What’s Happening in Space Policy April 30-May 6, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy April 30-May 6, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of April 30-May 6, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The Senate is in session this week. The House is in recess except for pro forma sessions.

During the Week

With the House in recess, the pace of activities is a little less frenetic this week than last. But the Senate is in session and hearings on the FY2024 budget request for space activities continue.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has a double-header on Tuesday. In the morning, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown and Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman will be back together again for another joint appearance to discuss the FY2024 Department of the Air Force request. The U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force are both part of the Department of the Air Force.

AF Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown, SecAF Frank Kendall, and USSF Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman testified to the House Armed Services Committee last week and will testify to the Senate Armed Sevices Committee this week.

They’ve testified to the House and Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittees and the House Armed Services Committee already. Their consistent message is that the budget cuts adopted by the House last week in the Limit, Save, Grow Act would have devastating consequences for the U.S. military. The legislation would cut federal spending back to FY2022 levels and hold increases to 1 percent per year for the next 10 years in exchange for raising the debt limit until March 2024 or until it increases by another $1.5 trillion, whichever comes first. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has already said he will not bring that bill up in the Senate, leaving the debt limit debate in the hands of President Biden and Speaker McCarthy. On top of the worries about the United States defaulting on its debt, there is widespread concern that a stalemate will ensue over FY2024 appropriations.

It’s rare for Congress to get appropriations done by the beginning of the fiscal year (October 1) in any case, but the worry is they won’t get done at all and agencies will have to operate under a CR for all of FY2024. It’s not only the amount of money, but old programs can’t end and new programs can’t start under a CR.

The impact of a CR would be felt across all the services, but Saltzman is making the point that it would be particularly detrimental to the U.S. Space Force, which is still in its formative years. The President is requesting a 15 percent increase  for FY2024 for a wide-ranging set of priorities, all of which would be left in limbo under a CR. Saltzman and the others almost certainly will continue emphasizing that *timely* appropriations are essential.

John Plumb, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, shown here testifying to the Senate Armed Services Committee as part of his nomination process in January 2022. He is the first person to hold that job, which was created by Congress in the same law that established the U.S. Space Force.  He’ll testify this week about the FY2024 DOD space budget request.

In the afternoon, SASC’s Strategic Forces subcommittee will take a look at the entire DOD space budget. Space Force is the largest component of that, but there are other parts of DOD with space activities as well. The Space Force’s budget request is $30 billion, but DOD’s total space request is $33 billion. John Plumb, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, will talk about the bigger picture. He’ll be joined by Air Force Assistant Secretary for Space Acquisition and Integration Frank Calvelli, and Space Force’s Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David D. Thompson.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which was created by Congress in 2000 and holds hearings on the Hill like a congressional committee, will have one on Thursday. The topic is “Rule by Law: China’s Increasingly Global Legal Reach.” Brian Weeden from the Secure World Foundation (SWF) will testify as part of a panel on “The CCP’s Violation of International Laws and Norms.” Weeden is particularly expert on space debris issues and the thousands of pieces created by China’s 2007 antisatellite test and what China’s been doing since.

Weeden will also participate in another D.C. event this week. On Wednesday evening, he, Kari Bingen from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Aaron Bateman from the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University will discuss Space Security in an Era of Rising Competition. SWF and CSIS each just published their annual reviews of Global Counterspace Capabilities and Space Threat Assessment respectively.

Perhaps one of the more intriguing events is taking place in the Maldives Tuesday through Friday — the first Space for Island Nations conference and the first conference hosted by the Maldives Space Research Organisation. There’s a virtual option if you pay the registration fee. The Maldives are in the Indian/Maldives time zone (UTC+5 which is EDT+9) so the sessions begin at midnight and end around 9:00 am EDT. But it does have some interesting speakers including Victoria Samson from the Secure World Foundation, Pete Worden from Breakthrough Initiatives, and Remco Timmermans from SpaceWatch Global.

A view over the Indian Ocean as seen from the space shuttle. The bottom portion of the photo shows the complete chain of the atolls that form the Maldive Islands. Off to the left are the southern portion of India, the Palk Strait, and the island of Sri Lanka. Image courtesy of NASA. Source: CIA World Factbook

Also in international space news, on Wednesday morning, the Czech Republic will become the 24th country to sign the Artemis Accords. NASA is hosting a signing ceremony that will be broadcast on NASA TV and NASA’s other media outlets. The Czech Republic’s Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský will be joined by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Oceans and International and Scientific Affairs Jennifer R. “J.R.” Littlejohn, and Czech Ambassador to the United States Miloslav Stašek.

NASA’s Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG) meets Tuesday-Wednesday at the Applied Physics Lab (APL) in Laurel, MD and online. Among the presentations on Wednesday is one by ESA’s Olivier Witasse with an update on the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission that launched two weeks ago. ESA said on Friday that the 16-meter long Radar for Icy Moons Exploration (RIME) antenna has not fully deloyed. They seemed optimistic about being able to shake it loose. Hopefully Witasse will have some good news to share.

Other updates that day include JPL’s Bob Pappalardo on Europa Clipper, APL’s Zibi Turtle on Dragonfly, and SwRI’s Alan Stern on New Horizons. Stern is pushing back on a NASA proposal to shift extended operations of New Horizons from the Planetary Science Division to the Heliophysics Division. NASA argues the spacecraft is unlikely to discover significantly more information about Kuiper Belt objects but, like the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft, could collect important data about the influence of the Sun at the far edge of the solar system. Sterns insists the planetary mission isn’t over yet.

On Friday, George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute will host newly-elected Japan Diet Member Motoko Mizuno for a discussion on Japan Space Policy in Transition. She worked at JAXA (and its predecessor NASDA) for more than two decades, including serving as Manager of the Legal and Compliance Section. She’s also a Lecturer at the University of Tokyo on topics including a legal framework for a moon base. The event will be webcast.

Lots more on tap this week, of course, including another spacewalk at the International Space Station (the Russian spacewalk scheduled for last week was postponed to this week) on Wednesday and relocating Crew Dragon from one docking port to another on Saturday.

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-Tuesday, May 1-2

Tuesday, May 2

Tuesday-Wednesday, May 2-3

Tuesday-Thursday, May 2-4

Tuesday-Friday, May 2-5

Wednesday, May 3

Wednesday-Thursday, May 3-4

Thursday, May 4

Friday, May 5

Saturday, May 6


This article has been updated.

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