What’s Happening in Space Policy September 18-24, 2022

What’s Happening in Space Policy September 18-24, 2022

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of September 18-24, 2022 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

The week has started already with the opening of the annual International Astronautical Congress (IAC) this morning. The IAC is *the* big international space conference every year combining meetings of the International Astronautical Federation, International Academy of Astronautics, and International Institute of Space Law. Usually it’s a Monday-Friday conference, but this year it’s Sunday-Thursday for scheduling reasons at its venue in Paris, France. They told us there’s no virtual option this year, so for those lucky enough to be able to travel Paris it should be quite an event.

For those who couldn’t make the trip and are on Twitter, here are five space reporters who are there and tweeting news about what’s happening: Irene Klotz of Aviation Week & Space Technology (@Free_Space), Jeff Foust of Space News (@Jeff_Foust), Andrew Jones of Space News (@AJ_FI), Michael Sheetz of CNBC (@thesheetztweetz), Joey Roulette of Reuters (@joroulette), and Sarwat Nasir from the UAE’s The National News (@SarwatNasir). [UPDATE: We just added Sarwat and will continue to add to the list if we discover others.]

The Artemis I Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft at sunrise on Launch Complex-39B, August 22, 2022. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

There’s lots happening back here in the States, too. On Wednesday, NASA plans to conduct a “tanking test” of the Artemis I Space Launch System rocket to see if the fixes to the seals on the Quick Disconnect fittings are good. The Artemis I launch was scrubbed on August 29 and September 3. The first scrub was for an unrelated reason (a bad sensor that indicated one of the engines was not chilled enough), but there were hydrogen leaks. Workarounds were found that day, but there was a bigger leak on September 3 that could not be fixed within the launch window. Engineers have been repairing it while the rocket is still on the launch pad so they can test all the seals by filling the tanks (hence “tanking test”) with the cryogenic propellants liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX) and running them through the lines.

Wayne Hale recounts the challenges of hydrogen leaks during the space shuttle program in a NASASpaceflight.com webcast.

The SLS is derived from the space shuttle, which encountered a lot of hydrogen leaks, too. A couple of excellent interviews came out last week with two people who lived through and found solutions to those challenges — former space shuttle flight director and program manager Wayne Hale and former space shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach. NASASpaceflight.com’s Chris Gebhardt and Philip Sloss talked with Hale, while Aviation Week’s Irene Klotz and Jen DiMascio interviewed Leinbach. Really good information for anyone who wants to know why LH2 is such a nuisance to deal with, yet such a great fuel that it’s worth the trouble. Great stories, too.

The tanking test is scheduled for Wednesday and NASA will hold a briefing to preview the test tomorrow (Monday). Hopefully Hurricane Fiona will stay away from the U.S. East Coast and no other weather problems develop. NASA will provide live coverage with commentary beginning at 7:15 am ET Wednesday.  NASA has tentatively set September 27 as the next launch attempt, but that is dependent on the results of the test and getting a waiver from the U.S. Space Force for a requirement to replace a critical battery in the Flight Termination System. Replacing that battery can only be done when the rocket is in the Vehicle Assembly Building surrounded by work platforms that allow access to where the battery is located (in the SLS Core Stage between the LH2 and LOX tanks). That would mean a much longer launch delay, but the Space Force’s responsibility is to protect public safety if the rocket veers off course so that FTS system has to work if needed.

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio will launch to the ISS on Wednesday with two Russian cosmonauts on Soyuz MS-22. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Stafford

The test is taking place at the very same time Russia is launching a new crew to the International Space Station: Soyuz MS-22 with two Russian cosmonauts (Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin) and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio. This is the first flight under the new U.S.-Russian crew exchange agreement.

Launch is at 9:54 am ET and they’ll dock about three hours later followed by a welcoming ceremony. NASA TV has two channels — the Public Channel and the Media Channel. The tanking test will be on the Media Channel the whole time, but the Public Channel will switch between the tanking test and Soyuz MS-22 activities.

NASA also is getting ready for a big event a week from Monday (September 26) when the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft will impact the tiny moon (Dimorphos) of a small asteroid (Didymos) to test a method of deflecting asteroids that threaten Earth. Didymos poses no threat at all either before or after the test. NASA will hold a briefing this Thursday to preview what they’re expecting to happen and what we’ll be able to see. We’ll have much more about DART in coming days.

On the national security space side of things, the annual Air Force Association Air, Space, Cyber conference is taking place tomorrow through Wednesday at the Gaylord convention center in National Harbor, MD, just outside Washington, DC.

In addition to Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, they’ve got a really great line up of U.S. Space Force officials (the Space Force and the Air Force are the two military services within the Department of the Air Force). Keynote speakers include Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond, Commander of Space Force’s Space Operations Command Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting [UPDATE: the agenda now lists Maj. Gen. Doug Scheiss, USSF Deputy Commanding General, Operations instead) and Space Force Chief Master Sergeant Roger Towberman and there are panels on space acquisition, space warfare, space as a warfighting domain, space innovation, and the future of air and space power.

Maj. Gen. Shawn Bratton, commander of U.S. Space Force’s STARCOM, will be the guest on the Mitchell Institute’s Schriever Spacepower Forum on Thursday.

On Thursday, the Mitchell Institute will hold a Schriever Spacepower Forum webinar with Maj. Gen. Shawn Bratton, Commander of Space Force’s Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM), the most recently established of Space Force’s three field commands (Space Operations Command and Space Systems Command are the other two). STARCOM was activated just a little over a year ago in August 2021. This webinar will be a good opportunity to find out how everything is progressing.

Up on Capitol Hill, hopefully progress is being made on a FY2023 Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government funded beginning October 1. Last we heard they were still debating what non-funding legislation they want to put into the bill, notably Sen. Joe Manchin’s energy permitting bill that has provoked strong opposition from many House Democrats worried about its environmental effect. Once again House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has the CR on the list of “possible” bills that might be considered this week. They’ll still have another week after this to do it, so it would not be surprising if nothing happens. Stay tuned.

The only other space-related action on the Hill this week is a House Science, Space, and Technology subcommittee hearing on next-generation weather satellites on Wednesday (at the same time as the Soyuz MS-22 launch and the Artemis I tanking test). Steve Volz, who heads the part of NOAA that operates the nation’s weather satellites, will be joined at the witness table by NASA’s John Gagosian (NASA procures the satellites for NOAA), and Fred Meny from the Department of Commerce’s Inspector General’s office (NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce).

A Delta IV Heavy rocket getting ready to launch the NROL-44 mission in 2020. Photo credit: ULA.

On Saturday, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) will conduct the final launch of its Delta IV Heavy rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base, CA, putting the National Reconnaissance Office’s classified NROL-91 satellite into orbit. ULA’s website shows the launch time as 5:53 pm ET. NRO earlier said the launch window was 4:50-7:12 pm ET. The launch will be webcast by ULA. Last we knew, there will be two more DIVH launches in 2023 and 2024 (NROL-68 and NROL-70), but they are from Cape Canaveral. This is only goodbye from the West Coast. ULA is phasing out both its DIVH and Atlas V rockets. They’ll be replaced by the Vulcan-Centaur system that could see its first launch later this year.

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, September 18-22

Monday, September 19

Monday-Wednesday, September 19-21

Monday-Friday, September 19-23

Tuesday-Wednesday, September 20-21

Wednesday, September 21

Wednesday-Sunday, September 21-25

Thursday, September 22

Saturday, September 24

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