What’s Happening in Space Policy November 14-20, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy November 14-20, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of November 14-20, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

The House will try once more this week to pass that second infrastructure bill, the Build Back Better Act, that has $1.115 billion for NASA. No Republicans support the bill, so it is a matter of getting virtually all Democrats to agree on it and so far they don’t. Progressives have been opposing the bill because so much of what they wanted has been removed to win the support of other Democrats. The Democrat-Republican split is so close that Speaker Nancy Pelosi can afford to lose only three Democratic votes or the legislation will fail.

And that’s just the House. It also must pass the Senate when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is making clear he is no fan of the roughly $1.75 trillion measure and sees no need to act on it quickly. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reportedly has decided that he cannot wait any longer for the House to send it over there so he will move on to the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). He is being berated by members of both parties from both sides of Capitol Hill for not acting on it already. The House version passed in September. The NDAA is only authorization bill that makes it through Congress one way or another every single year since 1961. Last year it required a rare Republican rebuke of their own President, Donald Trump, who had vetoed the bill because of language requiring the renaming of military facilities honoring Confederates. Some of his most loyal supporters in the Senate voted to override his veto even though they agreed with him on that issue, but felt the legislation overall was essential to a strong national defense.

Time is getting short. Once the Senate passes its version the two sides of Capitol Hill will have to negotiate a final compromise and get that passed before the end of the year.

The clock is ticking even faster for appropriations. The Continuing Resolution (CR) that is funding the government right now expires in three weeks on December 3 and Congress will be in recess for one of them over the Thanksgiving holiday. December 3 is also when Congress will again have to do something about the debt limit.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) apparently is getting nervous that Congress will not be able to pass FY2022 appropriations at all and agencies will end up with a CR that lasts the entire fiscal year. It issued a fact sheet underscoring the importance of avoiding a “full-year CR” and calling out the negative impacts on agencies like NASA and DOD.

Congress needs to do something by midnight December 3 and it is extremely unlikely they will pass the 12 appropriations bills so another short-term CR seems to be about the best anyone can hope for at this point. The worst case scenario, of course, is doing nothing and having another partial government shutdown.

By contrast, the space program has lots of exciting events coming up this week. AIAA’s ASCEND extravaganza continues Monday-Wednesday. This week is not only virtual, but also features in-person events in Las Vegas and Washington, D.C.  It is so jam-packed with fantastic speakers that we are hesitant to single out just one or two. We do note that Glen de Vries, who flew on Blue Origin’s New Shepard-18, was scheduled to participate in a luncheon plenary tomorrow (Monday, PDT) with other private astronauts (Sirisha Bandla from Virgin Galactic’s Unity 22 and Jared Isaacman from Inspiration4). Very, very sadly he was killed in a private airplane crash on Friday and AIAA has added “in memoriam” under his name.

The Space Studies Board (SSB) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine also is meeting Monday-Wednesday and the last day is joint with the Board on Physics and Astronomy (BPA). Some sessions are closed, but most are open and will be livestreamed.

Elon Musk will speak to the joint SSB/BPA meeting on Wednesday about Starship. Lots and lots of really other interesting speakers, too, including former NASA Administrator Dan Goldin who will be there on Tuesday to talk about “From Einstein to Webb: Lessons for Future Astrophysical Observatory Builders.”

On the national security space front, CSIS has a really interesting event on Tuesday with Sue Gordon, former Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, Kevin O’Connell, former head of the Office of Space Commerce at the Department of Commerce, and Derek Tournear from the Space Development Agency. They will discuss the intersection between commercial space and national security ISR needs. CSIS’s Todd Harrison is the moderator.  On Thursday, the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security will have a webinar on its newest State of the Space Industrial Base report. This is the third in a series and based on input from a conference convened by U.S. Space Force, the Defense Innovation Unit and the Air Force Research Laboratory this past summer.

So very many other interesting events on tap, including a briefing by Crew-2, who just came back from ISS, first thing tomorrow morning, another briefing later in the week on an upcoming ISS spacewalk, plus two about the James Webb Space Telescope, not to mention the Planetary Science Advisory Committee Monday-Tuesday.

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, November 15

Monday-Tuesday, November 15-16

Monday-Wednesday, November 15-17

Tuesday, November 16

Tuesday-Thursday, November 16-18

Tuesday-Friday, November 16-19

  • Cis-Lunar Security Conference (Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab), Laurel, MD/virtual (most of the conference–even unclassified sessions–requires security clearances to participate, but November 19 does not)

Wednesday, November 17

Wednesday-Friday, November 17-19

Thursday, November 18

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