What's Happening in Space Policy: April 14-19, 2014

What's Happening in Space Policy: April 14-19, 2014

Here is our list of space policy-related events for the upcoming week and any insight we can offer about them.   The House and Senate are on Spring Break until April 28.

During the Week

SpaceX was given the go-ahead today (Sunday) to proceed with launch of its third operational cargo mission (CRS-3) to the International Space Station (ISS) tomorrow, April 14, at 4:58 pm EDT.   Failure of a computer aboard the ISS late Friday meant ISS mission managers needed to assess whether the computer — a Multiplexer/DeMultiplexer (MDM) — had to be replaced before the Dragon spacecraft arrives at ISS.  The MDM controls some robotic operations aboard ISS that are needed to berth Dragon to an ISS docking port.   Some ISS cargo spacecraft (Russia’s Progress and Europe’s ATV) dock with ISS using their own systems.  Others (Japan’s HTV, Dragon, and Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus) berth with ISS.  That means they position themselves close to the space station, but then the robotic Canadarm2 must reach out and grapple them and move them over to a docking port when they are “installed” onto the port.  Canadarm2 is fine. The primary MDM is fine.  It is only the backup MDM that is malfunctioning.   NASA is planning a spacewalk to replace that unit on April 22.   Assuming the launch goes as scheduled, Dragon will arrive at the ISS Wednesday morning around 7:00 am EDT.

One interesting aspect of this launch is unrelated to the ISS cargo mission.  SpaceX wants to make the Falcon 9 rocket reusable.  This launch will test landing legs on the Falcon 9’s first stage.  After its work is done of getting the second stage and Dragon on their way, the first stage will come back down vertically and deploy the four 25-foot long landing legs.  The rocket stage will be over the ocean, not land, and will fall over into the water, but not before SpaceX collects the data it needs.  A SpaceX official said the company gives the experiment only a 30-40 percent chance of success, but someday Falcon 9 first stages could return to a landing pad for reuse.

Apart from the SpaceX events, a number of NASA Advisory Council meetings are on tap this week, along with a Marshall Institute panel discussion on the scientific, technical and legal aspects of  “Human Settlement in Space:  Bases in Near Space.”  That’s on Thursday.  On Saturday, the irrepressible Mike Gold of Bigelow Aerospace has organized an out-of-the-box panel discussion at an unusual (for the space crowd) venue — the Awesome Con event at the Washington Convention Center.  Awesome Con is a three-day “celebration of popular culture” and Gold’s panel will discuss “From Dreams to Reality: How Science Fiction Has Served as an Inspiration for Lifelong Careers and Activities in Space Exploration.”  He’s got a great group of folks on the panel:  himself, former astronaut Pam Melroy, Tim Hughes from SpaceX and Peter Marquez from Planetary Resources. (Peter formerly worked for Orbital Sciences and before that was best known as “the space guy” at the White House National Security Council who gets the credit, along with Damon Wells, then with OSTP, for getting President Obama’s 2010 National Space Policy completed and released just 17 months after the President took office.)  Sounds like fun!

The rescheduled GEOINT 2013 conference also is taking place in Tampa, FL,  Monday-Thursday.   The conference was originally scheduled for early October 2013, but suffered from Congress’s decision to shut the government down for two weeks.  No government employees could go to the conference as either speakers or attendees, so it had to be rescheduled (we can only imagine how much that must have cost — ouch).   Anyway, it looks like an amazing program with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Director of the National-Geospatial Intelligence Agency Letitia Long, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and Director of the National Reconnaissance Office Betty Sapp among the impressive lineup of speakers.

Here’s the list of what we know about as of Sunday afternoon.

Monday, April 14

Monday-Tuesday, April 14-15

Monday-Wednesday, April 14-17

Tuesday, April 15

Tuesday-Wednesday, April 15-16

Wednesday, April 16

Wednesday-Thursday, April 16-17

  • NASA Advisory Council, NASA HQ, Washington, DC
    • Wednesday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
    • Thursday, 9:00 am – 12:30 pm

Thursday, April 17

Saturday, April 19

  • Space panel at Awesome Con “From Dreams to Reality:  How Science Fiction Has Served as an Inspiration for Lifelong Careers and Activities in Space Exploration,” Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC, 2:45-4:00 pm ET


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