What’s Happening in Space Policy February 5-11, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy February 5-11, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of February 5-11, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) chairs House Energy & Commerce subcommittee hearing on Launching Into the Satellite Marketplace, Feb. 2, 2023. Screengrab.

On Wednesday, the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a second hearing in as many weeks on the FCC’s role in satellite communications and innovation. As subcommittee Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH) said last Thursday, it’s been over a decade since the committee delved into “the satellite communications marketplace and the FCC’s role in licensing commercial satellite communications systems.”

House E&C and the Senate Commerce Committee oversee the FCC, one of a small set of federal agencies that are not part of the Executive Branch and therefore not under the direction of the President.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel is expanding the Commission’s role in space and just created a new Space Bureau out of the old International Bureau that historically handled satellite matters. Now it’s the Space Bureau with a standalone Office of International Affairs.  She talks a lot about satellite innovation and that is the subcommittee’s interest at this week’s hearing: “Unleashing Innovation in Satellite Communications Technologies.” The witnesses haven’t been announced yet, but the hearing agenda lists five bills as “legislation for discussion.” Two have been introduced already (H.R. 675 and H.R. 682) and the other three are discussion drafts. McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Pallone (D-NJ) are the Chair and Ranking Member of the full E&C Committee, swapping places from last Congress.  Latta and Ranking Member Doris Matsui (D-CA) run the C&T subcommittee. Latta was subcommittee Ranking Member in the 117th Congress.

H.R. 675 (which was introduced at the very end of the last Congress as H.R. 9464) amends the Secure and Trusted Communications Act to prohibit the FCC from granting licenses or market entry for non-geostationary satellite systems to entities associated with countries covered by that legislation (e.g. China). H.R. 682 facilitates access to electromagnetic spectrum for commercial space launches and reentries.

The Senate Commerce Committee also gets underway this week, though the FCC is not the topic of its first hearing. The committee’s organizational meeting was postponed from last week to this Thursday. Its first hearing will begin immediately thereafter on a non-space topic (airline operations).  Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) released the list of Democratic members of the committee and subcommittee members last week, but Republicans haven’t officially announced their committee assignments yet. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) apparently will be full committee Ranking Member, though, since he and Cantwell jointly introduced a resolution honoring the Columbia crew last week and the press release identified him as “incoming Ranking Member.”

Most other committees on both sides of the Hill held their organizational meetings last week or will this week, including the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, which meets this Wednesday. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) is chair and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) is Ranking Member. Some meetings and hearings may not be announced until tomorrow (Monday) so keep checking our Calendar to stay up to date.

President Joe Biden will deliver the 2023 State of the Union address on Tuesday evening. White House photo.

President Biden will give his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday evening. We haven’t heard any rumors about space getting a mention, but it’s always a possibility. Former NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were in the political spotlight last week, receiving the Congressional Space Medal of Honor from Vice President Kamala Harris.

Off the Hill, the big event this week is the annual Commercial Space Transportation conference at the Reagan Building in D.C., sponsored by the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST) and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. The day-and-a-half meeting Wednesday-Thursday has an amazing who’s who of government and commercial space speakers including new FAA/AST Associate Administrator Kelvin Coleman, and SpaceX’s Gwynne Shotwell in a fireside chat.

“Keynote” and “featured” speakers include the White House’s Chirag Parikh and Ezinne Uzo-Okoro, NASA’s Bob Cabana, Senate Armed Services Committee member and former astronaut Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and Senate Commerce Committee Chair Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA). Among the many panelists are NASA’s Kathy Lueders, the Office of Space Commerce’s Richard DalBello, and representatives of the U.K. and New Zealand governments. Industry representatives hail from Advanced Space, Axiom, Blue Origin, Hawkeye 360, LeoLabs, Maxar, Orbital Reef, Planet, Redwire, Relativity, Rocket Lab, ULA, Virgin Galactic, Virgin Orbit, and Voyager among many others.

It’ll be quite the event. Unfortunately, we don’t see any indication that a virtual option is available and the registration page says registration is closed already. We hope attendance isn’t restricted only to people who can physically travel to the Reagan Building. If we learn about a livestream link we’ll add it to our Calendar item. [UPDATE, February 6: The FAA says there will NOT be a livestream. What a shame.]

Another interesting event, which is both in-person and online, is being held by the U.S. Institute of Peace in D.C. on Thursday. It’s another great lineup of speakers, in this case about “China and Strategic Instability in Space:  Pathways to Peace in an Era of U.S.-China Strategic Competition.” Two of the participants, Bruce McDonald and Carla Freeman, wrote a book by that title.  They’ll be joined by Victoria Samson of the Secure World Foundation, Bhavya Lal from NASA, and Nate Dailey from MITRE. Scott Pace from GW’s Space Policy Institute (and former Executive Secretary of the National Space Council) is the moderator. The symposium is quite timely with the Chinese balloon incident fresh in everyone’s minds.

Lots of other interesting events as always, including a meeting of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel on Thursday, and the launch of Russia’s Progress MS-22 cargo ship (not to be confused with the Soyuz MS-22 crew capsule) to the International Space Station on Thursday, with docking on Saturday. Will be interesting to see what if anything ASAP has to say about the Soyuz MS-22 situation.

We’ll also be keeping an eye out for any news about SpaceX’s Starship engine test where they’ll ignite all 33 engines for the Super Heavy first stage at once. Rumors abound it’ll happen any time now. Elon Musk tweeted yesterday that “if remaining tests go well, we will attempt a Starship launch next month.”

Another new rocket also is about to make its debut — Japan’s H3. The inaugural launch is scheduled for no earlier than a week from Sunday, February 12, at 10:37:55 am Japan Standard Time. But that is Saturday, February 11, 8:37:55 pm Eastern Standard Time so we are including it in this week’s What’s Happening. The launch is from Tanegashima, Japan.  If we learn of a livestream, we’ll add a link to our Calendar entry. The Mitshubishi Heavy Industries-built rocket will replace Japan’s H-IIA and H-IIB. [Update, February 6: JAXA tells us the launch has been postponed to February 15, time TBA.]

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 6

Monday-Friday, February 6-10 (continues next week)

Tuesday, February 7

Tuesday-Thursday, February 7-9

Wednesday, February 8

Wednesday-Thursday, February 8-9

Thursday, February 9

Saturday, February 11

This article has been updated.

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