This week, the full House is taking up its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes some space-related provisions, such as authorizing funding for a domestic rocket engine to replace the RD-180. The Senate Armed Services Committee, meanwhile, is working on its own version of the NDAA this week in closed sessions. As early as next week, the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill, which provides $17.9 billion for NASA, will reach the House floor.
Not long thereafter, the House is expected to take up a NASA authorization bill passed by the House Science Committee last month. “We expect floor time in the next few weeks, so we can pass that smoothly and send it on to the Senate side,” said Tom Hammond, majority staff director for the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee, during a panel session at the 30th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs on Tuesday afternoon.
The Senate, meanwhile, is working on its version of a NASA authorization bill. “There’s still hope of getting a NASA reauthorization through this Congress,” said Ann Zulkosky, senior professional staff on the Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee, on the same panel. She said the topics under consideration for the bill include intellectual property rights issues for companies doing research on the International Space Station, an extension of the ISS itself beyond 2020, and maintaining competition in NASA’s commercial crew program.
One issue that doesn’t appear likely to make it into the House or Senate NASA authorization bills is a new engine development program. “From a NASA perspective, this is not an issue that we have dealt with directly,” Zulkosky said. Hammond concurred, nothing the action on an RD-180 replacement in the NDAA.
Both the House and Senate are also working on legislation to update the Commercial Space Launch Act. The House version, said Hammond, may address several issues, including a request by the FAA for on-orbit authority for commercial space transportation vehicles and an extension of the “learning period” that limits the FAA’s ability to enact safety regulations for spaceflight participants. The bill may include “some asteroid mining or exploitation provisions,” he added, without elaboration.