What’s Happening in Space Policy April 17-24, 2022

What’s Happening in Space Policy April 17-24, 2022

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week plus a day of April 17-24, 2022 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in recess, except for pro forma sessions.

During the Week

The Artemis I rocket rolled out to Launch Complex 39-B on March 17-18, but now will be rolled back to fix problems discovered during the first three attempts to conduct the Wet Dress Rehearsal test.

NASA’s surprise announcement last night that it is rolling the Artemis I rocket back to the Vehicle Assembly Building is the big news of the moment. NASA will hold a media telecon tomorrow (Monday) afternoon to discuss the decision. After the Wet Dress Rehearsal test had to be scrubbed for a third time on Thursday, NASA officials said it was possible it could resume this Thursday. They did sound quite tentative, but the decision to roll back to the VAB was quite unexpected. NASA’s press release says that while the vehicle is getting its helium check valve replaced and hydrogen leak fixed, they will “review schedules and options to demonstrate propellant loading operations ahead of launch.”

They didn’t say the roll-back will begin this week — hopefully they’ll lay out the plan tomorrow — but the human spaceflight program will be busy in any case.

The Axiom-1 private astronaut crew is getting ready to return to Earth on Wednesday while NASA’s Crew-4 prepares to launch on Saturday. It’s all weather dependent, of course, but here’s the current schedule.

Axiom Space and NASA will provide live coverage of Axiom-1’s farewell ceremony and undocking from ISS on Tuesday morning. Axiom Space and SpaceX will webcast the splashdown Wednesday morning at 7:19 am ET, followed by a post-landing teleconference.

Crew-4, L-R: Bob Hines (NASA), Samantha Cristoforetti (ESA), Jessica Watkins (NASA), Kjell Lindgren (NASA). Credit: NASA

Separately, NASA has a series of events for the Crew-4 mission, starting with their arrival at KSC tomorrow; media events with the crew or NASA officials on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; launch on Saturday at 5:26 am ET followed by a post-launch press conference; and docking early Sunday morning. We’re including that in this week’s What’s Happening since it will be over before we publish our next issue.

Crew-4 is one of the regular crew rotation flights. NASA’s Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins and ESA’s Samantha Cristoforetti will replace NASA’s Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron and ESA’s Matthias Maurer after a 5-day handover of operations.

Meanwhile, two Russian cosmonauts, Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev will perform the first of two spacewalks tomorrow. The second is on April 28. They are activating the European Robotic Arm on the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module that arrived last summer. NASA TV will have live coverage of both spacewalks. Tomorrow’s starts at 10:25 am ET and NASA TV coverage begins at 10:00 am ET.

Vice President Kamala Harris.

We don’t have details, but Vice President Kamala Harris, who chairs the White House National Space Council, will visit Vandenberg Space Force Base tomorrow. Her office put out a notice last week that said she’ll get briefings and make remarks, but not whether her remarks will be broadcast. If so, they might be on WhiteHouse.gov/live, DOD’s live webcast site, and/or C-SPAN.  If we get any more information, we’ll add it to our Calendar entry. (UPDATE: Her visit begins at 3:15 pm PACIFIC Time. Her remarks at 5:15 Pacific (8:15 pm Eastern) will be livestreamed on WhiteHouse.gov/live. See our Calendar entry for more information. DepSecDef Kathleen Hicks will be travelling with Harris.)

The Secure World Foundation (SWF) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will hold a joint seminar on Wednesday to discuss their complementary reports on counterspace activities around the world. These annual reports are crucial to understanding what’s going on with the full range of counterspace systems, not just direct ascent anti-satellite weapons that make headlines, but all the other ways one country tries to undermine another’s space systems. The event is in-person at CSIS’s HQ in Washington, DC, but will be webcast as well. Todd Harrison, Kaitlyn Johnson and Makena Young from CSIS, and Victoria Samson and Brian Weeden from SWF, will be joined by Michael Mineiro from Hawkeye 360. Should be terrific.

This is one of those weeks where there are so many events they don’t all appear on the list on our home page, which only shows the next 20. Be sure to click on “View All Events” or see the list below. We wish we could highlight them all — there are some really excellent ones this week — but in the interest of time we will highlight just one more.

On Tuesday, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine will release the next Decadal Survey for Planetary Science and Astrophysics at a hybrid event. The in-person meeting is at the National Academy of Sciences building on Constitution Avenue, but only a limited number of participants can be accommodated. A link to the webcast is on the event’s website. This is one of five Decadal Surveys the Academies conduct for each of NASA’s science disciplines. Committees of volunteer experts identify the key science questions in their field and reach consensus recommendations on how to address them over the next 10 years — a decade, hence the term Decadal Survey. NASA tries to follow the recommendations and Congress relies on them, too. The Survey results are always eagerly awaited.

Speaking of Congress, the House and Senate are still on Spring Break this week. The Senate returns next Monday, the House next Tuesday.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning are shown below. Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar, or changes to these.

Monday, April 18

Tuesday, April 19

Wednesday, April 20

Thursday, April 21

Friday, April 22

Saturday, April 23

Sunday, April 24

  • Crew-4 Docking at ISS (NASA TV coverage continues from April 23)
    • 6:00 am ET: Docking
    • ~7:50 am ET: Hatches open
    • 8:15 am ET: Welcome ceremony


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