What’s Happening in Space Policy November 13-19, 2022

What’s Happening in Space Policy November 13-19, 2022

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of November 13-19, 2022 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Two “big events” are happening this week — the return of Congress to finish its work for the year (there’s a lot to be done) and another NASA attempt to launch Artemis I.

NASA just can’t seem to catch a break with Artemis I, the uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft around the Moon. Two launch attempts were scrubbed for technical reasons on August 29 and September 3, a third scheduled for September 27 had to be postponed due to Hurricane Ian and the stack had to be rolled back to the safety of the Vehicle Assembly Building. They rolled it back out on November 4 to get ready for a November 14 launch, but yet another hurricane, Nicole, delayed it once more.

They didn’t have time to get the stack back to the VAB, so it rode out the storm at the pad. Although winds got up to 100 miles per hour (87 knots) at certain elevations on the pad, NASA insists at the 60 foot level they did not exceed the 85 mph (74.4 knot) limit, though it was close. Jim Free, NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development, told reporters on Friday no wind speed limits were surpassed and there is only minor damage.

The Artemis I Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft at Launch Complex-39B, November 4, 2022. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett. The third launch attempt is now scheduled for November 16 at 1:04 am ET, the opening of a two-hour launch window.

They plan to proceed with a launch that is now set for November 16 at 1:04 am ET, the opening of a two-hour launch window. NASA’s Mission Management Team is meeting today to give the final go-ahead. Officials will brief the media around 7:00 pm ET tonight (listen on NASA Live). It could be later if the meeting goes longer than expected. Assuming they are “go” for launch, there’s another update briefing tomorrow (Monday) at noon. [UPDATE: NASA said Sunday evening they are still working two issues and the time for the Monday briefing will be announced later. It will not be at noon.] NASA coverage of tanking (when the tanks are filled with propellant) begins Tuesday at 4:00 pm ET and full NASA TV launch coverage starts Tuesday at 10:30 pm ET and continues through launch and Trans-Lunar Injection, with additional coverage of specific events later in the day. If this third try is NOT the charm, November 19 and November 25 are backup dates.

The CAPSTONE cubesat should arrive into its Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit around the Moon as part of the Artemis program this evening.

Before we turn to Congress, we’ll mention two other human spaceflight-related events. First, the 55-pound Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) cubesat that will test out the Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit NASA plans to use for its Gateway space station as part of the Artemis program, is due to go into that orbit this evening (Sunday). It’s had quite a journey getting there, but everything seems fine right now. Check NASA’s Artemis blog and the Advanced Space website for updates. Designed and built by Terran Orbital, the spacecraft is owned by Advanced Space in Westminster, CO on behalf of NASA. The two companies operate it jointly.

Second, everything continues to be busy on the International Space Station, with a series of three U.S. and four Russian spacewalks coming up. The first two are this week: a U.S. spacewalk by NASA’s Frank Rubio and Josh Cassada on Tuesday, and a Russian spacewalk on Thursday (we haven’t seen which of the three Russian cosmonauts aboard are doing that one). Another cargo mission is coming up, too, but SpaceX’s CRS-26 launch was delayed from this Friday until next Monday so we’ll write more about that next time.

Senator (and former NASA astronaut) Mark Kelly (D-AZ) was declared the winner on Friday for a full 6-year Senate term. He won election two years ago to complete the term of the late Sen. John McCain.

Now to Congress. The Senate and House both return to work tomorrow. As anyone who’s been following the news over the past few days knows, with wins over the weekend by Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Democrats will retain control of the Senate regardless of the outcome of the Georgia runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and Herschel Walker (R). If Warnock wins, Democrats will have 51 seats and Republicans 49. If Walker wins, it’ll be 50-50 like it is now, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote, keeping Democrats in control.

Which party will control the House isn’t settled yet. Expectations remain that Republicans will eke out a majority, but it’ll be another very close margin. Democrats control the House now with 220 members versus 212 Republicans (with three vacancies). According to Politico, at the moment Republicans have secured 211 seats to 203 for Democrats with 21 races undecided. The magic number for control is 218. Politico rates 6 of the remaining 21 as likely Democratic seats, 10 Republican, and 5 toss-ups. It’s been a surprising election so as the saying goes: “it ain’t over till it’s over.”

Who’ll be in control when the 118th Congress convenes on January 3, 2023 matters now, too. If Democrats keep the House as well as the Senate, they will have two more years to press forward on their priorities. If they lose the House, they’ll want to get as much done now as they can. If Republicans win the House, they’ll want to use these next weeks teeing up their agenda for the next Congress. The outcome of the leadership races for both parties will set the tone.

Two must-pass bills are on the docket before the 117th Congress gavels out: FY2023 appropriations and the FY2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Katie Britt will succeed Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) in the Senate. She’s a former Shelby staffer.

None of the 12 FY2023 appropriations bills has cleared Congress. The House passed six of them as a package in July, NOT including the two most important to space (Defense, and Commerce-Justice-Science). The Senate hasn’t passed any. In fact, the Senate Appropriations Committee did not even report out any of the bills. Instead, committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) released the versions developed by his staff because Republicans declined to negotiate. Nevertheless, Leahy and his Republican counterpart, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), both are retiring so there is optimism that Congress will somehow find a way to get all 12 bills done as a tribute to them. At a minimum, another CR will be needed to keep the government operating. The current CR expires on December 16.

FYI, in terms of Senate seats, Shelby’s former staffer, Katie Britt, a Republican, will succeed him. Peter Welch, a Democrat who has represented Vermont in the House since 2007, will succeed Leahy. As for the committee, it is widely expected that Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) will take the top two positions.

The NDAA is the only authorization bill that has passed every year since the first in 1961, through thick and thin no matter the intensity of political discord on other topics. The chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees are determined to keep the record going. The only question is what other legislation members will try to insert into the NDAA knowing it’s sure to pass. The House passed its version in July. Senate floor action began in October and will resume tomorrow. Then to conference, back to the House and Senate for final passage, and then to the President’s desk.

In other events, the space subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will have a hearing on Wednesday to hear about initial science results from the James Webb Space Telescope. The new head of NASA’s Astrophysics Division, Mark Clampin, who previously was JWST’s Observatory Project Scientist, will be joined at the witness table by Steven Finkelstein from the University of Texas at Austin, and Natalie Batalha from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The Pillars of Creation as seen by the James Webb Space Telescope’s infrared instruments. Credits: SCIENCE: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI. IMAGE PROCESSING: Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI).  JWST’s initial science results will be discussed at a House subcomittee hearing on Wednesday.

Don Beyer (D-VA), Chair of the space subcommittee, and Brian Babin (R-TX), Ranking Member, both won reelection, by the way. So did Frank Lucas (R-OK), the top Republican on the full committee. Committee chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) is retiring. We’ll have more on election results when the other House races are called.

Also this week, the White House National Space Council will hold the first of two “listening sessions” to get public input on In-Space Authorization and Supervision Policy. The theme for this one is Novel Space Capabilities. The second one, next week, is Approaches for Authorization and Supervision.

Diane Howard, National Space Council Director of Commercial Space Policy, will lead the first of two listening sessions on mission authorization on Monday.

Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty requires governments to authorize and continually supervise activities of non-government entities, like companies. The United States already does that for launch and reentry (FAA), commercial remote sensing satellites (NOAA), and radio frequency assignments (FCC), but that leaves quite a gap for everything else going on in Earth orbit — and soon, beyond. Which agency should be in charge of “mission authorization” has been debated for years without resolution. The Obama Administration wanted the Department of Transportation’s FAA to do it, the Trump Administration wanted the Department of Commerce. Now the Biden Administration is being urged to make a decision so companies that want to pursue such activities know where to go in the government to find out what regulations they might have to follow, an important component of attracting investors. Diane Howard, the Space Council’s Director of Commercial Space Policy, is leading the effort.

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, November 13

Monday, November 14

Monday-Wednesday, November 14-16

Tuesday, November 15

Tuesday-Wednesday, November 15-16

Tuesday-Thursday, November 15-17

Tuesday-Friday, November 15-18

Wednesday, November 16

Wednesday-Thursday, November 16-17

Thursday, November 17


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