What’s Happening in Space Policy April 9-15, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy April 9-15, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of April 9-15, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are on spring break for one more week (except for pro forma sessions), returning on April 17.

During the Week

First, a word about Starship. Rumors have been swirling for days about when SpaceX might launch the fully stacked Starship for the first time. Lots of excitement about this day or that based on dates posted on the FAA’s Current Operations Plan Advisory or tweets like these from Musk.

The “next week” comment was written on April 6 so refers to this coming week. Could it happen this week?  Maybe. Maybe not. As he said they are awaiting regulatory approval from the FAA. Today’s FAA Current Operations Plan Advisory continues to show April 17 — next week — as a possible date, but that’s all it is, a possibility. The launch certainly is getting close, but we don’t want to feed the frenzy by posting a launch date on our Calendar until we have more definitive information. Stay tuned!

But there is a terrific launch coming up this week — ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer or JUICE. As we explained in last week’s What’s Happening, it will visit three of Jupiter’s icy moons — Ganymede, Callisto and Europa — once it arrives in 2031. It’s a long journey. At last week’s pre-launch press conference, ESA officials were asked why NASA’s Europa Clipper, scheduled for launch next year, will get there in 2030, beating JUICE by a year. The answer was simply that Falcon Heavy is a more powerful rocket than Ariane 5 so Clipper doesn’t need as many gravity assists. JUICE requires five.

It all starts Thursday morning at the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana. The instantaneous launch window is at 8:15 am Eastern Daylight Time (9:15 am local time at the launch site). The launch will be broadcast on ESA TV beginning at 7:45 am EDT (13:45 Central European Summer Time). It will take 99 minutes before the solar arrays deploy after which ESA will hold a post-launch press conference. That’s at 10:30 am EDT (16:30 CEST) and also will be on ESA TV and YouTube.

Source: ESA’s JUICE launch kit.

Of course there are many other interesting events this week.

Wednesday is the anniversary of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin opening the era of human spaceflight when he made one orbit of Earth on April 12, 1961.  The Russians call it Cosmonautics Day, but elsewhere it’s “Yuri’s Night.” Events are held globally on or around April 12 to celebrate his achievement and the space program in general. The Yuri’s Night website has a list.

Richard DalBello, Director of NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce, will be busy that day. Among other things, OSC is tasked with becoming the government’s interface with civil and commercial space operators on Space Situational Awareness (SSA) — monitoring where space objects are and issuing collision avoidance warnings. They are beginning work on a Traffic Coordination System for Space, or TraCSS.

On Wednesday morning, DalBello and Sandy Magnus, a former NASA astronaut who recently became Chief Engineer for TraCSS, will give a virtual briefing on the public comments they received from their Request for Information on Basic Space Situational Awareness Services.

Two hours later, DalBello will be a speaker at Cleveland State University’s Global Space Law Center symposium on Legal and Policy Issues in the New Orbital Economy. The virtual symposium features five panels starting with Space Traffic Management. DalBello will be on a panel with Jennifer Manner from EchoStar, Antonino Salmeri from Lunar Policy Platform and Brian Weeden from the Secure World Foundation. That’s followed by panels on Orbital Human Spaceflight & Private Space Stations; Rendezvous, Proximity Operations, and Docking; Orbital Debris, ASAT Tests and Decommissioning Satellites; and Liability, Insurance & Dispute Resolution. Those panels also have terrific speaker lineups. (Full discloure: your SpacePolicyOnline.com editor is on the second one.)

One other event we’ll note here is the FCC’s inauguration of the new Space Bureau. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel is expanding the Commission’s involvement in space activities and reorganizing the bureau that historically handled satellite matters. The International Bureau has been split into the new Space Bureau and an Office of International Affairs. The change is effective tomorrow (Monday) and the FCC will hold an event on Tuesday afternoon to “discuss the goals of the reorganization and celebrate the staff who will carry these important missions forward and those who worked on the transition.”

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.

Tuesday, April 11

Tuesday-Wednesday, April 11-12

Tuesday-Thursday, April 11-13

Wednesday, April 12

Wednesday-Thursday, April 12-13

Thursday, April 13

Thursday-Friday, April 13-14

Friday-Monday, April 14-17


This article has been updated.

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