Public Policy and Government Affairs

Biweekly Washington, D.C., Update for the Week Ending February 12, 2021

Written by: Hanh Le

This week Congress attempted to balance moving forward on Biden administration priorities like coronavirus relief, with the impeachment trial of former President Trump. Meanwhile, two of the three probes launched to Mars last summer reached the planet’s orbit — the United Arab Emirates’ Hope orbiter, and China’s Tianwen-1.

The Space Report Quarter 4, 2020 now available

  • The latest edition of The Space Report highlights that 2020 launch activity hit a 20-year high, with total spacecraft deployment tripling the number deployed in 2019.
  • Commercial satellite deployments increased 477% from 2019 to 2020.
  • Orbital launches approached the high pace of the Space Shuttle era, with the highest five-year total since 1986–1990.
  • Download The Space Report Quarter 4 for more findings.

Sign Up for Space Symposium 365

  • Register here to follow key events and discussion with industry professionals, 365 days a year.
  • Upcoming panels and speakers:
    • 16 – Dr. Derek Tournear
    • 17 – Dr. Johann-Dietrich Worner
    • 24 – The Navy’s Contribution to Space panel

Space Industry Updates

  • NASA confirmed that it no longer plans to launch its Europa Clipper mission on the Space Launch System (SLS). (SpaceNews, Feb. 10)
  • Airbus awarded a €650 million contract to build three more Orion service modules for the European Space Agency (ESA). (SpaceNews, Feb. 4)
  • The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) first Mars probe successfully entered the planet’s orbit. (, Feb. 9)
  • China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft also successfully entered orbit around Mars. (SpaceNews, Feb. 10)
  • Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos is stepping down as Amazon CEO. (, Feb. 4)
  • NASA has awarded Firefly Aerospace with the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract to deliver science payloads to the Moon in 2023. (, Feb. 5)
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded L3Harris Technologies with a $43.8 million space weather contract to develop, deploy, and operate a command-and-control system (SpaceNews, Feb. 5)
  • SpaceX has secured a contract to launch NASA’s SPHEREx astrophysics mission. (, Feb. 5)
  • Lockheed Martin has selected ABL Space Systems to conduct their UK launch from a new spaceport in the Shetland Islands. (SpaceNews, Feb. 7)
  • Space industry investment has continued to grow, despite initial reports that the pandemic would cause a slowdown. (SpaceNews, Feb. 8)
  • SpaceX’s Crew-1 “Resilience” capsule has broken the U.S. spacecraft record set in 1974 for the most days a U.S. human space capsule has spent in space. (, Feb. 9)
  • Virgin Orbit is considering moving into adjacent markets, to include supporting ventures that are developing satellite systems. (SpaceNews, Feb. 10)
  • Analytical Space won a $26.4 million contract to develop and launch CubeSats and payloads to establish an optical network. (SpaceNews, Feb. 10)
  • NASA has selected the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle to launch the first lunar Gateway elements in 2024 — the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE), and the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) modules. (SpaceNews, Feb. 10)
  • Launch vehicle startup Astra is the latest space company to go public. (, Feb. 11)

Space Policy Updates

  • Committee members were announced for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation. (Senate Commerce, Feb. 12)
  • The White House will realign responsibilities for space policy oversight, shifting responsibilities to the National Security Council. (SpaceNews, Feb. 5)
  • Richard Shelby (R-AL), who has had a major influence over NASA programs, will retire. (SpaceNews, Feb. 9)
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will oversee an investigation into the SpaceX “SN9” Mars rocket prototype’s explosive landing. (CNN Business, Feb. 3)
  • The White House has endorsed continuing the Artemis program. (SpaceNews, Feb. 4)
  • NASA is seeking a seat on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft this spring as a “dissimilar redundancy” to coincide with the upcoming NASA/SpaceX Crew-2 mission. (, Feb. 9)
  • Pentagon Deputy Defense Secretary nominee Kathleen Hicks has said that Department of Defense (DoD) space acquisitions deserve scrutiny. (SpaceNews, Feb. 2)
  • U.S. Military space commanders expect broad continuity in DoD space policy. (SpaceNews, Feb. 4)
  • The Biden administration is expected to rein in the previous administration’s “Space Power” dialogue. (Breaking Defense, Feb. 1)

Additional Space Foundation Resources

  • The latest Space4U Podcast episode features Jack Gregg, author of the forthcoming book “The Cosmos Economy.”
  • The Space Report Quarter 4, 2020 is available here.
  • Online learning, lesson plans, and video lessons for students grades K–12 are available at the Discovery Center website.

Further Reading

The Space Review | A review of space strategy worldviews (pt.1): 2011 National Security Space Strategy (NSSS)
By Christopher M. Stone

  • The 2011 NSSS was based on the perception that the international political consensus favored rulemaking and norm-building, and that international institutions could shape, preserve, and propagate security in the international system.
  • The article also discusses norms of behavior in space, and China’s “strategic culture-offensive realist view” towards deterrence.

The Atlantic | Why SpaceX Wants a Tiny Texas Neighborhood So Badly
By Marina Koren

  • SpaceX has a long history in Texas, having tested rocket engines in McGregor for nearly two decades.
  • Boca Chica’s residents have lived with, “or at least tolerated,” SpaceX over the last five years. The story discusses the increasingly disruptive work by SpaceX and the company’s offer to buy their homes.

Space Trivia

Fifty-one years ago, on Feb. 11, 1970, Japan launched its first satellite, Ohsumi, into orbit with a Lambda 4S-5 rocket from Uchinoura Space Center. (NASA)

Contributor: Katie Nelson, Intern, Space Foundation
Editor: Andrew de Naray, Multimedia Content Writer & Editor, Space Foundation