What’s Happening in Space Policy July 25-August 1, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 25-August 1, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week, plus a day, of July 25-August 1, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

It’s busy in space as well as on Earth this week. We’re including Sunday, August 1, because there is an event that morning before we post our next What’s Happening.

Russia’s Nauka science module is inching its way to the International Space Station (ISS). Though the launch on July 21 was a success, something went wrong with its onboard engines after that. The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, is saying very little so what insight the public has is largely thanks to expert amateurs on Twitter who have sources in Russia and/or are watching Nauka’s progress by studying the orbital elements (elsets) routinely released by U.S. Space Force (USSF) or their own visual or radio frequency observations. For whatever reason, USSF stopped releasing elsets for Nauka yesterday (they resumed today), so cheers to the amateur satellite sleuths who have their own ways of finding out what’s happening and are happy to share the news.

Nauka is supposed to dock at a port on Russia’s Zarya module that is currently occupied by the Progress MS-16 spacecraft and Pirs docking compartment. They were supposed to jointly undock on Friday, but because of the uncertainty surrounding Nauka that has been delayed day by day. It is now scheduled for tomorrow morning (Monday), but could change again. If Nauka can’t make it to ISS, the Pirs compartment needs to remain attached instead of deorbiting with Progress MS-16. The Nauka docking was expected on Thursday, but that also could change.

ISS is a really busy place. The Big Event this week, at least from a U.S. standpoint, is that Boeing is getting ready to launch its second Starliner Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2). The first test in December 2019 did not go as planned, so Boeing decided to conduct another uncrewed test before putting astronauts aboard. It’s taken a year-and-a-half, but Starliner is now ready and passed its Flight Readiness Review last week. The Launch Readiness Review is on Tuesday and NASA and Boeing will hold a press conference afterwards. Another OFT-2 briefing, including NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and the three NASA astronauts who will fly on Starliner’s first crewed mission perhaps later this year, is on Thursday. Launch is at 2:53 pm EDT Friday, docking on Saturday at 3:06 pm ET, and hatch opening with a welcome ceremony on Sunday morning. NASA TV will cover it all.

Scheduling all these ISS comings and goings is no easy feat. If anything changes, especially with Nauka, we’ll keep our Calendar as up-to-date as possible.

Another big launch event will come just a couple of hours after the OFT-2 launch. The Ariane 5 rocket, sidelined for almost a year because a fairing vibration anomaly, will make its return-to-flight on Friday. The 90-minute launch window opens at 5:00 pm ET to send two communications satellites to geostationary orbit. The reliability of Ariane 5 is uppermost on many minds right now because it is the rocket that will launch the $9 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) later this year. JWST is a partnership between NASA and ESA. Among other things ESA is providing the launch at no cost to NASA. Friday’s launch and another in September are opportunities to demonstrate the probem is fixed before it’s JWST’s turn, probably in November.

It’s also busy back here in D.C. as Congress tries to get a lot of work done before the August recess. The House will take up some of the FY2022 appropriations bills this week. Ten of the 12 are already before the House Rules Committee. The schedule for the other two — Defense and Homeland Security — has not been announced. They’ve been approved by the House Appropriations Committee and at one point the plan was to get all 12 bills passed by the House before the recess. We’ll see how far they get.

Tomorrow the Rules Committee will write the rule for seven of the bills that are bundled together in H.R. 4502, including the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) and Transportation-HUD (THUD) bills. On Tuesday it will take up Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS), H.R. 4505. Space-related amendments have been proposed to all three of those. The committee decides if they will proceed to the House floor for debate.

The seven subcommittees of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will mark up their portions of the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week.The Strategic Forces subcommittee handles most space programs. It meets on Wednesday. Unlike its Senate counterpart, HASC holds its markups in the open and they will be webcast. Only the subcommittees meet this week. Full committee markup will wait until after the August recess, which is a good thing. The HASC full committee markup is always a marathon and often goes past midnight so everyone needs to be well rested.

Also on Capitol Hill, the space subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on NASA’s infrastructure needs on Thursday. Nelson is trying to get $5.4 billion in President Biden’s jobs/infrastructure bill allocated to NASA to repair aging facilities (that’s in addition to the $5.4 billion he hopes to get added for the Human Landing System). He’s mentioned a few places, like the Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana, in dire need of repairs, but hopefuly the hearing will provide more specifics on what’s needed and where. NASA Associate Administrator for Mission Support, Robert Gibbs, is the sole witness.

Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman hold their second quarter 2021 (2Q2021) financial results briefings this week and there is, as usual, a number of very interesting webinars and committee meetings.

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 26

Tuesday, July 27

Wednesday, July 28

Wednesday-Friday, July 28-30

Thursday, July 29

Friday, July 30

Saturday, July 31

Sunday, August 1


This article has been updated.


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