Weekly Roundup for SpacePolicyOnline.com: November 6-19, 2023

Weekly Roundup for SpacePolicyOnline.com: November 6-19, 2023

Here are links to all the articles published on SpacePolicyOnline.com in the last TWO weeks, November 6-19, 2023, including our “What’s Happening in Space Policy” for this coming week. Click on each title to read the entire article.

What’s Happening in Space Policy November 19-December 2, 2023

November 19, 2023.  Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the next TWO weeks, November 19-December 2, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in recess this week and will be back the week of November 27.

Starship Gets Further on Second Test, But Still Short of Goal

November 18, 2023. The second orbital flight test of SpaceX’s Starship rocket got further than the first, but still fell short of the goal.  The giant rocket lifted off and the two stages separated, but the first stage then exploded. The second stage continued firing for many minutes, but the Automated Termination System triggered as the engines were close to the end of their burn. SpaceX seemed delighted with the results anyway having gotten as far as they did.  Now they will work to find out what happened and try again. The FAA licenses commercial space launches and SpaceX will need a new license before the next flight.

At Least 15 Starship Launches Needed to Execute Artemis III Lunar Landing

November 17, 2023. SpaceX will need to launch at least 15 Starships to execute the Artemis III lunar landing NASA said today. Starship cannot fly directly to the Moon, but must refuel in Earth orbit before setting out for deep space. The Starship Human Landing System is just one vehicle requiring a single launch, but adding in all the launches needed for the fuel depot takes the total required into the “high teens.”

Senate Passes CR Ending Shutdown Threat Until Early 2024

November 15, 2023. The Senate passed a Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded until early 2024 late tonight. The unusual “laddered” bill passed the House yesterday and sets two different dates for extending FY2023 funding as work continues on FY2024 appropriations. Despite initial reluctance, House Democrats and Senate Democrats and Republicans ultimately went along with the House Republican idea in order to avoid a government shutdown at the end of this week.

Cathy Koerner to Take Over Artemis Program as Jim Free Moves Up to AA

November 15, 2023.  NASA’s Artemis program is about to get a new head, Cathy Koerner, as Jim Free moves up to Associate Administrator, the agency’s top civil servant. Bob Cabana, the current AA, is retiring. Koerner is Free’s deputy and will provide continuity for managing the program to return astronauts to the lunar surface in the 2025-2026 time frame.

FAA Approves Second Starship Test Flight, SpaceX Targeting Friday

November 15, 2023. The FAA said today that SpaceX has met all the requirements to obtain a license to launch the next Starship test flight. SpaceX quickly announced it is targeting Friday, November 17. The two-hour launch window at Boca Chica, Texas opens at 7:00 am Central Time (8:00 am Eastern).  SpaceX will webcast the launch beginning approximately 30 minutes before liftoff. [Update, November 16: The launch has been postponed to November 18 because a grid fin actuator must be replaced.]

White House Reveals Its Mission Authorization Plan for Novel Space Activities

November 15, 2023. Less than an hour before a House committee marks up legislation expanding the Department of Commerce’s regulatory authority for space activities, the White House is revealing its own plan for who should be in charge of “mission authorization” for novel space activities. After years of debate, House Republicans and the Biden-Harris Administration have come up with different ideas on how to ensure the U.S. abides by its international obligations under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty without stifling the commercial space industry.

House Passes CR to Keep Government Open Until Early 2024

November 14, 2023. The House easily passed a new Continuing Resolution today to keep the government operating after Friday.  The situation unfolded just like the last shutdown crisis, with Democrats deciding to support legislation introduced by the Speaker of the House, providing enough votes for it to pass despite Republican opposition. The bill now goes to the Senate where Democrats and Republicans have signalled  support.

Space Companies Join Movement to Stop Debris-Producing ASAT Tests

November 14, 2023. Today the Secure World Foundation announced that 26 space companies from 10 countries have signed a statement supporting international efforts to stop direct-ascent antisatellite tests that create space debris that imperils commercial space activities. The statement urges more countries to make the commitment not to launch DA-ASAT tests and SWF encourages more companies to sign the statement to help ensure predictability, sustainability, and safety in space.

NASA “Pauses” Mars Sample Return Mission While Assessing Options

November 13, 2023. NASA officials told an advisory committee today they are pausing the Mars Sample Return program as they assess alternative architectures in the wake of increased costs and constrained budgets. A recent independent review put the cost at $8-9.6 billion, far above earlier estimates. Although the House Appropriations Committee signalled support, the Senate Appropriations Committee did not. Concerned the Senate position may prevail when NASA’s FY2024 budget is finalized, they decided to take steps now to reduce near-term spending while determining a path forward.

What’s Happening in Space Policy November 12-18, 2023

November 12, 2023. Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of November 12-18, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

Nelson Confirms Funding for Deorbit Vehicle in Supplemental as Appropriations Drama Continues with Shutdown Looming

November 11, 2023. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson confirms that President Biden is requesting initial funding for the ISS Deorbit Vehicle in a recent supplemental funding request. NASA’s safety advisory panel is adamant the vehicle must not be delayed. When Congress will get around to dealing with supplementals is a huge question since it is struggling just to pass another Continuing Resolution by Friday to keep the government open. New House Speaker Mike Johnson released his proposal today — a “laddered” CR extending funding for some agencies through January and others through February — a novel approach certain to face opposition.  Johnson got a taste of the challenges ahead last week when he had to pull two appropriations bills from the floor when he couldn’t garner enough support from his own party. Nonetheless, he plans to bring up the FY2024 bill that funds NASA and NOAA this week.

ESA Joins U.S.-European Starlab Commercial Space Station Project

November 9, 2023. ESA just signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. company Voyager Space and Europe’s Airbus to collaborate on the Starlab commercial space station project. The announcement comes three days after ESA announced plans to build a commercial cargo return vehicle to take supplies to and from Earth orbit starting with the International Space Station and later commercial stations built to replace it.  Apparently they had the Voyager-Airbus Starlab in mind.

Virgin Galactic Goes All In on New Delta Spaceship

November 8, 2023.  After finally reaching a regular cadence of launches, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic will abandon the Unity spaceship after just two or three more flights as it shifts resources into the new Delta vehicle that it expects to be more profitable. Delta will be able to carry 50 percent more passengers and launch twice a week, but getting it ready means cutbacks both to Unity flights and the company’s workforce.

ESA: Time to Assert Europe’s “Rightful Place” in Space

November 6, 2023. The ministers of the European Space Agency’s member states today committed to a “paradigm shift” in the European space program and “asserting Europe’s rightful place in the world.” Meeting as part of a Space Summit in Seville, Spain in tandem with the European Union’s space program, the ESA Council declared it will lift Europe’s space ambitions for a “green and sustainable future, access to space, and space exploration.” Among the new initiatives is a commercial cargo return vehicle for the ISS that could evolve into a crewed capsule.

Weekly Roundup for SpacePolicyOnline.com: October 30-November 5, 2023

November 6, 2023. Here are links to all the articles published on SpacePolicyOnline.com in the last week, October 30-November 5, 2023, including our “What’s Happening in Space Policy” for this coming week. Click on each title to read the entire article.

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