What’s Happening in Space Policy June 16-22, 2024

What’s Happening in Space Policy June 16-22, 2024

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of June 16-22, 2024 and any insight we can offer about them. The Senate is in session this week, but the House is in recess except for pro forma sessions.

During the Week

FAA/AST’s Kelvin Coleman will speak at tomorrow’s National Space Council Black Space Week Forum in Washington, DC.

This week has a federal holiday in the middle. Wednesday, June 19, is Juneteenth National Independence Day celebrating the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States at the end of the Civil War. President Biden declared it a federal holiday in 2021, his first year in office, although it was celebrated at state and local levels long before that.

Tomorrow, the National Space Council is sponsoring a Black Space Week Forum at the National Museum of African American History & Culture in D.C. Kelvin Coleman, FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, will provide opening remarks. The theme is “Beyond the Color Lines: From Science Fiction to Science Fact” and they’ll discuss “career paths and contributions of Black people in the space enterprise.” It’ll be livestreamed.

Jumping to the end of the week, Saturday, June 22, is the latest date for the Starliner Crew Flight Test (CFT) to come home. NASA hasn’t provided details yet and the date could change again due to weather or other considerations. Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams docked at the International Space Station on June 6 and the first landing opportunity was June 14, but NASA and Boeing hinted they probably wouldn’t return that quickly.  The date soon changed to June 18 and on Friday they pushed it to June 22 so more tests can be conducted while the Starliner capsule, Calypso, is docked at the ISS.

Image of the International Space Station taken by Maxar’s WorldView-3 satellite. Boeing’s Starliner Calypso capsule is the white triangular-shaped spacecraft in the center right. The rear of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour for the Crew-8 mission is oriented 90 degrees up. Credit: Maxar post on X, June 12, 2024, 6:15 pm ET.

Software “deselected” five of the capsule’s 28 Reaction Control Thrusters (RCS) during the trip to ISS. Boeing was able to get four of them functioning again, but one of the eight aft-facing thrusters remains non-functional. Boeing will “hot fire” the other seven in two short bursts for a total of about one second. The crew also will do other tests with the spacecraft.

NASA and Boeing instead will use June 18 (Tuesday) for a media teleconference at noon ET to provide an update on Starliner’s status, hopefully providing more detail on the thrusters as well as Calypso’s five helium leaks. They keep reminding everyone this is a test flight and test flights are meant to discover just these kinds of problems.

NASA probably also will be asked about the spacewalk that was scrubbed last week. Other than announcing a new spacewalk schedule they’ve been tight-lipped about what happened, saying only it was due to one of the astronauts experiencing “spacesuit discomfort.” They’ve declined to say anything else citing the “crew member’s personal privacy.” Tracy Dyson and Matt Dominick were in their EVA suits in the airlock less than an hour from exiting when it was called off. That was to have been the first of a series of three spacewalks with the others on June 24 and July 2. NASA is keeping those two dates and rearranging the tasks the spacewalkers will do. They haven’t said which astronauts will perform them.

Capitol Hill is relatively quiet, with the House taking the week off. We don’t know of any space-related activities although, by coincidence, Boeing President and CEO David Calhoun will testify to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Investigations Tuesday afternoon — right after the NASA/Boeing media telecon — on “Boeing’s broken safety culture.”  The hearing likely will focus on Boeing’s aircraft business, not space, but could be of interest.

Tuesday’s a busy day.

Aarti Holla Maini, Director of the U.N. Office of Outer Space Affairs, will participate in the 1st U.N. Conference on Sustainable Lunar Activities in Vienna, Austria on Tuesday.

Off the Hill, in fact across the Atlantic in Vienna, Austria, the U.N. Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the Secure World Foundation will hold the 1st U.N. Conference on Sustainable Lunar Activities that day. It’ll be livestreamed and although the time zone difference is a challenge — it begins at 4:00 am ET — the event sounds quite interesting. Officials from many space agencies will be there including NASA (U.S.), JAXA (Japan), CNSA (China), ISRO (India), ESA (Europe), Roscosmos (as well as someone from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs), DLR (Germany), CNES (France), UAESA (United Arab Emirates), KASA (South Korea), LSA (Luxembourg), EgSA (Egypt), SUPARCO (Pakistan), SANSA (South Africa), AEB (Brazil) and ABAE (Bolivia). An industry panel features representatives of Lockheed Martin, ispace-US, Intuitive Machines, DFH Satellite Co. Ltd., Blue Origin, and the European Space Resources Innovation Centre. Two afternoon (local time) sessions focus on the U.S.-led Artemis Accords and the Chinese-led International Lunar Research Station (ILRS).

There’s a press conference at 8:00 am ET (2:00 pm local time) with UNOOSA Director Aarti Holla Maini and former Romanian cosmonaut Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu, who previously chaired the U.N. Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) and is currently a Board member of the Romanian Space Agency. UNCOPUOS’ annual meeting begins the next day and runs through June 28. It also will be webcast. UNOOSA administers UNCOPUOS.

The Moon is a hot topic in Europe. The European Lunar Symposium starts today in Scotland and runs through Friday. The website does not mention a virtual option, unfortunately.

Closer to home, NASA will hold a virtual briefing on Thursday to summarize the 5th biennial Planetary Defense Interagency Tabletop Exercise that took place in April at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL). Long-time NASA planetary defense leader Lindley Johnson — our first Planetary Defense Officer — recently started down the path to retirement and is now “Planetary Defense Officer Emeritus” (he’ll fully retire next May). He’ll participate in this briefing along with L.A. Lewis, a detailee to NASA from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and APL’s Terik Daly.

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.

Sunday-Friday, June 16-21

Monday, June 17

Monday-Tuesday, June 17-18

Tuesday, June 18

Wednesday, June 19

Wednesday-Friday, June 19-21 (continues next week)

Thursday, June 20

Saturday, June 22

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