What’s Happening in Space Policy April 4-10, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy April 4-10, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of April 4-10, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in recess except for pro forma sessions.

During the Week

It’s still Spring Break for some, including Congress, but most organizations seem to be back to work this week.

It was a nail biter all last week, but in the end the Biden Administration did not, in fact, release its FY2022 discretionary budget request. Instead the White House focused on the roll-out of the Biden “infrastructure” plan (formally the “American Jobs Plan”).  Now the rumors are that the budget will out be THIS week. We note that the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sudip Parikh, is scheduled to talk to the National Press Club tomorrow (Monday) morning on Biden’s budget requests for science, but can’t help but wonder if it’ll be out by then.

We continue to eagerly await it to find out what Biden’s space priorities are.  We asked NASA if it would have its usual budget briefing to explain the request. The answer is no.  A spokesperson said “We’re planning on hosting a press conference down the road after the full budget is rolled out, but not for the discretionary/skinny budget.” Which is too bad. Those briefings are really helpful even though we realize NASA probably isn’t ready to answer a lot of questions about Artemis while the 90-day review is underway.

Speaking of human spaceflight, the International Space Station (ISS) is a busy place again this week. Tomorrow, Crew-1 will get in their Crew Dragon Resilience and take a short ride around the ISS to dock at a different port. It’s only a 45-minute excursion, but all four crew members (NASA’s Hopkins, Glover and Walker, and JAXA’s Noguchi) have to be aboard in the unlikely event they are unable to redock and have to return to Earth. Resilience is their ride home so they go where it goes.

The ISS crew is undergoing a wholesale change-over this month. On Friday (April 9), the new three-person Soyuz MS-18 crew arrives (two Russians, one American). A week later (April 16), the current three-person Soyuz MS-17 crew (two Russians, one American) goes home. The week after that (April 22) the four-person “Crew-2” (two Americans, one Japanese, one European) arrives on a Crew Dragon. Soon after that Crew-1 comes home in Resilience. It’s going to be a little crowded during the handovers, but we’re sure they’ve figured out where everyone will bunk for the night.

Exciting things are happening on Mars, too.  At the moment, the tiny Ingenuity helicopter will make its first flight a week from today (April 11) and the data will be back on Earth on April 12 — coincidentally the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s history-making first spaceflight and the 40th anniversary of the first U.S. space shuttle mission. That’s all for next week’s chapter of What’s Happening, but the online NASA TV schedule shows an event this Friday about getting ready for Ingenuity’s flight. Not sure if it’s a pre-flight press conference or just a pre-taped overview, but we’ll post whever we learn in our calendar entry. NASA had been targeting April 8 for Ingenuity’s first flight, but it slipped to April 11 and could slip again. They’re taking it one step at a time. Yesterday, Ingenuity was lowered the last few inches from Perseverance’s “belly” onto the Martian surface, so now it has to fend for itself.

Among the other really interesting events this week is Thursday’s “The Dark Arts in Space: Developments in Counterspace Weapons.”  That’s a joint event between the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Secure World Foundation (SWF) each of which publish complementary annual reports on space threats/global counterspace capabilities. The two reports were released last week (SWF; CSIS).  On Thursday, four of the authors will discuss what was new in the past year and what to keep our eyes out for now: Victoria Samson and Brian Weeden from SWF and Lt. Col. Joe Moye and Makena Young from CSIS.  And note that next week (April 15) there is a separate joint webinar on how to defend against those counterspace weapons.  Both webinars should be really good.

The 23rd IAA Humans in Space conference takes place this week (Monday-Thursday). It’s a hybrid conference, with some attending in-person at a hotel in Moscow, while others participate virtually. We assume the agenda is in Moscow Standard Time (Moscow uses it year-round). That is 7 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time, so a lot of the sessions are in the wee hours overnight here in the States. Each day starts at 9:00 am MST (2:00 am EDT), while ending times vary. Agenda looks really good if you’re a U.S. night-owl or live in a more conducive time zone.

The Maryland Space Business Roundtable (MSBR) will hold a webinar with Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD) on Tuesday.  His district is very close to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He is not on any of the committees that oversee NASA or NOAA and his webpage does not include anything about science or space as among his key issues, but he is on the House Armed Services Committee. Will be interesting to hear what his views are on space. NASA and NOAA need all the support they can get.

Space News will hold an extremely timely webinar on Wednesday — SPACs in Space: A New Frontier in Investment.  From what we understand so far, Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) have been around for a long time, but they are all the rage for space companies right now. Space News is bringing together a top-notch group including Chris Quilty from Quilty Analytics to explain and discuss SPACs and space with reporters Jeff Foust and Jason Rainbow. Really looking forward to understanding why SPACs suddenly are so popular.

The last event we have time to highlight (though there are many other good ones!) will be held by a group that is new to space issues, The Hague Institute for Global Justice (THIGJ). On Wednesday, it will have a webinar on “The Role of Civil Society in the Future Space Enterprise.”  Among the speakers is Ken Hodgkins, who retired from the State Department last year after a long career representing the United States to the U.N. Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and other international organizations. He’s a member of THIGJ’s Honorary Advisory Group. The group’s president is Lady Sohair Salam Saber, who identifies herself on her LinkedIn page as a philanthropist and businesswoman. Joining Ken on the panel are Sergio Camacho, Secretary General, Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education for Latin America and Caribbean (and former director of the U.N. Office of Outer Space Affairs, which administers COPUOS); Dan Dumbacher, Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics; and Jean-Jacques Tortora, Director of the European Space Policy Institute.  Impressive line-up.

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.

Monday, April 5

Monday-Thursday, April 5-8

Tuesday, April 6

Tuesday-Wednesday, April 6-7

Wednesday, April 7

Wednesday-Thursday, April 7-8

Thursday, April 8

Friday, April 9

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