What’s Happening in Space Policy March 31- April 6, 2024

What’s Happening in Space Policy March 31- April 6, 2024

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of March 31-April 6, 2024 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in recess except for pro forma sessions.

During the Week

The United Launch Alliance hasn’t announced a new date for the final Delta IV Heavy launch, but it certainly could happen this week. The launch was scrubbed last Thursday (March 28) 3 minutes and 58 seconds before liftoff due to “an issue with a liquid pump failure on the gaseous nitrogen pipeline which provides pneumatic pressure to the launch vehicle systems” according to ULA. Their website hasn’t been updated since the scrub and a new date is pending as of press time. We’ll keep an eye out and post any information we get to our Calendar.

The final ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, FL, waiting for liftoff just before a scrub was called, March 28, 2024. Photo Credit: ULA

Another event that was delayed is the return of three crew members from the International Space Station. Soyuz MS-24’s departure from the ISS, originally set for April 2, was delayed to April 6 after Soyuz MS-25’s launch was scrubbed on March 21. Although Soyuz MS-25 lifted off successfully two days later, the crew had to take the long route to ISS and didn’t arrive until March 25. Soyuz MS-25 is a partial crew exchange — NASA’s Tracy Dyson is replacing Loral O’Hara who’s been there since September — but the other two are there only for a short-duration stay. Commander Oleg Novitsky is an experienced Roscosmos cosmonaut who is ferrying Belarussian spaceflight participant Marina Vasilevskaya for a 12-day ISS experience. That pushed the return flight to April 6. Soyuz spacecraft can only remain in space for about 6 months so they are returning on Soyuz MS-24 and leaving the fresh Soyuz MS-25 there to bring back Dyson and O’Hara’s Russian crewmates, Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub, in September. Those two are there for a one-year mission.

L-R: NASA astronauts Jeanette Epps, Tracy C. Dyson, and Loral O’Hara, and Belarus spaceflight participant Marina Vasilevskaya aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

It’s quite the do-si-do. The bottom line is that Novitsky, O’Hara and Vasilevskaya aboard Soyuz MS-24 will undock at 11:55 pm ET on Friday, April 5, and land in Kazakhstan at 3:18 am ET on April 6. That will return the ISS to its usual complement of seven crewmembers: four who arrived on the U.S. Crew-8 spacecraft (Michael Barratt, Matthew Dominick, and Jeanette Epps from NASA and Alexander Grebenkin from Roscosmos), two who arrived on Soyuz MS-24 (Kononenko and Chub) and one who arrived on Soyuz MS-25 (Dyson).

Back here on Earth, NASA will hold a news conference on Wednesday at Johnson Space Center to announce the company or companies it has selected to move forward on building a Lunar Terrain Vehicle for the Artemis program.  Like many other aspects of Artemis, NASA plans to purchase services, not vehicles, through Public-Private Partnerships. JSC Director Vanessa Wyche will headline the news conference, with Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist at NASA HQ, and Lara Kearney, manager of the Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility Program at JSC.

Artist’s concept of NASA’s next generation Lunar Terrain Vehicle on the surface of the Moon. Credit: NASA.  NASA will announce which compan(ies) it has chosen to develop the LTV on Wednesday.

Despite the tough budget times at NASA, Artemis is hanging in there. It didn’t get all the money requested for FY2024, but at least got a bit of a bump up and NASA apparently is expecting it’ll have money to pay for an LTV. As The Planetary Society’s Casey Dreier said at the AIA webinar last week, “where you spend your money says your actual priorities,” and that’s Artemis.

Speaking of Artemis, the Lunar and Planetary Institute will hold a Lunar Surface Science Workshop on Wednesday on “Science Enabled by the Artemis Base Camp.” That’s from 11:00 am-4:00 pm ET. The JSC news conference follows at 4:00 pm ET.

And speaking of the role of the private sector in space exploration, the Atlantic Council will host Aarti Holla-Maini on Friday morning to talk about the Growing Role of the Private Sector in International Space Collaboration. Holla-Maini is the new Director of the U.N. Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), which administers the U.N. Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. She’ll be interviewed by Jacqueline Feldscher, Managing Editor of Payload Space. Holla-Maini also will speak to the Washington Space Business Roundtable on Thursday.

A memorial service for Gemini and Apollo astronaut Lt. Gen. Tom Stafford, who died on March 18, will take place in his hometown of Weatherford, OK on Friday morning. The Stafford Air and Space Museum says it will webcast the service on its Facebook page.

We’ll also mention that Europe went onto summer time this morning, so the time zones are back to their usual offsets with Eastern Daylight Time 6 hours behind Central European Summer Time (Paris, Brussels, etc) and 5 hours behind British Summer Time (London etc). Note that British Summer Time is not the same as GMT during this part of the year. GMT (also known as UTC or Zulu) never changes, so there’s a 1-hour difference between GMT and BST.

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.

Tuesday, April 2

Tuesday-Thursday, April 2-4

Tuesday-Friday, April 2-5

Wednesday, April 3

Wednesday-Friday, April 3-5

Thursday, April 4

Friday, April 5

Friday-Saturday, April 5-6

  • Soyuz MS-24 Return to Earth
    • April 5, undock, 11:55 pm ET, NASA TV begins 11:30 pm ET
    • April 6, deorbit burn (2:24 am ET) and landing in Kazakhstan (3:18 am ET), NASA TV begins 2:00 am ET

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