What's Happening in Space Policy September 5-9, 2016

What's Happening in Space Policy September 5-9, 2016

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of September 5-9, 2016 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate return to work on Tuesday.

During the Week

Monday is a U.S. Federal holiday, Labor Day.  Congress returns to work on Tuesday.  As we reported last week, its essential task is to pass appropriations legislation to keep the government operating past September 30 when FY2016 ends. They have a lot of work to do in the next four weeks.  None of the 12 regular appropriations bills has passed yet (see our table of where the 12 appropriations bills stand at this point). 

The House plans to go into recess again on October 1 and the Senate will follow suit before October 10 (the exact date is TBD).  They won’t return until after the November 8 elections.   Whether they return at all in 2016 for a “lame duck” session or wait until the new 115th Congress begins in January 2017 is being debated.  This is a standard debate in election years.  Some argue that those who lost their elections should not continue to legislate and any issue not resolved before the pre-election recess should wait until the new Congress is in place.   Others insist that the nation’s work must be done and that time is needed to pass critical legislation.  Congress is virtually certain to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the first part of FY2017, so whether or not there will be a lame duck session makes a big difference in how long the CR lasts.  Many in Congress want a short term CR that carries the government through to mid-December, meaning that Congress must still be meeting at that time to pass either another CR or, hopefully, final FY2017 appropriations. The most conservative House Republicans, however, reportedly want to push final FY2017 funding decisions into next year.  We’ll see what happens, but if what’s past is prologue, there will indeed be a lame duck session.

Labor Day marks the end of “summer” and signals a resumption of the usually busy schedule of space policy events in Washington, far too many to highlight here (see full list below).   One of special interest is Wednesday’s hearing before the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on “Commercial Remote Sensing; Facilitating Innovation and Leadership.” Witnesses include the former chair of NOAA’s Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing (ACCRES), Kevin O’Connell; the Executive Director of the Center for Spatial and Law Policy, Kevin Pomfrel; the President of Sunesis Nexis, LLC, Michele Weslander; University of North Dakota Assistant Professor of Space Studies Michael Dodge; and University of Mississippi School of Law Professor Emerita Joanne Gabrynowicz.  The committee is dissatisfied with NOAA’s regulatory oversight of the industry (taking too much time to decide on company requests, for example), although there are no NOAA witnesses on the list.  NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce and the committee’s Republican leaders recently wrote a letter to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker asking for a statutorily required report that is overdue by more than 3 months.  It is the fourth letter they have written to her about commercial remote sensing issues since February.

Congress’s return is certainly important news, but Thursday’s launch of the robotic asteroid sample return mission OSIRIS-REx surely will take the spotlight.  NASA has scheduled pre-launch briefings over two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) and will provide live coverage of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V launch on Thursday evening.  The 2-hour launch window opens at 7:05 pm ET.  NASA TV coverage begins at 4:30 pm ET and a post-launch press conference will begin about 2 hours after launch.  The weather forecast as of today (Sunday) is 80 percent go.  (As we’ve said before, it’s important not to confuse OSIRIS-REx with the Asteroid Redirect Mission, which also will return an asteroid sample to Earth, but is part of NASA’s human spaceflight program, not its science program, and has very different objectives.)

Speaking of human spaceflight, three ISS crew members return to Earth on Tuesday night ET.  Jeff Williams, Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka will land in Kazakhstan at 9:14 pm ET (7:14 am Wednesday local time at the landing site).  NASA TV will provide live coverage of undocking and landing.

George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute and the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation are having a seminar on Friday on U.S.-Japan Space Cooperation featuring government, academic, and industry officials from both countries.  It is part of a series of meetings of the U.S.-Japan Space Forum that began in 2014 to address how the two countries could work together to use space for common interests.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning are shown below.  Check back throughout the week to see others that we learn about later and add to our Events of Interest list.

Tuesday, September 6

Wednesday, September 7

Wednesday-Thursday, September 7-8

Thursday, September 8

Friday, September 9


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