What’s Happening in Space Policy September 12-18, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy September 12-18, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of September 12-18, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them. The Senate will be in session Monday-Wednesday. House committees will meet Monday-Tuesday.  Both are in recess for the latter part of the week.

During the Week

The week is already off to a roaring start today. JAXA’s Aki Hoshide and ESA’s Thomas Pesquet are outside the International Space Station (ISS) performing a spacewalk — or extravehicular activity (EVA) — right now, preparing for installation of new ISS Roll-Out Solar Arrays (iROSAs). It’s a routine spacewalk overall, but will go down in history as the first EVA where both astronauts are from international partner countries, instead of one from NASA and one from a partner. (ISS is a partnership among the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan, and 11 European countries working through ESA. The facility is composed of the U.S. Orbital Segment, USOS, and the Russian Orbital Segment, ROS. Russia does its own spacewalks to support the ROS.)

The EVA was supposed to take place on August 24 with Hoshide and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, but Vande Hei has a pinched nerve in his neck so couldn’t do it. Two other NASA astronauts are aboard ISS right now, Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, but Pesquet was assigned to replace Vande Hei for the EVA. NASA Deputy ISS Program Manager Dana Weigle said at a press conference on Friday that the decision was based simply on the fact that Pesquet was the best fit for the spacesuit. All astronauts who work on the USOS get the same EVA training, she said.

Not to mention that Pesquet already has done three iROSA EVAs, in June with Kimbrough. This is his sixth EVA overall (two others were on an ISS mission in 2017). Hoshide, who is currently the ISS Commander, is also an experienced spacewalker. This is his fourth (the first three were on a 2012 ISS mission). You can follow the action on NASA TV or NASA’s space station Twitter account: @Space_Station.

The BIG EVENT this week is another first-of-a-kind space mission. On Wednesday (weather permitting), four people with no spaceflight experience and not part of NASA or any other government space program will launch into orbit on a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. They will spend three days circling the Earth, but will not visit the ISS.

The “Inspiration4” crew refer to themselves as the first “civilian” orbital space crew, though the term is debateable since there have been other orbital space crews where none were from the military. (Jonathan McDowell, @planet4589, has an excellent thread on Twitter about this nomenclature.) They could be called non-professional astronauts, or commercial astronauts, or private astronauts, or citizen astronauts, or space flight participants (the term used in the 2004  Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments) but the point is they are just like you and me except the leader of the mission, Jared Isaacman, is exceptionally wealthy and is paying for everything. He is using publicity from the mission to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. And there is a LOT of publicity about it, including a Netflix series that debuted last week, so we won’t belabor it here other than to note that the launch is currently scheduled for no earlier than 8:00 pm ET on Wednesday from Kennedy Space Center.

Elon Musk’s Crew Dragon is entirely automated so doesn’t really need a “pilot” but Isaacman is a very experienced private pilot, including flying military jets, so he will be in the commander’s seat.  Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor, and Chris Sembroski are his crew mates. Unlike the Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos flights on SpaceShipTwo and New Shepard, respectively, in July, these folks are going into orbit for three days, not just spending a couple of minutes dipping their toes across the air/space line on a suborbital mission.

Hard to top all that, but there are other events taking place this week including the annual Humans to Mars (H2M) summit Monday-Wednesday (virtual). NASA Administrator Bill Nelson will speak on Tuesday, but the entire agenda is chock full of interesting speakers and panels.

Not much is happening space-wise on Capitol Hill this week. It’s a short week because of the Yom Kippur holiday and the House is in a committee work week anyway. More House committees are marking up their portions of the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better human infrastructure package even though centrist Democrats are unhappy with the pricetag and there is a growing expectation the final number will be substantially less than that. The House SS&T Committee approved its $45 billion portion last week, with $4.4 billion slated for NASA, but none of that is for the second lunar lander NASA hoped to get. Most of it ($4 billion) is to fix or modernize NASA’s facilities around the country. The Senate Commerce Committee is holding an Executive Session this week to deal with nominations, but there is no mention of its companion measure. It’s not clear if the Senate committees will even write their own bills, or if the Senate will just work from whatever passes the House. We’ll have to wait and see.

Also on tap this week: the AMOS space situational awareness (SSA) conference and its companion EMER-GEN meeting today through Friday (Maui, Hawaii); Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s human spaceflight program will present the John Glenn Lecture in Space History for the National Air and Space Museum (virtual) Tuesday evening; and ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher will discuss future European space policy during a webinar on Wednesday.

We will further note that China’s Shenzhou-12 space station crew might return to Earth this week, but, as usual, China isn’t saying anything about it. What we know is that the three-person crew was launched on June 17 for a three-month mission and three months is up at the end of this week. If we learn anything definitive, we’ll let you know.

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, September 12

Sunday-Tuesday, September 12-14

  • EMER-GEN (in conjunction with the AMOS conference), Maui, Hawaii

Monday, September 13

Monday-Tuesday, September 13-14

Monday-Wednesday, September 13-15

Tuesday, September 14

Tuesday-Thursday, September 14-16

Tuesday-Friday, September 14-17

Wednesday, September 15

Thursday, September 16

  • 2021 AMOS Dialogue (Secure World Foundation/Maui Economic Development Council), Maui, Hawaii/virtual, 3:00 pm ET

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