What’s Happening in Space Policy February 27-March 5, 2022

What’s Happening in Space Policy February 27-March 5, 2022

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of February 27-March 5, 2022 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Putin’s decision today to put his nuclear deterrent forces on alert has upended the post Cold War world order and the relative stability in global relationships since the end of World War II. Whatever happens in the next days and weeks, the United States and its allies will be looking at Russia through a very different lens. It is difficult to imagine the close space relationships that have developed with Russia over the past three decades will be unaffected though it is too soon to assess the impact.

This is not the proper venue for a discussion of those weighty issues (we’ve published several other stories already), but there is no question they will come up in many of the events listed here, starting with the return of the House and Senate for legislative business. They already had a full plate of work to do, not the least of which is finishing FY2022 appropriations bills.

Unlike last year when COVID restrictions limited how many people were in the House chamber for President Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress, all Representatives and Senators are invited to Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Worries about domestic threats already meant security fencing was being reinstalled on Capitol Hill. Whether Russia’s nuclear posture will require other changes, like who’s in attendance, remains to be seen. Usually the President, Vice President and all members of the Cabinet but one are in the House chamber during the address. That “but one” is at some other location able to provide continuity of government just in case the worst happens. Perhaps more than one will be elsewhere on Tuesday. Not to be alarmist, but as a reminder the order of succession in our government is President (Joe Biden), Vice President (Kamala Harris), Speaker of the House (Rep. Nancy Pelosi), President Pro Tempore of the Senate (Sen. Patrick Leahy), Secretary of State (Antony Blinken) and down through the Cabinet.

We’ve already written about the state of ISS cooperation under these circumstances — basically status quo for now at least — but questions surely will arise tomorrow at the Axiom/NASA briefing on the Ax-1 mission scheduled for launch on March 30. Participants include former NASA ISS program manager Mike Suffredini who left the agency to create Axiom Space, which is building a module to attach to ISS temporarily and later detach as a free-flying commercial space station. In the meantime they are flying private astronauts to the ISS for roughly week-long missions. Ax-1 is the first. Also on the panel is former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegria who now works for Axiom and will command the mission, Axiom’s Christian Maender,  three NASA officials (Kathy Lueders, head of Space Operations; Robyn Gatens, ISS Program Director; and Phil McAlister, Director of the Commercial Spaceflight Division), and SpaceX’s Benji Reed. They will want to talk about the mission and the experiments López-Alegria and his three ultra-wealthy passengers will conduct, but the questions surely will focus on the future of the ISS partnership and whether Axiom can accelerate building its commercial space facility in case ISS operations do not, in fact, get extended to 2030.

Tuesday’s House Science, Space, and Technology subcommittee hearing on the Artemis program — “Keeping Our Sights on Mars Part 3” — rescheduled from January 20, is another opportunity for questions about U.S.-Russian space cooperation. NASA had been hoping to convince Russia to join the Artemis program and build an airlock for the Gateway even though Russia didn’t seem interested. Jim Free, head of NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, will be joined by Patricia Sanders, chair of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel; Bill Russell from GAO; NASA Inspector General Paul Martin; and AIAA Executive Director Dam Dumbacher, who had a long career at NASA including years leading the SLS/Orion program. In addition to running AIAA now, he chairs the STEM Engagement Committee of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC).

NAC begins a two-day meeting at 1:00 pm ET that day so Dumbacher will barely have time to catch his breath from one to the other. The hearing starts at 11:00 am ET and hopefully will be over by then. (Both are virtual.) This is the first NAC meeting in over two years. Les Lyles continues to chair NAC. Many of the members remain the same, but two former members now work for NASA — Free and Administrator Bill Nelson — so will be on the receiving end of the advice now. New members include former NASA Administrator and former NASA astronaut Charlie Bolden (who was the pilot of STS-61C, the space shuttle mission that took Nelson to space in 1986 when he was a Congressman), former NASA Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati, former Rep. Jane Harman, and former Secretary of the Army and current Aerospace Industries Association President Eric Fanning. The full list is on the NAC website. The agenda is not posted yet. The public portion of the meeting is just two half days (1:00-5:00 pm ET on Tuesday and Wednesday) and there’s a lot of talk about. but one of the five focus areas Nelson wants them to work on is international collaboration, so the situation with Russia is all but certain to come up there, too.

Congress has not finished FY2022 appropriations and Biden has not submitted his FY2023 request yet, but this nonetheless is the time of year when committees start their hearing process to inform the next round of authorizations and appropriations.

The House Armed Services Committee has four hearings this week, all of which will surely take on a new cast in light of the past week. From a space policy perspective, the Strategic Forces Posture hearing — also on Tuesday — is the most relevant. Three Unified Combatant Command Commanders — U.S. Space Command’s Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Strategic Command’s Adm. Charles Richard, and U.S. Northern Command/North American Aerospace Defense Command’s Gen. Glen VanHerck — will join Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Sasha Baker at the witness table. That should be a fascinating discussion.

On top of all that, also on Tuesday, HASC and its Senate counterpart, SASC, have big picture hearings about the state of the world. SASC’s “Global Security Challenges and Strategy”and HASC’s “Engagement with Allies and Partners” are bound to be fascinating even if they do not focus on space per se. All the military domains (land, sea, air, space, and cyber) are so intertwined now that it would be surprising if space doesn’t come up.

For the sake of brevity, we will pick just one more event to highlight here, just because it sounds like fun and we need some of that. The Aspen Institute is holding a webinar on Thursday on “Citizens of the Worlds: What Does Being Multiplanetary Mean for Life Here on Earth?” The Atlantic’s Marina Koren will moderate a panel that includes Charlie Bolden, Ariel Ekblaw from MIT’s Space Exploration Initiative, and David Munns, co-author of Far Beyond the Moon: A History of Life Support Systems in the Space Age.

And don’t forget the GOES-T launch on Tuesday afternoon, weather permitting (only 60% “go” at the moment). Another fun event. This is NOAA’s latest advanced weather satellite, the third in the “GOES-R” series. Launch is on a ULA Atlas V from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Backup launch day is Wednesday when the weather is a bit better (70%), and Thursday’s a possibility if needed.

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.

Monday, February 28

Monday-Friday, February 28-March 4

Tuesday, March 1

Tuesday-Wednesday, March 1-2

Wednesday, March 2

Wednesday-Thursday, March 2-3

Thursday, March 3

Friday, March 4

Saturday, March 5 – Saturday, March 12

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