What’s Happening in Space Policy September 10-16, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy September 10-16, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of September 10-16, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

The week got off to a roaring start this morning with the United Launch Alliance’s successful Atlas V liftoff of the NRO/USSF SILENTBARKER satellites. The launch was delayed from August 28 first by weather and then a technical glitch yesterday, but everything went smoothly this morning.

The House returns to work this week after a six-week recess. The Senate only took five weeks so they’re a bit ahead, but there’s still a lot to do on both sides of Capitol Hill before October 1 when Fiscal Year 2024 begins. Not only government appropriations, but the FAA’s 5-year authorization and the Farm Bill expire on September 30. So does the prohibition on the FAA promulgating new commercial human spaceflight regulations, which is being dealt with separately from the FAA reauthorization bill. What will happen is anyone’s guess.

Keeping the government open by passing appropriations bills — at least a temporary Continuing Resolution (CR) — is the highest priority for House and Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans, but whether House Republicans agree is the wild card. Ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus (HFC) members are on record as saying they’re perfectly fine shutting down the government although House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has been signalling he does not want that. We’ll find out how far he’s willing to go with his slim majority as Speaker (remember it took 15 votes for him to convince enough Republicans to put him in charge).

House Appropriations Committee Chair Kay Granger (R-TX) chairing markup of the MilCon-VA bill. All 10 of the 12 bills approved so far by committee were on strict party-line votes. The DOD bill is on the schedule for floor consideration this week.

One test of the House’s mood could come this week. The FY2024 DOD appropriations bill is on the schedule for Thursday if it can get through the Rules Committee.

The House Appropriations Committee has approved 10 of the 12 regular appropriations bills, but on strict party-line votes. The fate of the remaining two — CJS (including NASA and NOAA) and Labor-HHS — is in abeyance. As of right now, the committee does not have any markups scheduled.

Although the committee recommended lower spending levels than McCarthy and Biden agreed to in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, HFC members want even deeper cuts.  Several of them are on the Rules Committee, which decides the terms (rules) under which legislation is considered on the floor, e.g. what amendments can be offered and how long each side has for debate. Just before summer break the Rules Committee cleared the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) and Agriculture bills, but floor debate on MilCon-VA was so fraught House leadership sent everyone home without taking up Agriculture. MilCon-VA did pass, but by a very narrow margin. We’ll see if the 6-week break makes members more willing to compromise or hardens their positions.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Vice Chair Susan Collins (R-ME) at a committee markup. All 12 bills in the Senate committee were approved on a broad bipartisan basis. Three are on the schedule for floor consideration this week.

By contrast, the Senate Appropriations Committee cleared all 12 bills using the levels agreed to in the Fiscal Responsibility Act. The Senate will take up three of them this week as a package — Milcon-VA, Agriculture, and Transportation-HUD. THUD includes funding for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, but otherwise the bills are not space-related.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are making it clear they do not want a shutdown and hope their bipartisan approach to appropriations will encourage similar cooperation in the House.

No space-related hearings are on the docket in either chamber so far.

Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations, will speak at the AFA’s Air, Space, Cyber conference in National Harbor, MD on Tuesday.

Off the Hill, a number of great conferences are on tap here and abroad.

The Air and Space Forces Association’s annual Air-Space-Cyber conference is at the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor, MD tomorrow through Wednesday. Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown — whose nomination to chair the Joint Chiefs of Staff is one of the 300 or so military promotions being blocked by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) — speak tomorrow. U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman speaks on Tuesday.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Aerospace Summit is Tuesday-Wednesday at the Reagan Building in D.C. Tuesday focues on aviation and Wednesday on space. The Washington Space Business Roundtable will hold a luncheon on Wednesday there with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as the speaker. Cruz is the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee that oversees NASA, NOAA, the FAA and the FCC.

In Paris, this is World Satellite Business Week with Euroconsult’s Summit for Satellite Financing and Summit on Earth Observation Business. Key government and industry leaders in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere are on the agenda. Among them are ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher, CNES President Philippe Baptiste, Spanish Space Agency President Miguel Bello Mora, U.S. Department of Commerce Office of Space Commerce Director Richard DalBello, Arianespace President Stéphane Israël, ULA President Tory Bruno, Voyager Space Chairman and CEO Dylan Taylor, and Iridium COO Suzi McBride to name but a few.

Chile’s Hellmut Lagos, chair of the U.N. OEWG on Reducing Space Threats, will speak at UNIDIR’s Outer Space Security Conference on Wednesday.

In Geneva and online, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research’s (UNIDIR’s) Outer Space Security Conference is Wednesday-Thursday. Among the excellent speakers is Chile’s Hellmut Lagos who just completed his chairmanship of the U.N. Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Reducing Space Threats. Russia decided to “spike” the group’s efforts at the end as reported by Breaking Defense’s Theresa Hitchens. Not the outcome Lagos and most of the participants wanted, but the OEWG process works on consensus so it takes only one country to block everything. Will be interesting to hear Lagos’s take on it all. Lots of other really good sessions, too. (Note that times on the agenda are CEST. Subtract 6 for EDT).

Back here in D.C., the National Academies will release the eagerly awaited Decadal Survey on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space on Tuesday morning. Study co-chairs Robert Ferl and Krystyn Van Vliet will highlight key findings and recommendations from the report “Thriving in Space.” In-person at the Keck Center on 5th Street NW (not the main National Academy of Sciences building on Constitution Ave) and online.

We’ll mention just one more of the many other excellent events this week. Russia will launch Soyuz MS-24 on Friday with cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub and NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara. They are taking the quick route to ISS and will dock about three hours later. NASA TV will cover it all.

These three crewmembers were supposed to launch on Soyuz MS-23 in March, but that spacecraft had to be sent up to the ISS empty so it can be used by the Soyuz MS-22 crew. Their spacecraft leaked all its coolant into space and wasn’t safe enough to accommodate people. It did return to Earth but with no one aboard. Consequently, this crew had to wait another six months to launch and the Soyuz MS-22 crew another six months to return. Roscosmos’s Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin and NASA’s Frank Rubio are now scheduled to come home on September 27 after more than a year in space (370 days to be exact).

Soyuz MS-24 crew, L-R: Loral O’Hara (NASA), Oleg Kononenko (Roscosmos), Nikolai Chub (Roscosmos). Photo credit: NASA

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.

Sunday, September 10

Monday-Tuesday, September 11-12

Monday-Wednesday, September 11-13

Monday-Thursday, September 11-14

Monday-Friday, September 11-15

Tuesday, September 12

Tuesday-Wednesday, September 12-13

Wednesday, September 13

Wednesday-Thursday, September 13-14

Friday, September 15

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