What’s Happening in Space Policy November 28-December 4, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy November 28-December 4, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of November 28-December 4, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

It’s another one of those weeks where Congress must pass and the President must sign legislation by an imminent deadline in order to keep the government operating. In this case the deadline is midnight Friday. The good news is we haven’t heard any suggestions there should be or might be a shutdown. Instead the drama is over whether there will be a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) for weeks, a long-term CR for the rest of the fiscal year, or the extremely unlikely but not impossible hope that an FY2022 omnibus bill with funding for all 12 regular appropriations bills will emerge from the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and pass by the end of the week. We wrote about it last week so won’t reiterate all that here.  It’s a matter of wait and see, with the clock ticking.

Vice President Kamala Harris at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, November 5, 2021, where she announced her first National Space Council meeting will take place on December 1, 2021. Screengrab.

We’re also waiting to hear about another big space policy event this week — the first meeting of the White House National Space Council under the leadership of Vice President Harris. She said earlier this month that it will take place on December 1, but no other information has been released yet. We don’t even know if it is in-person, virtual, or hybrid. We imagine it will be broadcast on WhiteHouse.gov/live and perhaps NASA TV, but we don’t know that as a fact. We’ll let you know whatever we learn whenever we learn it.

Hopefully it won’t be at the same time as the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee hearing on the Astro 2020 Decadal Survey for astronomy and astrophysics, which starts at 11:00 am ET. The two subcommittees that oversee NASA and NSF are holding a joint hearing with the co-chairs of the Survey, Fiona Harrison (Caltech) and Rob Kennicutt (University of Arizona and Texas A&M) along with GAO’s William Russell. The report was released on November 4. Decadal Surveys are performed under the auspices of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine every 10 years (a decade, hence the term Decadal) for each of NASA’s science disciplines and for other agencies. They usually look at what science questions the agencies should focus on and recommend missions to answer them for the next 10 years, but this one goes out into the 2040s.

December 1 is quite a busy day.  Some of the other interesting events that day include a Senate Commerce Committee Executive Session where they are expected to approve the nomination of Jessica Rosenworcel to Chair the Federal Communications Commission (the first woman to do so) and forward it to the full Senate for a vote; a meeting of NOAA’s Space Weather Advisory Group, created by NOAA as directed in last year’s PROSWIFT Act (note you have to contact NOAA in advance to get the sign-on info if you want to listen in); and a webinar commemorating the one-year anniversary of the “tragic collapse” of the 305 meter dish at the Arecibo Observatory.

The Senate will continue consideration of the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), H.R. 4350, this week. The House passed its version months ago and the two sides of Capitol Hill will have to negotiate a final version after this gets through the Senate. The clock is ticking on this one, too, but they have until the end of the year and the NDAA is the only authorization bill that gets passed every year no matter what. The final deal often comes down to the wire, but somehow congressional Republicans and Democrats find enough common ground to sign off. Even last year. President Trump vetoed last year’s bill, but both parties in Congress came together and overrode the veto because they consider this annual policy bill vital to national security.

Up in Earth orbit, two U.S. astronauts, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron, will make a spacewalk at the International Space Station Tuesday morning. It is Marshburn’s fifth spacewalk and Barron’s first. The two arrived on SpaceX’s Crew-3 spacecraft two weeks ago. NASA will preview the spacewalk during a news conference tomorrow (Monday), which had been scheduled for November 17, but was postponed for unstated reasons. The Russians conducted an antisatellite test on November 15 that sent debris close to the ISS and the 7-person (two Russians, four Americans, and one European) crew had to shelter in place for a while, but the threat clearly must have dissipated for the spacewalk to get a green light.

NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron with their Crew-3 crewmates pre-launch.  L-R: Raja Chari (NASA), Thomas Marshburn (NASA), Matthias Maurer (ESA), Kayla Barron (NASA). Photographer: Robert Markowitz

As usual there are too many other events to highlight here, so we will just mention two more. On Thursday morning, Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck will provide an update on the development of his new Neutron rocket, with a much greater lift capacity (8,000 kg to LEO/1,500 kg to Mars/Venus) than his existing Electron launch vehicle (300 kg to LEO). Neutron will open up many more opportunities for Rocket Lab and Beck himself is determined to send the first privately-sponsored probe (one of his Photon cubesats) to Venus in 2023.

On Friday, the Space Technology Industry, Government, University Roundtable (STIGUR) of the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB), part of the National Academies, will spend the afternoon getting an update from NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate on its space nuclear programs, and the Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative and Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium.

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 29

Monday-Tuesday, November 29-30

Monday-Wednesday, November 29-December 1

Tuesday, November 30

Tuesday-Thursday, November 30-December 2

Tuesday-Friday, November 30-December 3

Wednesday, December 1

Thursday, December 2

Friday, December 3

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