What’s Happening in Space Policy December 18, 2022- January 2, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy December 18, 2022- January 2, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the next two weeks, December 18, 2022-January 2, 2023, and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate will be in session this week. If they complete their work by Friday they will be in recess the last week of the year except for pro forma sessions. The 117th Congress ends and the 118th Congress begins at noon on January 3, 2023.

During the Weeks

As the holidays arrive, the number of events definitely has tailed off so we’re combining the next two weeks. In fact there are only two events on our list — Rocket Lab’s launch tonight (Sunday), their first from the United States, and a U.S. spacewalk on Wednesday — but there’s a lot going on that we’ll be keeping track of nonetheless. [UPDATE 2: Rocket Lab’s launch was scrubbed Sunday due to upper level winds. They were going to try again today (Monday), but winds are still a problem. The launch date now is TBD.]

First is the massive amount of activity taking place in Congress as they try to finish FY2023 appropriations before this Congress ends and the new one begins with Republicans taking control of the House.

Or not. Some Republicans want to wait until the new Congress begins so they have more influence on the outcome. Others want to get this old business done and out of the way so they can start fresh in the New Year. That intra-party struggle is ongoing.

The Continuing Resolution (CR) keeping the government operating was extended to Friday, December 23. The situation is fluid, but at the moment it appears the majority of Democrats and Republicans want to get an omnibus appropriations bill combining all 12 regular appropriations bills done by then. It’s a tall order. Not only do they have to decide on how much money everyone gets, but what other legislation will be tacked onto the omnibus.

As of Friday, the plan was to introduce the omnibus tomorrow (Monday) in the Senate, get it passed mid-week and send it to the House, which notionally would pass it by Friday. The House will not be in session until at least Wednesday, waiting to see what happens in the Senate.

If they can’t reach agreement, presumably they will pass another CR to keep the government open until they do, whether that’s another day, a week, or longer. There’s no indication anyone wants a government shutdown, but the possibility can’t be ruled out.

While all of that is going on here on Earth, there’s a problem with the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft docked at the International Space Station. Roscosmos and NASA are still trying to determine why it sprang a leak in a coolant loop on the exterior of the spacecraft on Wednesday just as two cosmonauts were about to begin a spacewalk. Fortunately they were still in the airlock. Today, NASA is using Canadarm2 to take a look at the Soyuz. There’s lots of speculation that a micrometeoroid or piece of space debris punctured the line, but that’s not confirmed yet.

The swarm of particles spewing from Soyuz MS-22 are clearly visible in this screengrab from NASA TV about 3 hours after the leak started.

Russia has put all of its spacewalks on hold. The cosmonauts completed just one of the four scheduled for November and December to continue outfitting the Nauka science module.

NASA astronauts are about to do the third of a set of three, installing a ISS Roll Out Solar Array (iROSA). It was scheduled for tomorrow, but NASA postponed it to Wednesday after deciding to use Canadarm2 to look at Soyuz today. We haven’t seen anything from NASA yet on exactly when that will take place.

NASA and Roscosmos are projecting an air of calm, saying temperatures inside Soyuz remain within acceptable limits. The concern is not just for when people need to be in there, but the effect high temperatures can have on electronics like computers. The spacecraft is not only the way home for cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, but their lifeboat in case there’s an emergency on ISS.

We’ll keep you posted on what’s happening in Congress and in space over these next two weeks, but we all get a break from webinars, conferences and media briefings — though one might hope NASA will schedule a briefing to discuss Soyuz MS-22.  Be sure to check back for any additions we make to our Calendar.

Meanwhile, if you’re on the East Coast and weather cooperates, you may be able to see Rocket Lab’s launch this evening. Here’s the viewing map. You also can watch the webcast on YouTube. Check for launch updates on Rocket Lab’s Twitter feed (@RocketLab). They said a little while ago that upper level winds are kicking up so there could be a weather delay. [And there was!  Sunday’s launch was scrubbed due to upper level winds. They were going to try again today (Monday), but winds are still a problem. The launch date now is TBD, but whenever it does occur, the information on how to watch it will still be good.] 




Sunday, December 18

  • First Rocket Lab Launch from the United States, Wallops Island, VA, 6:00 pm ET (window open until 8:00 pm ET), webcast [UPDATE 2: Sunday’s launch was scrubbed due to upper level winds. They were going to try again today (Monday), but winds are still a problem. The launch date now is TBD.]

Wednesday, December 21


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