What’s Happening in Space Policy May 26-June 2, 2024

What’s Happening in Space Policy May 26-June 2, 2024

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week plus a day of May 26-June 2, 2024 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in recess this week except for pro forma sessions.

During the Week

Tomorrow (Monday) is the unofficial beginning of summer in the United States with observance of Memorial Day. It’s a federal holiday and Congress and a lot of other people are on travel, at the beach or pool, or puttering around the garden this whole week.

With one exception, it’s pretty quiet space policy-wise.

The exception, of course, is Saturday’s scheduled second attempt to launch Boeing’s Starliner Crew Flight Test (CFT).  Starliner CFT has been on our “What’s Happening” list every week since the beginning of the month as the launch slipped for one reason or another. The launch was scrubbed on May 6 about two hours before liftoff because of a malfunctioning valve on ULA’s Atlas V Centaur upper stage. The rocket and Starliner had to be rolled back to the Vertical Assembly Facility so the valve could be replaced and a new date of May 17 was set.

ULA’s Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s Starliner capsule on top departs ULA’s Vertical Integration Facility on the way to the launch pad, May 4, 2024. The launch was scrubbed oin May 6. The new launch date is June 1. Credit: ULA

While in the VIF, Boeing discovered a helium leak in one of Starliner’s 28 Reaction Control System thrusters that had to be evaluated and May 21 became the new launch date. Then more time was needed and the date slipped to May 25. The full reason for why they needed extra time was only disclosed this past Friday — Boeing and NASA discovered a “design vulnerability” in Starliner’s propulsion system that could be a problem in terms of having three redundant methods of deorbiting Starliner if a very unlikely set of circumstances occurred.

They’ve decided the helium leak is not an impediment to launch and found a temporary workaround to ensure there are three redundant deorbit methods. June 1 is now the launch date with June 2, 5 and 6 as backups. The crew, NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, will return to Kennedy Space Center on May 28 to get ready for this test flight. Both are experienced Navy test pilots.

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore, left, and Suni Williams, right, on their way to the launch pad on May 6, 2024. The launch was scrubbed that day and now is scheduled for June 1. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

NASA has posted its schedule for coverage of launch and docking on June 1 and 2, but we’re anticipating at least one pre-launch media briefing this week. We’ll add it to our Calendar whenever NASA issues the notice. Launch and docking coverage on NASA TV, NASA+ and other NASA media outlets is as follows:

June 1:  

  • 8:15 am ET: Launch coverage begins and continues through docking, hatch opening and welcome remarks on NASA TV’s public and media channels except for during the post-launch news conference when it will be only on the media channel
  • 12:25 pm ET: Launch
  • 2:00 pm ET: Post-launch news conference

June 2:

  • 1:50 pm ET: Docking
  • ~3:35 pm ET: Hatch opening and welcome remarks
  • 5:00 pm ET:  Post-docking news conference

Apart from that, on Wednesday, NASA and NOAA will have a joint briefing on the upcoming launch of the GOES-U meteorological satellite, scheduled for June 25 on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy.  This is the fourth and final satellite in the “GOES-R” series of advanced geostationary meteorological satellites and the first to include a coronagraph to aid in monitoring the Sun for space weather events like the one we just had.  Fortunately that solar storm only created amazing auroras and didn’t cause damage to satellites or electric power grids, but that is always a concern and the reason for keeping a close eye on what’s happening on the Sun.

There are a few other events this week, but generally we get a few days to find out what’s in the bottom of our inboxes or just chill out.

That’s until the Starliner launch. We hope the weather in Florida and up along the ascent corridor cooperates and no more technical glitches arise. If the launch slips beyond June 6, the rocket needs to go back to the VIF to change out various life-limited items like batteries. That would take time and could require schedule changes for other missions in the queue, so it gets complicated.

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. As we noted, we expect at least one Starliner briefing to be added.

Monday, May 27

Monday-Friday, May 27-31

Wednesday, May 29

Thursday, May 30

Thursday-Friday, May 30-31

Saturday, June 1

Sunday, June 2

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