If you like Congressional hearings (and who doesn’t?), then today’s your day. The most obvious space-related hearing is the one by the Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee on the NASA budget. NASA administrator Mike Griffin is the sole witness scheduled to testify; it will be his first opportunity to discuss the FY08 budget request, and perhaps the effects of the final FY07 budget on NASA, before Congress.
(The same subcommittee also has a couple hearings of interest scheduled for next month: one on Earth sciences research on March 7 and one on “Transitioning to a Next Generation Human Space Flight System” on March 28.)
There are, though, a couple of other hearings today with tangential space policy relevance. This morning the House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on the Air Force FY08 budget, with the Secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force Chief of Staff scheduled to testify; there may be questions about military space programs and/or the effects of the China ASAT test.
Wednesday afternoon the new Antitrust Task Force of the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “Competition and the Future of Digital Music”. What does that have to do with space? One of the witnesses will be Sirius Satellite Radio CEO Mel Karmazin, who will be asked about his company’s plans to merge with rival XM Satellite Radio; the hearing was announced in the wake of last week’s merger news. Some see the XM-Sirius merger effort as a pathfinder for a much bigger space business deal: a second attempt at a merger between satellite TV companies EchoStar and DirecTV. If the XM-Sirius merger founders on antitrust worries (there is also a separate, and perhaps bigger, FCC regulatory hurdle that merger has to overcome), then it seems unlikely a DirecTV-EchoStar deal would pass muster. If XM-Sirius does go through, though, don’t be surprised to see a DirecTV-EchoStar merger deal, with better odds of passage than their effort several years ago. That would have ripple effects on the industry, including satellite manufacturers and launch service providers as well as their component suppliers, further down the road.