International Affairs

Biweekly Washington, D.C. Updates for the Week Ending February 24, 2023

Written by: Elizabeth Anderson

This Week in Washington

This Week in Washington, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced the Orbital Sustainability (ORBITS) Act, the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group convened for the first time under the Biden-Harris Administration, and Roscosmos announced the extension of the Russian section of the International Space Station until 2028.

Space Foundation Virtual Programs

Stakeholder Call with Dr. Ezinne Uzo-Okoro

This month’s D.C. Stakeholder Call will feature Dr. Ezinne Uzo-Okoro, Assistant Director of Space Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. These 30-minute conversations are an opportunity for our community to gather and engage with leading minds in the space community. This month’s call will take place on Tuesday, February 28 at 11:00 AM ET.

This call is open to Space Foundation Corporate Members. If you are interested in participating, please contact Amanda Nguyen, Civil Space Specialist, at [email protected].

Space Matters

Space Foundation’s third season of “Space Matters” convenes well-known policy influencers for high-level conversations on emerging topics and trends within the global space economy. Watch General Lester Lyles (Ret.) as he shares on his role as the Chair of the National Space Council Users’ Advisory Group (NSpC UAG). Our panel of experts will continue the discussion on NSpC UAG and other space developments in this episode.

Watch this month’s timely and important episode on March 8 at 1:00 PM ET here.

United States Space Policy Updates

  • The National Space Council (NSpC) is reviewing input from Congress and private industry to support the development of a “mission authorization” framework for commercial space activities  (Space News, February 11)
  • Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced that she would push for a multiyear NASA authorization bill (Space News, February 10)
  • Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy John Plumb insisted that the US military’s space domain awareness systems could be used to track other stratospheric objects, such as the recent Chinese spy balloon (Space News, February 14)
  • The Department of Defense’s (DoD) space policy office is drafting a congressionally mandated report to inform the public on satellite defense and strategy (Space News, February 15)
  • The Orbital Sustainability (ORBITS) Act, a bipartisan bill that would create a framework for the removal of orbital space debris, was reintroduced by Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO) (Sen. John Hickelooper, February 16)
  • The U.S. Space Force (USSF) selected Astranis Space Technologies to integrate the Protected Tactical Waveform on one of the company’s satellite payloads (Satellite Today, February 14)
  • Lockheed Martin has delivered the final GPS-3 satellite to the USSF (Space News, February 16)
  • The USSF introduced the Commercial Augmentation Space Reserves (CASR), an initiative to enhance public-private partnerships in peacetime to ensure commercial capability during times of conflict or crisis (Executive Gov, February 20)
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released its National Spaceports Policy, required under the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (FAA, February 15)
  • NASA has rescheduled the Crew-6 launch for February 27 (NASA, February 22)
  • Texas Governor Greg Abbot called for $350 million in state funding for the creation of a Texas Space Commision which would allow the state to maintain and increase the value of its space sector (Ars Technica, February 21)
  • Concerns were raised by NASA leadership regarding decreased funding proposals for FY2024, which could affect the Artemis program and other missions (Space News, February 22)
  • Former Virgin Galactic CEO and former NASA Chief of Staff George Whitesides announced that he is running for Congress (CA-27) (George Whitesides, February 22)

International Space Policy Updates

  • The Sultanate of Oman has released its National Space Strategy, a 10-year plan detailing strategic goals to bolster the nation’s burgeoning space program (Oman Observer, February 6)
  • The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully launched its Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) after a previous failure in August of 2022 (ISRO, February 10)
  • Saudi astronauts Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Alqarni will fly to the International Space Station (ISS) this spring on a private mission led by Axiom Space (Al Arabiya News, February 12)
  • NATO announced plans to develop the “Alliance Persistent Surveillance from Space” program (APSS), an effort that would allow NATO allies to efficiently share satellite data and intelligence amongst allies (Defense News, February 13)
  • Europe has launched an investigation into Viasat’s planned acquisition of Inmarsat to determine if the acquisition would reduce competition (Reuters, February 13)
  • The Chinese Zhurong Rover was discovered to have been stationary on the surface of Mars for at least six months, indicating a possible malfunction (University of Arizona, February 21)
  • Roscosmos will extend operation of the Russian section of the ISS until 2028 (Russian News Agency, February 21)

Space Industry Updates

  • The US Space Force awarded a $4.5 million contract to Satellite developer Astranis Space Technologies to integrate a military communication waveform on one of the company’s small GEO satellites (Space News, February 14)
  • Maxar Technologies signed a contract with satellite imagery company Umbra to access their constellation of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites (Maxar, February 14)
  • Commercial lunar lander developer Intuitive Machines completed a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Inflection Point Acquisition Corp. (Intuitive Machines, February 13)
  • Virgin Orbit released key observations from the investigation into the early January failure of LauncherOne. (VirginOrbit, February 14)
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a $175,000 fine against SpaceX for failing to provide the agency with necessary pre-launch collision analysis trajectory data (FAA, February 17)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded Peraton a $400 million contract to support the agency’s Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) (Parabolic Arc, February 21)
  • Small satellite developer Terran Orbital was awarded a $2.4 billion contract to produce 300 LEO satellites for network provider Rivada Space Networks (Terran Orbital, February 22)
  • SpaceX announced that it would proceed with the launch of it’s Starship super-heavy launch vehicle after a successful testfire, paving the way for a potential attempt in March (Space News, February 22)
  • Relativity Space announced that it would attempt the first launch of its largely 3-D printed Terran 1 Rocket on March 8 (Relativity Space, February 22)

Space Leader Spotlight

Jessica Rosenworcel

This week’s space leader spotlight recognizes Jessica Rosenworcel, Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). She was nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as FCC Chairwoman in October 2021 and confirmed by the Senate in December 2021. Prior to becoming Chair, she spent nine years as an FCC Commissioner during the Obama and Trump Administrations.

Most recently, Chairwoman Rosenworcel spearheaded rulemaking to stand up a dedicated space bureau at the Commission better to support the needs of the growing satellite industry. Under her leadership, the agency also announced the Space Innovation Initiative, which promotes in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing (ISAM). She also oversaw the decision to free up additional spectrum in the 17 GHz band to support space-based activities and increased the size of the agency division responsible for satellite matters by 38% to meet the growing space-related demands.

Chairwoman Rosenworcel has a long history of expertise in communications law. Prior to joining the FCC, she served as the Senior Communications Counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. She also practiced communications law with the FCC Wireline Competition Bureau. Chairwomen Rosenworcel has proven herself time and time again as a champion for space and no doubt will continue to raise the profile of space innovation at the FCC.

Reading Corner

The Space Review | Trends in NASA authorization legislation

Alex Eastman and Casey Dreier observe trends in NASA authorization consistency and examine the political polarization that may be causing infrequencies in reauthorization.

Written by Elizabeth Anderson, Amanda Nguyen, Jake Sell, and Catherine Rodriguez

Image credits to FCC and NASA