International Affairs

Biweekly Washington D.C. Updates for the Week Ending June 30, 2023

Written by: Amanda Nguyen

This Week in Washington

This Week in Washington, Ecuador and India joined the Artemis Accords, the Senate and House Armed Service Committees both advanced markups of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched its new Earth Information Center.

United States Space Policy Updates

  • The Department of the Air Force (DAF) released its Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Strategic Action Plan to operationalize WPS principles across the U.S. Air (USAF) and Space Forces (USSF). (DAF, June 16)
  • Lori Glaze, Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, stated that she would prioritize the Division’s Research and Analysis (R&A) budget if budget levels are capped by the negotiated debt limit deal. (Space Policy Online, June 21)
  • NASA and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) affirming the agency’s intention to strengthen collaboration on earth science research and technology. (NASA, June 21)
  • NASA opened its new Earth Information Center at NASA Headquarters to educate the public on how NASA’s earth observation data improves our understanding of our planet and climate. (NASA, June 21)
  • The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) advanced its markup of the FY2024 NDAA in a 58-1 vote. The approved bill language includes provisions that call for the establishment of a Space National Guard and permit the USSF to collect fees from companies for the indirect costs of using its launch ranges. (HASC, June 22)
  • The House Appropriations Committee (HAC) approved a $826.4 billion budget for the Department of Defense (DoD) in a 34-24 vote. The measure recommends almost $1 billion in cuts from the USSF’s $30 billion budget request. (HAC, June 22)
  • The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy released an issue brief, entitled “Space Force Budget Brief: New Priorities and Long-Term Developments Toward a New Architecture,” which highlights recent budget changes and priorities for the USSF. (The Aerospace Corporation, June 22)
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) advanced its markup of the FY2024 NDAA in a 24-1 vote. The approved bill language includes provisions that would add an additional lane for Phase III of the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program and direct the DoD to conduct a report on efforts to integrate space operations with U.S. allies. (SASC, June 23)
  • At the request of NASA, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management agreed to preserve 36 square miles of eastern Nevada terrain from lithium mining for a 20-year period, enabling NASA to continue using the site for satellite calibration. (Associated Press, June 23)

International Space Policy Updates

  • The Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) and the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) signed a letter of intent (LoI) with the government of Colombia to support the establishment of a Colombian space agency, among other initiatives. (SSC, June 15)
  • Ecuador and the Republic of India became the 26th and 27th countries to sign the Artemis Accords, respectively. (NASA, June 21)
  • The Kenya Space Agency (KSA) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) are currently engaged in bilateral discussions to strengthen cooperation in the space sector. (Space in Africa, June 22)
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) announced its Zero Debris Charter initiative to update the agency’s internal space sustainability standards. Airbus Defence and Space, OHB, and Thales Alenia have signed on to co-develop the Charter. (Space Watch Global, June 23)
  • The Algerian Space Agency (ASAL) signed a bilateral agreement with Russia on space activities, including intellectual property protection, information exchange, export control, technology protection, and other joint endeavors. (Space in Africa, June 26)
  • Ms. Aarti Holla-Maini of the United Kingdom (UK) was named the Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). (United Nations, June 26)
  • The UK joined the Joint Task Force-Space Defense Commercial Operations Cell (JCO) to collaborate with U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) on purchasing additional space domain awareness data from commercial operators. (Breaking Defense, June 27)
  • The Australian government canceled its National Space Mission for Earth Observation (NSMEO) program, which directed the development of four satellites to advance the country’s earth observation capabilities. (ABC News, June 28)
  • Sustainable Markets Initiative launched the Astra Carta, a framework to inspire sustainability across the space industry, during a Space Sustainability reception at Buckingham Palace. (Sustainable Markets Initiative, June 28)

 Space Industry Updates

  • NASA announced that seven companies – Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, Sierra Space, SpaceX, Special Aerospace Services, ThinkOrbital Inc., and Vast Space LLC – were selected to participate in the Collaborations for Commercial Space Capabilities-2. (NASA, June 15)
  • Rocket Lab successfully launched its first suborbital testbed launch vehicle, called the Hypersonic Accelerator Suborbital Test Electron (HASTE), from Wallops, Virginia. (Rocket Lab, June 19)
  • SpaceLogistics, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman, sold its third Mission Extension Pod (MEP), a propulsion “jet pack” that extends the life of legacy satellites, to Intelsat. The MEP is expected to extend the life of Intelsat’s communications satellite by at least six years. (Northrop Grumman, June 20)
  • Raytheon Technologies announced it changed its name to RTX. (RTX, June 20)
  • Intelsat ended potential merger discussions with SES over differences in business priorities. (CNBC, June 21)
  • NorthStar Earth and Space announced that Rocket Lab will launch the first four satellites for the company’s constellation dedicated to space-based Space Situational Awareness (SSA). (NorthStar, June 22)
  • Virgin Galactic raised $300 million via an “at the market” common stock offering and aims to raise an additional $400 million to fund the development and expansion of its spacecraft fleet. (CNBC, June 22)
  • SpaceX shared that they need an additional six weeks to implement necessary upgrades to Starship before a second launch attempt. Among these improvements is a substantial change to the rocket’s stage separation system. (CBS News, June 24)
  • Anduril Industries, a defense technology company, announced the completion of its acquisition of Adranos, a manufacturer of solid rocket motors. (Anduril, June 25)
  • SES Space and Defense, in partnership with several other companies, was awarded a $184 million Blanket Purchase Agreement to provide global X-band satellite services to the DoD. (SES, June 28)
  • OneWeb announced the expansion of its services to 37 new countries in Europe and the entirety of the northeastern and western U.S. coastal regions. (OneWeb, June 28)
  • Virgin Galactic successfully launched its first commercial SpaceShipTwo flight, Galactic-01. (Virgin Galactic, June 29)

Space Leader Spotlight

Valda Vikmanis-Keller

This week’s space leader is Ms. Valda Vikmanis-Keller, Director of the Department of State’s Office of Space Affairs (OES/SA). In her role at OES/SA, Ms. Vikmanis-Keller is responsible for advancing American leadership through the development of international partnerships, practices, and priorities in space.

Ms.Vikmanis-Keller has a long-standing career at the Department of State. She joined the Department in 1999, serving multiple tours as a Foreign Service Officer until converting to the Civil Service in 2008. Most recently, she served as the Chief of Staff in the Bureau of Budget and Planning before joining the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs in 2021 as the Director of OES/SA.

As Director, Ms. Vikmanis-Keller spearheads U.S. efforts to develop international consensus and support for civil and commercial ventures in space. In this effort, Ms. Vikmanis-Keller recently served as the head of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS). Ms. Vikmanis-Keller also directs OES/SA’s ongoing work to maintain the official U.S. registry of objects launched into outer space, implement the 1998 Intergovernmental Agreement on the International Space Station, and carry out the National Space Policy. Most recently, Ms. Vikmanis-Keller oversaw the development of the Department of State’s Strategic Framework for Space Diplomacy, released in May 2023. Ms. Vikmanis-Keller’s groundbreaking work in space diplomacy will play a vital role in ensuring the success of international collaboration on upcoming missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

Reading Corner

The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies | Building U.S. Space Force Counterspace Capabilities: An Imperative for America’s Defense 

The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies released the latest addition in its policy paper series exploring emerging security and aerospace power challenges of the 21st century. The paper examines the state of counterspace capabilities in the U.S. and abroad, stressing the need for the U.S. to develop a broad range of offensive and defensive counterspace weapons to deter and defend against potential aggression in space.