What’s Happening in Space Policy March 14-20, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy March 14-20, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of March 14-20, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Welcome to Daylight Saving Time in the United States. Hope everyone has turned their clocks ahead one hour by now except in Arizona and Hawaii, the two states that do not observe this annual ritual. As we mentioned last week, other countries also change to summer time, but on various schedules, so check your favorite time zone converter if you plan to listen to a meeting originating elsewhere to be sure you’re tuning in at the correct hour.

Congress continues to be focused on other issues, but there is a lot going on in space policy elsewhere.

The big event this week for NASA is the rescheduled second hot fire test of the Space Launch System (SLS) core stage with its four RS-25 engines at Stennis Space Center, Mississippi. The first test in January terminated after 67 seconds instead of 485 seconds because of the conservative test parameters in use. NASA decided to do the test again and scheduled it for February, but a faulty pre-valve caused a delay. Now it is set for this Thursday, March 18.  NASA hasn’t said what time it will occur, but the previous schedule was for the test to begin at about 4:00 pm Central Time (5:00 pm Eastern), but could be as much as an hour earlier if preparations went smoothly.  The NASA TV schedule does not yet indicate when the agency will provide live coverage.

That’s just one event during this busy week that includes the 52nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, and a NASA history symposium on the rise of commercial space.

Among the hundreds of presentations at LPSC there are special sessions on initial results from the Mars Perseverance mission, plans for scientific exploration of the lunar surface, and updates on upcoming missions to “ocean worlds” — Europa and Titan.  SXSW has nine space-related sessions on Tuesday and one on Friday according to a list issued by JPL.  The Tuesday sessions include one on how to create habitats for living on Mars and another on the “Space Gold Rush.”

The commercial space symposium kicks off on Wednesday with Ars Technica’s Eric Berger talking about his new book “LIFTOFF: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days that Launched SpaceX.”  Those days were in the early 2000s, but efforts to privatize or commercialize space began decades earlier in the Carter and especially the Reagan Administrations. A panel on Friday morning, “The Birth of Commercial Space: Beyond Apollo to the Shuttle Era,” will take a look at that largely unsuccessful first era of commercial space. Panelists are John Logsdon and Scott Pace, Jonathan Coopersmith, Linda Billings, and Brian Jirout.  Logsdon founded George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute (SPI) during that era and more recently authored “Ronald Reagan and the Space Frontier.” Pace succeeded Logsdon as head of SPI and is back there now after four years heading the Trump Administration’s National Space Council. He was deeply involved in that first commercial space era, too.  Linda Billings, now a consultant to NASA on planetary defense and astrobiology, was a journalist at the time reporting for the first publication dedicated to commercial space — Space Business News.  Coopersmith is a long-time expert on the history of technology at Texas A&M.  Jirout is a relative newcomer, but has written about the early struggles to commercialize land remote sensing.  The titles of their papers say it all: What Were We Thinking? Space Commercialization, 1981-2002″ and “The Politics of Commercialization and the Near Collapse of American Civil Remote Sensing, 1978-1998.” The panel will be fascinating not just as a trip down memory lane, but for valuable lessons still to be learned. The symposium is about much more than the old days, though. There’s plenty of good stuff for those more interested in the present and future.

Lots of other great events on tap as well.  To note just a few: NASA’s Astrophysics Advisory Committee meets Monday-Wednesday (Astrophysics Division Director Paul Hertz speaks Monday morning, Science Mission Directorate head Thomas Zurbuchen on Tuesday afternoon); NOAA’s Science Advisory Board meets on Monday and Wednesday (Acting NOAA Administrator Ben Friedman speaks Monday afternoon); the Secure World Foundation has a webinar on “Security and Stability of Space: What You Need to Know” on Tuesday; Politico has one sponsored by Maxar on the future of satellite imagery on Wednesday; and Brendan Byrne (@SpaceBrendan) of WFME 90.7 FM will celebrate the fifth anniversary of his “Are We There Yet” radio program/podcast with former NASA Administrator/astronaut Charlie Bolden and former astronaut Nicole Stott on Thursday evening.

The International Space Station (ISS) continues to be a busy place. The two crews currently on board, Soyuz MS-17 and Crew-1, will be returning home in a month or so and their replacements are getting ready to launch on Soyuz MS-18 (April 9) and Crew-2 (April 22).  NASA’s Mark Vande Hei who was just formally assigned to the Soyuz MS-18 crew will hold a news conference tomorrow (Monday) from Star City, Russia, where he’s been in training.  ESA has a media briefing on Tuesday with ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who is assigned to Crew-2.  On Friday, the Soyuz MS-17 crew will take a short ride around the ISS to relocate their spacecraft from one port to another to make room for Soyuz MS-18.

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, March 14

Monday, March 15

Monday-Wednesday, March 15-17

Monday-Friday, March 15-19

Tuesday, March 16

Tuesday-Saturday, March 16-20

Wednesday, March 17

Wednesday-Friday, March 17-19

Thursday, March 18

Thursday-Friday, March 18-19

Friday, March 19




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