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Military / National Security News

What's Happening in Space Policy August 24-September 4, 2015

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 23-Aug-2015 (Updated: 23-Aug-2015 03:33 PM)

Summer will be over before we know it, but for now, our list of upcoming space policy events still spans the next couple of weeks while "business" is slow.   Congress returns on September 8, the day after Labor Day.

During the Week

This week starts off with the docking of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA's) HTV5 (Kounotori5) cargo spacecraft with the International Space Station (ISS).   The spacecraft was successfully launched on Wednesday and has been catching up with ISS ever since.   JAXA astronaut Kimiya Yui is aboard ISS and will be at the controls of Canada's robotic Canadarn2 tomorrow morning (Monday) to capture it.   That event is expected about 6:55 am Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).  NASA TV coverage begins at 5:15 am EDT.  JAXA's coverage begins at 6:05 am EDT.  Installation of HTV5 onto the Harmony node will follow at about 9:45 am EDT.  The crew surely will be happy to get those 9,500 pounds of supplies, equipment and science experiments following the three cargo mission failures (one U.S. Orbital Sciences Antares/Cygnus, one Russian Soyuz/Progress, and one U.S. SpaceX Falcon/Dragon) since last October.   It should be noted, of course, that there also have been five successful cargo missions (three Russian Progresses and two U.S. SpaceX Dragons) during that time, which, if anything, demonstrates just how much resupply from Earth is needed to sustain the crew and their work.

Tomorrow also is the first day of the three-day Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG) meeting at the Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, MD.  These "AGs" -- assessment groups or analysis groups but NOT "advisory" groups -- apparently no longer are officially part of NASA's advisory process, but are still an opportunity for members of the relevant science community to get together and interact with each other and NASA officials.   The meeting is available virtually via WebEx and telecon.  Among the many interesting sessions, Bob Pappalardo will talk about plans for the Europa mission on Monday at 3:15 pm ET and Alan Stern is scheduled to talk about the New Horizons Pluto mission on Tuesday at 1:30 pm ET.

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) is scheduled to speak at a Maryland Space Business Roundtable (MSBR) luncheon on Tuesday.  (The event is listed on MSBR's website, but the link to the flyer is inactive.  We assume that's a glitch and the event is going on as planned, but you might want to check with MSBR to be sure).  Edwards is the top Democrat ("ranking member") on the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and a strong NASA supporter, especially of projects at Goddard Space Flight Center near her district.  Her interest in space goes much further, though.  Never mind just trying to convince her colleagues to fund NASA's "Journey to Mars," she has said publicly that she wants to go there herself.   Right now, though, she is focused on her current job representing Maryland's 4th congressional district and running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

On Friday, the Earth Science subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council will meet telephonically.  An agenda is not yet posted on the subcommittee's website, but the Federal Register notice says it is an annual performance review of the Earth Science program as required under the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act.  The public is welcome to listen in.

Those events and others coming up the first week of September that we know about as of today, August 23, are listed below.

Monday, August 24

  • HTV5 arrival at ISS, grapple 6:55 am ET, installation 9:45 am ET (times are approximate)   Watch on NASA TV (5:15 am ET) and JAXA's YouTube site (6:05 am ET)

Monday-Wednesday, August 24-26

  • OPAG, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, Laurel, MD (available via WebEx and telecon)

Tuesday, August 25

Friday, August 28

Monday-Wednesday, August 31-September 2

Tuesday, September 1

Wednesday, September 2

Wednesday-Friday, September 2-4


What's Happening in Space Policy August 17-September 4, 2015

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-Aug-2015 (Updated: 16-Aug-2015 06:38 PM)

Here is our list of upcoming space policy related events.  This edition covers the next three weeks, through Labor Day Weekend when "summer" unofficially ends for those of us in the United States.  Labor Day is the first Monday in September. This year it is September 7.  Congress and the regular routine of business return on September 8.

During the Week

This coming week leaves lots of time for summer fun, with just one event on our calendar at the moment -- the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA's) launch of the HTV5 cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS).  The launch has been delayed twice already because of weather and JAXA cautions that more weather delays are possible. For now the launch is scheduled for Wednesday, August 19, at 7:50 am Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).  NASA TV will provide coverage beginning at 7:00 am EDT.  The cargo capsule is named Kounotori (white stork) so this is sometimes referred to as Kounotori-5.

This is the fifth Japanese cargo mission to ISS and a Japanese astronaut is aboard ISS to welcome it.  Kimiya Yui arrived on July 22 with his Soyuz TMA-17M crew mates Kjell Lindgren (NASA) and Oleg Kononenko (Roscosmos). The other three ISS crew members are Gennady Padalka (Roscosmos), Mikhail Kornienko (Roscosmos), and Scott Kelly (NASA).  Kelly and Kornienko are not quite mid-way through their "year in space."  Yesterday was day 141 according to Kelly, who regularly tweets (@StationCDRKelly) about his experiences.  Whenever it launches, HTV5 should arrive at the ISS five days later.

That and other events we know about as of Sunday afternoon are listed below.

Wednesday, August 19

  • JAXA launch of HTV5, Tanegashima, Japan, 7:50 am EDT (NASA TV coverage begins at 7:00 am EDT)

Monday-Wednesday, August 24-26

Tuesday, August 25

Friday, August 28

Monday-Wednesday, August 31-September 2

Tuesday, September 1

Wednesday-Friday, September 2-4

GAO: Air Force Needs Incremental Approach to Launch Services Acquisition

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 11-Aug-2015 (Updated: 11-Aug-2015 02:38 PM)

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said today that in this changing launch services environment, the Air Force needs to take it slow in planning competitive launch services procurements before committing to something without adequate knowledge.

The GAO looked at the Air Force's plan to acquire future launch services under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program.   Since 2006, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) has been a monopoly in providing EELV launches using the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets, but with the certification of SpaceX to offer EELV launch services in the future, a competitive environment has reemerged.

GAO explains that the Air Force currently acquires launch services from ULA under a cost-reimbursement, rather than fixed price, contract.  The cost-reimbursement contract requires ULA to give the Air Force cost and performance data that the Air Force can use to monitor contractor performance and identify risks that can affect schedule and cost.  In the new competitive environment, however, the Air Force plans to move to firm fixed price (FFP) contracts where that data will not be available.  That creates a good news, bad news situation where the price for launches may be less with FFP contracts, but the Air Force will have "significantly less insight into program costs and performance."  GAO also worries that FFP contracts will not give the Air Force the flexibility it needs to change launch schedules, noting that "satellite delays have historically been an issue..."

Added to that, the future of the competitive launch services industry is uncertain and "the ability of the domestic industry to sustain two or more providers in the long-term, while desirable, is unclear."

The recommendation, therefore, is to move slowly and not make commitments to future acquisition rounds until the Air Force has gained experience with the first one, now underway.  The Air Force should "use an incremental approach to the next acquisition strategy until data is available to make an informed decision." 

In a letter included as an appendix to the GAO report, DOD concurred: "The Air Force is implementing a phased approach to its EELV efforts, to include awarding launch services on a case by case basis."

GAO did the study in response to a congressional requirement in the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act. 


What's Happening in Space Policy August 9-31, 2015

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 09-Aug-2015 (Updated: 09-Aug-2015 01:10 PM)

With the relatively lazy days of summer upon us, the August weekly editions of "What's Happening" will cover multiple weeks.  The Senate has joined the House in recessing through Labor Day.  They return September 8.

During the Month

Some notable events have come to our attention since last week's edition.  John Sloan from the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) is the featured guest at the ISU-DC Space Cafe this Tuesday, August 11.  His topic is AST's international outreach, interesting in and of itself, but questions about AST's progress in responding to the NTSB's report on the SpaceShipTwo accident may also come up (though the answer may simply be that we all have to wait for the official response, which is due 90 days from when the report was received).

Another event that may be especially interesting is Thursday night's debate between Bas Lansdorp, President of Mars One, and two MIT graduate students (Sydney Do and Andrew Owens) who did a technical feasibility analysis of the plan that concluded it would have a "bleak outcome" as we wrote last fall.   The debate is part of the Mars Society's annual convention, which will be held at Catholic University in Washington, DC from August 13-16.  The Lansdorp/MIT debate is August 13 from 8:00-9:30 pm ET and is open to the public.

Coming up a week from Sunday is Japan's launch of HTV5, the next cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS).  We don't list routine cargo missions to ISS unless there is something non-routine going on and considering the recent failures of ISS cargo missions, HTV5 definitely qualifies.  NASA officials told the NASA Advisory Council at the end of July that some ISS supplies will be down to a 45-day margin by the time HTV5 launches on August 16.  NASA likes to maintain a 6-month margin.  The situation will be much improved once HTV5 arrives.  Launch is at 9:01 am Eastern Daylight Time (10:01 pm local time at the launch site in Tanegashima, Japan).

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning, August 9, are listed below.

Saturday - Thursday, August 8-13

Monday, August 10

Tuesday, August 11

Thursday-Sunday, August 13-16

Sunday, August 16

Monday-Wednesday, August 24-26

Tuesday, August 25

Friday, August 28

Monday-Wednesday, August 31-September 2

  • Space 2015 (AIAA), Pasadena Convention Center, Pasadena, CA

Will Space Be A Topic at Thursday's Republican Presidential Primary Debate? - UPDATE

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 05-Aug-2015 (Updated: 07-Aug-2015 12:04 PM)

UPDATE, August 7, 2015:   No space policy questions arose at the debate.

ORIGINAL STORY, August 5, 2015:  The 10 Republican presidential candidates who will debate each other in prime time on Thursday were selected by Fox News on Tuesday based on an average of five national polls.  Among them are former Florida governor Jeb Bush who recently said he is "a space guy," and Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), both of whom made statements yesterday in support of Senate passage of a commercial space bill.  While space activities rarely rise to the fore in presidential primary debates, it did happen in 2012. Perhaps it will this time, too.

Cruz is the sponsor of S. 1297, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, which passed the Senate yesterday (August 4).  Rubio of one of four cosponsors.

Following Senate passage, Cruz invoked the memory of President Ronald Reagan, saying the bill carried forward "President Reagan's torch" by continuing to support commercial space. The original Commercial Space Launch Act was enacted during Reagan's presidency.  In addition to provisions dealing directly with commercial space launch issues, the bill also extends the U.S. commitment to operating the International Space Station to 2024.   Reagan initiated the space station program in his 1984 State of the Union Address.  Cruz also tied the bill to his home state interests, saying that it demonstrates Texas has a "major stake in space exploration" and Johnson Space Center employees "will continue to play a vital role in the future" of human spaceflight.   Cruz has also made clear his support for space exploration during Senate hearings, arguing that exploration of space, not studying the earth, should be NASA's priority.

One provision of S. 1297 extends through 2020 the "learning period" during which the FAA cannot issue additional commercial human spaceflight regulations.  Sometimes called a "moratorium," it is set to expire on September 30, 2015.  The idea is that the commercial human spaceflight industry needs time to gain experience before decisions are  made on what, if any, more regulation is needed.

It may be that provision Rubio was referring to in his statement that "we need to eliminate unnecessary regulations that cost too much and make it harder for American innovators to create jobs."  He added that the reforms in the bill will "make it easier for our innovators to return Americans to suborbital space" and "help the American space industry continue pushing further into space than ever before."  Like Cruz and other Senators who commented on the bill, he tied it to home state interests calling it "an important win for Florida's space exploration community."

For his part, Bush championed an increase in NASA funding during an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader in Manchester, NH, enthusing that "I'm a space guy."

People were allowed to send in questions to Fox News that they want the candidates to answer.  At least one is about space policy.   Michael Listner, founder and principal of Space Law & Policy Solutions in New Hampshire, tweeted today that he submitted one.

Whether or not it or any other space policy question gets asked is problematical, of course. The two-hour debate has 10 candidates and three co-moderators.  How many questions can be reasonably asked and answered in that time span with so many participants will be interesting to watch.  The debate airs on Fox News Channel and is being conducted in partnership with Facebook.  It is being held in Cleveland, Ohio.

The 10 candidates who made the cut to be in the prime time debate at 9:00 pm EDT are (in order of their standing in the polls yesterday from highest to lowest):

  • Donald Trump (billionaire businessman)
  • Jeb Bush (former Florida governor)
  • Scott Walker (current Wisconsin governor)
  • Mike Huckabee (former Arkansas governor)
  • Ben Carson (commentator and retired neurosurgeon)
  • Ted Cruz (Senator from Texas)
  • Marco Rubio (Senator from Florida)
  • Rand Paul (Senator from Kentucky)
  • Chris Christie (current New Jersey governor)
  • John Kasich (current Ohio governor)

Seven other Republican presidential candidates who ranked lower in the polls will appear in a separate one-hour debate at 5:00 pm EDT.  They are:

  • Rick Perry (former Texas governor)
  • Rick Santorum (former Senator from Pennsylvania)
  • Bobby Jindal (current Louisiana governor)
  • Carly Fiorina (former CEO of Hewlett Packard)
  • Lindsey Graham (Senator from South Carolina)
  • George Pataki (former New York governor)
  • Jim Gilmore (former Virginia governor)

During the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, candidate Newt Gingrich, a former Speaker of the House, laid out bold goals for the space program, and he and Mitt Romney responded to questions about the space program in one of the televised debates.

What's Happening In Space Policy August 3-31, 2015

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 02-Aug-2015 (Updated: 02-Aug-2015 01:01 PM)

It's summer vacation time so our list of upcoming space policy related events is rather sparse.  Therefore we are listing everything we know about for the entire month of August rather than just one week.  The Senate will be in session this week before it heads out on its summer recess; the House left town last week.  Both will return on September 8. 

During the Month

The Senate still has one more week to go before it recesses for its summer break.  It plans to focus on efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, which is not a space policy issue per se, but there is worry that it could derail the Continuing Resolution (CR) that Congress will need to pass before October 1 to  keep the government operating.  There is no expectation that any of the 12 regular appropriations bills will clear Congress by then, so either a CR must be enacted or there will be a government shutdown.  You can check your favorite news sources to get up to date on the Planned Parenthood controversy, but the bottom line for the space program is that Republicans have seized on the issue to prevent any government funds from going to the non-profit organization.  Democrats have said they will try to block any such effort and the White House said the President would veto any legislation to defund it.  If the CR includes such language, and the President vetoes it ... well, that means no funding for DOD, NASA, or NOAA either.  It's a high stakes game and impossible to guess the outcome.

Apart from that, there is an outside chance the Senate could pass S. 1297, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act.  It was reported from the Senate Commerce Committee on July 22. The bill is thought to be non-controversial, but its lead sponsor is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who recently took to the floor of the Senate in front of the C-SPAN cameras to castigate the Senate Majority Leader, calling him a liar.  The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), controls what bills are brought up so he might not be inclined to bring up one sponsored by Cruz, but then again, it is always difficult to predict what will happen in Congress. (Even fellow Republicans felt Cruz went too far, especially since there's a Senate rule that one Senator will not impugn the integrity of another Senator on the Senate floor.  They showed their displeasure this week, denying Cruz a routine request for a "sufficient second" for a roll call vote on a procedural matter.  Some also disputed Cruz's account of what McConnell had said. These sorts of intra-party disputes are usually kept private.)

For those who are curious, by the way, the House and Senate may meet in "pro forma" sessions during August (or anytime), but no legislative activity takes place at those times.  The idea is to prevent the President from making "recess appointments," which he is allowed to do when Congress is in recess for more than three days.  So the House and Senate schedule pro forma sessions where only one Member or Senator must walk into the chamber and gavel it into and out of session so it is not legally in recess for an extended period.

Not on our list of events because space policy is unlikely to arise as an issue, but perhaps of interest anyway, is Thursday's Fox News Republican presidential debate.  If you've lost count, there are 17 Republicans running for President.  Those that rank in the top 10 based on an average of 5 national polls on Tuesday (Fox has not said which national polls it will use) will be on stage together at 9:00 pm ET.  The others will have a separate opportunity earlier in the evening (5:00 pm ET). Check your local TV listings for what channel it will be on in your area.

The rest of month is relatively quiet.  The events we know about as of Sunday (August 2) morning are listed below.

Monday-Tuesday, August 3-4

Wednesday-Thursday, August 5-6

Thursday, August 6

Sunday, August 16

Monday-Wednesday, August 24-26

Tuesday, August 25

Friday, August 28

Monday-Wednesday, August 31-September 2

  • Space 2015 (AIAA), Pasadena Convention Center, Pasadena, CA

Export-Import Bank Will Have to Wait - UPDATE

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 30-Jul-2015 (Updated: 30-Jul-2015 03:56 PM)

UPDATE, July 30, 3:50 pm EDT:  This afternoon the Senate passed the House's short-term (three-month) extension of the highway bill, that has no Export-Import Bank reauthorization, sending it to the President for signature.  The Senate also passed its own long-term highway bill, that includes the Ex-Im Bank reauthorization adopted by amendment earlier this week; it will be waiting for House action when the House returns in September.

ORIGINAL POST, July 30, 8:19 am EDT:  The House began its summer recess last night without passing legislation to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, leaving it in limbo at least until September.  Instead it passed a short-term extension to the highway bill without an Ex-Im Bank provision and sent it to the Senate before turning out the lights.  The House will meet in pro forma sessions, but no legislative business is scheduled until September 8.

The Bank's charter, originally enacted in 1934, must be periodically renewed.  It expired on June 30 when a previous reauthorization attempt failed.  The issue splits the Republican and Democratic parties with some members of each insisting that the bank is essential to U.S. exports and therefore to U.S. jobs, while others assert it is corporate welfare for a few big companies.  Boeing is often mentioned in the latter regard.  Advocates claim that small and medium size businesses also benefit not only because of their own projects, but because many are suppliers to the big companies.

The Bank helps provide financing for U.S. exports, including communications satellites, for example.  The Aerospace Industries Associate and the Satellite Industry Association are among its supporters.  

Reauthorization of the Bank is the source of bitter contention in the Senate, but earlier this week that chamber did agree to a multi-year extension of the bank as an amendment to a must-pass highway bill.  There is no substantive connection between the highway bill and the Ex-Im Bank reauthorization, but attaching one to the other was part of a strategy to get both passed before the summer recess began.  Senate supporters of the Ex-Im Bank hoped that enough House members would be willing to accept reauthorization of the Bank in order to keep money flowing from the Highway Trust Fund for highway, highway safety, and public transportation projects.  The Highway Trust Fund's authorization expires tomorrow (July 31).

The House Republican leadership rejected that strategy, however, and instead passed a separate short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund authorization (until October 29) without any reference to the Ex-Im Bank.  That bill is now pending before the Senate, which is likely to pass it since they do not want highway funding to end and the House has gone home for five weeks so nothing else can pass both chambers until September.

During an appearance at The Economic Club of Washington, D.C.. yesterday,  Boeing chairman, W. James McNerney, Jr said that the Boeing is "actively" considering moving some of its operations overseas so it can take advantage of other countries' equivalents of the Ex-Im Bank.  Explaining that the whole point of the Bank is to level the playing field with foreign competitors, McNerney said If there will be no U.S. Ex-Im Bank, "we are actively considering now moving key pieces of our company to other countries and we never would have considered it before this craziness on Ex-Im."   

He called it "the triumph of ideology over any description of private business."   Boeing is the biggest beneficiary by dollars, he agreed, but not by transactions:  "There are more deals for small and medium size companies than big companies," adding that "70 percent of the value added of our airplanes are made up by small companies ... who would never have a chance to export without us."  The congressional situation is a "sign of dysfunctionality" when two-thirds of the House and of the Senate support reauthorization, but legislation cannot pass because of the "extremes" of the two parties.

Senate Adopts Ex-Im Bank Extension, But Fate Still Uncertain - UPDATE

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 27-Jul-2015 (Updated: 28-Jul-2015 08:16 AM)

UPDATE, July 28, 2015, 8:10 am EDT:  The Aerospace Industries Association issued a press release praising the Senate action and urging the House to follow suit.

ORIGINAL POST, July 27, 2015, 11:28 pm EDT:  The Senate tonight adopted an amendment to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank as part of a Highway Trust Fund reauthorization bill.  House Republican leaders stated earlier today, however, that they will not bring the Senate bill to the floor for a vote.

The amendment, offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on behalf of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), has been the source of bitter contention with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other conservatives who consider the bank to be "corporate welfare." The bank assists in the financing of U.S. exports, including aerospace products, and advocates insist that without it American exports will suffer and jobs will be lost.  The Aerospace Industries Association and the Satellite Industry Association are among its supporters.

The bank's authority to operate ended on June 30 when a previous reauthorization attempt failed.  The bank can continue current operations, but cannot take on new projects until and unless it is reauthorized.

The Kirk amendment would extend its authorization for four years.  Yesterday the Senate voted 67-26 to allow the amendment to be offered.   Tonight the vote was 64-29 to adopt it. The Senate has yet to vote on the underlying bill.  Even assuming that it passes, its fate is far from certain.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) vowed today that the House will not take up the Senate bill.  The House and Senate disagree not only on the Ex-Im Bank issue, but on the underlying highway bill that allows disbursement of funds from the Highway Trust Fund for highways, highway safety, and public transportation projects.  The Highway Trust Fund's authorization expires on Friday, July 31.  The House is scheduled to begin its August recess on Friday, so some type of agreement will have to be made - perhaps a short term extension.  The House already passed a 5 month extension of the highway bill -- without an Ex-Im Bank provision -- and McCarthy wants the Senate to pass that bill, not the version now before the Senate.

What happens next is anyone's guess.


Senate Agrees to Consider Amendment to Reauthorize Ex-Im Bank

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 26-Jul-2015 (Updated: 26-Jul-2015 07:06 PM)

The Senate took a small, but important, step towards potentially reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank during a rare Sunday session today.  The action does not reauthorize the bank, but sets up a vote on an amendment to do just that later in the week, perhaps as early as tomorrow (Monday).

The Export-Import Bank, created in 1934, assists in the financing of U.S. exports, including aerospace products such as communications satellites.  The Aerospace Industries Association and the Satellite Industry Association are among those trying to convince Congress to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank.   Its authority to operate expired on June 30 when previous efforts at reauthorization failed.  The bank may continue existing operations for now, but cannot take on new projects.

The issue is divisive within both the Republican and Democratic parties.  Advocates argue that without the bank, exports of American goods will suffer and jobs will be lost.   Opponents insist that it is corporate welfare.  Boeing and General Electric are frequent targets of those critics because they reportedly received two-thirds of the bank's loan commitments between 2007 and 2013, but advocates, including President Obama, counter that smaller companies also benefit, including those that are suppliers to the big companies.

To expedite action, the Senate voted today to allow Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) to offer an amendment to an unrelated highway bill later this week.  The highway bill is "must pass" legislation because without it funds from the Highway Trust Fund cannot be disbursed to pay for highways, highway safety, and public transportation projects. That bill also is controversial.  It is far from certain that even if the Senate does pass the highway bill, with the Ex-Im bank reauthorization included, that the House will agree with either of those actions.  The House is scheduled to begin its month-long August recess on Friday, with last votes expected no later than 3:00 pm ET on Thursday.

That gives the Senate only a few days to pass its bill and try to reach a compromise with the House in order to send legislation to the President' before the Highway Trust Fund authorization expires on July 31.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is a strident opponent of the bank and on Friday publicly accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) of lying to him and other Senate Republicans about the issue in a blistering statement on the Senate floor (which is available on YouTube).  Such intra-party disputes are not typically aired in front of the C-SPAN cameras.

The procedural vote today to allow Kirk to offer the amendment was 67-26 (60 votes were needed).  Cruz and 25 other Republicans voted against it.  

That does not signal what the fate of the amendment itself will be when it is finally debated, however.   Some of those who voted to allow the amendment to be offered may nonetheless oppose the amendment itself.   At the moment, the Kirk amendment is on the schedule for tomorrow (Monday, July 27), along with several other amendments.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has a useful report explaining the Ex-Im Bank controversy.

What's Happening in Space Policy July 26-31, 2015

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 26-Jul-2015 (Updated: 26-Jul-2015 11:43 AM)

Here is our list of space policy related events for the week of July 26-31, 2015 and any insight we can offer about them.  Congress is in session this week.

During the Week

The House is scheduled to begin its annual August recess on Friday (no votes are scheduled after Thursday at 3:00 pm ET), so this is the last week for Congress to deal with any "must pass" legislation for programs expiring at the end of July.  To that end, the Senate is beginning its week today, Sunday, in a continuing attempt to pass a bill to reauthorize expenditures from the Highway Trust Fund for highway, highway safety, and public transportation programs that otherwise will expire on July 31.  While the highway bill per se is not a space-related issue, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has agreed to allow an amendment to be offered to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.  Last month, Congress failed to reauthorize the bank and its charter expired.  The bank is still operating, but cannot take on new projects. The bank offers loan guarantees for customers wanting to buy products -- like communications satellites -- from U.S. manufacturers and the Aerospace Industries Association and Satellite Industry Association are among its supporters.  Critics claim it is corporate welfare. The issue splits both parties and has the Senate in turmoil.  Even if a bill does pass the Senate, there is no guarantee the House will go along. The Senate is scheduled to be in session during the first week of August, but if the House recesses as planned, it would not be able to pass a compromise until it returns in September, so the Senate would have to agree to something the House already passed, perhaps a short-term extension for the highway funds and/or the Ex-Im Bank.  What will happen is very much up in the air.

With such disarray, the likelihood of other legislation passing is diminished, but it is always possible that relatively non-controversial bills could get through.  One possibility is the Senate Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, S. 1297, which was formally reported from the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday (S. Rept. 114-88).  Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is the main sponsor of the bill, however, and his verbal attack on McConnell on the Senate floor on Friday because of the Ex-Im bank issue (available on YouTube) might weigh against it getting a spot on the calendar, which McConnell controls.  It really is anyone's guess, though.

This is "NAC week" at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA.   Many of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) committees will meet early in the week, with the full NAC meeting Wednesday afternoon through Friday morning.   The committee and Council meetings are available by WebEx and telephone for anyone who wants to listen in.  Bear in mind that times listed on the agendas are in local time at the meeting venue -- Pacific Daylight Time in this case.

On Tuesday, trying to tune into those meetings will compete with three interesting events in Washington, DC:  the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB's) public meeting to finalize its report on the October 2014 SpaceShipTwo crash beginning at 9:30 am ET; a House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee hearing at 10:00 am ET on planetary exploration -- including testimony from the Principal Investigators for the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres (Alan Stern and Christopher Russell, respectively); and a NOAA briefing at 1:00 pm ET on 10 Years Since Hurricane Katrina featuring NOAA Administrator Kathy Sullivan and the heads of NOAA's four line offices, including Steve Volz, who is in charge of NOAA's satellite programs.  All three events are available by webcast or WebEx.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning are listed below.

Monday-Tuesday, July 27-28

Monday-Wednesday, July 27-29

Monday-Friday, July 27-31

Tuesday, July 28

Tuesday-Wednesday, July 28-29

Wednesday-Friday, July 29-31