Public Policy and Government Affairs

Biweekly Washington, D.C., Update for the Week Ending February 26, 2021

Written by: Hanh Le

New images emerged this week, following last week’s successful landing of the Mars Perseverance rover in the Jezero Crater on Mars, including this panorama of the landing site assembled from 142 images. Closer to home, the House Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee held the first space hearings on Near-Peer Advancements in Space and Nuclear Weapons.

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Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Hearing: “Near-Peer Advancements in Space and Nuclear Weapons”
February 23, 2021

  • Witnesses: Madelyn Creedon (Brookings Institute), Todd Harrison (CSIS), Tim Morrison (Hudson Institute)
  • Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) discussed the decision to relocate the U.S. Space Force. Witnesses present cited the need for “stability and continuity for the workforce and the contractors that support the Space Command.”
  • Todd Harrison (CSIS) noted that China and Russia are “closing the gap” with the U.S. in terms of space capabilities due to vulnerabilities the U.S. is not addressing. He recommended that the U.S. develop a more diverse and resilient space architecture of satellites in multiple orbits, and technologies to defend satellites from jammers and kinetic attacks.
  • Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) raised the issue of the Global Positioning System (GPS) as an example of a space asset that is under threat.

Space Policy Updates

  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Aerospace Project’s newest report, “Defense Against the Dark Arts in Space,” is available. (CSIS, Feb. 26)
  • Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) will chair the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. (The Gazette, Feb. 20)
  • The U.S. will support an international effort to set rules for behavior in space. (SpaceNews, Feb. 24)
  • The White House has no current plans to nominate a new NASA Administrator. (SpaceNews, Feb. 23)
  • U.S. lawmakers called for an open dialogue on Chinese and Russian advances in space and nuclear weapons. (SpaceNews, Feb. 23)
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated that he stands behind the Air Force’s decision to relocate U.S. Space Command amid an investigation into the basing decision. (SpaceNews, Feb. 22)
  • A report has concluded that an aggressive nuclear propulsion research and development effort is needed to send humans to Mars by 2039. (, Feb. 12)
  • Sen. Angus King (I-ME) was named chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on strategic forces. (SpaceNews, Feb. 16)
  • The Pentagon Inspector General will investigate the decision to move U.S. Space Command to Alabama. (SpaceNews, Feb. 19)
  • Russia has signaled that they intend to sign an agreement with China to cooperate on a new international lunar research station. (SpaceNews, Feb. 17)

Space Industry Updates

  • Blue Origin is pushing back the first launch of its New Glenn launch vehicle to late 2022, following the Space Force’s decision to not select the New Glenn for the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 Procurement. (SpaceNews, Feb. 25)
  • The second Space Launch System (SLS) hot fire test has been postponed. (, Feb. 22)
  • Widespread Texas power outages have delayed Boeing’s second Starliner spacecraft test flight until April. (, Feb. 19)
  • NASA has postponed its launch of the DART asteroid defense mission. (, Feb. 23)
  • Inmarsat has hired Nokia executive Rajeev Suri as their new CEO. (SpaceNews, Feb. 24)
  • China launched a trio of Yaogan-31 ocean reconnaissance satellites. (SpaceNews, Feb. 24)
  • The Space Force awarded an engineering contract for the certification of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan launch vehicle. (SpaceNews, Feb. 23)
  • Former Capella Space and Planet executive Scott Soenen has joined Hydrosat. (SpaceNews, Feb. 23)
  • L3Harris received a $137 million contract for GPS digital payloads. (SpaceNews, Feb. 23)
  • India has revised its Gaganyaan human spaceflight plan and delayed its Chandrayaan-3 lunar landing target dates due to COVID-19 delays. (SpaceNews, Feb. 23)
  • General Atomics has selected Firefly to launch a NASA Earth science satellite. (SpaceNews, Feb. 22)
  • The European Space Agency is planning a mission to explore lunar caves. (ESA, Feb. 24)
  • Iran has launched a new launch vehicle on a suborbital test flight. (, Feb. 17)
  • Elon Musk has coauthored a COVID-19 antibody study based on SpaceX workers who volunteered to take part. (The Verge, Feb. 22)
  • The Egyptian Space Agency will begin a four-year program to train astronauts. (Space in Africa, Feb. 24)
  • A recent poll found that only one in three adults think sending human astronauts to the Moon or Mars should be a priority. (Morning Consult, Feb. 25)
  • The Space Force is considering future investments to improve weather monitoring in the Arctic. (SpaceNews, Feb. 24)

Additional Space Foundation Resources

  • The latest Space4U Podcast episode features Joe Urso, Founder of ActivePure Technologies.
  • 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 | NASA tests the perseverance of some space enthusiasts
By Svetoslav Alexandrov

  • The article outlines the frustrations of many within the space community regarding the limited images and data shared by NASA following the landing of the Perseverance rover, and also offers explanations as to what could have caused the delays in sharing them with the public.

Space Trivia

Thirty-one years ago, on Feb. 23, 1990, NASA’s Pioneer 11 became the second spacecraft to leave our Solar System. (


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