What’s Happening in Space Policy August 13-19, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy August 13-19, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of August 13-19, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in recess until September except for pro forma sessions.

During the Week

At last, we have a relatively quiet week. Things will get busy again next week, so enjoy some time to relax.

That’s not to say NOTHING is happening, though!

Tomorrow (Monday), NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, NASA Chief Scientist and Senior Climate Advisor Kate Calvin, and other officials from NASA and NOAA will hold a news conference to discuss the latest climate data. NASA says the briefing will “underscore the breadth of its research, technology, and development aimed at measuring and mitigating climate change” as much of the world broils. Watch on NASA TV, the NASA App or NASA Live.

In this image, our Sun’s glint beams off the Indian Ocean as the International Space Station orbited about 270 miles above the Earth near western Australia. Credit: NASA

Tomorrow and Tuesday, three entrepreneurial space companies are holding their 2nd quarter 2023 financial results telecons: Astra, Intuitive Machines, and Terran Orbital. All should be interesting.

As Jeff Foust at Space News reported earlier this month, Astra just laid off a quarter of its workforce and reassigned others to focus on satellite propulsion instead of development of Rocket 4. In better news, Terran Orbital is building satellite buses for the Space Development Agency’s Transport Layer under contract to Lockheed Martin, which just announced it will open a new processing facility for them in Colorado according to Rachel Jewett at Via Satellite. Terran Orbital also is building 288 satellites for Rivada Space Networks and just signed a deal with France’s Safran to build electric propulsion systems. Intuitive Machines (IM) is getting ready to launch two Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) missions for NASA, the first one very soon — hopefully.

Illustration of Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander. Credit: Intuitive Machines. IM will present its 2Q2023 financial results on Monday and hopefully provide an update on IM-1’s launch date.

At its 1st quarter 2023 results telecon in May, IM President and CEO Steve Altemus said the first would launch in the 3rd quarter of 2023, which is right now. That Nova-C lander is headed to Malapert A crater at the lunar south pole.  NASA has a second IM misson on the books for 2023 to deliver the PRIME-1 drill to the lunar south pole, but that seems likely to slip to next year. IM is launching on SpaceX rockets. The other CLPS mission that’s supposed to launch this year, Astrobotic’s Peregrine, is waiting for the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket to be ready for its first flight, currently planned for the 4th quarter of this year.

When NASA announced the CLPS program in 2019, these missions were supposed to launch in July 2021, so it’s a two-year delay already. The race to see what country or company will be first to make a survivable landing at the lunar South Pole continues and it could be Russia or India next week. It’s no easy feat. Those who tried so far didn’t make it (Israeli non-profit SpaceIL in 2019, India’s space agency with its first attempt in 2019, Japan’s space agency with a cubesat in 2022, and Japanese commercial company ispace in 2023).

On Wednesday, Nicky Fox, the head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, will speak to the Maryland Space Business Roundtable in Greenbelt, MD.  The timing nicely coincides with the celebration of the 5th anniversary of the launch of Parker Solar Probe on August 12, 2018. Fox was the project scientist for that mission when she was at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (JHUAPL) before joining NASA as the director of the Heliophysics Division. Earlier this year she moved up to run all of SMD succeeding Thomas Zurbuchen. Both tweeted their anniversary wishes yesterday.

Speaking of anniversaries, this year is the 40th anniversary of Sally Ride becoming the first American woman in space. Younger members of the space community probably can’t remember a time when a woman wasn’t on a space shuttle or International Space Station crew, but until June 18, 1983 — 22 years after the first man orbited Earth (Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin) — only two women had ever been in space, both Soviets: Valentina Tereshkova in 1963 and Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982.

That changed with Ride’s space shuttle mission in 1983. Women now are regular members of U.S. crews, unlike the Russian program where it’s still a rarity. The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation will hold a luncheon and panel discussion to celebrate the 40th anniversary on Friday in Orlando as part of its Innovators Week & Gala. The event’s website has a long list of astronauts, women and men, who’ll be there.

Ride was one of the first six women chosen for the astronaut corps in 1978. She died of cancer in 2012. Judy Resnik perished in the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy in 1986. The other four were Kathy Sullivan (the first American woman to make a spacewalk and later Administrator of NOAA), Anna Fisher (who was married to astronaut Bill Fisher and their daughter, Kristin, is now a CNN space correspondent), Rhea Seddon, and Shannon Lucid.

Bloomberg’s Loren Grush just wrote a book about “The Six” that will be published next month. It’s available right now for pre-order from Simon & Schuster or your favorite bookseller.

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, August 14

Tuesday, August 15

Wednesday, August 16

Thursday, August 17

Friday, August 18

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