What’s Happening in Space Policy January 9-15, 2022

What’s Happening in Space Policy January 9-15, 2022

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of January 9-15, 2022 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

After the excitement of the truly impressive feat of unfolding the James Webb Space Telescope over the past two weeks — congratulations to everyone involved! — this coming week may seem a bit humdrum.

NASA’s Observatory Visualizaton Tool shows what the James Webb Space Telescope looks like right now based on telemetry sent from the telecope in real time. There are no cameras on the telescope to take actual pictures of deployment, so this tool was used instead. The relative positions of the Earth and Sun are provided. Credit: NASA. January 8, 2022

On the other hand, we need to keep our eyes on the situation in Kazakhstan and the increasingly chilly U.S.-Russian relationship. Space is just a tiny part of that relationship, but its centerpiece is the U.S.-Russian-Japanese-Canadian-European International Space Station, a steady oasis of cooperation through thick and thin since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, interference in the U.S. 2016 elections, cyberattacks, and now massing of troops on the Ukraine border have dramatically changed the geopolitical climate on Earth, but ISS operations are unaffected.

The steppes of Kazakhstan where a crowd awaits the Soyuz MS-18 crew returning from the International Space Station. Screengrab.

Will that continue to be true? First, Kazakhstan is dealing with civil protests. The country is home to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the site from which all Russian human spaceflight missions originate. They terminate elsewhere in Kazakhstan, landing in the steppes northeast of the cosmodrome. Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin has tweeted a couple of times that everything is calm at Baikonur, which Russia leases from Kazakhstan. The Kazakh President called in Russia to help quell the unrest so Russian interests in the country, which gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, are probably safe, but the situation bears watching. Fortunately the next crew launch and landing are not until March.

Kazakhstan, the 9th largest country in the world by area. Map source: CIA World Factbook. The Baikonur Cosmodrone is the site of all Russian crew launches. Crew landings take place between Baikonur and Karaganda.

More broadly, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson wants Russia to agree to keep ISS operating beyond 2024. Just one day after strong words were exchanged between Presidents Biden and Putin about Russia’s intentions toward Ukraine, Nelson announced the Biden-Harris Administration wants to extend ISS to 2030. What happens in this coming week might affect whether Russia agrees. Three multilateral meetings are taking place beginning tomorrow (Monday) with the Strategic Stability Dialogue in Geneva where the two sides will have the opportunity to heat up or cool down the rhetoric. The other meetings are the NATO-Russia Council and then the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. On Saturday, a Senior Administration Official briefed the press on actions the U.S. and its allies would take immediately if Russia’s troops cross into Ukraine. The New York Times reported that technology sanctions would target the aerospace and arms industries with a focus on “Russian-built fighter aircraft, antiaircraft systems, antisatellite systems, space systems and emerging technologies where Russia is hoping to make gains, like artificial intelligence and quantum computing.” The Senior Administration Official declined to confirm that report.

It will be interesting to see what transpires and how it might affect space cooperation.

Meanwhile, up on Capitol Hill, the House will take up that NASA Enhanced Use Leasing Extension Act on Tuesday. We explained the state of play a couple of weeks ago. Basically the House passed a bill, H.R. 5746, to extend NASA’s authority to lease underutilized facilities on NASA property to the private sector, state and local governments, and universities, and use the money for facilities maintenance, capital revitalization, and real property improvements for 10 more years, to December 31, 2031. The Senate then passed the bill, but with an amendment that extends the authority only until March 31, 2022, so the bill had to go back to the House again. They didn’t get it over there in time for anything to get done by December 31, 2021, so the authority actually has lapsed at this point. The House now wants to amend the Senate-passed version restoring the 10-year date and adding what appears to be unrelated language about charging fees to anyone who submits reports to the Federal Election Commission on paper instead of electronically. The House Rules Committee will consider the bill tomorrow afternoon where its sponsors may explain why that was added. H.R. 5746 passed the House by voice vote on the suspension calendar, an expedited process for non-controversial bills that bypasses the Rules Committee. The fact that they are going through the full process this time is interesting in and of itself.

Down at the White House, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) will hold the first of two “listening sessions” on orbital debris on Thursday. This one is on remediation. Next week there will be a separate session on mitigation. OSTP is gathering input on these issues for the National Science and Technology Policy Council’s Orbital Debris Research and Development Interagency Working Group. Instructions on how to register so you can share your views are in the Federal Register notice (see our Calendar Entry).

This was to be the week of the annual American Astronomical Society winter meeting in Salt Lake City where the latest discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics are released. The spread of the omicron COVID variant forced AAS to cancel the entire event, in-person and virtual, however. It is reconfiguring its summer meeting to accommodate the papers that were to be presented.

There are a few exceptions. The press conferences will still take place, albeit virtually. No registration is necessary and they will air on the AAS Press Office YouTube channel. They are each day Monday-Thursday at 10:15 am and 2:15 pm MOUNTAIN TIME (add 2 for Eastern). The list is on the AAS press website.

NASA’s three astrophysics program analysis groups (ExoPAG, COPAG, PhysPAG) usually meet in conjunction with the AAS meeting. Their joint meeting was postponed. ExoPAG and COPAG will meet virtually. Also, the NASA “Town Hall” meeting will take place virtually on Tuesday afternoon. NASA Astrophysics Division Director Paul Hertz will give a keynote address there. We imagine everyone at those meetings will be brimming with joy over JWST’s successful deployment and there is a lot more than that going on in the astrophysics division. Should be interesting.

The other big space conference this week is still taking place in-person. SpaceCom: Off-Planet For The Planet meets Monday-Wednesday in Orlando. NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana and Kennedy Space Center Director Janet Petro are keynote speakers on Tuesday and Wednesday and there are a lot of really good panel sessions on everything from spaceports to climate change to workforce development to human spaceflight. Looks really good if you can get there.

The Mitchell Institute has two events this week: on Wednesday, a webinar with Derek Tournear, Director of the Space Development Agency, and on Friday, roll out of a new policy paper on “Maneuver Warfare in Space: The Strategic Mandate for Nuclear Thermal Propulsion.”

Women in Aerospace has what looks like a fascinating panel discussion this week with three women in key White House space policy positions –Amber Charlesworth from the National Space Council, Ezinne Uzo-Okoro from OSTP, and Audrey Schaffer from the National Security Council. Most unfortunately, WIA tells us media are not allowed to attend.

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, January 10

Monday and Wednesday, January 10 and January 12

Monday-Wednesday, January 10-12

Monday-Thursday, January 10-13

Tuesday, January 11

Wednesday, January 12

Wednesday-Thursday, January 12-13

Thursday, January 13

Friday, January 14

User Comments

SpacePolicyOnline.com has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.