What’s Happening in Space Policy May 24-30, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy May 24-30, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of May 24-30, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them.  The Senate is in recess this week.  The House is in session on Wednesday and Thursday.

During the Week

This is Memorial Day weekend in the United States and government offices are closed tomorrow (Monday), but with all the coronavirus restrictions we’ve been under since March, it certainly has an odd feel to it. Even though the holiday is in solemn remembrance of those who gave their lives for our country, it usually has a festive feel in anticipation of summer holidays and a break from the work/school routine of the rest of the year.  That routine has been disrupted for a while now.

Congress is still trying to figure out how to do its business.  Some legislation is getting passed, but mostly related to COVID-19 relief. The Senate is taking this week off, as planned.  The House has been in recess most of the time since the public health restrictions went into place.  With 435 members compared to the 100 in the Senate, figuring out how to conduct operations safely is more difficult.  It just adopted new, temporary rules allowing hearings to take place via video conference and proxy voting on the floor so work can resume.  The House will be in session on Wednesday and Thursday and some hearings are scheduled, but nothing related to the space program.

The BIG ACTION IN THE SPACE WORLD this week is at Kennedy Space Center and the International Space Station (ISS).  If all goes as planned, American astronauts will launch from American soil for the first time since the final space shuttle flight in 2011.  SpaceX’s Crew Dragon/Falcon 9 commercial crew space transportation system passed its Flight Readiness Review on Friday.  Tomorrow is the Launch Readiness Review. If that goes well and if the weather cooperates Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will launch to the ISS at 4:33 pm ET on Wednesday on the SpaceX Demo-2 (DM-2) crewed test flight. They will arrive at ISS on Thursday about 19 hours after launch.  How long they will stay is subject to a number of factors, but NASA hopes at least one month and perhaps four.  Hurley, by the way, was the pilot of that last space shuttle flight (STS-135) so this will be a nice bookend for him.  The STS-135 crew left a very special flag on ISS, to be returned to Earth by whatever crew launched from American soil got there next, so Hurley will be able to bring it home, too.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, right, speak to the media after arriving at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on May 20, 2020 in preparation for the scheduled May 27 launch of the SpaceX Demo-2 crewed test flight to the International Space Station.  Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

President Trump and Vice President Pence both plan to attend the launch.  The weather forecast is not very encouraging — just a 40% chance the weather will be favorable at the launch site.  But weather is very changeable, especially in Florida at this time of year, so fingers crossed it will go.  Note that the weather must be favorable not only at KSC, however, but all along the flight path up the East Coast and over towards Ireland since the Crew Dragon’s In-Flight Abort system can bring the crew safely back to Earth at any point during ascent if a problem arises.

Several press briefings are scheduled and NASA TV will provide continuous coverage beginning at noon on launch day through the welcome ceremony on Thursday. Here is the list as it exists today (Sunday) according to the NASA TV schedule, but is subject to change. We will post any changes we learn about to the relevant calendar entry, but this past week they have been happening at the last minute so we can’t be definitive. NASA’s commercial crew website and Twitter feed (@commercial_crew) are two places to keep watch.

  • Monday,  6:00 pm ET: pre-launch press conference (following the Launch Readiness Review)
  • Tuesday, 10:00 am ET: briefing at the Countdown Clock
  • Wednesday – Thursday
    • Continuous NASA TV coverage begins 12:00 pm ET, Wednesday
    • Launch: 4:33 pm ET, Wednesday
    • Post-launch press conference: 6:00 pm ET, Wednesday
    • Docking: 11:39 am ET, Thursday
    • Hatch Opening: 1:55 pm ET, Thursday
    • Welcome Ceremony: 2:25 pm ET Thursday
    • Post-docking briefing:  4:00 pm ET Thursday
  • Friday
    • 11:05 am ET: in-flight ISS crew news conference
    • 12:50 pm ET: in-flight event for SpaceX to mark the arrival of Demo-2

The ISS is a busy place.  Japan’s HTV-9 cargo resupply spacecraft was launched last week and arrives tomorrow. NASA TV will cover rendezvous, capture and installation beginning at 6:45 am ET tomorrow morning.

In addition to all that, Virgin Orbit plans its first test launch to orbit this week.  It was supposed to happen today, in fact, but they announced a postponement this morning.  The LauncherOne rocket will be carried aloft under a 747 aircraft named Cosmic Girl.  Once in the drop zone over the Pacific Ocean, LauncherOne will be released, fire its engines, and deliver a test payload to low Earth orbit.  It is reminiscent of the Pegasus air-launched system developed by Orbital Sciences (now part of Northrop Grumman).  This is not the system for taking people on suborbital spaceflights — that’s Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.  Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne is for placing small satellites into orbit.  Both companies are owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.

A few other events also are scheduled this week.  Everything we know about as of Sunday morning is shown below.  Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and post to our Calendar, or changes to these.


Monday, May 25

Tuesday, May 26

Wednesday, May 27

Thursday, May 28

Friday, May 29


This article has been updated.




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