Public Policy and Government Affairs

Biweekly Washington, D.C., Update for the Week Ending May 15, 2020

Written by: Hanh Le

This week, House Democrats unveiled a $3 trillion stimulus package, the HEROES Act, while the Senate remained in session to vote on markups and participate in hearings throughout the week. Meanwhile, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has extended the stay-at-home order through June 8.

Space Foundation Event Highlights:

“America’s Space Force: Building the Future Today” with Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett and
Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond

  • The Space Foundation hosted the event in partnership with the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force and the U.S. Space Force, featuring the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Space Operations.
  • The exclusive discussion covered the current state of the Space Force, operational priorities over the next year, interagency cooperation, and views on a number of pertinent issues.
  • At the event, the Space Force shared its first recruitment video. Sec. Barrett outlined the Air Force’s recent efforts to declassify, “some information related to space,” shown in the video, such as the X-37B spaceplane which will launch on May 16, carrying more experiments than previous missions. The flight is “dedicated to the nation’s first responders and front-line professionals who keep America strong.”
  • Both Sec. Barrett and Gen. Raymond emphasized American dependency on space and said that it is imperative for the Space Force to defend and deter threats to critical space assets, and to build a doctrine for appropriate behavior in space.
  • A video of the event can be found here.

Space Policy Pod: Episode 1 – Dr. Scott Pace

  • A new podcast series presented by the Space Foundation, along with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the MITRE Corporation, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will examine events and ideas pertaining to the space industry.
  • The first episode of the Space Policy Pod features Dr. Scott Pace, Deputy Assistant to the President and Executive Secretary of the National Space Council.
  • Each episode of the Space Policy Pod will invite leaders in the space industry to have a candid conversation, sharing their perspectives on current events in the space policy landscape.
  • Watch for our upcoming episodes featuring Matthew Scholl, Chief of the Computer Security Division in the Information Technology Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Stephen Kitay, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy.

Space Industry Updates

  • NASA’s Science Mission Directorate welcomed its new Earth Science Division director, Dr. Karen St. Germain. She comes to NASA from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), where she served as Deputy Assistant Administrator, Systems for the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS). (NASA, May 5)
  • The Air Force X-37B’s sixth operational test vehicle mission (OTV-6) is slated for launch Saturday, May 16 from Cape Canaveral. (SpaceNews, May 6)
  • Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck stated that the market, “needs to grow a lot to sustain more than two companies,” as the small satellite launcher sector’s outlook is dire. (SpaceNews, May 11)
  • China launched the first satellite of the Xingyun project, named “Wuhan” to pay tribute to the, “heroic Wuhan city.” (NASA Spaceflight, May 11)
  • Richard Branson will sell more than a fifth of Virgin Group’s majority stake to raise funds to aid its other companies. (SpaceNews, May 12)
  • Intelsat filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to allow the company to participate in an accelerated clearing of C-band spectrum by the FCC. (Bloomberg, May 14)

Space Policy Updates

  • GPS manufacturer Trimble accused Ligado of making inaccurate statements about an agreement between the companies, which factored into the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision. (Breaking Defense, May 8)
  • The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) plans to launch the first satellites of the Blackjack program in late 2020, and early 2021. (SpaceNews, May 11)
  • The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission urged Congress to double down on legislative efforts to prevent the transfer of U.S. technology to China’s space program. (Breaking Defense, May 13)
  • President Trump spoke highly of Colorado’s bid to become Space Command headquarters. (CBS Denver, May 13)
  • Graduates who transition to the Space Force will be able to pursue specialized career tracks such as orbital warfare, space electronic warfare, space battle management, and space access and sustainment. (SpaceNews, May 13)
  • A group of 32 senators sent the FCC a letter urging them to reverse the Ligado decision. (Defense News, May 14)
  • President Trump participated in a presentation of the U.S. Space Force Flag. (YouTube,
    May 15)
  • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the Artemis Accords agreements, a planned multilateral treaty regime, which will reaffirm crucial international norms necessary for lunar exploration. (NASA, May 15)

Wednesday, May 6

Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing: “Department of Defense Spectrum Policy and the Impact of the Federal Communications Commission’s Ligado Decision on National Security”

  • The witnesses were Dana S. Deasy (Chief Information Officer, Department of Defense), Michael D. Griffin (Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering), Admiral Thad W. Allen (USCG, ret.), and Gen. John W. Raymond, USSF (CSO, U.S. Space Force, Commander, U.S. Space Command).
  • Both Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) agreed the decision was poor judgement and expressed concerns about interference with GPS signals.
  • All witnesses from the Department of Defense (DOD) strongly opposed the FCC’s decision. While they support 5G, they agreed that Ligado’s proposal is not the right approach.
  • According to Mr. Deasey, the DOD and the FCC used to work well together on GPS, but the DOD was “completely caught off guard” when the FCC made the decision over the weekend. Adm. Allen pointed out the decision was 74 pages, which astounded him and led him to believe that the FCC had already made their decision prior to deliberation.
  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) remained unconvinced, calling the hearing “one-sided” and pressing witnesses for reasons as to why the FCC made such
    a decision.
  • Sen. Inhofe asserted that President Trump himself was not aware of the decision, despite initial support from the White House. Mike Pompeo also expressed support for the decision, but the State Department has opposed it.

Additional Space Foundation Resources

  • The Space Report Quarter 1 – 2020 provides significant insights on workforce development, spacecraft activities, statistics, and analyses covering satellites for communication, Earth observation, and navigation.
  • The latest Space4U Podcast episode features Laura Forczyk, owner of Astralytical and author of “Rise of the Space Age Millennials.”
  • Online learning, lesson plans, and video lessons for students grades K–12 are available at the Discovery Center website.


SatMagazine by Satnews | Calls for Space Tracking Increase by Lesley Conn

  • The article examines the increasing amount of space debris in orbit and how the private sector and the international community are taking on greater roles in space traffic management.
  • Despite ongoing efforts to track space debris, there lacks an international platform and system to monitor space traffic.

Space Trivia

On May 15, 1963, NASA launched the Faith 7 capsule on the Mercury-Atlas 9 mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida, marking the final flight of the Mercury program. The spacecraft completed 22 orbits in just over 34 hours, a record length for U.S. spaceflight at the time. Project Mercury was the nation’s first human spaceflight program. (Source: NASA,