What’s Happening in Space Policy November 6-11, 2017 — UPDATE

What’s Happening in Space Policy November 6-11, 2017 — UPDATE

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of November 6-11, 2017 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session for the first part of this week (Friday is a federal holiday).

During the Week

First, if you’re in the United States (except Arizona and Hawaii), did you remember to set your clocks back?  The United States ended Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 am this morning.  We’re back on standard time now (Eastern Standard Time, EST, is GMT-5).

For most government workers, this is a short week.  Friday is a federal holiday in observance of Veterans Day (which actually is the next day, November 11).  Many businesses do not give their workers this holiday, exchanging it instead for the day after Thanksgiving or more days around Christmas.

[UPDATE:  THIS LAUNCH HAS BEEN POSTPONED TO NO EARLIER THAN NOVEMBER 14.] One set of government workers who will not be getting Friday off — or least not all of it — are those associated with the launch of NOAA’s new Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1) spacecraft from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA.  The Delta II launch is scheduled for 4:47 am Eastern (1:47 am local time at the launch site) on Friday and will be broadcast on NASA TV.  JPSS-1 is the first of a set of (hopefully) four polar-orbitng weather satellites to replace NOAA’s veteran Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites (POES).  Only one more (JPSS-2) is funded, but NOAA is hoping to get approval to build JPSS-3 and -4.  The requisite amount of money is not in the President’s FY2018 budget request, however (see our NOAA FY2018 budget request fact sheet).

POES satellites get “NOAA” designations once they are in orbit.  The final POES, NOAA-19, was launched in 2009.  It’s been a LONG journey to get to JPSS-1 (we’ll post a story about it soon).  To avoid a gap in coverage, NOAA seconded an experimental NASA satellite, Suomi-NPP, to serve in an operational role.  Suomi-NPP is no spring chicken, either.  Launched in 2011, its purpose was to test new instruments that would be flown on JPSS-1.  So while JPSS-1 is a vast improvement over NOAA-19, its instrument suite is the same Suomi-NPP’s.  JPSS-1 does offer much improved latency, however, so data products will be available more quickly.

Another set of government workers who will have to work on the holiday are those supporting Orbital ATK’s launch of the next Cygnus cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS).  That launch of the Antares rocket is on Saturday, November 11, at 7:37 am ET from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops Island, VA, part of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.  This is Orbital ATK’s eighth cargo mission to ISS, designated OA-8.  Orbital ATK names each Cygnus spacecraft after a deceased astronaut.  This one is named for Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the Moon (so far).  Cernan died in January.

Earlier in the week, probably the most-watched event for readers of this website will be Wednesday’s Senate Commerce Committee vote on whether to advance the nomination of Rep. Jim  Bridenstine (R-OK) to be NASA Administrator to the full Senate.  Bridenstine’s confirmation hearing last week was very contentious.  If nothing changes, one can expect a party-line vote to send it forward, but years of experience have taught us not to try to guess what Congress will do.  The markup is at 9:45 am and will be webcast.  Bridenstine’s nomination is fourth on the list of 10 bills and nominations to be considered.  Among the other nominations is Neil Jacobs’s to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observations and Prediction, a top post at NOAA.  His nomination does not appear to be controversial.

The next day, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will get an update on exploration systems development from NASA’s Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, and Sandy Magnus, Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).  Magnus is a former astronaut who flew four space shuttle missions, including the final one (STS-135).  That’s at 9:30 am ET on November 9 and will be livestreamed on the committee’s website and YouTube channel.

Also on Thursday, The Economist is sponsoring its first “global space summit” in Seattle — A New Space Age: The Business Case to Dream.  It features a great list of speakers, but the most intriguing session is entitled:  “Moon, Mars or Neither — What Will Elon Musk See from His Deathbed 100 Years from Now?”  As many have pointed out, Mr. Musk is 46 already, so that would make him 146 when he hypothetically passes on, quite a goal.  He has said he wants to die on Mars “just not on landing,” so it’s clear which part of the debate he would be arguing if he was on the panel.  He’s not, but it’s a lively group:  Naveen Jain, founder and chairman of Moon Express; Chris Lewicki, President and CEO of Planetary Resources; and John Logsdon, founder, George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute.  We have it on very good authority that Logsdon will argue the “neither” case.  It’s easy to guess that Jain will advocate the Moon, so that puts Lewicki on the side of Mars.  The event’s website does not say which, if any, of the sessions will be livestreamed, but we hope this one will be.  It’s at 4:00 pm Pacific Time (7:00 pm Eastern).

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.

Tuesday-Wednesday, November 7-8

Tuesday-Thursday, November 7-9

Wednesday, November 8

Thursday, November 9

Friday, November 10

  • JPSS-1 launch, Vandenberg AFB, CA 4:47 am ET (1:47 am Pacific)  Watch on NASA TV [POSTPONED TO NO EARLIER THAN NOVEMBER 14]
  • Veterans Day (observed), most government offices will be closed

Friday-Saturday, November 10-11

Saturday, November 11






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