Space Community Activity Resumes on the Hill

Category: Space Watch: Report from Washington, D.C.

by Charles A. Harris, Space Foundation Manager - Washington Operations 

Capitol Hill
Congressional activity has resumed in September with the return of the House and Senate from August Recess. While budget processes and healthcare legislation have dominated the landscape, there have been several developments in the space community.

On Sept. 7, the House Space Subcommittee held a hearing on "Private Sector Lunar Exploration," with witnesses from NASA, academia and private space companies. Members of Congress gathered information on commercial plans for future exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, current regulatory, financial and technical barriers and the health of the commercial space industry.

On Sept. 14, the House of Representatives passed a package of eight appropriations bills, including bills to fund NASA, NOAA and the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) in Fiscal Year 2018.

On Sept. 18, the Senate passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This version of the bill specifically prohibits the formation of a "space corps," or separate branch of the military dedicated to space, which the House of Representatives' NDAA would have established amid much debate with the Air Force. The bill will now move into conference between the two bodies before being sent to the White House.

Finally, on Sept. 28, the House Space Subcommittee and Research and Technology Subcommittee held a joint hearing on the total solar eclipse that occurred on Aug. 21 and was visible from most of the contiguous United States. The Subcommittees examined the social, economic and scientific effects of the eclipse alongside experts from NASA, the National Science Foundation and several private research institutions. Shortly before the eclipse hearing, the Space Subcommittee will hold a markup on H.R. 1159, the United States and Israel Space Cooperation Act, which directs NASA to continue working with the Israel Space Agency.

Administration
The White House formally nominated Representative Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma to serve as the next Administrator of NASA. Congressman Bridenstine is in his third term serving Oklahoma's 1st district, and has shown keen interest in space-related issues during his tenure in Congress, particularly in weather forecasting, defense spending and the burgeoning commercial space industry. Bridenstine, a former Navy pilot who now flies with the Oklahoma Air National Guard, was also the Executive Director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium prior to serving in Congress.

Congressman Bridenstine has introduced and championed numerous pieces of space legislation, including his "American Space Renaissance Act" which he unveiled in 2016 at the Space Foundation's 33rd annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo. His intent was to create legislation to serve as a platform for ideas and solutions to numerous space policy issues, regardless of whether or not the full bill was passed.

At the end of September, the White House announced the National Space Council will hold its first formal meeting on Oct. 5 at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. The meeting will be titled "Leading the Next Frontier: An Event with the National Space Council." 

This article is part of Space Watch: October 2017 (Volume: 16, Issue: 10).

Tuesday, October 3, 2017