What’s Happening in Space Policy January 1-14, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy January 1-14, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the next two weeks, January 1-14, 2023, and any insight we can offer about them. The House will be in session most of that time. The Senate plans to be in session only on January 3 to swear in Senators and adopt housekeeping resolutions, with the expectation they will reach agreement that January 23 will be the first day for bill introductions.



Yes, 2023 is off and running. The space policy scene is still pretty quiet at the moment so we’re combining the next two weeks, but there’ll be plenty of political action as the 118th Congress gets underway.

The 117th Congress ends and the 118th Congress begins at noon on Tuesday, January 3.

It marks the return to divided government with Democrats controlling the Senate and the White House, and Republicans in control of the House. Both chambers have published their schedules for 2023, although they are subject to change.


The House will be in session on the days marked in yellow.

Party control is extremely narrow as it was in the 117th.

The Senate will have 49 Republicans, 48 Democrats and 3 Independents. The independents — Angus King (Maine), Bernie Sanders (Vermont), and Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) who just changed her affiliation from Democrat to Independent — are tallied with Democrats because they caucus and/or often vote with and hold committee and sometimes leadership positions with Democrats. So the party breakdown is usually shown as 51 Democrats and 49 Republicans. In the 117th Congress it is 50-50, with Vice President Harris holding the tie-breaking vote putting Democrats in control.

In the House, Republicans will have 222 seats versus 213 for Democrats. One of those Democratic seats will be vacant for several weeks, however, due to the death of Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA) on November 28. A special election to fill the seat will take place on February 21 in the heavily Democratic district. The 117th House was exactly the reverse in September — 222 Democrats and 213 Republicans — but McEachin’s death and four Democratic resignations (Crist, Deutch, Bass and Butterfield) put the count at 217 Democrats and 213 Republicans in these final days.

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)

The first order of business in the House is electing a new Speaker. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is determined to win the job, but it is far from clear whether he has the votes in his own party to succeed on the first round of ballots. The Congressional Research Service has a handy FAQ explaining how the election takes place and a longer report with more detail. Nominally 218 votes are required if all 435 members are present and voting for a nominee by name, but that threshold may be different if members are absent or vote “present.”

Since this is a space policy website we would be remiss not to mention that McCarthy’s congressional district includes Mojave Air & Space Port, NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, and other defense and aerospace interests in the Edwards Air Force Base area.

Electing the Speaker is a necessary first step for the House to organize and adopt rules for the conduct of business. If it takes multiple rounds of votes, the work of the House will be delayed. Politico got hold of a memo from the House Administration Committee on what happens to committees if a rules package is not adopted by January 13.

Bottom line: it looks like the 118th Congress will be getting off to a fractious start. It usually takes a couple of weeks for committees to firm up their membership rosters and leadership positions and begin work for the year. It could take a little longer this time.

Congress did manage to pass and the President signed into law the FY2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act in the nick of time, so that at least is one item not on the 118th Congress’s to-do list. The FY2024 budget request is just around the corner, though. By law, the President is supposed to submit each year’s request to Congress on the first Monday in February. Sometimes the White House (regardless of party) actually meets that date.

As far as space activities are concerned, we’re on tenterhooks waiting for several announcements that could happen any time.

  • After the successful conclusion of the Artemis I mission last month, NASA Johnson Space Center Director Vanessa Wyche said the plan is to announce the crew for Artemis II “in early 2023.”  They’ll be the first humans to swing around the Moon since 1972. It’s a test flight. They won’t land — that’s the Artemis III mission — but it’s another step in that direction. One member of the crew will be Canadian.
  • NASA and Roscosmos said they’ll decide what to do about the Soyuz MS-22 situation “in January.” Roscosmos is assessing whether Soyuz MS-22 is safe enough to bring three ISS crew members — Roscosmos’s Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin and NASA’s Frank Rubio — home or if they need to send up an empty Soyuz to replace it. NASA has asked SpaceX if it would be possible to add them to the four Crew-5 members in Crew Dragon Endurance. Crew Dragon is advertised as accommodating seven people, but NASA needs only four and that’s how many seats are in Endurance right now.
  • Rocket Lab will try again to launch its first Electron from Wallops Island, VA. Weather did not cooperate in mid-December and the company said it would wait till January. They have a second Wallops launch coming up, too, and tweeted a couple of days ago that they will have a “busy start to the year with back-to-back launches from @NASA_Wallops.” But they didn’t mention the dates.

  • Virgin Orbit could announce a date for its first launch at Spaceport Cornwall, U.K. They finally got their launch and range control licenses from the U.K. government on December 22 and said the launch would take place “in the coming weeks.”

One launch date we do have is for the first launch of the year for a U.S. provider. No surprise, it’s SpaceX. After a frenetic pace in 2022 with 61 launches, all successful, SpaceX isn’t letting the grass grow under its feet. The last launch of 2022 was on December 30 EST and the first of 2023 is this Tuesday, January 3. Transporter-6 is a rideshare mission carrying 114 satellites.

In terms of meetings, conferences and events, the DC chapter of the ISU Alumni Association has a really interesting Space Café this Wednesday evening. The Washington representatives for the French, German and Italian space agencies — Nicolas Maubert, Marc Jochemich, and Aniello Violetti — will talk about the results of the ESA Ministerial Council meeting in November. The panel is moderated by Breaking Defense’s Theresa Hitchens. Sounds great!

The pace picks up next week with the annual meetings of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Both have massive agendas with lots of space-related sessions. Like most years these two conferences are at exactly the same time making it tough to choose which fascinating sessions/plenaries/Town Halls/press conferences to cover.

NASA and NOAA have a major presence at the AMS meeting in Denver and virtually with sessions and Town Halls on earth science/climate change research from space and space weather. AAS will meet in Seattle and virtually. NASA’s astrophysics research and space telescopes, including James Webb Space Telescope, will be center stage.  JWST’s John Mather is one of plenary speakers and Jane Rigby will give the Fred Kavli Plenary Lecture. NASA’s three astrophysics Program Analysis Groups (PAGs) meet individually and jointly in conjunction with the AAS meeting each year. The Exoplanets Exploration PAG meets January 7-8, while Cosmic Origins PAG and Physics of the Cosmos PAG each meet on January 9. The joint meeting is January 8. EXOPAG, at least, has a virtual option. Not sure about the others.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning, January 1, are shown below. Check back throughout the weeks for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar or changes to these.

Monday, January 2

Tuesday, January 3

Wednesday, January 4

Wednesday-Saturday, January 4-7

Thursday, January 5

Saturday-Sunday, January 7-8

Sunday, January 8

Sunday-Thursday, January 8-12

Monday, January 9

Monday-Wednesday, January 9-11

Wednesday-Friday, January 11-13

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