What’s Happening in Space Policy June 5-12, 2022

What’s Happening in Space Policy June 5-12, 2022

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week plus a day of June 5-12, 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 the successful docking this morning (Sunday) of China’s Shenzhou-14 crew to the China Space Station, also known as Tiangong-3. The three-person crew lifted off at 10:44 pm EDT last night (10:44 am June 5 Beijing Time) and docked at 5:42 am EDT (5:42 pm Beijing Time). Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe entered the space station soon thereafter to begin a 6-month stay. Liu was China’s first woman in space back in 2012, visiting China’s first space station, Tiangong-1, for 13 days. This is also the second flight for Chen who was aboard Tiangong-2 in 2016. Cai is a rookie.  They have quite a lot of work ahead of them as we wrote yesterday.

It’s the beginning of another busy week. This afternoon NASA will issue the call to stations to begin the process of rolling the Artemis I stack back to Launch Complex 39-B to resume the Wet Dress Rehearsal test. First movement is scheduled for 12:01 am ET tomorrow (Monday). Unlike the first time it rolled out on March 17-18, it doesn’t look as though NASA will be providing any live coverage. At least nothing is listed on the NASA TV or NASA Live schedules. [UPDATE: the Kennedy Newsroom YouTube channel has video. No commentary.] They’re doing it at midnight to avoid thunderstorms, which are common in Florida this time of year. It takes 8-12 hours to get from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad and will take quite a few days to get ready for the test. The critical part — loading propellant into the core stage and upper stage and practicing countdowns — will happen no earlier than June 19. If all goes well this time (three tries in April had to be scrubbed for various reasons), launch could took place in August.

The Artemis I Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with an Orion spacecraft on top — the “stack” — at Launch Complex 39-B in March 2022. Credit: NASA After three thwarted attempts at the Wet Dress Rehearsal test in April, it was rolled back to the Vehicle Assembly Building. It heads back to the pad at 12:01 am ET June 6 to resume the test.

On Friday, another SpaceX Cargo Dragon will resupply the International Space Station, the second cargo flight in a week (Russia just launched and docked Progress MS-20 on Friday). This is SpaceX’s 25th cargo flight to the ISS. Among the experiments onboard is the Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT). NASA will hold a “climate conversation” on Thursday to discuss the experiment with a panel that includes NASA’s new chief scientist and climate advisor, Kate Calvin. Immediately afterwards is the pre-launch briefing. Both will take place at Kennedy Space Center and air on NASA TV and NASA Live, as will the launch Friday morning.

Back here in Washington, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) gets to work marking up the FY2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week. The Strategic Forces subcommittee, which oversees virtually all DOD space programs, holds its markup on Wednesday at noon. It will be webcast. Full committee markup isn’t until June 22. (SASC will markup its version of the bill next week.)

Chirag Parikh, Executive Secretary, National Space Council, will speak to the Space Studies Board on Friday.

The Space Studies Board (SSB) and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine meet this week individually and jointly. Tuesday is an ASEB meeting, Wednesday is a joint meeting of the two Boards, and SSB meets Thursday-Friday. It’s a hybrid meeting, with the in-person part at the National Academy of Sciences building on Constitution Avenue, but the number of people who can be there is limited. The entire meeting will be livestreamed.

There are excellent speakers all four days, but we will highlight just a sampling from a space policy perspective: Wednesday’s discussion on NASA’s Moon to Mars strategy with Kurt “Spuds” Vogel, Director of Space Architectures in the Office of the Administrator followed by an Artemis update by Mike Sarafin, Artemis Mission Manager in the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate; Thursday’s Science Mission Directorate update by SMD AA Thomas Zurbuchen; and Friday’s discussion with Chirag Parikh, Executive Secretary of the White House National Space Council.

NASA’s Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG) also is meeting in D.C. this week. Excellent talks on tap there, too, including on the search for Earth-threatening asteroids, which has been in the news lately. On Wednesday, Amy Mainzer, University of Arizona, will report on the NEO Surveyor mission, a dedicated infrared space telescope to locate Near Earth Objects. The project has struggled to gain acceptance in NASA science circles because some scientists don’t consider it “science” and competing for funding has been difficult. NASA finally embraced it when then-Administrator Jim Bridenstine threw his support behind it, but now NASA is proposing in the FY2023 budget request to delay it for at least two years.

Robin Canup, Southwest Research Institute, testifying virtually to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee May 26, 2022 on the Planetary Science Decadal Survey. She and Phil Christensen, Arizona State University, co-chaired the Survey. Both testified that day and will speak to SBAG on Tuesday.

For the first time, the most recent Planetary Science Decadal Survey committee was asked to weigh in on planetary defense missions like this, however, and they enthusiastically endorsed it. During a May 26 hearing on the Decadal by the space subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, it was clear the mission has a lot of bipartisan political support, too, which is not surprising since that committee directed NASA to find 90% of NEOs 140-meters in diameter or greater in the 2005 NASA Authorization Act. Mainzer and colleagues like Lindley Johnson, head of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), make clear they need NEO Surveyor to do that (they’ve missed the deadline set in law already, but it’ll take decades more without the space-based telescope). The Decadal’s co-chairs, Robin Canup (SwRI) and Phil Christensen (Arizona State) testified at the hearing and reiterated the Decadal committee’s position that the mission should proceed expeditiously. They will address SBAG on Tuesday about everything in the Decadal. Johnson will be there, too, to give an update on PDCO, as well as Rick Binzel who’ll report on the recent Apophis T-7 meeting on Thursday. And that’s just the tip of iceberg of all the really interesting talks on the SBAG schedule not just on asteroids (an OSIRIS-REx update is on Thursday), but other missions to small bodies in the solar system (e.g. DART, Psyche, Lucy, and Japan’s MMX).

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 6

Monday-Friday, June 6-10

Tuesday, June 7

Tuesday-Wednesday, June 7-8

Tuesday-Thursday, June 7-9

Tuesday-Friday, June 7-10

Wednesday, June 8

Wednesday-Friday, June 8-10

Thursday, June 9

Friday, June 10

Sunday, June 12

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