What’s Happening in Space Policy April 21-27, 2024

What’s Happening in Space Policy April 21-27, 2024

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of April 21-27, 2024 and any insight we can offer about them. The House is in recess except for pro forma sessions. The Senate’s schedule is uncertain.

During the Week

The House and Senate both were supposed to be in recess this week, but delays in House consideration of the national security supplemental disrupted those plans. The House finally adjourned on Saturday after passing four separate bills to provide funding for Ukraine, Israel, and the Indo-Pacific, and to force a sale of TikTok and seize frozen Russian assets to pay for rebuilding Ukraine. They are being combined into one (H.R. 815) for consideration by the Senate. Absent unanimous consent, Senate procedures require certain time periods to elapse before a bill gets to a final vote. The Senate will meet on Tuesday to complete one of those steps. Its schedule thereafter is uncertain. It has been debating the FAA Reauthorization bill, so could make more progress on that.

But there are no space-related hearings scheduled. Thank goodness, because it is a really, really busy week already. Our calendar tells the tale. We count 31 events as of now (Sunday morning).


We’re going to highlight just four of those lest this missive get too long. All the events are listed below and the first 20 are on our home page. The full list (shown above), which is clickable, is on our calendar of events page.

First, China will launch their next space station crew on Thursday. It’s the beginning of another crew rotation. The Shenzhou-18 crew will trade places with the three-man Shenzhou-17 crew on Tiangong-3, also called the China Space Station (CSS). As usual, China has not officially announced the launch date or time, or the crew. They usually do that about 24 hours before launch, but the April 25 launch date is widely reported and Bob Christy of @OrbitalFocus calculates the launch time as about 12:58 UTC, which is 8:58 am EDT.

China’s Xinhua news agency has published photos of the rocket and spacecraft being transferred to the launch pad, they just haven’t made an official announcement. They say only it will be launched “at an appropriate time in the near future.”

Shenzhou-18 spacecraft atop a Long March 2F rocket at the Jiuquan launch site, April 17, 2024. (Photo credit: Wang Jiangbo/Xinhua)

China celebrates its National Day of Spaceflight on April 24, the anniversary of the launch of their first satellite, Dong Fang Hong-1 (The East is Red), on April 24, 1970. The China Space Conference takes place during the week in Wuhan.

Thursday is also the day that Boeing’s Starliner Crew Flight Test (CFT) crew arrives at Kennedy Space Center in preparation for their May 6 launch to the International Space Station. Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams will touch down at KSC about 1:00 pm ET and be welcomed by KSC officials and the media. NASA TV will cover it. A media telecon will take place later in the day following the Flight Test Readiness Review. It’s scheduled for 6:00 pm ET, but that could change if they need longer to complete the review. Listen on NASA Live.

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore (L) and Suni Williams (R), the crew of the Boeing Starliner Crew Flight Test (CFT). Credit: NASA

This test flight has been a long time coming. Boeing and SpaceX started their commercial crew programs at the same time in 2014, but SpaceX’s test flight, Demo-2, lifted off four years ago and SpaceX now routinely launches Crew Dragon both for NASA and private customers. NASA wanted two commercial crew providers to provide redundancy and ensure competition. If all goes well with Starliner CFT, they will finally have it.

On a totally different note, the third event we’ll highlight is the Aerospace Industries Association’s webinar on the national security space budget request. That’s on Wednesday afternoon. AIA’s companion webinar on the civil space budget request a couple of weeks ago was excellent so we have high expectations for this one, too. It’s not just budget numbers. Todd Harrison, formerly with CSIS and now with American Enterprise Institute, and the Aerospace Corporation’s Sam Wilson will provide their analysis and perspective on what it all means. AIA’s Steve Jordan Tomaszewski is the moderator.

There are SO MANY other really interesting meetings this week. We wish we could highlight them all, but we’ll stop with this last one. NASA’s Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) is meeting Wednesday-Friday here in D.C. and there’s a joint workshop the prior two days between MEPAG and the Extraterrestrial Materials Program Assessment Group (ExMAG). Both meetings will discuss Mars Sample Return, which should be especially interesting following NASA’s announcement last week that they are seeking innovative ideas on how to get that done in a timely, affordable manner. There’s a lot of concern in the planetary science community, including those who want to do other Mars science, that MSR not swallow the entire planetary science budget. Yet there’s substantial agreement that it’s really important to bring back the samples being collected right now by the Perseverance rover. Concerns about MSR’s cost have been around for a long time, but the budget caps set by last year’s Fiscal Responsibility Act make the choices even more difficult. Both meetings have a virtual option.

Those and the many 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.

Sunday-Tuesday, April 21-23

Monday, April 22

Monday-Tuesday, April 22-23

Monday-Thursday, April 22-25

Monday-Friday, April 22-26 (continued from last week)

Tuesday, April 23

Tuesday-Thursday, April 23-25

Tuesday-Friday, April 23-26

Wednesday, April 24

Wednesday-Thursday, April 24-25

Wednesday-Friday, April 24-26

Thursday, April 25

Thursday-Friday, April 25-26

Friday, April 26

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