What’s Happening in Space Policy February 25-March 2, 2024

What’s Happening in Space Policy February 25-March 2, 2024

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of February 25-March 2, 2024 and any insight we can offer about them. The Senate returns to work on Monday, the House on Wednesday.

During the Week

The week begins today, Sunday, with the arrival of Crew-8 at Kennedy Space Center at 2:00 pm ET in preparation for their launch just after midnight on Friday. Their arrival is not being broadcast on NASA TV, but will be on “Kennedy’s streaming channels including YouTube and X.” The post-Flight Readiness Review (FRR) briefing tonight at 6:00 pm ET is audio only on NASA TV. We have more about the launch below.

Crew-8 (L-R): Alexander Grebenkin (Roscosmos), Michael Barratt (NASA), Matthew Dominick (NASA), and Jeanette Epps (NASA). Photo credit: NASA

The Senate and House are back from their respective recesses this week, although the House doesn’t resume until Wednesday. That’s just three days before the first deadline for the Continuing Resolution (CR) to expire. Departments and agencies in four of the 12 appropriations bills — Agriculture, Energy-Water, Milcon-VA, and Transportation-HUD — will lose their funding on Friday at midnight if Congress doesn’t either pass those bills or another CR. The other eight, including the bills that fund DOD, NASA and NOAA, have until March 8.

We wish we had useful insight into what they might do, but it truly is anyone’s guess. Speculation runs the gamut from another short-term CR through mid-March to trying to pass whatever bills are ready with a CR for those that aren’t to a shutdown, which reportedly is what some members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus want. With the razor-thin Republican majority in the House, which will be 219-213 (with three vacancies) once newly-elected Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) is sworn in on Wednesday, getting anything passed is really difficult unless it has bipartisan support. The three FY2024 CRs passed so far have all been bipartisan, angering the HFC which does not want bipartisanship. They ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy because of the first CR and are very unhappy with Speaker Mike Johnson for the other two, but he was given some leeway because he was so new to the job. How long that honeymoon will last is unknown, but the House is having a lot of difficulty passing anything right now.

Speaking of which, the FAA’s authorization expires on March 8 and the commercial human spaceflight “learning period” expires the next day. The FAA must be reauthorized every 5 years and was set to expire on September 30, 2023. Congress passed two short-term extensions, most recently in December setting March 8 for the FAA as a whole and March 9 for the learning period (Sec. 102(k)). The House passed an FAA reauthorization bill last year, but action stalled in the Senate and while it finally got through committee, it hasn’t passed the Senate and the House and Senate versions eventually will have to be reconciled. Bottom line — another extension is needed. The learning period, which prohibits the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation from promulating new commercial human spaceflight regulations, usually is dealt with separately in commercial space legislation, but no new commercial space legislation has passed either, so they tucked the learning period extension into December’s FAA bill. We’ll see if they do it again.

Gen. Stephen Whiting, Commander, U.S. Space Command, will testify to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

The House schedule lists an “Airport and Airway Extension Act” for the suspension calendar on Wednesday. As for appropriations, it says only “Additional legislative items related to FY 2024 appropriations are expected.”  The Senate schedule hasn’t been announced other than for tomorrow when it will take up judicial nominations.

Also on Capitol Hill this week, the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Space Command on Thursday as the committee begins the process of writing the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. Gen. Anthony Cotton, Commander, USSTRATCOM, and Gen. Stephen Whiting, Commander, USSPACECOM, are the witnesses.

Off the Hill, the big event is the Crew-8 launch. NASA has a number of associated events. Here’s the full list as of today:

  • Sunday (today), 2:00 pm ET, crew arrival at KSC (watch on KSC’s social media outlets)
  • Sunday, 6:00 pm ET, post-Flight Readiness Review media telecon (audio only on NASA TV)
  • Wednesday, 9:15 am ET, NASA Social
  • Wednesday, 10:30 am ET, NASA Administrator briefing (NASA TV)
  • Thursday, 8:00 pm ET, NASA TV coverage begins for launch
  • Friday, 12:04 am ET, launch, KSC (NASA TV)
  • Friday, ~2:00 am ET, post-launch news conference, KSC (NASA TV)
  • Saturday, 5:00 am ET, NASA TV coverage of ISS arrival begins, with docking at about 7:00 am ET, hatch opening at about 8:45 am ET, and welcome remarks thereafter

NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson soon will be heading up to the ISS as well on Soyuz MS-25. That launch is scheduled for March 21. She will be available to reporters for virtual interviews tomorrow (Monday) morning that will air on NASA TV.

NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson will be available for media interviews (watch on NASA TV) tomorrow as she prepares to launch to ISS on Soyuz MS-25 in March. Photo credit: NASa

Several interesting conferences are on tap this week.  One that’s rather unique is the Space Beach Law Lab being held aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA Tuesday-Thursday. It describes itself as “a dynamic platform where lawyers, legal leaders, and regulators convene to share insights and expertise. United in focus, this influential community strives to accelerate progress, align strategies, and shape the future of the space industry.”  Indeed, the agenda lists an impressive group of speakers including former shuttle commander Eileen Collins, Michael Mineiro (Akin), Skip Smith (now with Greenberg Traurig), Caryn Schenewerk (CS Consulting, who most recently testified to Congress last October), Michelle Hanlon (For All Moonkind), Mandy Vaughn (GXO), Chris Johnson (Secure World Foundation), Maj. Aaron Brynildson (U.S. Air Force), and many more. The website doesn’t mention a virtual option, unfortunately. Sounds really interesting.

USSF Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt is one of the speakers at NSSA’s DISC conference this week.

The National Security Space Association will hold its 3rd Defense and Intelligence Space Conference (DISC) tomorrow through Wednesday. Tomorrow and Tuesday are unclassified (but closed to the press) at the Hyatt Regency in Reston, VA. Wednesday’s sessions are classified and taking place at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in Springfield, VA.

The two unclassified days feature a really top notch group of speakers including Kristyn Jones, acting Undersecretary of the Air Force; Frank Calvelli, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition; U.S. Space Force (USSF) Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt, Deputy Chief of Space Operations for Operations, Cyber, and Nuclear; USSF Lt. Gen. Shawn Bratton, Deputy Chief of Space Operations for Strategy, Plans, Programs, and Requirements; Derek Tournear, Director, Space Development Agency,  and an impressive group of industry representatives from companies including Capella Space, True Anomaly, Sierra Space, Slingshot, Astroscale, Airbus, Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Maxar. Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, is a keynote speaker on Tuesday. The classified day on Wednesday also has a great set of speakers, including a special presentation on “Dynamic Chinese Space Operations at GEO” by Clint Clark from ExoAnalytic Solutions.

NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel meets in public session on Wednesday to recap what they learned during their quarterly fact finding meeting. They almost always have something really important to convey, albeit only over a telephone line.

We’ll also mention that Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lander is expected to end operations on Thursday.  We don’t know if NASA or IM will hold any news conferences to discuss what was achieved. Odysseus landed three days ago, but like all these new types of comparatively inexpensive lunar landers, is powered only by solar cells, not a radioisotope power source, so there’s nothing to keep the electronics warm during those cold, cold 14-day lunar nights. Once the sun goes down, that’s usually the end. The lander is tipped over on its side and the company is having difficulty communicating with it. They hoped to get data and images back this weekend, but we haven’t seen any news as of this morning. They are posting updates on X (@Int_Machines) and their website.  [UPDATE, February 26: IM posted this morning that they expect to be able to communicate with Odysseus only through tomorrow morning, February 27  and shared images taken during descent.]

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, February 25

Monday, February 26

Monday-Wednesday, February 26-28

Monday-Friday (February 26-March 1)

Tuesday, February 27

Tuesday-Wednesday, February 27-28

Tuesday-Thursday, February 27-29

Wednesday, February 28

Thursday, February 29

Friday, March 1

Saturday, March 2

Saturday, March 2 – Saturday March 9


This article has been updated.

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