What’s Happening in Space Policy May 7-13, 2023

What’s Happening in Space Policy May 7-13, 2023

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of May 7-13, 2023 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

The HASC Strategic Forces subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), will mark up its portion of the FY2024 NDAA on Thursday.

The House Armed Services Committee has completed its hearings on DOD’s FY2024 budget request and is ready to start marking up the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). That’s the one authorization bill that gets passed by Congress every year despite whatever political turmoil may be happening elsewhere, even overturning a presidential veto not so long ago to get it done. Former President Trump vetoed the FY2021 NDAA because it required a commission to make recommendations on renaming military facilities named after Confederates. Even Republicans who agreed with his position on that issue were adamant that enacting the NDAA was critical to the nation’s defense and voted to override the veto.

HASC’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee handles most national security space issues. It will mark up its portion of the NDAA on Thursday. Subcommittee markups are usually rather pro forma, leaving controversial issues to be debated at full committee markup (May 23). Still should be interesting.

As we’ve written previously, HASC and its Senate counterpart, SASC, sound like they have bipartisan agreement that defense needs more money not less. Although this is an authorization bill, not appropriations, the House and Senate defense appropriators seems to be on the same page. Many House Republicans, however, are demanding that total federal spending be reduced to FY2022 levels. If defense spending is exempted from cuts or increased the burden would fall more heavily on non-defense spending like NASA and NOAA.

NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad will testify to a House SS&T subcommittee on Thursday about NOAA’s FY2024 budget request.

Speaking of NOAA, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Environment Subcommittee is holding a hearing on NOAA’s FY2024 budget request at the very same time on Thursday.

Full committee chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) is leading an effort to take NOAA out of the Department of Commerce and make it an independent agency. President Nixon esablished NOAA by Executive Order in 1970 and Lucas thinks it should be in law and separate from the Department. He hasn’t introduced a bill yet, but is circulating a draft and held a hearing with three former NOAA administrators last month. Will be interesting to hear what current administrator Rick Spinrad thinks about that. He’ll also present NOAA’s $6.8 billion budget request, which includes $2 billion for NESDIS, the part of NOAA that’s responsible for the nation’s civil weather and space weather satellites. The Office of Space Commerce is requesting $88 million, a $17.7 million increase over FY2023. OSC isn’t in NESDIS anymore, but is still in NOAA at least for now. Lucas’s draft bill would transfer it elsewhere in the Department of Commerce.

Off the Hill, on Wednesday morning the Center for Global Development (CGD) and the Secure World Foundation (SWF) have an interesting event in D.C. and online on “Within Our Orbit: The Promise of Space Capabilities in Global Economic Development.” Rose Croshier, a former CGD research fellow who just published a new Handbook for Space Capability Development, will discuss the book and “why all governments should invest in space capability” because satellites “offer the potential to accelerate economic growth, build resilience against natural and humanmade disasters, and enable every one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.”  A panel discussion will follow with representatives of ESA, the Africa Space Leadership Institute, CGD and SWF, and a book signing.

Maj. Gen. Shawn Bratton, Commander of U.S. Space Force’s STAR Command, will speak at a Mitchell Institute event Wednesday morning, and a SWF/CSIS event Wednesday afternoon.

Also Wednesday morning, Maj. Gen. Shawn Bratton, Commander of U.S. Space Force’s Space Training and Readiness (STAR) Command, will be the guest for the Mitchell Institute’s virtual Schriever Spacepower Forum. STAR Command or STARCOM is one of Space Force’s three field commands. (The others are Space Systems Command and Space Operations Command). Bratton will discuss Space Force training, education and doctrine and STARCOM’s contributions to space warfighting.

Later that day, Bratton will participate in a fireside chat with Kari Bingen, Director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), as part of a CSIS/SWF virtual event: “A Contested Domain: From Space Threats and Theory to Practice.” Following the fireside chat, SWF and CSIS experts will discuss their recently published complementary reports “Global Counterspace Capabilities” (SWF) and “Space Threat Assessment 2023” (CSIS). Panelists are Kaitlyn Johnson and Makena Young from CSIS and Victoria Samson and Brian Weeden from SWF.

Up in space, Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin are scheduled to do another spacewalk at the International Space Station on Friday. It’s the final one in a set of four that began at the end of last year to continue outfitting the Nauka module. They did the first in November and were in the airlock about to begin the second in December when Soyuz MS-22 started spewing coolant. Sorting out what happened and replacing Soyuz MS-22 with Soyuz MS-23 took a while and the spacewalks resumed last month and they just did a 7 hour 11 minute spacewalk last week. NASA TV broadcasts all spacewalks at ISS. On Friday, coverage begins at 11:30 am ET for an 11:55 am ET exit.

Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin working outside the International Space Station, May 3, 2023. Credit: NASA TV

The Chinese taikonauts have been doing spacewalks at the Chinese Space Station Tiangong-3, too, but China says almost nothing about them and usually only after the fact. Fei Junlong and Zhang Lu have done four since they arrived last November, most recently on April 16. Fei, Zhang and Deng Qingming are the first Chinese crew to take over space station operations from a previous crew — the first Chinese direct crew handover. It’s a big deal for China even though the ISS crews have been doing it since 2000 and the Soviets initiated the practice way back in January 1978 with the Salyut 6 space station.

Keeping crews in space on a long-term basis requires cargo resupply ships. China’s are called Tianzhou and the next one, Tianzhou-6, is expected to launch this week on a Long March 7 rocket from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island. As usual, China has not officially said when, but it is expected on May 10. If we get a launch time, we’ll add it to our Calendar entry. China’s CGTN sometimes provides live coverage. Today CGTN posted a video of the rocket and spacecraft rolling to the launch pad. This version of Tianzhou has greater cargo capacity than the previous version, adding 22.5 cubic meters of volume. CGTN says only that it will launch “in the first half of May.”

Tianzhou-6 cargo spacecraft atop its Long March 7 rocket rolling to the launch pad at Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, Hainan Island, China. Screengrab from China’s CGTN.

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-Thursday, May 7-11

Sunday-Friday, May 7-12

Monday, May 8

Tuesday, May 9

Wednesday, May 10

Wednesday-Thursday, May 10-11

Wednesday-Friday, May 10-12

Thursday, May 11

Thursday-Friday, May 11-12

Friday, May 12

User Comments

SpacePolicyOnline.com has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.