What’s Happening in Space Policy May 3-9, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy May 3-9, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of May 3-9, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them. The Senate is in session this week. The House remains in recess except for pro forma sessions.

During the Week

The Senate returns to work more-or-less in full force this week.  It has been meeting in pro forma sessions since COVID-19 forced such dramatic changes on American life, including in Washington, DC, and passed COVID-19 related legislation and confirmed a few nominations.  But this is the beginning of a return to regular legislative business and in-person Senate hearings.  (A brief attempt at using “paper hearings” by a couple of committees was quickly abandoned.)  Eight committees will hold hearings this week.

The Senate’s return is not universally welcomed.  The District of Columbia remains under a stay-at-home order through May 15. The Capitol complex, in fact, remains closed to everyone other than members, staff, credentialed press, or official business visitors.  If you are not in one of those categories, you will need to watch the hearings via webcast.

Also, the Capitol’s Office of Attending Physician has warned Senators there are not enough COVID-19 tests for everyone. People will have to be exhibiting symptoms to get tested and they are not the quick tests reportedly being used in the White House. These take two days to get results. The Senate has 100 members and thousands of staff, though presumably not all of them will be required to report to their offices.  By contrast, the House has 435 members (and even more staff), which is why House leadership decided not to meet this week.  It announced plans to do so, but changed its mind the next day after consulting with the Attending Physician. The Trump Administration offered to send 1,000 quick tests and three rapid-results machines, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — in a joint statement — declined because the tests are needed in “front-line facilities where they can do the most good the most quickly.”  Pelosi has suggested the House may return next week, but the schedule is fluid.

Most of the Senate hearings are on nominations, and SASC will hold one on Thursday that includes Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr.’s nomination to succeed Gen. David Goldfein as Air Force Chief of Staff.

The day before, SASC will hold a hearing on the FCC’s recent approval of Ligado’s application for a 5G system that uses frequencies that DOD and others insist could interfere with GPS.  DOD and many other agencies strongly oppose it and SASC and HASC members have excoriated the decision.  Expect this to be just the first of many hearings on the subject.  Ligado, formerly known as Lightsquared, fought this same battle at the beginning of the decade and lost due to DOD’s opposition, but this time it has the FCC and the State Department on its side. Witnesses at the hearing include Gen. Jay Raymond, Commander of U.S. Space Command and Chief of Space Operations.

Although the House is not in session for legislative business, at least one committee is planning a hearing and there are a couple of virtual public meetings (teleconferences), but so far none are related to the space program.

Off the Hill, on Tuesday Todd Harrison at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will try again to interview NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who had to cancel three previous times for various reasons.  Hopefully the fourth time is the charm, even though it now is by necessity virtual instead of in-person. Opening remarks will focus on Moon/Mars and the overall role of NASA in foreign policy and national security, followed by questions from the virtual audience.  Once you register, you will get a link to submit questions for Todd to ask.

On Wednesday, the Space Foundation will check in virtually with Raymond and Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett on how the Space Force is shaping up.

The Brookings Institution doesn’t often weigh in on space issues, but that seems to be changing.  On Friday it is holding a virtual seminar on China’s technological reach in the world and Frank Rose is one of the panelists.  Rose was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for space and defense policy (2009-2014) and then Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (2014-2017) in the Obama Administration and now is a Senior Fellow at Brookings. He just wrote a report on “Managing China’s Rise in Outer Space.”  Rose also will be on an Aerospace Corporation Space Policy Show this week (see next item) and he’s hosting a panel on orbital debris at Brookings next week.

The Aerospace Corporation continues its Tuesday/Thursday “Space Policy Show” series.  They’ve changed the format so now the talk itself is pre-recorded.  At “showtime” (1:00 pm ET), it is posted on the web with the speakers available for virtual questions. The topics this week are Japan’s Gradual Shift Towards Space Security (Tuesday), which features Frank Rose along with Aerospace’s Sam Wilson, and The Human Side of Space (Thursday) with Kara Cunzeman and Angie Bukley from Aerospace and NASA’s Kris Lehnhardt.

China has not made any announcement, but China space expert Andrew Jones, writing in Space News, anticipates a significant test flight of China’s Long March 5B rocket on Tuesday with a prototype spacecraft that could be used for crews on exploration missions in the future.  He describes it as analogous to the Orion Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) in 2014.  We’ll be keeping an eye out for further information.

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-Wednesday, May 4-6

Tuesday, May 5

Wednesday, May 6

Thursday, May 7

Friday, May 8

Note: this article has been updated.

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