What’s Happening in Space Policy November 26-December 2, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy November 26-December 2, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of November 26-December 2, 2023 and any insight we can provide about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

The House and Senate return to work this week at a less frenzied pace than before the Thanksgiving break. With passage of a new Continuing Resolution to keep the government operating until either January 19 (for four of the appropriations bills, including THUD) or February 2 (for the other eight, including Defense and CJS), the pressure is off.

The House schedule has no appropriations bills on it after a series of setbacks where the House Republican leadership was unable to get enough Republican votes to pass either bills or, in the case of CJS, the Rule providing for its consideration. One expectation is that in order to reach an ultimate deal, appropriations will be paired with issues like border security. The House will take up a border security bill this week. We haven’t seen the Senate schedule other than for tomorrow (Monday) when they’ll vote on nominations. They’ve passed three of the 12 appropriations bills as a package. The others could come up at any time. Here’s where the bills stand at the moment.  Remember there’s funding for NASA in the domestic supplemental as well CJS.

No space-related hearings or markups have been announced as of today. The House Science, Space and Technology Committee postponed a final vote on the Commercial Space Act on November 15 at least in part because the White House suddenly released its mission authorization proposal less than an hour before the markup began. We haven’t heard when that markup will resume.

Lots going on elsewhere, though.

Two major global conferences begin this week that are not “space” conferences per se, but certainly affect or involve space activities. Both are taking place in Dubai. First is the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) 2023 World Radio Conference (WRC-23) where allocations are made for use of the radio frequency spectrum to avoid interference.  Space News reporter Jason Rainbow has a useful article explaining what’s at stake for satellite operators. WRC-23 itself starts on Thursday, but preliminary meetings have already begun.

Credit: ITU website

Second is the two-week United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP-28. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson will be attending (after first visiting India) to highlight “NASA’s role as a global leader in providing decisionmakers with critical Earth-science data.”

Also overseas, ESA will hold a media briefing at its headquarters in Paris on Thursday to discuss the results of the Ariane 6 hot-fire test. ESA declared it a success and will announce a window of time when they expect to conduct the first launch sometime in 2024. The briefing is at 9:00 am in Paris and will be livestreamed. It’ll be 3:00 am here on the U.S. East Coast. Fortunately ESA is quite prompt about posting replays for those who won’t be up at that hour.

Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander. Credit: Astrobotic

Closer to home, NASA and Astrobotic will hold a media telecon on Wednesday to discuss the NASA payloads on Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander that’s scheduled for launch Christmas Eve on the inaugural flight of ULA’s Vulcan rocket. This is the first of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) missions where they purchase delivery services from companies like Astrobotic to put NASA science and technology payloads on the lunar surface. NASA is just one of many customers on these missions and Astrobotic has a list of everything that’s aboard.  CLPS is managed for NASA by the Science Mission Directorate and Joel Kearns, SMD’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration, will be there along with program scientist Ryan Watkins and program manager Chris Culbert, plus Astrobotic CEO John Thornton. The audio will be livestreamed.

Many, many more interesting events on tap, but we’ll highlight just one. On Friday, the National Space Council’s Users’ Advisory Group is scheduled to meet virtually for three hours (11:00 am-2:00 pm ET).  They were supposed to meet August 4, but the meeting was abruptly cancelled at the last minute so keep an eye on the UAG’s website in case it happens again.

Vice President Kamala Harris (center) and UAG Chair Gen. Lester Lyles (Ret.) meet following the first UAG meeting, February 23, 2023. White House photo.

It took the Biden-Harris Administration almost two years to name the members of the UAG and they’ve only met once publicly, in February 2023. The Space Council itself, which Harris chairs, has only met twice — December 2021 and September 2022. Harris met privately with the UAG members after its meeting in February, which was in-person rather than virtual like this one.

The agenda in the Federal Register announcement is pretty vague as agendas in Federal Register announcements usually are because they have to be posted weeks in advance: after an introduction by UAG chair Gen. Lester Lyles (Ret.), there will be “opening remarks,” “expert presentations,” “report from UAG subcommittee chairs,” “deliberations on proposed findings and recommendations,” and “next steps.”  Perhaps a more detailed agenda will be posted on the UAG website before Friday. Their February meeting was really quite interesting, so hopefully this one will be, too. One of the major topics then was the need for a decision on what agenc(ies) would have mission authorization regulatory responsibilities. As we noted earlier, the Space Council issued its proposal a week and a half ago. We’ll see if the UAG discusses it again or moves on to other business.

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 27

Tuesday-Wednesday, November 28-29

Tuesday-Thursday, November 28-30

Wednesday, November 29

Wednesday-Thursday, November 29-30

Wednesday-Friday, November 29-December 1

Thursday, November 30

Thursday, November 30 – Tuesday, December 12

Thursday, November 30 – Friday, December 15

Friday, December 1

Friday-Saturday, December 1-2

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