Public Policy and Government Affairs

Washington, D.C., Weekly Space Activity Report

Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team

The Space Foundation’s Washington, D.C., team prepares this weekly report of space activity on the Hill. It is published on Mondays on the Space Foundation homepage.

Space Industry Updates

  • On Oct. 25, the Air Force posted a request for information and began a study of the launch industry as the next major national security procurement phase approaches in 2025. The study will help the Air Force to better understand the launch industry’s capabilities.
  • On Oct. 25, NASA announced that the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) Lunar mission will map water ice on the Moon.
  • The U.S. Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane landed on Oct. 27 after 780 days in orbit, demonstrating “the importance of a reusable spaceplane” said Secretary Barbara Barrett. The mission hosted Air Force Research Laboratory experiments and provided ride for small satellites.
  • On Oct. 28, Virgin Galactic began trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The share price declined by the end of the day, closing at $11.75 per share.
  • On Oct 28, Derek Tournear was named as the first permanent director of the Space Development Agency after serving as the acting director. In his position, Tournear will staff the agency and secure the $150 million funding previously requested by the Pentagon.

Capitol Hill Updates

  • On Oct. 16, lawmakers expressed safety and cost concerns over NASA’s decision to advance Artemis program to 2024 at a House Appropriations Committee hearing.
  • On Oct. 18, Barbara Barrett was sworn in as Secretary of the Air Force.
  • On Oct. 29, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) introduced a ‘Skinny’ NDAA that lacks Space Force language that could slow Space Force creation.
  • On Oct. 29, at a C-band hearing, House Communications Subcommittee members expressed preferences for an FCC-held public auction.
  • On Oct. 31, the Senate passed a $22.75 billion minibus appropriations bill funding NASA and other agencies for FY2020.
  • On Oct. 31, Navy Vice Adm. Charles Richard was confirmed by the Senate as the next head of U.S. Strategic Command.

Oct. 16

House Appropriations Committee Hearings: NASA’s Proposal to Advance the Next Moon Landing by Four Years

The witnesses were Kenneth D. Bowersox (Acting Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, NASA) and Jim Bridenstine (NASA Administrator). In the hearing, Chairman Serrano (D-NY) expressed concerns over the new timeline proposal due to safety and cost factors, despite reiterating his support for NASA and space exploration. Lawmakers pressed the witnesses to provide a cost estimate for accelerating the Moon landing timeline and did not receive detailed figures. 

Oct. 16

Potomac Institute Briefing: “The Future of Deep Space Exploration” on Capitol Hill

The Potomac Institute’s Center for Enterprise, Exploration and Defense in Space (CCEDS) hosted a panel discussion with Steve Clarke (NASA), Mary Lynn Dittmar (Coalition for Deep Space Exploration), Ryan Whitley (White House National Space Council), and Lon Levin (GEOShare, with Sonya Gavankar (Newseum) as the moderator. The panel discussed current projects in deep space exploration, the rationale for space exploration, and key missions such as Galileo, Voyager, and Cassini-Huygens, ways for policy makers to support exploration, and some challenges such as human physical adaptability to deep space environments.

Oct. 18

12th Annual Nebraska Space Law Conference at the National Press Club

The 12th Annual “Global Perspectives on Space Law and Policy” took place at the National Press Club. The panels ranged from Commercial Space Legislation to Space Agency Legal Counsel to Spectrum Challenges.

At the Woomera Panel on outer space military activities, the panelists discussed implications of miscommunication and interference. Panelist Frans Von der Dunk (University of Nebraska Law College) mentioned the importance of how states characterize threats because the use of force in space depends on interpretation. Michael Hoversten (Air Force Space Command) also agreed a misunderstanding of intent for on-orbit operations could lead to escalation of conflict.

The panelists shared concern over what is the overarching deterrence framework for countries and that there should not be an exclusionary zone since this would violate a nation’s freedom of exploration in space and emphasized clear, effective communication can deter conflicts. 

Oct. 23

House Science Committee Hearing: Space Weather – Advancing Research, Monitoring and Forecasting Capabilities

The witnesses were Bill Murtagh (NOAA), Dr. Nicola Fox (NASA), and Dr. Conrad Lautenbacher (GeoOptics). Subcommittee chair Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX) shared that our ability to forecast space weather events remains limited and “space weather disturbances can impact major sectors of society including aviation, electric power, navigational satellites, and emergency management” and therefore “we need to invest in scientific research and sustained observations.”

Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK) shared concerns about the aging forecasting systems and the lack of clear, cohesive strategy in basic research, observations, models, and the ability to transition research and models into operational use. Dr. Fox (NASA) discussed how space weather will be critical for Artemis and human exploration in deep space and highlighted a key pilot program to improve space weather products for Research to Operations and Operations to Research (R202R).

In the afternoon, Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stating she is “deeply disappointed in the conduct of the FCC in addressing the very real issues of interference with weather forecasting capabilities” and voiced her concern that out-of-band emission limits proposed by the FCC (reassigning spectrum in the 24 GHz band) will disrupt satellite-collected weather data.

Oct. 24

Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Navy Vice Admiral Charles Richard

A confirmation hearing was held for Vice Adm. Charles Richard to become commander of U.S. Strategic Command and succeed Air Force General John Hyten. Before the hearing, committee members asked questions regarding modernization of nuclear triad and delivery systems, New START treaty, and STRATCOM Readiness. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) released a statement following the hearing, emphasizing, “With threats from Russia and China continuing to grow, nuclear deterrence is becoming more important than ever and STRATCOM requires experienced and capable leadership.” The Senate confirmed Richard’s nomination on Thursday, Oct. 31.

Oct. 29

House Committee on Energy & Commerce Hearing: “Repurposing the C-band to benefit all Americans.”

House Communications Subcommittee held a hearing to discuss the Clearing Broad Airwaves for New Deployment (C-Band Act), which would mandate an FCC auction. The witnesses were Phillip Berenbroick (Public Knowledge), Ross Lieberman (ACA Connects), Deborah Collier (Citizens Against Government Waste), James Frownfelter (ABS), and Jeff Campbell (Cisco).

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) doubted that the C- Band Alliance’s argument for a private auction would get spectrum to 5G faster and fairer than an FCC auction to the 5G wireless industry. Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), and Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA) also showed support for FCC to conduct the auction. Lieberman emphasized the previous discussion to publicly auction 370 mgz of spectrum to ensure stability of service.

‘Skinny’ FY2020 NDAA introduced by Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) lacks Space Force language

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) introduced a less controversial, ‘skinny,’ NDAA for FY2020 without any mention of Space Force creation to reach an agreement. As the Administration attempts to push Space Force creation forward, passing Sen. Inhofe’s ‘skinny’ NDAA could possible slow the momentum down and provide less incentive to pass the full NDAA bill. A major sticking point was President Trump’s border wall funding language in the full bill which has prevented lawmakers from reaching a compromise.


Senate Briefing: Supporting a Well-prepared and Diverse Teacher Workforce

The briefing was sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ-01) on the importance of a diverse teacher workforce and challenges in achieving this goal given the low retention rates of teachers of color, college affordability, and rising student loan debt.

The speakers were LaNea Austin (Los Angeles Unified School District), Desiree Carver-Thomas (Learning Policy Institute), Amalia Chamorro (UnidosUS), Khalilah Harris (Center for American Progress), Cassandra Herring (Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity), and Mark Teoh (Teach Plus). The speakers discussed federal and state policies and grant pathways that can enable such career path for future teachers of color.

Legislation Corner

Resolution to Reinforce U.S. leadership in Peaceful Use of Space & Technology Innovation

Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced a resolution to maintain U.S. leadership in protecting satellites and spacecraft in Earth’s orbit from space debris and ensuring that all nationals cooperate to promote the peaceful use of space for research and commercial purposes. In the press release, Sen. Udall noted: Peaceful and safe innovation in space is a foundation of today’s interconnected world — and necessary for our future security and prosperity.


Commerce, Justice, Science, Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act, 2020 (H.R. 3055)

  • Science-related agencies including NASA are funded in the minibus.
  • On 10/30/2019, Cloture invoked in Senate by Yea – Nay vote. 88-5.

STEM Opportunities Act of 2019 (H.R. 2528/S.2579)

  • The bill would direct the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to ensure that Federal science agencies and institutions of higher education receiving Federal research and development funding are engaging their entire talent pool, and for other purposes.
  • Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
  • Sponsored by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI)


SELF Act of 2019 (H.R. 4626)

  • The bill would establish a grant program to support the development, implementation, and evaluation of successful teacher and school leader training programs.
  • Referred to House Committee on Education and Labor on 10/08/2019.
  • Sponsored by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH-13).


Keep STEM Talent Act of 2019 (H.R. 4623)

  • The bill would provide lawful permanent resident status for certain advanced STEM degree holders.
  • Referred to the House Committee on Judiciary on 10/08/2019.
  • Sponsored by Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL-11).


Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act of 2019 (H.R. 4528/ S.2578)

  • The bill would increase the participation of historically underrepresented groups in STEM.
  • Referred to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on 09/26/2019.
  • Sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-12) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI).


Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act (H.R. 1396)

On Oct. 29 the bill was presented to the President, sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30)


Upcoming Events

Nov. 12 – Space Foundation at GPS Tech Demo Day on Capitol Hill

The Space Foundation will be collaborating with GPS Innovation Alliance, CompTIA’s Space Enterprise Council, the Aerospace Industries Association, and the House GPS Caucus to host a GPS Tech Demo Day. The event will be from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. in the Rayburn Foyer, Rayburn HOB with a following reception. For more information and to RSVP, visit

Nov. 5 – Senate Commerce Hearing, Building NASA’s Workforce of the Future: STEM Engagement for a 21st Century Education

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) will convene a hearing as the Chair of the Aviation & Space Subcommittee. Witnesses will discuss how engaging students in projects with NASA helps provide hands-on training, develops the future workforce, and fosters innovation.

The hearing will be at 2:30 p.m. at 562 Dirksen Senate Office Building. Click here to read more about the upcoming hearing.

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