What’s Happening in Space Policy September 26-October 2, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy September 26-October 2, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of September 26-October 2, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Yes, it’s budget brinksmanship time again, but there are more facets to it than usual. The fundamental question is the same, though — will Congress find a way to avert a government shutdown as a new fiscal year begins?  FY2022 starts on Friday, October 1, and none of the regular FY2022 appropriations bills is even close to being enacted.

The two political parties are locked in a familar battle, each trying to score political points off the other. In this case it’s dealing with the debt limit, which Democrats have incorporated into the otherwise non-controversial Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through December 3. Democrats want to force Republicans into voting to raise or suspend the debt limit because a lot of the debt is from when Republicans controlled the White House and all or part of Congress (the 2017 tax cuts and the first COVID relief measures).  The debt is money Congress already approved, not future spending. But Republicans are using the debate to hammer Democrats over money they want to spend — but which has not yet been approved — for infrastructure. They plan to block the CR to force Democrats to raise or suspend the debt limit with only Democratic votes so they can blame Democrats for the entire situation.

As Sen. John Tester (D-Montana) bluntly told Politico: “We always do this f****** dance. I don’t know if people are going to put their sane minds on and do what needs to be done, or shut it down. This is just a ridiculous exercise. … I can’t even compare it to anything I do on the farm that’s this stupid.”

So that’s the state of play this weekend. House Speaker Pelosi vows there will not be a government shutdown. We’ll see what they figure out by midnight Thursday.

The last government shutdown, under President Trump due to border security funding, was over the Christmas/New Year’s holidays 2018-2019 (FY2019) and lasted 35 days.

The House is planning this week to take up the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill (for physical infrastructure like roads, which has passed the Senate) as well as the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better “human infrastructure” bill that has only Democratic support. Yesterday (Saturday), the House Budget Committee approved the latter bill on a party line vote.  It consolidates all the recommendations from all the House committees tasked in the F2022 Budget Resolution to propose changes to existing law to fund everything from climate change to social programs and is being taken up under the special reconciliation procedure. The bill includes $4.4 billion for NASA.

That’s a lot on the congressional plate — keep the government funded, deal with the debt limit, and try to finish action on both infrastructure bills. As Pelosi said, “The next few days will be a time of intensity.”

It’ll be hard to top that drama, but NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have an exciting launch coming up tomorrow (Monday) — Landsat 9. Liftoff on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base is scheduled for 2:11 pm ET. The ninth in a series of land remote satellites that started in 1972 (one of which, Landsat 6, did not reach orbit), it will maintain continuity of medium-resolution satellite data about how the Earth’s land surface is changing over the decades. NASA TV will cover the launch.

CONFERS (the Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations) will hold the fourth Global Satellite Servicing Forum virtually from September 29-30, 2021. The theme this year is Building the Infrastructure for a Thriving Space Ecosystem.  Speakers mostly are from companies engaged in satellite servicing endeavors, but government represntatives also will be there: NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy, Atsu Fujishige from the National Space Policy Secretariat in Japan’s Cabinet Office, and ESA’s Rolf Densing, Director of Operations and Head of ESOC.

Melroy also will speak to the Washington Space Business Roundtable on Wednesday. Her topic there is “NASA’s Vision for Public-Private Partnerships and a Diversified Workforce as it Works to Ensure American Space Leadership.” NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana will talk to the Maryland Space Business Roundtable on Thursday. Both meetings are virtual.

NASA’s Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) meets tomorrow (Monday) and the NSF-NASA-DOE Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC) on Tuesday and Wednesday, also both virtual.

The University of Nebrasks will hold its annual space law week virtually again this year.  It’s all week long, with one session each day: the commercial space regulatory landscape on Monday, a focus on Africa on Tuesday, spectrum on Wednesday, the Artemis Accords on Thursday, and the law of armed conflict and neutrality and proportionality in space on Friday.

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.

Monday, September 27

Monday-Tuesday, September 27-28

Monday-Friday, September 27-October 1

Tuesday, September 28

Tuesday-Wednesday, September 28-29

Tuesday-Thursday, September 28-30

Wednesday, September 29

Wednesday-Thursday, September 29-30

Thursday, September 30

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