International Affairs

Biweekly Washington D.C. Updates for the Week Ending June 16, 2023

Written by: Amanda Nguyen

This Week in Washington

This Week in Washington, a group of Republican lawmakers introduced the NOAA Organic Act, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology advanced three bipartisan bills out of committee to strengthen U.S. leadership in aviation and aeronautics, and the World Economic Forum and the European Space Agency released their “Space Industry Debris Mitigation Recommendations.”

United States Space Policy Updates

  • The Benefield Anechoic Facility at Edwards Air Force Base tested the Navigation Technology Satellite-3 to bolster current GPS satellite constellations, marking the Department of Defense’s (DoD) first test of such a satellite system in nearly 50 years. (U.S. Space Force, June 5)
  • Space Systems Command (SSC) opened its Commercial Space Marketplace for Innovation and Collaboration (COSMIC) facility in Chantilly, Virginia, to house its new Commercial Space Office. (SCC, June 6)
  • A bipartisan group of Ohio lawmakers submitted a letter calling on the Biden Administration and DOD leadership to move U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) headquarters to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. (Senator Sherrod Brown, June 7)
  • The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on GPS modernization, outlining the need to reassess satellite infrastructure and m-code implementation. (GAO, June 7)
  • Jim Free, NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development, expressed concerns that delays with SpaceX’s Starship HLS would push the Artemis 3 mission to 2026. (CBS News, June 8)
  • The GAO identified several issues with U.S. Space Force’s (USSF) satellite procurement process and current programs in its annual weapons systems assessment (GAO, June 8)
  • The House introduced its version of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill. If passed, the bill would clarify the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) authority to investigate commercial spaceflight accidents and require the FAA to track space debris that poses a danger to commercial aircraft. (H.R.3935, June 9)
  • The House Armed Services (HASC) Military Personnel Subcommittee’s markup approved the inclusion of a Space National Guard in the NDAA. (HASC, June 9)
  • Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK), along with 13 Republican co-sponsors, introduced the NOAA Organic Act to establish the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as an independent agency and move the Office of Space Commerce to the Department of Commerce (H.R.3980, June 9)
  • Col. Robert W. Davis, incoming Program Executive Officer, is set to lead SSC’s Space Sensing Directorate. (SSC, June 12) 
  • Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (SCOM) leadership introduced a bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill. (SCOM, June 12) 
  • The House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment that restricts funding for USSPACECOM headquarters until the Air Force makes a final decision on the permanent command location. (Bloomberg Law, June 13)

International Space Policy Updates

  • Armenia successfully launched its first satellite, marking a significant step in the country’s efforts to develop a national space sector. (Public Radio of Armenia, June 2)   
  • The United Arab Emirates (UAE) outlined the Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt (EMA), scheduled to launch in March 2028. (Space News, June 3)
  • Angola and Portugal signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen cooperation between the Portuguese Space Agency and Angola’s National Space Programme Management Office (GGPEN). (Space in Africa, June 6) 
  • Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education approved earth and space science curriculum for secondary school students. (Space Watch Global, June 6)
  • The UAE chaired the 66th session of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. (Emirates News Agency, June 6)
  • CAS Space, a Chinese aerospace company owned by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, set a new national record by launching 26 satellites into orbit with its ZK 1A carrier rocket. (China Daily, June 7)
  • The United Kingdom’s Military of Defense (MoD) is seeking industry interest in supporting the design, manufacture, and launch operations of up to three wideband GEO satellite systems and associated ground equipment for its SKYNET Enduring Capability Wideband Satellite System (SKEC WSS). A contract of £1.5 billion ($1.9 billion) will be awarded in 2025. (Breaking Defense, June 8)
  • The Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center reported that the inaugural selection of cosmonauts for space flights to the future Russian Orbital Station (ROS) is scheduled for 2023-2024. (TASS, June 8)
  • The Space Research Laboratory at the Egyptian National Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics (NRIAG) announced its collaboration with China to construct the world’s second-largest global monitoring station (Space in Africa, June 9) 
  • The United Nations Satellite Center (UNOSAT) established a cooperation framework with the Rwanda Space Agency. (Space in Africa, June 12)
  • The Japanese Parliament is expected to introduce legislation that will enable the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to freely invest in private-sector space projects. (Nikkei Asia, June 12)
  • The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced that its Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander mission will launch in early July. (NDTV, June 13)
  • In collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), the World Economic Forum (WEF) released a report titled “Space Industry Debris Mitigation Recommendations.” (WEF, June 13)
  • China began construction of its first commercial space launch site. (China Aerospace News, June 14)

Space Industry Updates

  • Northrop Gruman was awarded a $80.3 million contract by the DOD for the Defense Experimentation Using Commercial Space Internet program, to enable military platforms to communicate through commercial satellite constellations (DoD, June 2)
  • SpaceX launched Dragon’s 28th Commercial Resupply Mission (CRS-28) to the ISS, including two additional ISS Roll-Out Solar Arrays (iROSAs), which were installed in subsequent spacewalks. (SpaceX, June 5)
  • NASA selected over 300 small businesses and research institutions to receive a total of $45 million in Phase 1 funding through its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs (NASA, June 5)
  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) conducted a successful static-fire test of its Vulcan Centaur rocket’s BE-4 main engines, marking a substantial step towards Vulcan’s first launch, scheduled for late 2023. (SpaceFlight Now, June 7)
  • Space Systems Command’s (SSC) Commercial Space Office announced that it will release a draft of the “Commercial Augmentation Space Reserve” (CASR) for industry feedback. CASR will establish a framework for the use of commercial satellites to support military efforts. (Breaking Defense, June 7)
  • Wilson Aerospace filed a lawsuit against Boeing, alleging that Boeing stole Wilson’s intellectual property, including the company’s flagship product, the Fluid Fitting Torque Device (FFTD), along with other tools, for use on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ISS. (CNBC, June 7)
  • York Space Systems completed its acquisition of Emergent Space Technologies, an aerospace technology company focused on developing mission software and Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GN&C) solutions for multi-spacecraft missions (Cision, June 7)
  • The Space Development Agency (SDA) selected SAIC for a $64 million contract to develop and manage the Battle Management Command, Control, and Communications (BMC3) Application Factory. BMC3 will provide a cloud-based network for the SDA’s Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA), a constellation of low-earth orbit satellites used for communication and tracking. (SAIC, June 8)
  • SpaceX and ULA were each awarded six missions from the USSF as part of the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement program. (SCC, June 8)
  • Firefly Aerospace acquired Spaceflight Inc., expanding its services to provide satellite transportation alongside its existing launch operations. (Firefly Aerospace, June 8)
  • Colorado aerospace companies Ursa Major and Orbit Fab each conducted a round of layoffs this week. (CNBC, June 9)
  • Deloitte released its “xTech Futures: SpaceTech” report to encourage companies across all industries to consider long-term space strategies for the future. (Deloitte, June 14)

Space Leader Spotlight

Niklas Hedman

This week’s space leader is Niklas Hedman, the Acting Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and Secretary to the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). In his role at the UN, Mr. Hedman is responsible for coordinating global collaboration and capacity building in space. 

During his nearly two-decade career at the UN, Mr. Hedman has played a pivotal role in the establishment of international norms of behavior in space. Mr. Hedman began working at UNOOSA in 2006 as Chief of the Committee, Policy, and Legal Affairs Section, and after 16 years of dedicated service, he was named  Acting Director of UNOOSA in 2022. Prior to joining the UN, Mr. Hedman worked for the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, spearheading Sweden’s efforts on nonproliferation, space law, and space policy issues. In this capacity, Mr. Hedman represented Sweden at COPUOS for 10 years, negotiated on behalf of Sweden for the International Space Station Intergovernmental Agreement (ISS-IGA), and served as chief negotiator for Sweden’s space cooperation agreement with the United States.

In addition to his long career in space diplomacy, Mr. Hedman has held various roles in the international space community. He is a member of the International Space Law Committee at the International Law Association (ILA), International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), and International Institute of Space Law (IISL). He also serves as Vice-Chair of the International Science Council’s Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) Planetary Protection Panel, where he has contributed to publications on planetary defense and sustainable space exploration. In recognition of his efforts to build global space law and research capacity throughout his career, Mr. Hedman received a Distinguished Service Award from the IISL in 2017. As international interest in space continues to grow, Mr. Hedman’s lifetime of work in space diplomacy will prove indispensable in ensuring the continued peaceful and prosperous co-exploration of space.

Reading Corner 

“In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa” | Message in a Bottle – NASA’s Europa Clipper

U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón recently authored “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa,” to be taken to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, on NASA’s Europa Clipper Mission. NASA invites members of the public to submit their names before December 31, 2023, to be engraved on a microchip and brought to Europa alongside Limón’s poem.