednesday afternoon.  The subcommittee’s brand new chairman, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), and NASA’s brand new Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, should have an interesting discussion.  This is the first time in recent memory that the Senate CJS subcommittee has been led by Senators with little or no constituent stake in the NASA budget.  There are no NASA centers in Kansas or New Hampshire, the state represented by the subcommittee’s top Democrat, Jeanne Shaheen.  In fact, with the retirement of Sen. Thad Cochran and Sen. Richard Shelby’s decision to move over to chair the Defense Subcommittee, only one member of the entire CJS  subcommittee, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, represents a state with a NASA Center (Maryland).  Shelby also chairs the full committee, however, and thus has even more influence over all the appropriations bills.  (The top Democrat on the full committee is Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, another state without a NASA center.)  Not that constituent interest is the only factor in how agencies fare in the appropriations process, but it is one of them.

This is also the week that the National Space Society’s annual International Space Development Conference (ISDC) begins in Los Angeles.  They have a tradition of holding it over Memorial Day weekend and, indeed, it runs Thursday-Sunday (Memorial Day is Monday, May 28).

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, May 20

Sunday-Thursday, May 20-24

Monday, May 21

Monday-Tuesday, May 21-22

Monday-Wednesday, May 21-23

Monday-Thursday, May 21-24

Tuesday, May 22

Tuesday-Thursday, May 22-24

Wednesday, May 23

Wednesday-Friday, May 23-25

Thursday, May 24

Thursday-Sunday, May 24-27


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