What’s Happening in Space Policy July 24-30, 2022

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 24-30, 2022

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of July 24-30, 2022 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

The week has started already with China’s successful launch of the Wentian space station module early this morning EDT. This afternoon it docked with the Tianhe core module, launched last year. Wentian is the first of two science modules. The other, Mengtian, is scheduled for launch in October. The modules are 22.5 Metric Tons each, so the fully assembled station will be just under 70 MT. The three taikonauts currently aboard Tianhe will still be there when their replacements arrive later this year. That will be China’s first crew exchange. Crew exchanges have been routine on the International Space Station for more than 20 years, and the Soviets/Russians did them long before that, but along with completing the assembly of Tiangong-3 will mark a significant milestone for China’s slow-but-steady human spaceflight program.

Launch of China’s Wentian space station module on a Long March 5B rocket, July 24, 2022. Photo credit: Xinhua

Tiangong-3 is small compared to the 420 MT U.S.-Russian-European-Japanese-Canadian International Space Station, but both have scientific research as top priorities.

NASA and the ISS National Laboratory will hold their annual conference to highlight ISS research this week in Washington, DC. The ISS Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) is organized by the American Astronautical Society and is a hybrid event this year. The in-person portion is at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

NASA will broadcast some of the sessions on NASA TV, including a live conversation with two of the NASA astronauts aboard the ISS right now, Kjell Lindgren and Jessica Watkins. That’s at 9:00 am ET on Tuesday. They’ll be followed by a panel that includes ISS Program Manager Joel Montalbano, ISS Program Director Robyn Gatens, and ISS National Lab CEO Ray Lugo. Another NASA-televised panel is at 11:20 am ET Tuesday, then one on Wednesday morning (with JSC Director Vanessa Wyche, NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana, and NASA AA for Space Operations Kathy Lueders) and another Thursday morning. See the full list below. The entire conference looks terrific.

Up on Capitol Hill, the Senate is scheduled to take the next step in consideration of the CHIPS+ Act, which includes the 2022 NASA Authorization Act, on Monday and hopefully pass it Tuesday or Wednesday. If that happens, the House wants to take it up immediately and get it through Congress by the end of this week. The House is about to leave for its August recess, so if it doesn’t get done this week, it’ll have to wait until mid-September.

The House also is scheduled to take up Rep. Frank Lucas’s (R-OK) Commercial Remote Sensing Amendment Act (H.R. 6845). The bill was approved by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, of which Lucas is Ranking Member, in April. It would restore reporting requirements by the Department of Commerce on commercial remote sensing that expired last year, and shorten from 120 days to 60 days how long the Secretary of Commerce has to approve or disapprove an application for a commercial remote sensing satellite license, codifying the change made when the regulations were updated in 2020.

The House SS&T subcommittee will hold a hearing on Thursday morning on “Cybersecurity Issues for Civil and Commercial Space Systems” with witnesses from the MITRE Corporation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, part of the Department of Commerce), and the Aerospace Corporation.

Off the Hill, on Wednesday NASA and ESA will hold a media telecon to discuss the Mars Sample Return campaign, which just got through its Systems Requirement Review. NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover is already collecting the samples. The MSR campaign is the effort to bring them back to Earth. The plan has been for ESA to build a Fetch Rover that will land on Mars and drive to wherever Perseverance drops the samples off and bring them to a NASA-built Mars Ascent Vehicle that will launch them into orbit around Mars where they will be transferred to an ESA-built Earth Return Orbiter for the trip to Earth. Rumors are afoot there may be a significant change to that plan, but we’ll wait to hear it straight from the experts on Wednesday. Participants are the heads of science at NASA (Thomas Zurbuchen) and ESA (David Parker) and the heads of the agencies’ respective MSR programs (NASA’s Jeff Gramling and ESA’s Francois Spoto).  It will be broadcast on NASA Live.

ESA infographic of the Mars Sample Return campaign.

Later on Wednesday, AIAA and MITRE have an interesting webinar on space debris and mitigation with speakers from COMSPOC, the FAA, the Aerospace Corporation, and United First Nations Planetary Defense.

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.

Tuesday, July 26

Tuesday-Thursday, July 26-28

  • 11th Annual ISS Research and Development Conference, Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington, DC, and virtual. NASA TV will broadcast selected sessions as follows:
    • Tuesday
      • 9:00 am ET, live conversation with ISS astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Jessica Watkins aboard ISS
      • 9:25 am ET, panel discussion including NASA ISS Program Manager Joel Montalbano, NASA ISS Program Director Robyn Gatens, and ISS National Lab CEO Ray Lugo
      • 11:20 am ET, panel discussion with NASA Chief Scientist and Senior Climate Advisor Kate Calvin, NASA ISS Chief Scientist Kirt Costello, and ISS National Lab Chief Scientist Mike Roberts
    • Wednesday
      • 8:50 am ET, panel discussion with NASA JSC Director Vanessa Wyche, NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana, and NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations Kathy Lueders
    • Thursday
      • 8:45 am ET, panel discussion on climate research on ISS with Karen St. Germain, NASA Earth Science Division Director; Ralph Dubayah, Principal Investigator (PI) of GEDI; Abhishek Chatterjee, PI of the Orbital Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3); and Simon Hook, PI of ECOSTRESS

Wednesday, July 27

Thursday, July 28

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