What’s Happening in Space Policy July 10-16, 2022

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 10-16, 2022

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of July 10-16, 2022 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

It’s back to work in earnest this week. Not only is Congress back, with the House set to take up the FY2023 National Defense Authorization Act, but Europe is about to launch its new Vega-C rocket for the first time and the really BIG EVENT is the release of the first science-quality images from the James Webb Space Telescope.

First launches of new rockets are always exciting, but we think the release of the JWST images tops it this week (and Vega-C was supposed to launch last week anyway). We feel obligated to point out that JWST is billions over budget and years behind schedule as chronicled here and elsewhere over the past two decades, but this is a moment to celebrate a new beginning as it finally gets down to work unveiling the wonders of the universe.

UPDATE, JULY 10, 8:30 PM ET: NASA just announced that President Biden will release one of the images tomorrow, Monday, at 5:00 pm ET. Watch on NASA TV.

NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency will publicly release the images at 10:30 am ET Tuesday at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. Goddard manages the project and oversees the contract with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore that operates JWST and Hubble. Agency leaders and other VIPs will make opening remarks beginning at 9:45 am and a post-release press conference is at noon [Update: NASA has just changed the time to 12:30]. Media interviews with various experts will be broadcast on NASA TV’s media channel later in the afternoon and the next morning, and Wednesday’s NASA Science Live episode will provide additional coverage.

NASA shared the list of targets for these Early Release Observations on Friday, but we have to wait until Tuesday to see the images themselves. They are specifically intended to produce a “wow” effect to show why JWST is worth $10 billion. A few engineering images obtained while the telescope’s primary and secondary mirrors were being aligned and the four instruments — MIRI, NIRCam, NIRSpec, and FGS/NIRSS — readied for operations have been released already and provide a hint of JWST’s capabilities. They are stunning. Tuesday’s big reveal should be amazing.

A comparison of images from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which operated from 2003-2020, and the new James Webb Space Telescope, of the Large Magellanic Cloud. Photo credit: ESA
Illustration of Europe’s Vega-C rocket. Credit: ESA

On Wednesday morning, Europe’s newest launch vehicle, Vega-C, is scheduled to liftoff for the first time from Kourou, French Guiana. We wrote about it last week because it was supposed to launch on July 7, but was postponed to July 13. ESA will webcast the launch and a post-launch press conference on ESA TV.

As we said, Vega-C is taking on new importance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent suspension of the European-Russian partnership for using Soyuz.  Some of the payloads that were to launch on Soyuz can be shifted over to Vega-C, but others will have to find something with greater lift capacity.  A lot is riding on the success of this launch.

Closer to home, on Wednesday the House is expected to begin debate on the FY2023 NDAA.  The House Rules Committee will meet on Tuesday to sort the more than 1,000 amendments that have been submitted (1,212 as of this writing) and decide which will be debated singly, which will be bundled into “en bloc” amendments that usually are non-controversial, and which won’t make it to the floor at all.  Only a few of those amendments are related to space activities and none appear earth-shaking, but we’ll keep an eye on it nonetheless.

Also this week the NASA Advisory Council’s Science Committee is meeting Tuesday-Wednesday. The afternoon session on Wednesday is joint with the NAC Human Exploration and Operations Committee.  SpaceX will launch its next cargo mission, SpaceX CRS-25, to the International Space Station on Thursday, delayed from June 13 due to a mono-methyl hydrogen leak in a Draco thruster valve inlet joint. SpX-25 is taking a climate experiment to ISS and NASA will hold a briefing about that on Wednesday. The pre-launch briefing is Wednesday evening.

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, July 11

Monday-Tuesday, July 11-12

Monday-Friday, July 11-15

Tuesday, July 12

Tuesday-Wednesday, July 12-13

Wednesday, July 13

Thursday, July 14

Saturday, July 16

Saturday, July 16 – Sunday July 24

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