Welcome to 2024, the year in which a bitterly divided Congress will try to legislate as lawmakers also take time away to campaign ahead of the election.
There’s a lot the space committees are expected to tackle in the new year. Here are some of the top priorities.
From the top: Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), who chairs the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, shared his to-do list with Polaris, starting with next steps for the Commercial Space Act of 2023 that he introduced in November with Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX).
“We’ve had tremendous stakeholder support for that legislation, and I’m eager to move it forward in 2024,” Lucas said in an email.
Other priorities for the chairman include considering a NASA reauthorization bill (“It’s time we passed legislation to give the agency updated direction,” Lucas said) and keeping the Artemis program on track.
“Space is a competitive arena, and America can’t afford to fall behind to adversaries like the Chinese Communist Party,” he said. “The need for American leadership will underlie all of our legislative efforts in the new year.”
Other side of the aisle: Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), the top Dem on the Science, Space and Technology Committee, noted that Democrats, being in the minority, don’t have a ton of control over the panel’s agenda.
“That said, over the past year, Democrats of the Science Committee have been able to come together to move many bipartisan bills with our Republican colleagues. I’ve enjoyed working with my friend and colleague, Chairman Frank Lucas, very much this past year. I expect that as we enter 2024, we will continue to deliver bipartisan solutions for Americans and support our leadership in space and aeronautics,” she said in a statement.
Rep. Eric Sorensen (D-IL), who just wrapped up his first year in Congress and as ranking member of the panel’s space subcommittee, also praised the committee for its bipartisan work in 2023.
“I know the committee will continue to play a vital role in moving important legislation forward to allow our nation to expand leadership in human exploration, research, and discovery. I am excited about finding additional ways to support NASA’s global leadership including the Artemis and Moon to Mars programs, while simultaneously building a diverse STEM pipeline and workforce, and fostering growth of our commercial space sector,” he said in a statement to Payload.
Budget battles: Congress’ first order of business is passing appropriations bills for fiscal 2024 to keep the government funded. Under last year’s two-tired continuing resolution, funding for space programs within the federal government will run out at different times:
- FAA money under the Transportation Department will run out on Jan. 19.
- Other space offices, including NASA, DoD, and the Commerce Department, will end on Feb. 2.
Open question: Another question before Congress is which agencies should be in charge of regulating and approving novel space missions, such as commercial space stations or in-space servicing. The White House has put forth its own proposal, which splits responsibility between the FAA and the Commerce Department.
That plan has already met some pushback from industry groups—and looks quite different from the idea put forth by the House, which would designate the Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commerce as the single point of authorization for novel space missions.