What’s Happening in Space Policy September 19-25, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy September 19-25, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of September 19-25, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

It’s going to be a busy week on Capitol Hill. The House will try to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government funded as well as the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Congress must also do something about the debt limit by sometime in October and then there’s the whole infrastructure package. There also are a couple of space-related hearings this week.

The CR is the most urgent matter, with FY2022 beginning a week from Friday. As usual, none of the FY2022 appropriations bills has cleared Congress. No one is suggesting a government shutdown is imminent, but on the other hand Democrats may try to incorporate the debt limit increase in the CR, which could complicate its passage.

Republicans are united in refusing to increase the debt limit even though, as Democrats point out, the actions they took when they were in control (like the $1.9 trillion tax cuts of 2017 that passed with only Republican votes) are part of the reason it needs to be increased. Everyone agrees it needs to be raised, but Republicans are trying to pin it on Democrats to score political points. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said “Republicans are united in opposition to raising the debt ceiling, not because it doesn’t need to be done.” He is trying to force Democrats to include it in the $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” package that has only Democratic support in any case. The Biden White House retorts that “Any suggestion by Republicans that they will shirk their responsibility is indefensible.” The war of words is pure partisan politics at its best (worst?) and the rest of us have no option but to sit back and see how they figure it out. But it won’t be surprising if it delays action on the CR.

The FY2022 NDAA (H.R. 4350) cleared the House Armed Services Committee in the early hours of September 2 after a marathon markup and now the rest of the House members get their turn to offer amendments. As of 10:00 am ET Sunday morning, 851 have been proposed. The House Rules Committee meets tomorrow (Monday) to decide which will get to the floor for debate. Several would affect DOD space activities on matters big and small. We plan to post a story after the markup summarizing the ones that make the cut.

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold two space-related hearings this week. On Tuesday, the space subcommittee will hear testimony about the future of the International Space Station and commercialization of low Earth orbit. NASA’s ISS Program Director, Robyn Gatens, will be joined by current NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and former NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd. Shepherd was the very first NASA astronaut on the nascent ISS back in November 2000, commanding “Expedition 1” with Russia’s Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko. Should be fascinating to hear what he thinks about all that has changed over the past 20+ years. He left NASA in 2002. Also at the witness table will be Jeff Manber from Nanoracks and Todd Harrison from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

On Thursday, the environment subcommittee will hear from NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad on “Advancing Earth System Science and Stewardship at NOAA.”  Weather and space weather satellites are only a small part of NOAA’s portfolio, but it’s hard to imagine they won’t be part of this discussion even though space-based earth system science research overall is done more by NASA than NOAA. But it all ties together.

NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) will hold its third-quarter public briefing on Thursday reporting on what it learned during its private fact-finding sessions. It will be interesting to hear their views on how Boeing’s Starliner got within two hours of launch on August 3 with 13 malfunctioning valves. The good news, of course, is that the problem was detected and the launch scrubbed in time, but it’s a mystery as to how it could have gotten that far. We checked in with Boeing a few days ago — six weeks after the scrub — and they still have not determined the root cause of the failure. Not to mention ASAP’s take on what happened with the Nauka module’s arrival at the ISS.  The ASAP meetings are always interesting, though only telephone audio is available and the panel members seem to be reading prepared statements, zipping through them so fast it’s hard to keep up or know who’s speaking. Still worth the hour or so to tune in.

China’s Shenzhou-12 crew did, in fact, return home from the Tianhe space station on Friday. Although China was typically non-forthcoming with advance information about their reentry, it at least is acknowledging that the Tianzhou-3 cargo resupply spacecraft now is getting ready for launch. It doesn’t say when, though, just at an “appropriate time.” Bob Christy (@Zarya_info) calculates it will be at about 3:12 am Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) Monday morning and @raz_liu tweeted that China’s CCTV will provide live coverage beginning at 2:30 am EDT. Shenzhou-12 set a new Chinese duration record of three months. The Shenzhou-13 crew is expected to launch in October for a six-month mission and Tianzhou-3 is delivering 6 tonnes of supplies. For the record, the Soviet Union was first to have a space station that could be resupplied by cargo spacecraft and thereby support long duration missions. Their first Progress cargo spacecraft launched in 1978. They have been doing it routinely ever since, first with their own space stations (Salyut 6, Salyut 7 and Mir) and now with the International Space Station, which is also resupplied by U.S. and Japanese (and in the past, European) cargo vehicles.

Among the other interesting events this week is the annual NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) symposium, Tuesday-Thursday. NIAC supports the really visionary out-of-the-box thinkers who could transform the space and aeronautics technologies of tomorrow. These symposia highlight the best ideas and are always fun and stimulating. The symposium will be livestreamed.

Also, the Air Force Association will hold its annual Air, Space, Cyber conference Monday-Wednesday.  It’s an in-person meeting, but some sessions may be available virtually. Tuesday has a number of space sessions, including a talk by Gen. Jay Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force. On Wednesday, Gen. John Hyten, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is on a panel with Gen. Tod Wolters, Commander, U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, about “Air and Space Leadership–A Global Perspective.”

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. As a note to those who were anticipating the Landsat 9 launch this week, it slipped to September 27.

Monday, September 20

Monday-Wednesday, September 20-22

Tuesday, September 21

Tuesday-Thursday, September 21-23

Wednesday, September 22

Thursday, September 23

Thursday-Friday, September 23-24


This article has been updated.

User Comments

SpacePolicyOnline.com has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.