What’s Happening in Space Policy September 11-15, 2017

What’s Happening in Space Policy September 11-15, 2017

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of September 11-15, 2017 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

First it was Hurricane Harvey devastating Texas and Louisiana and closing Johnson Space Center.  Now it is Hurricane Irma wreaking destruction on the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and, imminently, Florida. Kennedy Space Center is in Hurricane Condition I (HURCON I) and closed until further notice. The 45th Space Wing and the rest of Patrick Air Force Base are in HURCON II.  The United Launch Alliance (ULA) postponed a September 14 Atlas 5 launch of NROL-42 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. CA because some members of its launch team are from Florida and needed to be home to help their families prepare for Irma. AIAA canceled its annual Space Forum that was to take place in Orlando, FL this week.  The forecast at the moment is for the west coast of Florida to bear the terrible brunt of Irma, but it is such a large storm that virtually the entire state will be affected and, as it comes inland, other states including Alabama where NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center is located although it should have weakened substantially by then.  Our thoughts are with everyone recovering from Harvey and impacted by Irma.  Stay strong!

Mother Nature’s fury is difficult to ignore, but there are space policy related events going on elsewhere this week.   In Washington, to everyone’s surprise, in just four days last week Congress passed and the President signed into law a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government funded through December 8.  It also raises the debt limit through that date and provides initial hurricane relief funds.  The debate over funding and the debt limit had been expected to consume much of September with high stakes politicking and threats of a government shutdown. The urgent need for disaster relief funds and President Trump’s decision to adopt a strategy proposed by Democrats — to the consternation of many congressional Republicans — enabled the quick deal to kick the can down the road to December.

That means Congress can focus on other issues.  The Senate plans to take up its version of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week.  Among its provisions is the creation of a Chief Information Warfare Officer (CIWO) reporting to the Secretary of Defense with responsibility for DOD space programs, as well as cyber and information.  It is in sharp contrast to the controversial House-passed plan to reorganize how DOD manages space programs.  The House plan calls for creating a Space Corps within the Air Force analogous to the Marine Corps in the Department of the Navy.  If the Senate proposal survives debate on the floor, it certainly will make for an interesting conference between the two chambers later this fall.

The House this week will continue debating and is expected to pass a bundle (H.R. 3354) of eight of the 12 regular FY2018 appropriations bills that includes Commerce-Justice-Science (which funds NASA and NOAA) and Transportation-HUD (which funds the FAA’s space office).  It already passed a bundle of the other four (H.R. 3219), including defense.   The Senate Appropriations Committee is still marking up its versions of the FY2018 appropriations bills so a lot of work remains.  Now that the CR is in place, they have an extra two months and one week to get it all done.

The Senate has received President Trump’s nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine to be NASA Administrator. The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee must act on it and no hearing is on the committee’s schedule for this week.  That is no surprise since three of the Senators most interested in the nomination — Ted Cruz (R-TX), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) — are focused on hurricanes.

Elsewhere in Washington, Politico is holding a “deep dive conversation” about “The New American Space Age” on Tuesday afternoon.   Politico is not known for its coverage of space program issues, so it is interesting that it has organized the session. DigitalGlobe is listed as the sponsor.  In any case, it has a great line-up of speakers:  John Logsdon, the “dean” of space policy and founder of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute; Bob Richards from Moon Express; Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force; Eric Stallmer from the Commercial Spaceflight Federation; and Jamie Morin of the Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy.   The event’s website does not specify if it will be livestreamed.

The University of Nebraska’s College of Law will hold its annual space law event on Friday at the National Press Club.  The theme this year is “Outer Space as a Commercial Domain and Warfighting Domain.”  In addition to three panels and a keynote address, the event features two “5 in 10” opportunities to present 5 big ideas in 10 minutes.  Rich Leshner from Planet Labs is first, with ideas for reforming remote sensing licensing.  Later Mike Gold from Space Systems Loral will do the same for “reform in commercial space.”  In between, Doug Loverro, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, gets 20 minutes to present “5 big ideas for US international space leadership.”  Looks like a lively format.  Organizers say the event will NOT be livestreamed.

Three new International Space Station (ISS) crew members launch on Soyuz MS-06 on Tuesday at 5:17 pm ET. NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin will dock with ISS about 6 hours later.   NASA TV will cover launch and docking.  They are replacing Peggy Whitson, Jack Fischer and Fyordor Yurchikhin, who landed on September 2.   Whitson and Fischer will hold a news conference tomorrow at 11:00 am from Johnson Space Center to talk about their mission during which Whitson set several records including the most cumulative time in space for any American astronaut: 665 days (over three missions).  The old record was 534 days.  Scott Kelly still holds the U.S. record for continuous time in space (340 days).

Among the other very interesting events taking place this week, one that will capture the public’s attention, too, is the end of the Cassini mission to Saturn.  The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena has three-days of briefings and related events beginning on Wednesday, many of which will be webcast.  Friday is the end of the Cassini mission as the spacecraft completes the last of 20 “Grand Finale” dives through Saturn’s rings into the planet’s atmosphere, where it will be destroyed.  The last signal is expected at about 8:00 am Eastern Time.  A post-mission news conference is at 9:30 am ET that will be broadcast on NASA TV and online.

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.

Monday, September 11

Monday-Friday, September 11-15

  • World Satellite Business Week 2017, Paris, France
    • Summit for Satellite Financing (Sept. 11-13)
    • Symposium on Satcom Market Forecasts (Sept. 11-14)
    • Smartplane 2017 (Sept. 11)
    • Summit on Earth Observation Business (Sept. 14-15)

Tuesday, September 12

Tuesday-Wednesday, September 12-13

Tuesday-Thursday, September 12-14

Wednesday-Friday, September 13-15

Friday, September 15

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