What’s Happening in Space Policy July 17-24, 2022

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 17-24, 2022

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week plus a day of July 17-24, 2022 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

It’s another busy week both in space and here on Earth.

European astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti (Italy). Credit: ESA

Starting in space, on Thursday two ISS crew members will make a spacewalk. By itself that isn’t so remarkable, but this one is rather special since it pairs a Russian cosmonaut, Oleg Artemyev, with a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti, at a time of very strained relationships.  They are tasked with continuing to activate the European Robotic Arm, which is part of Russia’s Nauka science module that arrived last summer.

That seems like a lifetime ago, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that upended so much including international space cooperation. The ISS is an exception, but it’s complicated. Just last week NASA rebuked Russia for using ISS for political purposes after the three Russian cosmonauts were photographed holding up flags of two Ukrainian territories that Russia now claims.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev. Credit: Roscosmos

Then five days ago, Dmitry Rogozin told the Russian cosmonauts to stop using the European Robotic Arm in retaliation for ESA formally terminating cooperation on the ExoMars rover that was supposed to launch this fall.

But two days ago Rogozin was dismissed as head of Roscosmos and Yuri Borisov, who had been Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister for aerospace and defense, installed as his replacement. That same day NASA announced the United States and Russia had reached agreement on seat swaps — launching Americans on Soyuz and Russians on U.S. spacecraft on a no-exchange-of-funds basis — a deal under negotiation for at least four years.

As far as we know the spacewalk is still on.  NASA insists the international ISS crew (three Americans, three Russians, one European) and their ground-based support team around the world continue to work as seamlessly as they did before Putin’s war. Perhaps with the departure of the unpredictable and vitrioloic Rogozin it will be a bit less stressful. We’ll see what Borisov is like.

Meanwhile, China is getting ready to launch the second of its three space station modules that will form the China Space Station or Tiangong-3. The first, Tianhe, was launched a little over a year ago. Now it’s Wentian’s turn. The third, Mengtian, is expected in October. Each module is about 22.5 metric tons. Three taikonauts are aboard Tianhe right now/ At the end of their six-month tour, China will, for the first time, conduct a crew rotation where they will still be aboard when their replacements arrive. It’s a new era for China’s slowly-evolving human spaceflight program, but decades behind the ISS partners. They have been standard operating procedure on ISS since the first crew boarded in November 2000 and the Soviet Union/Russia had done them for years before that (the first was in 1985 on Salyut 7 and they were routine during the Mir space station era).

Illustration of the China Space Station, or Tiangong-3, from a handbook published by the U.N. Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

As usual, China has not officially announced the launch date and time, but China space watchers like Andrew Jones report it likely will take place on July 24 (next Sunday) at 2:20 am Eastern Daylight Time, which is why we’re including it in this week’s edition of What’s Happening. China probably will formally announce details a day or so before launch and provide live coverage on CGTN.

The space station modules require China’s biggest rocket, Long March 5B. It does not have a system to intentionally deorbit the rocket stage after it has delivered the module to orbit, however, and last time created considerable alarm. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson strongly criticized China at the time for not responsibly disposing of its space debris and has repeated it in many venues since. He urges China to be more transparent. We’ll see if China does anything differently this time. Last time the stage reentered about 10 days after launch fortunately landing in the Indian Ocean.

As for earthly events this week, there are several excellent conferences in the U.S. and abroad. The biennial COSPAR Scientific Assembly is already underway in Athens, Greece and runs through July 24 with media briefings at 11:00 am EDT each day Tuesday-Friday (first up is John Mather to talk about using JWST to search for black holes); the annual American Astronautical Society’s John Glenn Memorial Symposium is tomorrow (Monday) through Wednesday in Cleveland, OH with the theme “An Electrifying Future: Earth and Space Sustainability”; IEEE’s Nuclear and Space Radiation Effects Conference is all week in Provo, UT; and NASA’s Exploration Science Forum is in Boulder, CO from Tuesday to Thursday.

Bhavya Lal, NASA Associate Administrator for Technology, Policy and Strategy, will speak at the BEI webinar on Thursday.

As always, there are far too many excellent individual meetings to highlight here. We’ll briefy mention just a few starting with three NASA meetings: the Astrophysics Advisory Committee meets Tuesday-Wednesday; the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations Committee meets again on Wednesday after a joint session with the Science Committee last week; and the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel meets in public session Thursday. Elsewhere, NRO Director Chris Scolese will speak at a Maryland Space Business Roundtable luncheon on Tuesday, and the Beyond Earth Institute has an interesting webinar on Thursday on “Artemis Base Camp: A Trailhead for Sustainable Lunar Development?” featuring NASA’s Bhavya Lal, Associate Administrator for Technology, Policy, and Strategy, among others.

Up on Capitol Hill, the House will take up the first package of FY2023 appropriations bills. The House Rules Committee meets tomorrow (Monday) to write the rule and the bill can come up on the floor for debate anytime thereafter. This package includes six bills, one of which is Transportation-HUD with funding for the FAA and its Office of Commercial Space Transporation. The others are Agriculture, Energy-Water, Financial Services, Interior-Environment, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs. No word on when the other six, including Defense and Commerce-Justice-Science (NASA and NOAA), will be taken up and if they’ll be packaged together.

Arati Prabhakar, CEO, Actuate and nominee to be OSTP Director. Credit: Actuate website.

The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday on the nomination of Arati Prabhakar to be the new Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, a Cabinet-level position. If and when confirmed (there does not seem to be any opposition, but it can still take a long time to get through the process), she will replace Eric Lander who had to resign after widespread complaints of demeaning behavior. An engineer, she has a lot of D.C. experience already. She was the head of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) under President Clinton (the first woman to hold that position) and headed DARPA in the Obama Administration. She now is CEO of Actuate.

Although Vice President Harris’s National Space Council is one focus of White House activities on space programs and policy, OSTP is also quite active on issues like planetary protection, orbital debris, and in-space servicing, manufacturing and assembly. Ezinne Uzo-Okoro is Assistant Director for Space Policy. How much of the hearing will touch on space is anyone’s guess, but it is taking place on July 20, the U.N.-designated International Moon Day. Hopefully someone will at least mention the space program.

Speaking of International Moon Day, the Washington Space Business Roundtable will hold its annual silent auction virtually that day. Blue Origin astronaut Audrey Powers and Axiom astronaut (and former NASA astronaut) Michael López-Alegria are the speakers. The event raises money for STEM education.

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.

Saturday, July 16-Sunday, July 24

Monday, July 18

Monday-Wednesday, July 18-20

Monday-Friday, July 18-22

Tuesday, July 19

Tuesday-Thursday, July 19-21

Wednesday, July 20

Wednesday-Thursday, July 20-21

Thursday, July 21

Sunday, July 24

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