What’s Happening in Space Policy August 20-26, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy August 20-26, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of August 20-26, 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

The week started already with Russia’s announcement this morning (Sunday) that Luna-25 crashed into the Moon. It’s a sad ending for the Russian space science community whose hopes were riding high for their first lunar lander is almost 50 years. For the global space science community it’s yet another blow — the fifth lunar lander in a row to fail since 2019.

India will make the next attempt with Chandrayaan-3. As of today, that landing is still on track for Wednesday. This is India’s second attempt. The Chandrayaan-2 lander failed just before touchdown almost exactly four years ago. Chandrayaan-3 was launched on July 14 and entered lunar orbit on August 5.  The Indian Space Research Organisation tweeted earlier today that all is well and landing is scheduled for Wednesday at 18:04 India Standard Time, which is 8:34 am Eastern Daylight Time.

Chandrayaan-3 before launch. Credit: ISRO

Japan is getting ready for its next try at a lunar landing, too. The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) will launch on Friday (EDT) along with a Japan-U.S.-European x-ray telescope called XRISM (pronounced Chrism). This will be Japan’s third try at a lunar landing. Last year, JAXA’s OMOTENASHI “semi-hard” lander was one of 10 cubesats that rode along on the Artemis I mission, but it failed (as did most of those cubesats). This year, the Japanese commercial company ispace sent the HAKTUO-R M1 lander to the Moon, but it failed in the last moments due to a software error. Hopefully SLIM will turn the tide and make a survivable landing. The date for the landing hasn’t been announced yet.

The JAXA-NASA-ESA XRISM X-ray telescope is scheduled for launch on Friday EDT (Saturday in Japan). Photo credit: XRISM media kit

XRISM is a very interesting mission, too. The X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (previously XARM, pronounced Charm) follows on the failure of Astro-H, also known as Hitomi, a JAXA-NASA x-ray telescope that broke apart in orbit due to an attitude control failure. XRISM is a smaller scale mission with only two instead of four instruments. One is provided by NASA, a carbon copy of the NASA instrument that was on Hitomi.

XRISM and SLIM were supposed to launch in May, but the failure of Japan’s new H3 rocket in March delayed this launch on an H-IIA. It was the H3 upper stage that failed — the engine didn’t ignite — and the H-IIA uses the same version. It will be a tense launch to be sure especially with two critical payloads like SLIM and XRISM. X-ray astronomers in particular have their fingers crossed because they want to avoid a potential gap in X-ray observations (which can only be done outside Earth’s atmosphere) between the aging Chandra (NASA) and XMM Newton (ESA) telescopes launched in the late 1990s and ESA’s ATHENA planned for the 2030s.

JAXA usually livestreams its launches. If we get a link, we’ll post it in our Calendar entry.

There’s lots going on at the International Space Station, too. A crew rotation begins this week with Crew-7 launching on Friday and Crew-6 getting ready to come home soon thereafter. A new Russian cargo ship also launches this week.

Crew-7 (L-R): Konstantin Borisov (Roscosmos), Andreas Mogensen (ESA/Denmark), Jasmin Moghbeli (NASA), Satoshi Furukawa (JAXA). Their launch is scheduled for early Friday morning EDT. Photo Credit: Bill Stafford and Robert Markowitz

Public events associated with the crew rotation begin today and are bundled together in this list for convenience.  All but one (the post-FRR briefing) will air on NASA TV, the NASA App and NASA Live. The post-FRR briefing will only be on NASA Live.

  • Sunday, August 20, 12:15 pm ET: Crew-7 arrives at KSC
  • Monday, August 21, ~5:30 pm ET: Crew-7 post-Flight Readiness Review (FRR) briefing (NASA Live only)
  • Wednesday, August 23, 9:30 am ET: Crew-7 NASA Social Panel Livestream Event
  • Wednesday, August 23, 2:40 pm ET: Crew-6 pre-departure interviews from ISS
  • Thursday, August 24, 11:45 pm ET: NASA TV coverage of Crew-7 launch begins
  • Friday, August 25, 3:47 am ET: Launch of Crew-7 to ISS
  • Friday, August 25, ~5:30 am ET: Crew-7 Post-Launch Press Conference
  • Saturday, August 26, 2:02 am ET: Crew-7 docks at ISS followed by hatch opening (3:47 am ET) and a welcome ceremony (5:00 am ET)

Crew-7 is unique in that all four crew members are from different countries. Commander Jasmin Moghbeli is the only NASA astronaut. Pilot Andreas Mogensen is from Denmark and part of ESA’s astronaut corps. He’s the first non-American to pilot a U.S. spacecraft. The two mission specialists are Japan’s Satoshi Furukawa and Russia’s Konstantin Borisov.

The ISS is permanently staffed by seven astronauts who rotate on roughly six-month schedules. Four come and go on the U.S. Crew Dragon spacecraft and three come and go on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The crews on each of them are mixed and even in these strained earthly geopolitical times, Russians and Americans fly on each others’ spacecraft. NASA sought to continue this arrangement to ensure that at least one Russian and one American are on ISS at any given time to operate the Russian Orbital  Segment and the U.S. Orbital Segment (which includes modules and other hardware from Japan, Europe and Canada) respectively. Thus, Borisov is going up on Crew-7 and NASA’s Loral O’Hara is getting ready to launch on Soyuz MS-24 next month as part of the Russian crew rotation.

O’Hara is at the Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, preparing to head down to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for launch. She’ll participate in pre-flight interviews Wednesday morning. (She joined a media briefing with the Crew-7 astronauts when she in the United States a few weeks ago.)

NASA’s Loral O’Hara (left) with her Soyuz MS-24 crewmates Oleg Kononenko (center) and Nikolai Chub (right). O’Hara will particpate in pre-flight interviews this Wednesday. Launch is scheduled for September 15 .

O’Hara, Kononenko and Chub originally were the crew of Soyuz MS-23, but Russia had to change plans and launch Soyuz MS-23 empty to replace Soyuz MS-22, which lost all its coolant. The crew that launched on Soyuz MS-22 (Russia’s Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin and NASA’s Frank Rubio) has had to stay for an extra 6-month shift on the ISS. They will exceed the one-year mark before they come home on Soyuz MS-23 after Soyuz MS-24 arrives.

Meanwhile, Russia will launch another cargo ship, Progress MS-24, on Tuesday. (NASA calls it Progress 85 because it’s the 85th Progress to resupply the ISS, but there were dozens more before that. The first Progress was launched in 1978 to resupply the Soviet Salyut 6 space station.) It is taking the slow route to ISS and won’t arrive until late Thursday just as NASA TV is beginning coverage of the Crew-7 launch. NASA TV covers all the arrivals and departures on ISS including Progress. If you want to watch this one dock, be sure to tune in to the NASA Media Channel, not the Public Channel, which will be broadcasting about Crew-7.

One other event we’ll briefly highlight this week is a Facebook Live chat Celestis is having with ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno tomorrow. Celestis launches cremated remains into space and is one of the customers on the inaugural launch of ULA’s Vulcan rocket. That launch has been delayed because of technical problems with the Centaur upper stage. Bruno has been saying he expects to launch before the end of the year. Hopefully he’ll have a more specific timetable to share.

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.

Sunday, August 20

Monday, August 21

Monday-Friday, August 21-25

Tuesday, August 22

Wednesday, August 23

Thursday, August 24

Friday, August 25

Saturday, August 26

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