What’s Happening in Space Policy September 22-28, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy September 22-28, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of September 22-28, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Passing a funding bill to keep the government open after September 30 at midnight (8 days from now) is on top of the congressional to-do list this week.  The House passed its version of a 7-week Continuing Resolution (CR) on Thursday so the next move is up to the Senate.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is hard at work marking up the 12 individual bills.  They’ve done six already and will do four more this week.  The Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that funds NASA and NOAA will be marked up at subcommittee level on Tuesday and by the full committee on Thursday.  At least we’ll know where the Senate stands on hot topics like NASA’s Artemis program and NOAA’s effort to elevate the Office of Space Commerce (OSC), now in NOAA, to the Secretary’s office.  The House did not provide any of the additional $1.6 billion for Artemis that the White House requested in May, and rejected the proposal to elevate OSC.

Getting the bills out of committee is just one of the many steps to passing a law. The bills still will have to be voted on by the full Senate, then negotiations with the House to reach a compromise, and agreement from President Trump.  Not really possible in 8 days, which is why the House passed the CR.  If enacted, it will keep agencies at their current (FY2019) funding levels through November 21.  That would put a damper on NASA’s Artemis program as the clock ticks towards 2024.

The border wall continues to be a huge issue and could derail the appropriations process as it did last December, leading to a 35-day shutdown.  Congress, at least, wants to avoid that outcome, but the President has to sign whatever it passes.  We’ll see what happens.

Meanwhile, 1800 miles away in Boca Chica, TX, Elon Musk is getting ready to do a test launch of his Starship Mk-1 prototype.  He has promised an update on the Starship program this Saturday (September 28) from Boca Chica though the time has not been officially announced yet.

Starship is the second stage of his system to send people to the Moon and Mars.  It not only provides propulsion, but will be home to whatever people are aboard. Operationally it will use seven Raptor engines. The two Starhopper tests conducted in July and August tested one of those engines.  The Starship Mk-1 prototype has three. Musk tweeted that the first test is scheduled for October and will aim for an altitude of 20 kilometers (12.5 miles).  Hopefully we will learn more about the test at Saturday’s briefing as well as an update on development of the first stage, Super Heavy (formerly called Big Falcon Rocket).  Last we knew, the Super Heavy design called for 31 Raptors.

Several enthusiasts are already in Boca Chica tweeting photos of the Starship Mk-1 vehicle as it is assembled.  They include @BocaChicaGal, @spacepadreisle, and @austinbarnard45.

Musk is also building a Starship prototype in Florida, Starship Mk-2. The company’s plans call for launches not only from Boca Chica, but Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, which SpaceX leases from NASA.  NASASpaceflight.com (not a NASA website) and Business Insider have a couple of good articles about what’s going on with Starship/Super Heavy that provide useful background for Saturday’s briefing if you don’t follow this every day.

Lots of other interesting events going on this week before that, of course.  We’ll just briefly mention the NASA Planetary Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) meeting Monday-Tuesday and the NSF-NASA-DOE Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC) Thursday-Friday.  Advisory committee meetings are a really good opportunity to catch up on the latest news on whatever topic is at hand, in this case NASA’s planetary and astrophysics programs, and are available remotely for those who can’t be there in person.  The head of all of NASA’s science programs, Thomas Zurbuchen, will kick off the PSAC meeting at 8:30 am ET tomorrow (Monday) followed by Lori Glaze, NASA’s planetary science division director.  The agenda for the AAAC meeting is not posted yet, but NASA astrophysics division director Paul Hertz almost always gives a presentation there.

The International Space Station (ISS) continues to be a busy place.  Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) will try again to launch JAXA’s HTV-8 cargo ship to ISS on Tuesday Eastern Daylight Time (EDT, which is Wednesday in Japan).  The first attempt on September 10 was scrubbed about 3.5 hours before launch when a fire broke out on the launch pad. If the launch takes place as planned on Tuesday, the spacecraft will arrive at the ISS on Saturday.

In between, the ISS will receive a new crew.  Soyuz MS-15 will launch on Wednesday morning EDT with NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, and spaceflight participant (“tourist”) Hazzaa Ali Almansoori from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  They will dock at ISS about six hours later. This is a somewhat usual situation since there are already six people aboard ISS so this will temporarily increase the crew complement to nine.  It’s only for 8 days. Almansoori will return on October 3 with NASA astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin.  You may remember that duo from the October 11, 2018 launch abort of Soyuz MS-10.  They survived it unscathed and launched to ISS on Soyuz MS-12 in March and now are ready to come home.

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 23

Monday-Tuesday, September 23-24

Monday-Thursday, September 23-26

Tuesday, September 24

Tuesday-Thursday, September 24-26

Wednesday, September 25

Wednesday-Friday, September 25-27

Thursday, September 26

Thursday-Friday, September 26-27

Friday, September 27

Saturday, September 28



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.