What’s Happening in Space Policy August 6-12, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy August 6-12, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of August 6-12, 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

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, crew for the Starliner Crew Flight Test. Photo Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz

NASA and Boeing will provide an update on the Starliner program tomorrow (Monday). Starliner is Boeing’s competitor to SpaceX’s Crew Dragon for ferrying crews to and from the International Space Station. They started at the same time (2014), but Boeing is years behind. SpaceX is getting ready to launch its eighth crew to ISS for NASA later this month and has three private astronaut missions (two to ISS) under its belt while Starliner has yet to launch a single person. The first Starliner flight with people aboard — NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams — will be the Crew Flight Test (CFT). On June 1 Boeing indefinitely delayed CFT after a new set of problems emerged. We’ll find out tomorrow how things are going.

On Tuesday, NASA will have another briefing, this one with an update on the Artemis II mission. Artemis II will take four astronauts (three Americans and one Canadian) around the Moon on a crewed flight test of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. Artemis I last year was an uncrewed test. Artemis II is currently planned for the end of 2024. Tuesday’s briefing includes all four crew members plus top NASA brass — Administrator Bill Nelson, Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy, and Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development Jim Free.

The crew of Artemis II, clockwise from top: Victor Glover, pilot (NASA);  Jeremy Hansen, mission specialist (Canadian Space Agency); Reid Wiseman, commander (NASA); and Christina Koch, mission specialist (NASA). Photo credit: Josh Valcarcel

Keeping with the human spaceflight theme, two Russian cosmonauts will do a spacewalk at the ISS on Wednesday and Virgin Galactic will have its first private astronaut suborbital flight, Galactic-02, on Thursday. NASA TV will broadcast the Russian spacewalk starting at 10:15 am ET. Virgin Galactic will livestream Galactic-02 beginning at 11:00 am ET. Galactic-02 is the company’s second commercial flight, but its first with private astronauts — individuals not sponsored by governments. Galactic-01 last month carried three Italian government employees so it counted as a commercial revenue-producing flight, but not a “private astronaut” flight.

Illustration of Russia’s Luna-25, which might launch this week. Credit: N.P.O. Lavochkin via NASA.

Apart from human spaceflight, another interesting launch could happen this week. Russia has not made an official announcement, but there is a widespread expectation that Luna-25 will liftoff from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Siberia on Friday, Moscow Time (which will be Thursday evening EDT). This will be Russia’s first lunar probe since 1976. As Anatoly Zak at RussianSpaceWeb.com reports, Luna-25 has been in the works since the late 1990s, and, as we wrote yesterday, looks as though it is finally getting its chance.

UPDATE: Roscosmos now has confirmed the launch is scheduled for August 10, 23:10:57 UTC, which  is August 10, 7:10 pm EDT.

If it happens, it will come in between the arrival of India’s Chandrayaan-3 lander/rover in lunar orbit, with a landing planned on August 23, and the launch of Japan’s SLIM lander on August 26. Three U.S. Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) lunar landers are also on the books for this year though it’s not clear if all three will get off before the clock ticks over to 2024. Intuitive Machines, which has two of the three, will hold its second quarter 2023 financial results telecon a week from tomorrow so there may be an update then. Astrobotic has the third and although the spacecraft is ready, ULA’s new Vulcan rocket is not. ULA currently is targeting the 4th quarter of 2023 for that launch.

Yet another lunar rover, Endurance-A, proposed in the most recent Decadal Survey for planetary science will be the focus of discussion at Caltech this week. Endurance-A would explore and collect samples from the lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the Moon for later retrieval by astronauts, an “ideal synergy between NASA’s human and scientific exploration of the Moon” according to the Decadal Survey. The Lunar and Planetary Institute’s hybrid Endurance Science Workshop from Wednesday to Friday is an opportuniuty to further discuss the idea, especially the science aspects.

The Moon’s getting a lot of attention this week, but there are other events, too. The 37th Small Satellite Conference at Utah State University actually started yesterday and runs through Thursday. It’s a terrific conference with lots of side events. Portions are livestreamed. DARPA Director Stefanie Tompkins will give a keynote address tomorrow afternoon (note that times on the agenda are MOUNTAIN Time, add 2 for EDT). The Secure World Foundation has a side event on Wednesday on “Space Debris and ASAT Testing: Protecting the Operational Environment for Smallsats.”

INSA Vice President for Policy Bishop Garrison will lead a webinar discussion on leveraging commercial innovation for national security space on Tuesday.

The Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) will hold a webinar on Tuesday on “Space Resiliency: Leveraging Commercial Innovation to Advance the Mission.” Frank Avila, NGA Acting Director, Jeremy Leader, Acting Deputy Director of U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command’s Commercial Space Office, and Pete Muend, Director of NRO’s Commercial Systems Program Office, will discuss “the policies and innovative technologies needed to ensure the security of U.S. space assets in an increasingly contested environment” with INSA’s Vice President for Policy Bishop Garrison.

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-Tuesday, August 6-8 (continued from last week)

Sunday-Thursday, August 6-10 (continued from yesterday)

Monday, August 7

Tuesday, August 8

Wednesday, August 9

Wednesday-Friday, August 9-11

Thursday, August 10

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