What’s Happening in Space Policy May 14-21, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy May 14-21, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week plus a day of May 14-21, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

A quick word about last week before we start on upcoming events. Those HASC subcommittee markups of the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act we wrote about? Didn’t happen. And the full committee markup that was scheduled for May 23 is also postponed. House Republican leadership apparently doesn’t want bipartisan committee agreement on how much should be spent on defense while they’re negotiating with the White House over the debt limit.

HASC Chair Mike Rogers (R-AL) had to postpone the subcommittee and full committee markups of the FY2024 NDAA at the direction of House leadership while debt limit negotiations are underway.

HASC chair Mike Rogers (R-AL) issued a rather terse statement late Tuesday night announcing the delay. “Providing for our nation’s defense is the most important responsibility that Congress has been tasked with under the U.S. Constitution. I look forward to beginning the FY24 NDAA process in the near future to fulfill this critical responsibility and strengthen our national security.”  On Wednesday, Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) released a much longer statement aiming his intense displeasure at Speaker McCarthy. The Senate Armed Services Committee also is reportedly postponing its markup plans until the debt limit issue is resolved.

The clock is ticking. Experts are saying the debt limit needs to be raised or suspended by about June 1 to avoid a default. That’s two-and-a-half weeks from now. Whatever deal is struck will have to pass both the House and the Senate. This coming week is the last week before that deadline when they both are in session. They’re taking different weeks off for the Memorial Day holiday. The Senate is out May 22-29. The House is gone May 26-June 2. They really need to make some progress this week, but President Biden is headed to Japan for the G-7 summit on Thursday.

We’ll see what they come up with and when, but marking up the FY2024 NDAA will have to wait.  Nevertheless, HASC is holding a “Member Day” hearing on Tuesday where members of the House who aren’t on the committee make the case for their priorities.

That’s just part of what will be a busy week in space policy.

Wayne Hale will chair a meeting of the NAC Human Exploration and Operations committee Monday and Tuesday.

For starters, two NASA Advisory Council (NAC) committees are meeting Monday and Tuesday, the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) meets Monday, the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on NASA’s FY2024 budget request on Tuesday, and the annual Humans to Mars Summit is Tuesday-Thursday. All are virtual or in-person with a virtual option.

The NAC Human Exploration and Operations Committee (NAC-HEO) meets Monday morning to hear from the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, and all day Tuesday from the Space Operations Mission Directorate. On Monday afternoon, it meets jointly with the Technology, Innovation and Engineering (TI&E) committee on topics of mutual interest. The TI&E committee meets on its own all day Tuesday. Jim Reuter, Associate Administrator of the Space Technology Mission Directorate, is among the speakers that morning. He just announced his retirement effective next month. New NASA Chief Technologist A. C. Charania speaks later in the day and there are updates on several STMD programs as well as the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program that’s run out of the Science Mission Directorate.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) will chair a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on NASA’s FY2024 budget request on Tuesday morning.

It’ll be tough to choose between all that and what’s happening at COMSTAC all day Monday, the Senate Commerce NASA hearing on Tuesday morning, and the Humans to Mars Summit. Among the topics on the COMSTAC agenda is a briefing by RAND on its recent congressionally-directed report about whether to extend the “learning period” for commercial human spaceflight whereby the FAA is not allowed to issue additional regulations while the industry is getting off the ground (pun intended). NASA Administrator Bill Nelson is the sole witness at the Senate Commerce hearing, rounding out appearances at NASA’s four oversight/funding committees. He’s already testified to House and Senate appropriators and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Sen. Maria Cantwell is still chair of the Senate Commerce committee, but Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has replaced Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) as Ranking Member (Wicker now is Ranking Member of Senate Armed Services.)

ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno will speak at the Humans to Mars Summit on Tuesday. 

The 2023 Humans to Mars Summit, organized by Explore Mars, meets Tuesday-Thursday at the National Academy of Sciences building on Constitution Avenue in D.C. It’ll be livestreamed for those who can’t make it there in person.

As usual, it is chock full of great sessions with top-notch speakers. NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana kicks it off on Tuesday morning and ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno speaks in the afternoon. Among the more intriguing discussions are “How Space Debris Could Prevent Missions to Mars” (Tuesday), “Draft Plan for a Sustainable Future of Science at Mars” (Wednesday), and “Is There Now a Business Case for Mars Technology” (Thursday). Space News ace reporter Jeff Foust will moderate a fireside chat Tuesday afternoon with NASA’s Bhavya Lal and Kurt “Spuds” Vogel on “NASA Objectives: What’s Next?” All of that is just the tip of the iceberg. Really, really good sessions all three days.

We’re including next Sunday in this week’s edition of What’s Happening because the next private astronaut mission to the International Space Station, Axiom-2, is scheduled for launch that day and there are two pre-launch briefings this week.

Tomorrow (Monday) is the post-Flight Readiness Review briefing at about 5:00 pm ET and on Saturday the post-Launch Readiness Review briefing at about 6:00 pm ET. The times are approximate because the briefings take place about an hour after the reviews are completed. If they run long, the briefings slip commensurately. We’ll do our best to keep our Calendar entries up to date, but following us (@SpcPlcyOnline) or NASA’s Commercial Crew account (@Commercial_Crew) on Twitter may be more timely. The briefings are virtual and will air on NASA Live.

The launch is next Sunday afternoon with docking on Monday morning. The four crew members are Axiom Space’s Peggy Whitson (commander), race car driver John Shoffner (pilot), and two Saudi mission specialists, Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi. Whitson is a record-setting former NASA astronaut. Barnawi will be the first Saudi woman and first Arab woman in space. They’ll spend about 8 days on the ISS.

Crew of the Axiom-2 private astronaut mission, L-R: Ali Alqarni, John Shoffner, Peggy Whitson, Rayyanah Barnawi. Credit: Axiom Space

Here’s a summary of the events:

  • Monday, May 15, ~5:00 pm ET: post-Flight Readiness Review briefing (NASA Live)
  • Saturday, May 20, ~6:00 pm ET: post-Launch Readiness Review/pre-launch briefing (NASA Live)
  • Sunday, May 21, 5:37 pm ET: Launch (NASA TV coverage begins 4:30 pm ET)
  • Monday, May 22, 9:24 am ET: Docking (NASA TV coverage begins 7:30 am ET and runs through hatch opening at 11:13 am ET and crew welcome remarks at 11:45 am ET)
Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt will speak at ASU’s “Preventing War in Space” seminar on Wednesday.

Many other events as well, of course. Arizona State University’s Interplanetary Initiative will hold a forum in D.C. on “Preventing War in Space” all day Wednesday. It features a keynote by Lt. Gen. DeAnna Burt, Chief Operations Officer for the U.S. Space Force, and panel discussions on Space Domain Awareness, Space Law and Armed Conflict, and Deterring Conflict in Space.

AIAA will hold its annual Awards Gala dinner on Thursday at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in D.C. The event honors new AIAA Fellows and Honorary Fellows and award winners. Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Jim Maser is one of the three new Honorary Fellows, AIAA’s highest recognition. Among the 28 new Fellows are former NASA Administrator (and former astronaut) Charlie Bolden, current NASA Deputy Administrator (and former astronaut) Pam Melroy, and former NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen. Congratulations to all.  Eight awards will be presented. Among them: the NASA/Applied Physics Lab Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission team will receive AIAA’s Award for Aerospace Excellence, The Planetary Society’s Bill Nye will get the Public Service Award, and four members of the James Webb Space Telescope team from NASA and Northrop Grumman will receive the Goddard Astronautics Award. Congratulations to all the award winners.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning, May 14, are shown below. Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar or changes to these.

Monday, May 15

Monday-Tuesday, May 15-16

Monday-Thursday, May 15-18

Tuesday, May 16

Tuesday-Thursday, May 16-18

  • 2023 Humans to Mars Summit (Explore Mars), National Academy of Sciences, 2101 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. (livestreamed)

Wednesday, May 17

  • Preventing Space War Forum (Arizona State University), ASU Barrett & O’Connor Washington Center, 1800 I Street, NW, Washington, D.C., 8:00 am-4:00 pm ET

Thursday, May 18

  • AIAA Awards Gala, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C., 5:30-9:00 pm ET

Saturday, May 20

Sunday, May 21

Sunday-Wednesday, May 21-24

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