What’s Happening in Space Policy November 24-December 7, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy November 24-December 7, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the next TWO weeks, November 24-December 7, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in recess this week except for pro forma sessions.  The Senate returns on December 2; the House on December 3.

During the Weeks

This is Thanksgiving week in the United States and the focus is on family, friends and food. We do not have a single U.S. space policy-related event on the schedule for this week.

Not so in Europe.  The much anticipated European Space Agency (ESA) Ministerial Council meeting takes place on Wednesday and Thursday in Seville, Spain.  As a multinational organization, ESA’s plans must pass muster with the science and technology ministers of each of its 22 member states.  They get together every two-three years to make the big decisions about ESA’s programs.  ESA’s members are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

ESA Director General Jan Woerner has named this Council meeting “Space19+” (2019 and beyond).  He will present his plan for all aspects of ESA’s activities, which he divides into “four pillars”: science & exploration, safety & security,  applications, and enabling & support.  A lot of effort has gone into this already with a number of preparatory meetings including an Intermediate Ministerial Meeting last fall. There are not likely to be any surprises, but ESA needs formal approval. ESA has two kinds of activities: mandatory and optional.  As their names imply, all ESA members must fund the mandatory activities (which includes most of the science projects) while they choose whether or not to participate in funding the others (such as human exploration).  One topic on the agenda is potential participation in NASA’s Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon.  Jeff Foust has a great preview of what will be discussed in Space News.

Woerner’s presentation to the Council on Wednesday will be livestreamed, though the time zone difference (Spain is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time) may be a disincentive to watch.  It will be 3:00 am EST.  A press conference after the meeting on Thursday is better.  That’s at 8:00 am EST.   A good way to start off your Thanksgiving festivities (smile).

The first week of December is another matter.  It already is busy and undoubtedly many activities have not been posted yet on the various websites we check.

Congress will return with three weeks on the clock to do something about FY2020 appropriations. The latest Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on December 20.  The good news is that, according to The Hill, House and Senate appropriators reportedly agreed Friday night on how much money each of the 12 subcommittees may spend.  Called a “302(b)” allocation, these are supposed to be adopted in the spring BEFORE any bills are approved by committee much less voted on by the full House or Senate.  Doing it after almost all of the bills have completed at least one of those steps is backwards.

What it all means for NASA, NOAA and national security space programs remains to be seen, but it is at least an indication that appropriators are trying to get the process done.  But with the border wall still a huge issue and the impeachment proceedings in the House, it’s anyone’s guess as to what bills might get passed, whether another CR is needed, or whether there’s another shutdown.  Very tough for any agency to plan FY2020 spending in this environment.  NASA’s in a difficult spot because it says it needs to award Human Landing System contracts in January if it is to meet the President’s 2024 deadline to return astronauts to the Moon.  But then, if the money is not appropriated by January, everyone can blame Congress for missing the date rather than the myriad other reasons it seems like a bridge too far.

Also during the first week of December, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will hold its 2nd Annual Space Summit “LAUNCH: The Space Economy.”  The agenda is not posted yet, but the Chamber’s Procurement and Space Industry Council has been having some very interesting events this year.  The 5th annual West Coast Aerospace Forum sponsored by RAND, Aerospace Corporation, CSIS, the Mitchell Institute, and the MITRE Corporation also takes place that week.  And it’s always busy on the International Space Station.  Two cargo launches are coming up (Progress MS-13 and SpaceX-19) and the third of the spacewalks to repair AMS.  We’ll have more on all of this in our next What’s Happening.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning, November 24, are shown below.  Check back throughout the weeks for others we learn about later and add to our calendar.

Wednesday-Thursday, November 27-28

Thursday, November 28

Sunday, December 1

Monday, December 2

Monday-Wednesday, December 2-4

Tuesday, December 3

Wednesday, December 4

Wednesday-Thursday, December 4-5

Thursday, December 5

Thursday-Sunday, December 5-8

Friday, December 6


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