What’s Happening in Space Policy January 2-8, 2022

What’s Happening in Space Policy January 2-8, 2022

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of January 2-8, 2022 and any insight we can offer about them. The Senate is in session this week. The House returns for legislative business next week and will meet only in pro forma sessions this week.

During the Week

Happy New Year! The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) team patiently commanding the James Webb Space Telescope to unfold a step at a time took a very well deserved break yesterday. They planned to be back at it today, beginning a two-day process of “tensioning” the sunshield that will protect the telescope’s instruments from the heat and light of the Sun, but just after we posted our original version of this article, NASA announced they are going to wait until tomorrow (Monday).

They worked late New Year’s Eve lowering the sunshield’s two mid-booms, leaving the telescope in a diamond shape.

Now the 5-layer sunshield needs to expand into its operational configuration.

If all goes well, as it has so far, the team will move on to the many additional steps still needed. Deployment was to be completed by the end of this week, but with the tensioning delay, that will slip a bit. There’s no rush. The telescope will still have another two weeks to travel before it reaches its destination a million miles from Earth at the Sun-Earth Lagrange Point 2 (SEL-2).

NASA plans a media briefing after tensioning is complete, which is looking like Tuesday now. There will be another briefing when deployment is complete. We’ll post whatever information we get on the timing of these briefings as it becomes available.

Back here on Earth, the Senate returns to work tomorrow. No space-related hearings are scheduled and we haven’t heard what they plan to take up on the floor other than nominations. The fate of the Build Back Better Act with that $1.115 billion for NASA is still in limbo.

Not space-related, but the imminent 1-year anniversary of the January 6, 2021 failed insurrection reportedly was the focus of the Sunday morning news shows today, with the U.S. Capitol Police chief assuring everyone that its planning now is “more well thought out.” Although the House will meet only in pro forma session that day (meaning no recorded votes, so members do not have to be in Washington), the House has organized several events “as an observance of reflection, remembrance and recommitment, in a spirit of unity, patriotism and prayerfulness.” They will be livestreamed. We haven’t heard what, if anything, the Senate plans to do to mark the day.

Back to the space program.

AIAA’s annual week-long SciTech forum begins tomorrow in San Diego, with a virtual option available. Considering the state of COVID-disrupted airline travel at the moment, that’s a really good thing. Same for the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Wednesday-Saturday.

SciTech is chock-full of great sessions, too many to highlight here so we will simply remind you of the one we mentioned last week — the Durand Lecture for Public Service tomorrow afternoon (Monday at 3:50 pm ET). AIAA awarded the lectureship to SpaceX’s Bill Gerstenmaier this year. He will talk about “Human Spaceflight — The Ultimate Team Sport.” We can’t think of anyone more knowledgable about the depth and breadth of human spaceflight than Gerst. Should be fascinating. The overall theme of this year’s forum is “Enabling Sustainability Through Aerospace Technology.”

CES has some space-related sessions on Thursday that we mentioned last week. We only scanned the program, so there may be others. For those able to get there in person, the exhibit hall has some space-related booths, including AGI/Ansys, Sierra Space, and Zero G.

In addition to the University of Washington and Mitchell Institute webinars we mentioned last week, the Aerospace Corporation has scheduled one on Thursday on “Fishing With Satellites–Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated.”  No, that’s not about HOW to fish illegally using satellites, but how satellite data are used to identify regions in danger of “IUU” fishing (it seems there truly is an acronym for everything).

Check back throughout the week for other events we learn about later and add to our Calendar, or changes to these (especially the JWST briefings).


Monday-Friday, January 3-7

Wednesday-Saturday, January 5-8

Thursday, January 6

Friday, January 7


This article has been updated.

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