What’s Happening in Space Policy February 28-March 6, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy February 28-March 6, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of February 28-March 6, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

The week’s work has already  begun, with two astronauts (Kate Rubins and Victor Glover) out on a spacewalk from the International Space Station at this moment and two launches (from India and Russia) already done.

It’s a busy start to another busy week in space policy, although not so much on Capitol Hill.  There are many hearings, but only one that might have any relevance to space policy — a Senate Armed Services Committee nomination hearing for Colin Kahl to be Under Secretary of Defense for Policy on Thursday. National security space policy should at least get a mention, but perhaps no more than that with all the other issues facing DOD.

Two billionaires who have purchased space rides from SpaceX  will be in the news. Japan’s Yusaku Maezawa who bought a Starship trip around the Moon from Elon Musk in 2018 tweeted that he will provide an update on Tuesday.  The plan was for that flight to take place in 2023.  Musk is working diligently on developing Starship and its Super Heavy rocket (another Starship precursor test could happen this week). Musk is, as ever, optimistic about when flights will begin, but we will see if 2023 is still the timeframe they’re shooting for. Maezawa, who wants everyone to call him MZ, said he would invite artists and others to come along for the ride and his tweet said “Wanna fly to the [Moon emoji] with me?”

Perhaps he’s gotten some ideas on how to choose companions from Jared Isaacman, who recently bought a SpaceX flight for four to Earth orbit on a Crew Dragon.  An accomplished pilot, Isaacman will command “Inspiration4” and is giving the other three seats away as part of a fund raising drive for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Haley Arceneaux, a 29-year childhood cancer survivor who was a patient at St. Jude as a 10-year-old and is now a physicians’ assistant there, will fill one of the seats. Another will go to the winner of a lottery chosen from those who contribute to St. Jude through the Inspiration4 website, and the fourth to the winner of a competition of people building business websites through Isaacman’s Shift4Shop platform. Isaacman will be interviewed by the Space Force Association on Wednesday.  The lottery and competition were to close today so perhaps there will be news about the winners then or some other time this week.  Among Isaacman’s many accomplishments was creating what some call the first private Air Force with military fighter aircraft acquired from around the world that are now used to train U.S. Air Force pilots through his former company Draken International. Isaacman owns his own MIG, which used to belong to the late Paul Allen.

Meanwhile, NASA is also getting ready for a SpaceX Crew Dragon mission.  Crew-2 is scheduled for launch on April 20 and the agency will hold two press conferences tomorrow (Monday) to talk about it. The four-person crew is composed of astronauts from NASA (Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur), JAXA (Akihiko Hoshide), and ESA (Thomas Pesquet).  The first briefing tomorrow (12:30 pm ET) features officials from all those agencies and SpaceX.  The second (2:00 pm ET) is with the crew itself.

SpaceX is central to all those missions and Eric Berger, Senior Space Editor at Ars Technica, has a new book coming out this week about the company’s beginnings.  “Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days that Launched SpaceX” comes out on Tuesday and Berger will be interviewed by the Houston Chronicle’s Andrea Leinfelder during a free webinar that evening. Berger (@SciGuySpace) worked at the Chronicle for 17 years before moving over to Ars.

Almost anything may seem prosaic compared to all that, but there are quite a few other important and interesting events on tap.  NASA’s Planetary Science Advisory Committee meets Monday-Tuesday and the steering committee of the National Academies’ Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey meets Wednesday. Also on Wednesday,  Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond speaks to the National Press Club and the Beyond Earth Institute holds a webinar with NASA’s Kathy Lueders, Sierra Nevada’s Janet Kavandi (former astronaut), Axiom’s Matt Ondler, and Catholic University School of Law’s Laura Montgomery (former FAA space attorney) talking about future space infrastructure.

We’ll also mention that tomorrow morning, former astronaut Mae Jemison will speak at a Washington Post Live event on Race in America.  She was the first woman of color to go into space, but she has a broad range of expertise so it’s not clear how much of the interview will touch on the space program. It’s worth noting, though, that yesterday NASA released a video of Vice President Kamala Harris talking with Victor Glover, an African American NASA astronaut now aboard ISS (he’s one of the two astronauts making a spacewalk today) as part of the celebration of Black History Month. With the important role of African American astronauts in the news right now, perhaps Jemison’s astronaut experience will come up more than just in passing. In case you missed it, on Friday NASA also formally renamed its headquarters building after Mary W. Jackson, the first African American woman engineer at NASA.

And there’s another spacewalk coming up at the ISS on Friday.  Rubins will be back out again, this time with JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

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.  Speaking of changes, if you’re wondering what happened to the second SLS Green Run test scheduled for last week, it was postponed because of a valve issue.  NASA issued an update Friday, but did not set a new date.

Sunday, February 28

Monday, March 1

Monday-Tuesday, March 1-2

Tuesday, March 2

Tuesday-Thursday, March 2-4

Wednesday, March 3

Thursday, March 4

Friday, March 5

Saturday-Sunday, March 6-7

Saturday, March 6 – Saturday, March 13 (note the event’s website lists these dates, but the agenda shows it beginning on Sunday, March 7)

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