What’s Happening in Space Policy September 27-October 3, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy September 27-October 3, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of September 27-October 3, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Yowsa!  It’s another one of those super-busy weeks. If you’re scanning down the list on our home page, remember it shows only the next 20 upcoming events and there are way more than that this week.  Click on “View All Events” or see the list below.

Let’s start on Capitol Hill where the Senate hopefully will pass the Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government open. FY2020 ends at midnight on Wednesday, so new appropriations must be in place by 12:01 am Thursday, October 1. The House passed the CR last week, but the Senate decided to wait to act till it was down to the wire.  It is scheduled to take a procedural vote on Tuesday and presumably pass it soon thereafter and send it to the White House. No one wants a government shutdown during the pandemic, but then again, as we say repeatedly when it comes to legislation, it’s not over till it’s over — signed into law.

On Wednesday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will again make the case for funding the Artemis program when he testifies to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee (watch on the committee’s website or NASA TV). He testified to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee last week. They are the ones with the money and it was tough to tell what they plan to do except that there clearly is a lot of support for the $1 billion or so in programs the Administration proposed killing or delaying. If they are going to add money to fund those, will they increase the $25.2 billion top line or reduce other programs — like Artemis — to make up the difference?

The Senate Commerce committee authorizes NASA activities, providing policy guidance and recommending funding levels, but has no money to spend. Its members can be influential with other Senators, though, especially by passing their own authorizing legislation. A NASA authorization bill, S. 2800, is pending in the Senate, but it neither supports nor rejects the goal of getting back to the lunar surface by 2024. It is silent on that issue. The bill was being teed up for a vote a few weeks ago, but a dispute arose over language added by Sen. Gardner requiring GAO to review NASA contracts with contractors that benefit from significant financial assistance from China, which some interpreted as aimed at SpaceX because Elon Musk also owns Tesla, which has a manufacturing facility in China.  (The House has its own bill that has only gotten as far as subcommittee markup.)

Perhaps Senate Commerce committee chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) will give an update on where the NASA authorization bill stands. In any case, he’s sure to want to hear about how the Space Launch System (SLS) Green Run test is going. It’s taking place at Stennis Space Center in his home state. On Friday, NASA released an “Economic Impact Report” quantifying economic benefits that can be attributed to taxpayer spending on NASA and especially the Moon to Mars program in FY2019. The report — 304 pages plus a 2,315 page appendix — was prepared by the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement at the University of Illinois at Chicago. It goes state by state, industry sector by industry sector, showing the benefits of public spending on NASA and M2M.  For Wicker’s state of Mississippi, it says in FY2019 “The total economic impact resulting from these activities is 3,633 jobs, $190 million in labor income, and $570.5 million in economic output” generating “$24 million in tax revenues for the state and local governments.”  Wouldn’t be surprising if that comes up at the hearing.

There are so many other events it’s hard to know which to highlight. On Tuesday, NASA will have a series of media briefings about the SpaceX Crew-1 launch coming up next month, including interviews with the four crew members (NASA’s Mike Hopkins, Vic Glover and Shannon Walker and JAXA’s Soichi Noguchi). Later that night, the NG-14 Cygnus cargo spacecraft will blast off from Wallops (a pre-launch news conference is on Monday). UPDATE: THE LAUNCH HAS BEEN DELAYED TO OCTOBER 1. All will be available on NASA TV. Here’s Northrop Grumman’s viewing map for NG-14. If the skies are clear it should be visible along the mid-Atlantic coast.  Northrop Grumman has named this spacecraft after Kalpana Chawla. She was one of the NASA astronauts who perished in the space shuttle Columbia tragedy.

NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel meets in public session on Thursday. The NASA Advisory Council’s STEM Engagement Committee meets the same day.

It’s busy over at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, too. Committees of experts working under the aegis of the Academies write Decadal Surveys every 10 years (a decade) for each of NASA’s five science disciplines. The next one for the Biological and Physical Sciences in Space discipline begins later this year and NASA has requested a new feature — ideas for “research campaigns.” On Tuesday, the Space Studies Board (SSB) is holding a webinar to discuss that and other aspects of the Decadal as they formulate plans to get underway.  Separately, on Wednesday, the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) is holding a meeting of the Space Technology Industry, Government, University Roundtable (STIGUR) with discussion focused on space nuclear technologies. And on Friday, the SSB holds the first public meeting of the Steering Committee for the Decadal Survey on Planetary Science & Astrobiology (note that some sessions may be closed — the agenda is not posted yet).

Elsewhere, the University of Nebraska College of Law (UNL) is holding its annual space law conference virtually this year as Space Law Week. The format basically is one one-hour session per day all week long, though the Tuesday session got shifted to Monday so there are two that day and none on Tuesday, and on Friday military space topics get two hours.  (Your SpacePolicyOnline.com editor was going to co-moderate that Tuesday session, but can’t do it on Monday — check the online agenda for that and other updates.)

And there are SO many more meetings this week!

The list below shows all the events we know about as of Sunday morning. Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar.

Monday, September 28

Monday-Tuesday, September 28-29

Monday-Friday, September 28-October 2

Tuesday, September 29

Wednesday, September 30

Thursday, October 1

Friday, October 2

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