What’s Happening in Space Policy August 27-September 2, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy August 27-September 2, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of August 27-September 2, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in recess except for pro forma sessions. The Senate returns September 5; the House September 12.

During the Week

Once again a busy week is already underway as we post this. Crew-7 launched yesterday, a day later than planned, so docking is a day later than planned. That makes it today (Sunday). NASA updated the docking time and other events overnight and the commentators on NASA TV just now said docking is at 9:05 am ET. The NASA TV schedule now says hatch opening is scheduled for 11:02 am ET and welcome remarks “approximately” 11:30 am ET. It’s not unusual for these times to get adjusted as rendezvous and docking proceeds. [UPDATE: Crew-7 docked at 9:16 am ET.]

The four crew members of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-7 mission are pictured inside SpaceX Hangar X at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. From left to right: Satoshi Furukawa (JAXA), Jasmin Moghbeli (NASA), Andreas Mogensen (ESA/Denmark), and Konstantin Borisov (Roscosmos). Credit: SpaceX

With their arrival, Crew-6 is getting ready to come home. The NASA TV schedule shows them undocking on Friday and splashing down on Saturday, but that is weather dependent, of course. Crew Dragons splash down in the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico near Florida (there are seven spots to choose from). A storm is brewing in the Gulf that may become a tropical storm or hurricane by the end of the week — Gov. DeSantis declared a state of emergency yesterday warning people on the Florida’s west coast and in the panhandle to get ready — so we’ll have to see how it develops.

Another event on tap today is the launch of the JAXA/NASA/ESA XRISM x-ray telescope and JAXA’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM). We wrote about it last week, but the launch was delayed by bad weather in Japan. It’s currently scheduled for tonight at 8:26 pm EDT (tomorrow, August 28, 9:26 am Japan Standard Time). JAXA will livestream the launch. [UPDATE: The launch was scrubbed about 15 minutes before scheduled liftoff due to inclement weather. Check our calendar entry for a new launch date/time when it becomes available.]

Back here in the States, the United Launch Alliance will launch a Space Domain Awareness satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the U.S. Space Force on Tuesday morning. Called Silentbarker or NROL-107, most of the information about it is classified, but basically it will help keep track of other satellites. The United States is increasingly concerned about adversaries threatening our satellites not only using ground-based antisatellite systems like the one Russia tested against one of its own satellites in 2021, but in-orbit counterspace operations like those by Russia and China detailed in the Secure World Foundation’s 2023 Global Counterspace Capabilities report. NRO actually has a press kit that offers a glimpse into Silentbarker’s capabilities, however, and the mission emblem and NRO’s caption further explain its purpose. (IC is the Intelligence Community, of which NRO is part.)

“The SILENTBARKER/NROL-107 patch: The Delta shape is pointing the way to better space domain knowledge. The fox represents the cunning nature of the IC and DoD that gives our warfighters the edge against America’s adversaries. The fox in motion represents agile operations in the space domain. The combined moon and stars represent the commitment of the IC and DoD to be always on guard to protect American interests and freedom. The moon is a waxing crescent, symbolizing we are not done and there is still work ahead of us. The two deltas symbolize the partnership between the U.S. Space Force and the NRO.” Credit: NRO

The United Nations established an Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Reducing Space Threats to bring countries together to discuss establishing norms of behavior for operating in space. The fourth and final session of the OEWG takes place this week in Geneva and will be livestreamed. As we wrote a week ago, the U.N. Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and the Secure World Foundation have put together a Lexicon for Outer Space Security to aid discussions like this. Chile’s Hellmut Lagos chairs the OEWG and tweeted yesterday that he’s optimistic the group will be able to meet their mandate from the U.N. General Assembly (GA).

Turning to space science, on Wednesday NASA will have a briefing on the upcoming return of samples from the asteroid Bennu by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. O-REx collected the samples in 2020 and headed back to Earth in May 2021. It’s taken this long for the spacecraft to get back to the vicinity of Earth. On September 24, the sample return capsule will separate from the main spacecraft and hurtle down through the atmosphere for a landing at the Air Force’s Utah Test and Training Range. Wednesday’s briefing will preview what happens that day and where the samples will be taken for study. The main spacecraft will remain in space by the way. It is being repurposed as the OSIRIS-APophis EXplorer, or OSIRIS-APEX, to study the asteroid Apophis after it makes a very close approach to Earth in 2029.

The NASA Advisory Council’s Science committee meets Tuesday-Wednesday in Pasadena. Public participation is virtual only, which seems to be NASA’s new norm, even though a “public lecture” is on the agenda for lunchtime Wednesday. It will focus on heliophysics, also known as solar and space physics. The steering committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Decadal Survey on Solar and Space Physics begins a three-day meeting that day, too. The agenda isn’t posted yet, so when and where it’s taking place is a mystery. The committee’s website says some sessions will be open and some will be closed.

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 27

Monday-Friday, August 28-September 1

Tuesday, August 29

Tuesday-Wednesday, August 29-30

Wednesday, August 30

Wednesday-Thursday, August 30-31

Wednesday-Friday, August 30-September 1

Thursday, August 31

Friday, September 1

Saturday, September 1

  • Crew-6 Splashdown, near Florida, ~9:38 am ET [Per NASA TV schedule August 27, could change]

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