What’s Happening in Space Policy June 25-July 1, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy June 25-July 1, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of June 25-July 1, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in recess except for pro forma sessions.

During the Week

Congress is taking a two-week break that includes the 4th of July holiday, so this week is a bit less frenetic than it’s been these last couple of weeks.

Just a bit less. There’s lots going on including the first commercial flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo system, the aircraft VMS Eve and the spaceship VSS Unity. Nineteen years after Richard Branson started the company, they are finally ready for their first paying customers. The launch window for “Galactic-01” opens on Tuesday and runs through Friday. Three paying passengers are from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council of Italy. They’ll conduct microgravity experiements. Virgin Galactic promises a livestream. Stay tuned for details. [UPDATE, June 26: The company announced this morning they are targeting Thursday, June 29. See our Calendar entry for more information.]

Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity spacecraft will take its first paying customers to space this week. Photo credit: Virgin Galactic

Some people are drawing comparisons between these types of private astronaut flights and last week’s Oceangate tragedy with the loss of all five people on the Titan submersible. Different points of view abound, but there is no question that going two miles down in the ocean or 60-80 miles up into space are risky endeavors. U.S. regulations currently require only that passengers on private astronaut flights give their “informed consent.” Restrictions imposed by Congress in 2004 prohibiting the FAA from promulgating additional regulations expire on September 30, the end of a so-called “learning period” for the industry. Debate is ongoing about whether to extend it again, as they have several times, or let it expire, potentially meaning more stringent regulations. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out over the next several months.

On a completely different space launch front, ESA will launch its Euclid cosmology spacecraft on Saturday. It’s headed to the same place as the James Webb Space Telescope — the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point — where it will search for clues to the nature of dark energy and dark matter. They comprise 95 percent of the universe, but scientists don’t know much more about them than that. Euclid will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral instead of a Soyuz from Kourou because of the breakdown in European-Russian relationships after Russia invaded Ukraine. Soyuz no longer is available for European launches, so this is a rare case of ESA launching on a U.S. rocket. ESA will webcast the launch.

Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will speak at a Space Policy Institite/Aerospace Corp. seminar on Public Private Partnerships on Thursday.

The Space Policy Institute at George Washington University and the Aerospace Corporation will hold a seminar on Thursday on “Public-Private Synergy in the Space Sector: Risks and Rewards.” Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who embraced Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) for the Artemis program, is the keynote speaker. Bridenstine is now a consulant whose website proclaims “We need to resolve to GO BACK TO THE MOON. And lead the world in stunning achievements once again.”

He’ll be followed by panels on learning from the past and strategizing for the future. Panelists include Diane Howard from the White House National Space Council, Brian Wessel and Moon Kim from NASA HQ, Patricia Cooper from Constellation Advisory, Kevin Pomfret from Williams Mullen, Tom Gillespie from In-Q-Tel, Chris Kunstadter from AXA XL, and Jen Ross, Executive Consultant to U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command’s Front Door. It’s in-person and on Zoom.

Speaking of the Space Force, the Mitchell Institute will release a report tomorrow (Monday) on Space Force and counterspace capabilities. Charles Galbreath, author of “Building U.S. Space Force Counterspace Capabilities: An Imperative for America’s Defense,” will be joined at the webinar by Maj. Gen. David Miller, Jr., Director of Operations, Training and Force Development for the Space Force, Robert Atkin, Vice President of Special Space Systems for General Atomics, and former astronaut Gen. Kevin Chilton (Ret.), Explorer Chair for Space Warfighting Studies at the Mitchell Institute.

Lockheed Martin is sponsoring an AIAA webinar on Wednesday on “Space 2050: Our Future Shaped by Today’s Space Technology Advances.” All the speakers are from Lockheed Martin: Aura Roy, David Lackner, Joe Landon, Kate Watts, and Nelson Pedeiro. Landon recently became CEO of the newly-created Lockheed Martin subsidiary Crescent Space that is developing a network of communications satellites, Parsec, to enable uninterrupted communications between Earth and people and spacecraft orbiting and on the surface of the Moon.

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, June 26

Monday-Wednesday, June 26-28

Monday-Thursday, June 26-29

Tuesday, June 27

Tuesday-Wednesday, June 27-28

Tuesday-Thursday, June 27-29

Wednesday, June 28

Wednesday-Friday, June 28-30

Thursday, June 29

Friday, June 30

Saturday, July 1

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