What’s Happening in Space Policy July 18-24, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 18-24, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of July 18-24, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

The Big Event this week is on Tuesday when Blue Origin conducts the first commercial suborbital human spaceflight. Yes, Virgin Galactic (VG) founder Richard Branson flew to space a week ago on his SpaceShipTwo, but it was a test flight with only company employees onboard. VG does not expect to begin commercial flights until next year.

On Tuesday, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos will fly to space on his New Shepard reusable suborbital rocket (a completely different type of system from VG’s) with three companions. One of them is paying an undisclosed price to make the trip. He’s 18-year-old Oliver Daemen from the Netherlands, but it’s his dad, Joes Daemen, founder and CEO of Somerset Capital Partners, who’s paying for it. He was part of the auction last month that was won by somebody else with a $28 million bid. In a bewildering turn of events, whoever paid that price to make the first passenger flight of New Shepard changed his or her mind due to a “schedule conflict” and will go on a later flight. It wasn’t a matter of getting the money together–Blue Origin is already disbursing the $28 million. The July 20 launch date was well known prior to the auction so what kind of schedule conflict could have popped up in the interim has everyone guessing.

In any case, Jeff Bezos will be joined by his brother, Mark, along with Daemen and Wally Funk who is finally getting her chance to fly to space after a six-decade wait. Daemen, 18, and Funk, 82, will be the youngest and oldest individuals to fly to space. The launch from West Texas is at 9:00 am ET on Tuesday. Blue Origin will livestream it beginning at 7:30 am ET. The flight only lasts about 11 minutes. There is a pre-launch press conference today (Sunday) at 12:00 pm ET with Blue Origin executives (but not Bezos) that also will be livestreamed.

Maintaining the breathtaking pace of human spaceflight activity going on this month, NASA and Boeing are getting ready for the second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) of the Starliner commercial crew spacecraft. The launch isn’t until next week (July 30), but the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) is this Thursday and they will hold a media teleconference that afternoon. No people are on this test flight, but it will dock with the International Space Station (ISS) and if all goes well the Crew Flight Test will follow by the end of the year. We’ll have more about Starliner’s OFT-2 mission in next week’s What’s Happening.

To make way for Starliner, the four ISS astronauts who arrived on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour need to move that spacecraft from one docking port to another. NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA astronaut Aki Hoshide, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet will board Endeavour Wednesday morning to make the short trip. They all have to be onboard in case anything goes awry and they can’t redock and must return to Earth instead. Endeavour is their taxi to and from ISS.

A few hours later, after years and years of delays, Russia will launch its Nauka (Science) Multi-purpose Laboratory Module (MLM). The approximately 20-Metric Ton module is the same size as the other two main modules built by Russia (Zarya and Zvezda) that were launched in 1998 and 2000. In fact, Nauka was built as a backup to Zarya. Zarya originally was called FGB and Nauka therefore is sometimes referred to as FGB-2, so various sources refer to this module as Nauka, MLM, or FGB-2. It will not dock to ISS until next week because another spacecraft (Progress MS-16, with the Pirs compartment) has to depart to free another docking port. That’s on Friday. The ISS is a busy place!

Meanwhile, back here on Earth, two congressional hearings may be of interest this week. On Tuesday, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hear testimony about Spectrum Needs for Observations in Earth and Space Sciences. Witnesses are from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Aerospace Corporation, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and Hughes Network Systems (an EchoStar subsdiary).

On Thursday, Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), the new chairman of the Space and Science Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, will convene his first hearing. The topic is “Space Situational Awareness, Space Traffic Management, and Orbital Debris: Examining Solutions for Emerging Threats.” Kevin O’Connell, who headed NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce under the Trump Administration and kickstarted the effort to create an Open Architecture Data Repository (OADR) fusing data on space objects from the government and commercial sector, is one of the witnesses. He will be joined by Karina Drees from the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, Marcus Holzinger from the University of Colorado Boulder, and Paul Garziani from COMSPOC. Unfortunately no one will be there from NOAA to explain what they are — or are not — doing re space situational awareness these days. It’s awfully quiet over there.

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) will mark up the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week. The Strategic Forces subcommittee markup is tomorrow (Monday) and full committee markup begins on Wednesday. The markups are closed so we can’t listen in, but we’ll be on the lookout for the results.

As always, a lot of fascinating webinars, media briefings and conferences are on tap. To mention a sampling: on Tuesday, an AIAA webinar on space sustainability and a WSBR webinar with NRO Director Chris Scolese; on Wednesday, a  JAXA-NASA webinar on cooperation in addressing climate change and a NASA briefing on early science results from Mars Perseverance; on Thursday, a Moon Dialogs webinar on lunar “safety zones” (referencing the Artemis Accords).  The four-day joint NASA Exploration Science Forum and European Lunar Symposium begins Tuesday, and the two-day Lunar Science Innovation Consortium’s Power Beaming Workshop begins Thursday.

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 or these.

Sunday, July 18

Monday, July 19

Tuesday, July 20

Tuesday-Friday, July 20-23

Wednesday, July 21

Thursday, July 22

Thursday-Friday, July 22-23

Friday, July 23

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.