What’s Happening in Space Policy September 6-12, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy September 6-12, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of September 6-12, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them. The Senate returns to work for legislative business this week. The House continues to meet only in pro forma sessions, but committees will hold hearings.

During the Week

Tomorrow (Monday) is a federal holiday, Labor Day, and federal government offices are closed. On Tuesday, the Senate returns to work for legislative business, but confirming judges is all that’s on the agenda at the moment. The House meets only in pro forma sessions this week. It returns for legislative business on September 14, although committees are meeting this week. None of the hearings scheduled on either the House or Senate side are about space activities as far as we know.

The countdown clock has started for the end of FY2020 on September 30. Congress has until then to pass something to keep the government operating on October 1 and thereafter. The House has passed 10 of the 12 FY2021 appropriations bills, but the Senate has not approved any even at committee level. Word has it that Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin (representing the White House) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reached an informal agreement on a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government open, though they have not agreed on a new coronavirus relief package, which also is a priority. A CR could pass quickly if everyone is in agreement.  We’ll see what happens.

The Secure World Foundation (SWF) is holding its second Summit for Space Sustainability — virtually, of course — Wednesday through Friday. It has a very impressive line up of speakers on topics ranging from how to incentivize responsible behavior in space to cislunar and lunar sustainability to spectrum governance to space arms control.  And a session on the Space Force and “the impact conflict in outer space may have on space sustainability.”  Keynote speakers are NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Mark Peller from the United Launch Alliance, and Nobu Okada from Astroscale. Looks terrific.

Choices, choices, though. Also Wednesday-Friday is Part 2 of the National Academies Space Weather Operations and Research Infrastructure Workshop. It has its own who’s who of experts, these on space weather.  They include NASA’s Nicky Fox and NOAA’s Steve Volz along with many others from those and other U.S. government agencies, academia (e.g. Dan Baker from LASP at University of Colorado Boulder and Robyn Millan from Dartmouth), think tanks and the private sector. The latter includes former NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher, now with GeoOptics, who has been a leader in getting NOAA to embrace commercial data.  As we reported a few weeks ago, the Senate-passed space weather bill requires NOAA to initiate a commercial space weather pilot program similar to the one for commercial weather data.

Competing for our attention with both of those on Thursday is a fascinating Department of Energy (DOE) roundtable on “Department of Exploration: Because You Can’t Get to Space Without the Department of Energy.” DOE was added as a member of the National Space Council  in February and Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette makes no secret of his enthusiasm, asserting that DOE could as easily stand for “Department of Exploration” (hence the roundtable’s title).  Brouillette is one of speakers, along with others from DOE, Ralph McNutt from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, Eric Stallmer from the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, former Congressman Bob Walker, and someone yet to be announced from SpaceX.  The discussion will be moderated by the inestimable Alan Boyle of GeekWire.  Too bad it’s only for an hour and 15 minutes. What an interesting group!

Also on Thursday — a virtual meeting of the NASA Advisory Council’s Science Committee, preceded by a Town Hall meeting with Science Mission Directorate head Thomas Zurbuchen.  The agenda for the Science Committee meeting isn’t posted yet, but they usually offer a good update on what’s going on in NASA’s science programs.

There are many more really interesting meetings this week, but too many to summarize here unfortunately.

All the 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 7

Tuesday, September 8

Wednesday-Thursday, September 9-10

Wednesday-Friday, September 9-11

Thursday, September 10




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