What’s Happening in Space Policy May 5-11, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy May 5-11, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of May 5-11, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

It’s one of those weeks!  Far too much going on to adequately summarize here, so please be sure to check the complete list below or on our home page.

Let’s start with the Satellite 2019 conference taking place at the Washington Convention Center here in D.C. this week.  On top of its usual jam-packed agenda of sessions on just about anything you can imagine regarding commercial satellites, especially communications satellites, this year it has a very special guest as its keynote luncheon speaker tomorrow (Monday) — Vice President Mike Pence.  He is the first U.S. Vice President to address the conference in its 38 year history and will discuss how to strengthen partnerships among the civil, commercial and national security space sectors.  The White House sometimes livestreams Pence’s speeches on the White House Live website.  Or C-SPAN may cover it.

On Tuesday, the Washington Space Business Roundtable (WSBR) holds its annual flagship luncheon and silent auction in conjunction with the Satellite 2019 conference.  Iridium CEO Matt Desch is the speaker that day.  NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is the luncheon speaker on Wednesday.  NASA TV sometimes covers his speeches and other times he shares them through social media, e.g. Periscope (check his Twitter account @JimBridenstine).

Just over a mile away on Capitol Hill, space also will be hopping.  Late Monday afternoon the Senate will at long last take up the nominations of three individuals to serve on the Board of the Export-Import Bank —  Kimberly Reed to be President and Spencer Bachus III and Judith DelZoppo Pryor to be Directors.  The ExIm Bank needs a quorum of three to approve loans over $10 million and has not had a quorum since 2015.  According to its 2018 annual report, it has a backlog of about $40 billion in pending transactions.  The Bank provides loans to overseas customers that want to buy U.S.-made products, like communications satellites.  The ExIm Bank’s very existence is strongly opposed by some on Capitol Hill and elsewhere who argue it is corporate welfare.  Others, including the Trump White House, insist the ExIm Bank is essential to ensure American companies are competitive globally since many other countries have no qualms about extending such loans.  The Congressional Research Service has a useful 2-page fact sheet on what the debate is all about.  The Aerospace Industries Association is a strong advocate for the Bank and has informational resources on its website as well.

On Wednesday morning, the Senate Commerce Committee will take up the issue of new entrants into the National Airspace, which is getting a little crowded with all those drones and an increasing number of orbital and suborbital space launches.  That makes it more difficult for the FAA to manage the National Airspace System (NAS) so all users can operate safely.  The FAA is developing a new software tool so it does not have to close the airspace around launch and reentry sites for as long as it does now every time one of those is scheduled.  Wayne Montieth, the new head of the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, and Eric Stallmer, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, will be at the witness table along with others from the drone side of the debate.

Across the Hill later that day, the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on “Keeping Our Sights on Mars” as the White House doubles down on returning astronauts to the lunar surface. Bill Gerstenmaier will testify for NASA along with Mark Sirangelo, who just joined the agency as a special assistant to the Administrator. He is well known in the space community from his years at Sierra Nevada Corporation leading the Dream Chaser program.  He left there last summer and joined the University of Colorado Boulder, but now is at NASA, in charge of creating a strategy and plan for Moon 2024.

Gerstenmaier is head of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), which manages all of NASA’s human spaceflight activities — development and operations, in low Earth orbit (LEO) and beyond.  NASA wants to create a new Moon to Mars Mission Directorate that would separate the development of systems for beyond LEO from operations in LEO.  Sirangelo is in charge of doing that.  HEOMD was formed in 2011 by the merger of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and the Space Operations Mission Directorate.  The idea is to return to the previous organizational structure, though some want the Space Technology Mission Directorate integrated into it, too. That is a matter of strong debate.  Hopefully the hearing will shed some light on where all of that stands.

Of course what most people want to know is how much Moon 2024 will cost and the source of the money.  NASA Administrator Bridenstine told the Senate Appropriations Committee last week the Administration is still working on that.  It is possible he or Pence will have something to share in their Satellite 2019 speeches.  If not, this hearing is another opportunity. Other witnesses are Cornell’s Jonathan Lunine, who co-chaired the 2014 National Academies’ “Pathways” study; Patricia Sanders, chair of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel; and Walt Faulconer of Faulconer Consulting Group.

To mention just one more event, the Secure World Foundation (SWF) will have a panel discussion about India’s recent antisatellite test tomorrow.  Most regrettably it is at the same time as Pence addresses Satellite 2019.  It looks really interesting and although SWF does not webcast its events, it does post audio and video recordings plus transcripts on its website soon afterwards.

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.

Monday, May 6

Monday-Wednesday, May 6-8

Monday-Thursday, May 6-9

  • Satellite 2019, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC
    • Monday, 1:15 pm ET, Address by Vice President Mike Pence
    • Tuesday, 11:00 am – 1:30 pm ET, WSBR Silent Auction and Luncheon Featuring Iridium CEO Matt Desch
    • Wednesday, 12:00-1:30 pm ET, Luncheon Featuring NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine

Monday-Friday, May 6-10

Tuesday, May 7

Tuesday-Wednesday, May 7-8

Tuesday-Thursday, May 7-9

Wednesday, May 8

Thursday, May 9


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