What’s Happening in Space Policy October 4-10, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy October 4-10, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of October 4-10, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate schedules are uncertain.

During the Week

Happy Birthday! The Space Age began 63 years ago today with the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union. In 1999, the United Nations declared October 4-10 as World Space Week. October 10 is the end date because it is the anniversary of the entry into force of the 1967 U.N. Outer Space Treaty. Organizations around the world will be holding World Space Week events.

Happy Anniversary!  NOAA was created 50 years ago yesterday, October 3. The bipartisan leadership of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), along with the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), announced they have introduced a resolution congratulating the agency on the great work it does. “There has never been a more important time for Congress to strengthen and support NOAA as we combat climate change, work to protect our most precious natural areas, and continue to uphold scientific integrity in our federal agencies,” said Johnson.

When the House might have a chance to act on it is another question. The House and Senate were supposed to be in recess this month and beyond the November 3 election. The House still is scheduled to meet only in pro forma sessions, but it is not in recess and members have been advised by House leadership they could be called back with 24 hours notice to vote on a COVID-relief bill if agreement can be reached with Republicans. Efforts to reach such an agreement last week were unsuccessful so Democrats passed their own bill, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly remains hopeful a deal can be struck soon.

Over in the Senate, recess plans changed when the decision was made to fast-track the nomination for a new Supreme Court Justice following Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. Instead of recessing, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled the Senate to be in session, but a lot changed in the past two days. Three Senators have tested positive for COVID-19 and others plans to self-quarantine because they were in contact with their infected colleagues. Several are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will hold the hearings on Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination. Consequently, McConnell now wants the Senate to be in recess for two weeks and will seek a consent agreement to that end tomorrow. The hearings would still begin October 12, but Senators are allowed to participate virtually. At the moment, the Senate would return on October 19, but the situation is fluid.

Meanwhile, the space policy community is getting a bit of a break this week. The number of upcoming events is actually manageable, and there are some really interesting ones so it’s good that we don’t have to pick and choose as much as we did last week.

The week starts off early tomorrow (Monday) morning with the arrival of Northrop Grumman’s NG-14 Cygnus cargo spacecraft. NASA TV begins at 3:45 am ET for capture of the capsule at 5:20 am ET by NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy as he operates Canadarm2. The capsule is named in honor of Kalpana Chawla, one of the NASA astronauts who perished in the 2003 space shuttle Columbia tragedy. It launched Friday night from Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on the third try, the earlier attempts thwarted by bad weather and a technical problem with ground support equipment.  It is delivering nearly 8,000 pounds of science and technology experiments, crew supplies, and a new toilet that not only is smaller and requires less maintenance, but is designed for both men and women so all crew members can “boldly go“!

The Wilson Center and the Aerospace Corporation co-sponsor a webinar on Tuesday with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chair Kendra Horn (D-OK). The topic is “Seeking Strategic Advantage: How Geopolitical Competition and Cooperation are Playing Out in Space.” It also features Jamie Morin from the Aerospace Corporation, Brian Weeden from the Secure World Foundation, Jessica West from Project Ploughshares, and Therese Jones from the Satellite Industry Association. Washington Post reporter Chris Davenport is the moderator.

On Wednesday, the space community gets to see DOD’s new Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Space Policy (DASD/Space) in action at a Heritage Foundation event. Justin Johnson replaces Stephen Kitay (who left in August to join Microsoft’s Azure Global Space, where Chirag Parikh also went). He will be back in his old stomping grounds. He was a policy analyst for defense budgeting at Heritage from 2015-2017 before moving over to DOD when the Trump Administration took office. Most recently he was Deputy Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense. The topic of the day is “The New Race for Space: Success and Challenges in the Final Frontier.”  Johnson’s remarks will be followed by a panel discussion with Dean Cheng (Heritage), Mike Gold (NASA), and Henry Hertzfeld (George Washington University Space Policy Institute).

On Thursday, the Aerospace Corporation’s weekly Space Policy Show is on “Sanctuary to Contested Domain: National Security Space Policy” with two key members of the national security teams for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Robert Bell was National Security Council senior director for defense policy and arms control in the Clinton Administration and General Lance Lord was commander of Air Force Space Command during the George W. Bush Administration.  They will be joined by Aerospace’s Robin Dickey.

On Friday, Aviation Week’s Irene Klotz has put together a fantastic panel of former NASA Administrators to talk about “Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going.” Dan Goldin, Sean O’Keefe and Charlie Bolden were in charge of NASA for 21 of the last 29 years: Goldin, April 1992-December 2001 (George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush); O’Keefe, December 2001-February 2005 (George W. Bush); and Bolden, July 2009-January 2017 (Barack Obama).

For those of you newer to the space business who might not know the pivotal roles each of them played at NASA, here’s a brief recap (they all did much more than can be summarized here). Goldin negotiated the deal to bring Russia into the space station program and saved the space station from cancellation by Congress at the time of that famous one-vote margin (1993). He also instituted the “faster-better-cheaper” approach to space science, which many would say had mixed success.

O’Keefe was there for the Columbia tragedy that killed Chawla and her crewmates. In its aftermath, he worked with his former colleagues at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), to formulate the Vision for Space Exploration that included the decision to terminate the space shuttle as soon as space station construction was completed even though it meant a multi-year gap where the U.S. would not be able to launch any astronauts. The estimate was a four-year gap. He also is the one who said no to the final shuttle servicing mission of the Hubble Space Telescope, a decision that was later overturned. (In 2010, O’Keefe and his son were aboard the small airplane with Sen. Ted Stevens that crashed in Alaska. Of the nine people aboard, they were two of the four who survived. One of the others is the current NASA Deputy Administrator, Jim Morhard.)

Mike Griffin, who is not on Friday’s panel, took over NASA from O’Keefe and began executing the Constellation program to get astronauts back on the Moon by 2020 and someday go to Mars. He also initiated the Public-Private Partnership era at NASA with the commercial cargo program.  Bolden came in next and was at the helm when Constellation was “cancelled.” SLS/Orion doesn’t look all that different from Ares V/Orion so one can argue whether it was really cancelled or not. The big difference was the destination — Bolden’s NASA had no plans to land on the Moon. The Obama Administration wanted to go straight to Mars, using lunar orbit not the lunar surface as the “proving ground” to learn whatever was needed before heading off to deeper space. It was hugely unpopular politically and Bolden had to bear the brunt of congressional wrath as he nevertheless managed to expand the commercial cargo program into commercial crew.

With all those experiences, it will be fascinating to hear their perspectives of where we are today.

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.

Sunday-Saturday, October 4-10

Monday, October 5

Tuesday, October 6

Tuesday-Thursday, October 6-8

Wednesday, October 7

Thursday, October 8

Friday, October 9

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