What’s Happening in Space Policy September 13-19, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy September 13-19, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of September 13-19, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session most of this week.

During the Week

Yes, it’s another far-too-busy week in space policy — conferences, webinars, advisory committee meetings, even a congressional hearing on NASA, which we haven’t seen in quite a while, though it’s about cybersecurity in the COVID-19 era, not programs or funding.

The fun starts right off the bat tomorrow (Monday) with overlapping meetings of the Air Force Association’s (AFA) annual Air, Space, & Cyber conference; the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC); and NASA’s Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG).  AFA and LEAG continue through Wednesday. Among the luminaries at AFA are SecAF Barrett and AF Chief of Staff Gen. Brown tomorrow, US Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. Raymond and AF acquisition guru Will Roper on Tuesday, and SecDef Esper on Wednesday.  NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine addresses LEAG tomorrow morning. Last week he announced plans for NASA to pay companies to collect (but not return) lunar dirt/rocks.

Two other multi-day meetings begin on Wednesday: the National Academies’ Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science (CAPS) and the annual Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies (AMOS) conference (an associated conference targeted at the younger generation, EMER-GEN, began yesterday and runs through Tuesday). On Friday, the National Academies’ new Committee on Planetary Protection holds its second meeting as it races to write a quick turnaround report on planetary protection on the Moon.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, with a slew of webinars throughout the week, including one on Tuesday with NOAA’s Steve Volz (MSBR), one on Wednesday with NASA’s Kathy Lueders (WSBR), another on Wednesday with NASA’s Jim Bridenstine and Susan Eisenhower talking about President Eisenhower’s space legacy (CSIS), one on Thursday about Japan’s new space policy (Aerospace Corporation), and one on Friday on Spacepower as part of MITRE’s Great Power Competition Speaker Series.

Then there’s a multi-track mini-conference on national security space on Thursday (AIAA) at the same time as the second plenary session of the International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC). Both have terrific speaker line-ups.

And that’s not all!  See the full list below, but to choose just one more to highlight, the Department of Energy (DOE) is stepping up its efforts to advertise its role in the space program. It had a very interesting roundtable last week moderated by Alan Boyle who wrote up a nice summary for his Cosmic Log. This week DOE is collaborating with the University of Tulsa on a discussion between NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine (a Tulsa resident and former Congressman from that district) and DOE’s Paul Dabber, Under Secretary of Energy for Science, on Innovation in Space and “how DOE assets support human health in space, how advanced materials are utilized in space and where sectors like AI and big data can support commercial space and deep space exploration.”  That’s on Tuesday. (If you’re trying to keep track of Bridenstine, that means LEAG on Monday, University of Tulsa on Tuesday, and CSIS on Wednesday.)

Up on Capitol Hill, on Wednesday the House is scheduled to take up the PROSWIFT space weather bill (S. 881), which passed the Senate in July, on the suspension calendar. That’s the expedited process for considering a bill that requires a 2/3 vote (instead of a simple majority) to pass, but bypasses other steps like the Rules Committee.  It’s used for legislation thought to be non-controversial and thus able to muster a 2/3 vote easily, though nothing is ever guaranteed. It’s been 5 years since Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Cory Gardner  (R-CO) introduced the first version of this bipartisan bill in the Senate. Hopefully this year’s the charm. Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Mo Brooks (R-AL) are the lead co-sponsors in the House. It’s changed quite a bit over the years, most recently adding a requirement for NOAA to create a commercial space weather data pilot program.

On Friday, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Space and Aeronautics subcommittee will hold a virtual hearing on “Cybersecurity at NASA: Ongoing Challenges and Emerging Issues for Increased Telework During COVID-19.”  Witnesses are NASA’s Inspector General, Paul Martin, and the agency’s acting Chief Information Officer, Jeff Seaton. The hearing is entirely online (the House will meet only in pro forma session that day).

No real news to report on the appropriations front, other than there appears to be a consensus that a clean Continuing Resolution (CR) will be enacted to keep the government operating for the first weeks/months of FY2021. “Clean” means it does just that, extend funding, and nothing else. There often is a temptation to add other provisions to must-pass legislation like appropriations bills and the House and Senate leadership and the White House are saying no to that. At the moment, at least. If it really is a clean CR they can get it done in a matter of hours if they want to and they have two weeks. One yet-to-be-resolved issue is the CR’s duration. It almost certainly will last until after the elections, but whether it ends in mid-late November or December or perhaps even into next year is undecided.

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-Tuesday, September 13-15 (continued from September 12)

Monday, September 14

Monday-Wednesday, September 14-16

Tuesday, September 15

Wednesday, September 16

Wednesday-Thursday, September 16-17

Wednesday-Friday, September 16-18

Thursday, September 17

Friday, September 18


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