What’s Happening in Space Policy February 26-March 4, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy February 26-March 4, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of February 26-March 4, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week, although the House meets only Monday-Wednesday.

During the Week

A quick word about yesterday before we talk about the upcoming week.

Russia’s uncrewed Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft safely docked at the International Space Station at 7:58 pm ET last night. It’s the replacement for the damaged Soyuz MS-22 and the new ride home for that crew (Roscosmos’s Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin and NASA’s Frank Rubio). This should have been a crew rotation mission bringing up their replacements (Roscosmos’s Oleg Kononeko and Nikolai Chub and NASA’s Loral O’Hara), but they will have to wait for Soyuz MS-24 later this year.

A couple hours later, NASA and SpaceX gave the go-ahead for NASA’s crew rotation mission, Crew-6. As we reported last week, it originally was supposed to launch early this morning, but was delayed one day. At an 11:15 pm ET media teleconference last night, NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager Steve Stich and other officials confirmed that Crew-6 is on track to launch early tomorrow (Monday) morning at 1:45 am ET with a post-launch news conference at 3:45 am ET. NASA TV coverage begins tonight (Sunday) at 10:15 pm ET. NASA astronauts Steve Bowen and Woody Hoburg, Roscosomos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, and UAE astronaut Sultan Alneyedi will dock Tuesday morning at 2:38 am ET, with NASA TV coverage starting at 12:45 am ET. [UPDATE, FEBRUARY 27, 1:55 am ET: The launch was scrubbed about two and a half minutes before launch due to a problem with the TEA-TEB ignition fluid for the Merlin engines.]

Crew-6 poses for a photo underneath a Falcon 9 rocket at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA, January 13, 2023. L-R: Andrey Fedyaev (Roscosmos), Stephen Bowen (NASA), Warren “Woody” Hoburg (NASA), and Sultan Alneyadi (UAE). Credit: SpaceX

In short, the Crew-6 schedule is:

  • Sunday (tonight), 10:15 pm ET: NASA TV begins launch coverage
  • Monday
    • 1:45 am ET: Launch of Crew-6
    • 3:45 am ET: Post-launch news conference (time approximate)
  • Tuesday
    • 12:45 am ET: NASA TV rendezvous and docking coverage begins
    • 2:38 am ET: Crew-6 docks at ISS
    • 4:25 am ET: Hatch opening
    • 5:10 am ET: Welcome ceremony

Crew-6’s arrival signals Crew-5’s imminent departure. NASA and SpaceX haven’t named the date, but it’s typically a 5-day handover. NASA TV’s schedule says there will be a Crew-5 on-orbit pre-departure news conference on Wednesday. Crew-5 is NASA’s Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Roscosmos’s Anna Kikina, and JAXA’s Koichi Wakata. When we get the date for their return, we’ll add it to our Calendar.

Crew-5 (L-R):  Anna Kikina (Roscosmos), Josh Cassada (NASA), Nicole Mann (NASA) and Koichi Wakata (JAXA)

Down here on Earth, two congressional hearings might be of interest. Neither is specifically about space, but space activities could/should come up.

First is a House Science, Space, and Technology Committee hearing on Tuesday on “The United States, China, and the Fight for Global Leadership: Building a U.S. National Science and Technology Strategy.” None of the witnesses are from the space sector, and the topic is quite broad, but Congresses and presidents often cite the space program as a critical element in U.S. global leadership especially vis a vis China.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) will chair a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Wednesday on the nomination of Phil Washington to be FAA Administrator.

Second is the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee’s hearing on the nomination of Phil Washington to be Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday. The Office of Commercial Space Transportation is part of the FAA, so whoever heads the agency plays a critical role in decisions about issuing launch licenses to companies like SpaceX, ULA and Blue Origin who are about to introduce new rockets (Starship, Vulcan and New Glenn) and to Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic for their suborbital passenger flights, among many others. The controversy over the FAA’s airline operations may dominate the hearing, but space could come up, too. Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-TX) both have strong interests in commercial space activities (Blue Origin is headquartered in Washington and SpaceX and Blue Origin both have significant operations in Texas). Committee member John Hickenlooper (D-CO) is from ULA’s home state.

Lots of interesting conferences and meetings are on tap this week, far too many to highlight here. We will just mention the conferences: the 2023 Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC 2023) in Broomfield, CO (Monday-Wednesday); the 9th Space Traffic Management conference in Austin, TX (Wednesday-Thursday); the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Washington, DC (Thursday-Sunday); and IEEE’s annual Aerospace Conference in Big Sky, MT that officially begins on Saturday though sessions don’t get underway until Sunday. All have really great sessions and some have virtual options.

One more event we want to highlight is the first meeting of a new National Academies committee that is looking at “NASA Mission Critical Workforce, Infrastructure and Technology.” Its task is to “recommend high-level actions to bolster the workforce, infrastructure, and technological capabilities that enable transformational achievements at NASA.”

Norm Augustine is chairing a new National Academies committee on Mission Critical NASA Workforce, Infrastructure and Technology that meets this week. Photo credit: National Science Board

The committee is composed of truly illustrious members of the aerospace community known for their deep expertise and willingness to say what needs to be said, starting with the chair, Norm Augustine. He’s joined by Tom Young, Kathy Sullivan, Betsy Cantwell, Dick Obermann, Mark Saunders, Jaiwon Shin, Hans Koenigsmann, Ed Crawley, Les Lyles, and several others. The agenda isn’t posted yet, but it’s bound to be a fascinating discussion. The first day (Wednesday) is closed, but Thursday and Friday are open to the public. The meeting is in-person at the National Academy of Sciences building on Constitution Avenue. The Space Studies Board (SSB) and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) often livestream their meetings. If we get a link, we’ll add it to our Calendar item.

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 26

Monday, February 27

Monday-Wednesday, February 27-March 1

Tuesday, February 28

Tuesday-Wednesday, February 28-March 1

Wednesday, March 1

Wednesday-Thursday, March 1-2

Thursday, March 2

Thursday-Friday, March 2-3

Thursday-Sunday, March 2-5

Saturday, March 4-Saturday, March 11

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