What’s Happening in Space Policy September 9-15, 2018

What’s Happening in Space Policy September 9-15, 2018

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of September 9-15, 2018 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate will be in session to conduct legislative business the last half of the week.

During the Week

The House and Senate will not meet on Monday or Tuesday.  Rosh Hashanah begins today and ends Tuesday.

Both chambers are scheduled to return to work on Wednesday, although meteorologists are beginning to sound the alarm about Hurricane Florence, which regained hurricane status as this was being written. There is still a LOT of uncertainty about where it will go, but landfall along the East Coast appears more likely and could affect activities in D.C. and elsewhere late in the week.  Stay tuned.

If congressional business proceeds as planned, conference reports on some of the FY2019  appropriations bills could emerge.  Conferees have been appointed for three “minibuses” — bundles of two or more of the bills.  House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had possible consideration of Minibus 1 (Energy & Water, Legislative Branch, Milcon-VA) on the House calendar last week, but it wasn’t ready, so he has it on this week’s schedule.  Also in conference are Minibus 2 (Defense, Labor-HHS) and Minibus 3 (Interior-Environment, Financial Services, Agriculture, and Transportation-HUD).  Whatever is happening on the other three appropriations bills is behind the scenes: Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill, which includes NASA and NOAA; Homeland Security; and State-Foreign Ops.  FY2019 begins on October 1.  For any agency whose bill has not been enacted into law by then, either a Continuing Resolution will be needed or that agency will have to cease non-essential operations.

The House Appropriations CJS Subcommittee will hold a hearing on Thursday on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).  Witnesses are NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen and Tom Young.  Young chaired the Independent Review Board this spring that looked into what went wrong at Northrop Grumman, JWST’s prime contractor, during Integration and Testing that caused substantial overruns and schedule slips. The House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee, which authorizes NASA activities, held its hearing in July.  Congress must reauthorize the program because it breached its $8 billion cost cap for development that was set in law after the last big overrun in 2010-2011.  The SS&T hearing heaped praise on the program, if not Northrop Grumman, so it seems pretty clear that JWST will continue.  NASA says the cost overrun will not affect its FY2019 budget plan, but Congress will have to come up with over $800 million extra beginning in FY2020 and FY2021.  What impact that will have on other NASA programs is unclear.

Tomorrow (Monday), CSIS will hold a seminar on “Securing Space: The U.S. Space Force.”  Participants include Bob Work, former Deputy Secretary of Defense (who created the now disbanded position of Principal DOD Space Advisor to address some of these issues); Gen. Robert Kehler, Ret., former commander of USSTRATCOM; Letitia Long, former NGA Director; and Sean O’Keefe, former NASA Administrator and currently a CSIS senior advisor.   It will be webcast.

Space Force is definitely THE hot space policy topic these days and on Friday Vice President Pence will talk about it again at a Washington Post Live event entitled “Transformers: Space.”  He will be interviewed by Robert Costa, the Post’s national political reporter and host of PBS’s Washington Week.  Other luminaries on the agenda, which will cover a broad range of space topics, include NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, National Space Council Executive Secretary Scott Pace, NASA astronaut Victor Glover, Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson (previously a NASA astronaut), former NASA astronauts Leland Melvin and Nicole Stott, Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye, National Air and Space Museum Director (and former NASA Chief Scientist) Ellen Stofan, Georgia Tech Assistant Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Britney Schmidt, and Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides.  All in two -and-a-half hours!  It will be webcast.

Note that Japan’s launch of the HTV-7 cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS) has been postponed due to bad weather at its tracking site in Guam where Typhoon Mangkhut is approaching.  The launch was scheduled for tomorrow (Eastern Daylight Time, September 11 local time in Japan).  JAXA has not announced a new launch date. We’ll post it on our calendar when it does.

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 10

Monday-Friday, September 10-14

  • World Satellite Business Week, The Westin, Paris, France
    • Summit for Satellite Financing, September 10-13
    • SmartPlane, September 10
    • Summit on Earth Observation Business, September 13-14

Tuesday-Wednesday, September 11-12

Tuesday-Thursday, September 11-13

Tuesday-Friday, September 11-14

Wednesday, September 12

Thursday, September 13

Friday, September 14

  • Transformers: Space (Washington Post Live), 1301 K Street, N.W., Washington, DC, 9:00-11:30 am ET (webcast)

Saturday, September 15

  • Launch of ICESat-2, Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, 8:46 am ET (5:46 am local time), webcast


Correction: An earlier version of this article said Congress would have to come up with over $800 million more for JWST for FY2020 and FY2021.  The amount is correct, but it will be spread over more than just those two years.  NASA had $310 million in FY2020 and FY2021 budgeted to pay for JWST operations that now will be used for development instead, so the additional amount needed for just those two years is $490 million.  The $310 million being reallocated from operations will still be needed, but in later years.

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