What’s Happening in Space Policy March 19-25, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy March 19-25, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of March 19-25, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session for part of the week (Senate returns for legislative business on Tuesday, the House on Wednesday).

During the Week

President Ronald Reagan announces what became known as the Strategic Defense Initiative or “Star Wars” on March 23, 1983. Watch on YouTube.

The week begins and ends with events highlighting the 40th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” speech that kicked off the Strategic Defense Initiative.

SDI was intended to be a layered non-nuclear missile defense system to protect the United States and its allies from Soviet nuclear missiles. It would have relied largely on space-based systems not only for detecting and tracking missiles, but destroying them with space-based lasers and other types of weapons. The proposal was extremely controversial (the Star Wars appellation was not a compliment), not to mention prohibitively expensive and the technologies didn’t exist, but it set in motion U.S. efforts to develop ballistic missile defenses instead of relying only on the threat of responding to an attack with offensive nuclear weapons. DOD’s Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) morphed into the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) in 1994 and in 2002 into today’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) that is pursuing more realistic missile defense alternatives.

But some credit SDI with contributing to the collapse of the Soviet Union because Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev believed the U.S. could succeed and the Soviet Union couldn’t counter it, so chose to deescalate the Cold War. Tomorrow, the Hudson Institute will have a webinar to discuss the SDI anniversary with Will Inboden, author of The Peacemaker: Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, and the World on the Brink.  On Friday, CSIS and the Ronald Reagan Institute will hold a day-long conference on the impacts of SDI, how missile defense has evolved since then, and the future. Speakers include Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), Chair and Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee, and MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill. The agenda also has two panels on Historical and Policy Reflections and Industrial Base for Missile Defense. The in-person event at CSIS’s offices in D.C. will be livestreamed.

Not much is happening in Congress directly regarding space at the moment, although the Senate Commerce Committee will vote on the nomination of Phillip Washington to be FAA Administrator on Wednesday (the Office of Commercial Space Transportation is part of FAA); the House Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee will hold a hearing on DOD’s FY2024 budget request on Thursday, which includes space; and the Senate Appropriations THUD Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Department of Transportation’s budget request on Thursday, which includes FAA.

NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana will present the Fred Tarantino Memorial Address at a GW/USRA seminar in D.C. on Thursday.

On Thursday, George Washington University’s (GW’s) Space Policy Institute and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) will hold a seminar in D.C. on how cis-lunar capabilities can contribute to science, commerce and security. NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana will present the Frederick A. Tarantino Memorial Address.  Tarantino was President of USRA from 2006 until his passing in 2014. Cabana’s speech will be followed by two panels: Cislunar Technical Challenges and Opportunities; and Commercial Innovations and Opportunities in Cislunar Space. The first panel includes NASA AA for Exploration Systems Development Jim Free and Deputy AA for Space Communications and Navigation Badri Younes. [UPDATE, March 20: A revised agenda received today shows NASA Chief Technologist A.C. Charania substituting for Jim Free.] The second panel includes Vint Cerf, Google’s Vice President and Chief Internet Evangalist (he’s one of the fathers of the Internet, having co-invented TCP/IP) and Astrobotic’s Dan Hendrickson. A media advisory said the seminar will be livestreamed though we don’t see the link on the event’s page. We’ll add it to our Calendar item if we get it.

NASA AA for Technology, Policy and Strategy Bhavya Lal will deliver the D. Allan Bromley Memorial Lecture at GW on Wednesday.

Speaking of memorial lectures, NASA AA for Technology, Policy, and Strategy Bhavya Lal will give the D. Allan Bromley Memorial Lecture at GW on Tuesday afternoon. She’ll talk about international and policy challenges and opportunities for the Moon to Mars effort. Two student responders will give brief remarks thereafter, followed by audience Q&A.  It will be livestreamed on Zoom. Bromley, a nuclear physicist, was the very highly regarded Assistant to the President for Science and Technology during the George H.W. Bush Administration and the first in that position to hold Cabinet rank. He passed away in 2005.

Relativity Space will try once again to launch their Terran-1 3-D printed rocket on Wednesday night. The first attempt on March 8 was thwarted by a malfunctioning ground equipment valve that prevented the Liquid Oxygen (LOX) from reaching the correct cyrogenic temperature. Terran-1 uses methalox — methane and LOX — as propellant. The second try on March 11 got so, so, so close, just 0.5 seconds from lifting off the pad (the main engines were firing), but the computers shut it down after detecting a problem. They tried again, but the computers aborted the launch that time at T-45 seconds. This time they’re going to launch at night. The launch window opens at 10:00 pm ET and remains open till 1:00 am ET Thursday. Relativity tweeted: “Nighttime skies mean very cool methane rocket engine plumes.”

The Terran-1 rocket shouldn’t be confused with the company Terran Orbital. Relativity Space is the company that builds the Terran-1 and Terran-R rockets. Terran Orbital is a company that builds small satellites and is having its Fourth Quarter 2022 financial results telecon this week.

Lots of other fascinating events as always. We’ll highlight just one more. On Friday, the National Academies’ STIGUR space technology roundtable will meet at the Keck Center. NASA AA for Space Technology Jim Reuter will talk about NASA’s FY2024 budget request for space technology and in the afternoon there will be a two-part panel discussion on advanced nuclear thermal propulsion and the new DARPA/NASA agreement on the DRACO (Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations) program. Sounds really interesting.

The DARPA/NASA Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) nuclear thermal propulsion rocket will be discussed at the STIGUR meeting on Friday.

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, March 20

Monday-Friday, March 20-24 (continues next week)

Tuesday, March 21

Wednesday, March 22

Thursday, March 23

Friday, March 24

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