What's Happening in Space Policy August 31 – September 11, 2015

What's Happening in Space Policy August 31 – September 11, 2015

Summer is coming to an end and this will be the last of our “summer vacation” multi-week lists of upcoming space policy events.  This edition covers two weeks, August 31-September 11.  The House and Senate return to work on September 8.

During the Week

This week begins with AIAA’s Space 2015 conference in Pasadena, CA tomorrow (Monday) through Wednesday.   If you can’t be there in person, AIAA is providing a livestream of at least some of the sessions (the event’s website does not indicate which ones).  Four plenary sessions may be of particular interest and hopefully are among those that will be webcast:

  • Monday, August 31, 8:00-9:30 am PDT (11:00-12:30 EDT), Executive Vision Discussion (with Jim Albaugh, Robert Lightfoot, Maj. Gen. Robert McMurry, Wanda Sigur, and Gwynne Shotwell)
  • Tuesday, September 1, 8:00-9:30 am PDT (11:00-12:30 EDT), The
    Business of Space–How is the Space Business Evolving to Meet Future
  • Wednesday, September 2, 8:00-9:30 am PDT (11:00-12:30 EDT), Pioneering Space
  • Wednesday, September 2, 1:15-2:00 pm PDT (4:15-5:00 EDT), Future Explorations: Our Solar System’s Origins, Water and Life

Another event of special interest is the launch of Soyuz TMA-18M very early Wednesday morning (12:37 am Eastern Daylight Time–EDT).  This mission is a bit of an anomaly in recent years where two of the three crew will remain on board the International Space Station (ISS) for just one week instead of several months.   ESA’s Andreas Mogensen and Kazakhstan’s Aidyn Aimbetov will return to Earth on September 11 EDT (September 12 local time at the landing site) along with Russia’s Gennady Padalka, who has been on ISS since March.  Padalka launched with NASA’s Scott Kelly and Russia’s Mikhail Kornienko and those two are staying aboard for a one-year mission, but their Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft can only remain on orbit for six months so it and Padalka — along with Mogensen and Aimbetov — will come back to Earth. Russia’s Sergei Volkov will command Soyuz TMA-18M and replace Padalka.

Mogensen and Aimbetov’s time aboard ISS will be even shorter than expected because last week the decision was made to use the two-day rendezvous trajectory to get there instead of the new six-hour direct ascent route introduced for crew launches on Soyuz TMA-08M in March 2013.  The two-day trip is necessary because the ISS orbit was raised recently to avoid a piece of space junk, changing the orbital dynamics involved in getting there.  The new orbit also caused a one day slip in the launch date (from September 1).  The Soyuz TMA-18M crew now will arrive on September 4, giving Mogensen and Aimbetov just seven and a half days on ISS.  It may be just as well since the ISS will be a bit crowded — for the first time since November 2013, there will be nine people aboard.  On the other hand, ESA said that it means significant replanning of Mogensen’s research activities and some experiments will have to be left for other astronauts to complete in the future.

Aimbetov, by the way, was a last minute addition to the crew after singer Sarah Brightman withdrew from the mission.  A military pilot, he was selected as a Kazakh cosmonaut in 2002 and trained at Star City.  He became a Russian citizen along the way, but is flying as a Kazakh, not Russian, crew member.  He was assigned to the flight in June and Kazakh officials say they are paying $20 million, so he apparently is filling Brightman’s “space tourist” slot, although he has been through the full training regimen.  He will be the third Kazakh cosmonaut (after Toktar Aubakirov and Talgat Musabayev), not counting Soviet cosmonauts from Kazakhstan when it was part of the Soviet Union.

Those events and others that we know about as of today (August 30) for the next two weeks are listed below.

Monday-Wednesday, August 31-September 2

  • AIAA Space 2015, Pasadena Convention Center, Pasadena, CA (some events will be livestreamed; note that times listed on the conference’s agenda are in local time)

Tuesday, September 1

Wednesday, September 2

Wednesday-Friday, September 2-4

Friday, September 4

Tuesday, September 8

  • Congress returns: House meets at 2:00 pm EDT for legislative business; Senate meets at 2:00 pm EDT

Tuesday-Thursday, September 8-10

Wednesday, September 9

Thursday, September 10

Friday, September 11

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