What’s Happening in Space Policy March 13-19, 2022

What’s Happening in Space Policy March 13-19, 2022

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of March 13-19, 2022 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Did you set your clocks ahead one hour?  If you’re in the United States (but not Arizona or Hawaii), Daylight Saving Time began at 2:00 am this morning. Time to “spring ahead” to Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) and its equivalent in the other U.S. time zones. Other countries do this at different times, important to bear in mind if you’re planning to participate in a conference elsewhere on the globe. The U.K. switches to British Summer Time (BST) and Europe changes to Central European Summer Time (CEST) on the last Sunday in March (March 27 in this case).

What a week this is going to be! At long, long last, the fully stacked Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft will roll out of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center and make the 4-mile trip to its launch pad for the first time. This isn’t for an actual launch, but rather the Wet Dress Rehearsal test, a preliminary step. NASA won’t set the date for the first SLS/Orion launch, Artemis I, until after this test is completed and the data analyzed. NASA will hold a media telecon late tomorrow (Monday) afternoon after a test readiness review, but the plan right now is for the roll-out to begin at 6:00 pm ET on Thursday. It will take 6-12 hours to get to the pad. NASA TV coverage begins at 5:00 pm ET Thursday with remarks by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and others.

The various pieces — the Core Stage (in orange), the Solid Rocket Boosters (obscured by the remaining scaffolding in the above photo), the upper stage, the Orion spacecraft, and the Launch Abort System  (all white) — were assembled (“integrated”) together in the VAB surrounded by scaffolding. That’s now being removed, revealing the enormous vehicle (322 feet high) in all its glory. What’s shown in the photo is probably a little less than half the height. Here’s an illustration of the full stack.

Yes, it’s years late, way over budget, will cost a lot per flight, and its merits or lack thereof continue to be vigorously debated by both sides, but on Thursday it will start its first trip to the launch pad regardless. Perhaps we can all just admire the engineering mastery of a rocket that can send people to the Moon.

Another marvel of engineering is the International Space Station, which is still orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes with a crew of four Americans, a German, and two Russians working together peacefully. Despite the terrible situation in Ukraine and offensive tweets from the head of the Russian space program, the ISS team in space and on the ground is persevering. Two American crew members, Kayla Barron and Raja Chari, are getting ready to make a spacewalk on Tuesday. Tomorrow, NASA will hold a news conference to preview that and another spacewalk scheduled for next week. NASA TV will cover the spacewalk live.

Then on Friday the next Soyuz spacecraft will launch to the ISS, delivering three members of Russia’s professional cosmonaut corps. The last time three Russians were on a Soyuz at the same time (October 2021), one was a professional and the other two were “tourists,” but having an all-Russian crew at all is rare. The first ISS crew (one American, two Russians) arrived on November 2, 2000 aboard Soyuz TM-31 and the Soyuz flights have carried international crews ever since. The launch is at 11:55 am ET and they will dock just over 3 hours later. That will temporarily increase the crew size to 10. Three of them (one American, two Russians) will return to Earth on March 30, the same day a U.S. private astronaut crew (Ax-1) launches. It’s a busy place unaffected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at least for now.

That invasion has upended just about all the other space relationships with Russia, however, as we’ve been reporting for the past two weeks. The Space Foundation has a monthly webinar series, Space Matters, that “convenes well known policy influencers for high level space policy conversations.” On Tuesday, the group includes former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine (now with Acorn Growth Companies), Carissa Christensen (BryceTech), Laetitia Garriott de Cayeaux (Global Space Ventures), and Bob Walker (Moon Walker Associates, former Congressman). We don’t know what their topic is this month, but we hope they share their thoughts on current events and what may lie ahead in international space cooperation and competition.

Lots and lots of other great events — starting today!  The “Space Force: Not Just a Meme” session at SxSW will be livestreamed this afternoon. Space is a topic for other panels at the massive event, too, but most appear to be in-person only. The Aerospace Industries Association is involved in that one and three others. We’re told recordings of the other three will be available later.

Last but not at all least, on Friday night the “space prom” — the Goddard Dinner. After two years when COVID made gathering a couple thousand people in the same indoor space a bad idea, the dinner is back at its usual venue, the Hilton Washington. Always a grand event. (But we must say, the ceremony they held at the Washington Nationals baseball stadium last fall to present the 2020 and 2021 awards that would have been handed out at the missed galas was absolutely splendid.)

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning are shown below. Check back throughtout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar, or changes to these.

Sunday, March 13

Sunday, March 13 – Sunday, March 20 (continued from March 11)

  • SxSW, Austin, TX (some events are available virtually)

Monday, March 14

Monday-Tuesday, March 14-15

Tuesday, March 15

Wednesday, March 16

Thursday, March 17

Thursday-Friday, March 17-18

Friday, March 18

  • Launch and Docking of Soyuz MS-21:
    • Launch, 11:55 am ET, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan (NASA TV begins 11:15 am ET);
    • Docking, 3:05 pm ET (NASA TV begins 2:15 pm ET);
    • Hatch opening/welcome ceremony, 5:30 pm ET (NASA TV begins 5:15 pm ET)
  • 65th Goddard Memorial Dinner (National Space Club), Hilton Washington, Washington, DC, 6:30 pm ET

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