What’s Happening in Space Policy March 3-10, 2024

What’s Happening in Space Policy March 3-10, 2024

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week plus a day of March 3-10, 2024 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week starting Tuesday.

During the Week

It’s Groundhog Day! Yes, February 2 has come and gone, but somehow it feels like we’re stuck in the movie. This is yet another shutdown showdown week with the possibility of a partial government shutdown on Friday. Congress passed another Continuing Resolution last week, the fourth for FY2024, to buy a bit more time. Now the 12 bills are split into two groups of six. The first group expires on Friday, March 8, and the second on March 22.

The good news is that the signs are slightly more optimistic that the first six may actually get enacted this time. They reportedly will be considered collectively in a single “minibus” — a smaller version of an “omnibus” that bundles all 12 together. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) indicated he wants to bring it to the floor on Wednesday. House Republicans promised any bill would be introduced 72 hours in advance to allow members time to read it so we *may* see it pretty soon. [UPDATE: the bills were released just as we published this. We’ll follow up with an article soon.]

President Biden gave his State of the Union address last year on February 7, 2023 with Vice President Kamala Harris and then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) behind him. He’ll give the 2024 SOTU on Thursday night with McCarthy’s successor, Mike Johnson (R-LA) there instead.

This set now includes the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that funds NASA and NOAA. Also included are Agriculture, Energy-Water, Interior, MilCon-VA, and Transportation-HUD (that funds the FAA and its Office of Commercial Space Transportation).

Action by the House on Wednesday would get some of the FY2024 appropriations bills passed by at least one chamber before President Biden gives his State of the Union address on Thursday night at 9:00 pm ET.

It should also give the Senate time to pass it on their side by Friday at midnight when the CR expires for this group, though Senate procedures can consume quite a bit of time if Senators object.

Biden issued a statement praising the CR extension, but stressing the need to finalize all the FY2024 bills as well as pass the national security supplemental with aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

The other six bills, including Defense, have a March 22 deadline. It’s not clear how close everyone is to agreement on those. Stay tuned.

Although the reasons are totally different, we’re sort of stuck in a Groundhog Day repeating pattern on space station crew flights, too. The weather is not cooperating. Just as the return of the Axiom-3 crew slipped day after day, the launch of Crew-8 was postponed almost 48 hours from 12:04 am ET Friday to 11:16 pm ET Saturday and then to 10:53 pm ET today. It’s not just the weather in Florida, but up the “ascent corridor” along the East Coast and over towards Ireland, the path Crew Dragon takes to the ISS. If anything goes awry, Crew Dragon can abort anywhere along that path so winds and waves need to be tolerable that entire distance. At the moment, the U.S. Space Force’s 45th weather squadron puts the forecast for liftoff from Kennedy Space Center as having a 25 percent “POV” — probability of violation — which means it’s 75 percent favorable. The risk along the ascent corridor is “moderate.”

If that’s good enough, the new schedule is:

  • Launch: Tonight, March 3, 10:53 pm ET (NASA coverage begins 6:45 pm ET)
  • Post-launch press conference: March 4, 1:00 am ET (NASA TV)
  • Dock: March 5, 3:00 am ET (NASA coverage begins 1:00 am ET and will include hatch opening about 2 hours after docking and welcome remarks — times are approximate)
Crew-8’s trip to the ISS has been delayed from Thursday to yesterday to today due to weather. The current plan is to launch at 10:53 pm ET tonight. L-R: Alexander Grebenkin (Roscosmos), Michael Barratt (NASA), Matthew Dominick (NASA), and Jeanette Epps (NASA). Photo credit: NASA

Crew-7 will return about 5 days after Crew-8 docks to allow for a hand-over period. The ISS is currently under the command of ESA’s Andreas Mogensen. On Saturday, he will hand the reins over to Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko in a change-of-command ceremony and Crew-7 will offer farewell remarks, all of which will be broadcast by NASA.

Crew-7 is getting ready to come home after about six months in orbit. They will give farewell remarks and Mogensen will hand command of ISS over to cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko on Saturday. Crew-7, L-R: Konstantin Borisov (Roscosmos), Andreas Mogensen (ESA), Jasmin Moghbeli (NASA), Satoshi Furukawa (JAXA)

Meanwhile, a new group of astronauts will graduate on Tuesday and NASA is having a big ceremony to welcome them at Johnson Space Center. Selected in 2021, they’ve been in training since February 2022 as astronaut candidates (ASCANS) and now move into the astronaut corps.

The 10 astronaut candidates selected in 2021 will graduate into the NASA astronaut corps on Tuesday.  L-R: U.S. Air Force Maj. Nichole Ayers, Christopher Williams, U.S. Marine Corps Maj. (ret.) Luke Delaney, U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jessica Wittner, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Anil Menon, U.S. Air Force Maj. Marcos Berríos, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Jack Hathaway, Christina Birch, U.S. Navy Lt. Deniz Burnham, and Andre Douglas.  Photographer: Robert Markowitz

Two United Arab Emirates astronauts from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center have been training with them and also will graduate on Tuesday.


Among the other especially interesting events this week is the NASA Planetary Science Advisory Committee meeting tomorrow and Tuesday, available via WebEx. Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Planetary Science Division (PSD) Director Lori Glaze will give an update tomorrow morning. SMD Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Joel Kearns, who oversees the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program of which the Odysseus lunar lander is part, is speaking on Tuesday along with Program Scientist Sarah Noble.  (NASA’s next episode of Science Live will focus on Odysseus tomorrow afternoon, too.)

But perhaps of most interest will be tomorrow’s session on Mars Sample Return. NASA is deciding what to do with MSR following an independent review last fall and said it would announce the results in March. Glaze has said in the past they need to know how much money they’ll be getting for FY2024 and FY2025 first, and those are still up the air, so it’s not clear how much news there will be, but Eric Ianson, PSD Deputy Director and Program Director of the Mars Exploration Program, is on the agenda for an hour tomorrow from 1:30-2:30 pm ET.

NASA’s Office of Inspector General just came out with its own MSR report last week that echoes the independent review: NASA needs credible cost and schedule estimates, which it has not produced so far, and should look at alternative architectures before moving to the next phase of the program. The OIG issued a nifty, concise video summarizing its findings.

Col. Raj Agrawal, Commander, Space Delta 2, will participate in a fireside chat with AFA’s Maj. Gen. Doug Raaberg (Ret.) on Tuesday afternoon.

On the national security space front, the Air and Space Forces Association (AFA) will have a virtual firesat chat with Col. Raj Agrawal, Commander, Space Delta 2, on Tuesday afternoon. Space Delta 2 is in charge of Space Domain Awareness and Space Battle Management. Agrawal and AFA’s Maj. Gen. Doug Raaberg (Ret.) will discuss Delta 2’s responsibilities for “building combat ready forces who operationalize Space Domain Awareness and Space Battle Management to identify, characterize, and exploit opportunities and mitigate vulnerabilities in the national security space terrain.”

Also, Space News will hold a webinar on Wednesday morning with Space Development Agency (SDA) Director Derek Tournear. He and Space News senior reporter Sandra Erwin will “take a look back at SDA’s remarkable journey over the past five years.”

One last event we’ll highlight is the annual South by Southwest or SXSW extravaganza in Austin that begins on Friday and runs through March 16. The searchable agenda reveals quite a few space-related sessions not just from NASA, but industry and other organizations. NASA is broadcasting two sessions on NASA TV. The first is on March 8, “Explore Space & Poetry With NASA & Poet Laureate Ada Limón,” and the other on March 12, “Live from Space: NASA Astronauts & Your Work in Orbit” with ISS astronauts Loral O’Hara and Jeannette Epps participating from ISS.

We’re including Sunday, March 10, in this week’s What’s Happening because the United States will change to Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 am before our next issue goes to press. Don’t forget to “spring forward” one hour everywhere except Arizona and Hawaii, which do not observe this annual ritual. Note that other countries have their own schedules for moving to daylight saving time. Check the time zone if you’re planning to participate virtually in meetings overseas. Europe, for example, doesn’t make the change until March 31.

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 3

Sunday-Saturday, March 3-9 (continued from March 2)

Monday, March 4

Monday-Tuesday, March 4-5

Tuesday, March 5

Wednesday, March 6

Thursday, March 7

Friday, March 8-Saturday, March 16

Saturday, March 9

Sunday, March 10

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