International Affairs

Biweekly Washington D.C. Updates for the Week Ending July 14, 2023

Written by: Amanda Nguyen

This Week in Washington

This Week in Washington, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2024 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill; the ESA Director General confirmed that ESA astronauts will fly on the Artemis 4 and 5 missions; and NASA celebrated the first anniversary of the James Webb Space Telescope with a new image.

United States Space Policy Updates

  • The Pentagon is requesting congressional approval for an omnibus reprogramming request to reallocate roughly $4.1 billion within its budget for priority programs. The request includes funds for the management of the U.S. Space Force (USSF) and to support space situational awareness operations, among other items. (Office of the Comptroller, June 30)
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced Dr. Prasun Desai as the Acting Associate Administrator of the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), following the retirement of Associate Administrator Jim Reuter. (NASA, June 30)
  • Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) convened a Washington State Space Summit with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and regional industry and education leaders, at Blue Origin headquarters in Kent, Washington. During the summit, Sen. Cantwell urged the Department of Commerce (DOC) to create a new aerospace manufacturing institute in her home state. (Sen. Cantwell, July 6)
  • Col. Rob Long, Maj. Gen. John Olson, and former Virginia Space CEO Dale Nash were reported to be finalists in the search for a new CEO of Space Florida. (Orlando Sentinel, July 6)
  • The White House continues to voice strong opposition against the creation of a Space National Guard. In a statement on the NDAA, the Administration instead endorsed the Space Force Personnel Management Act that would combine existing space-related forces and allow part-time service within USSF. (Executive Office of the President, July 10)
  • The House Rules Committee released an initial package of 290 amendments for the FY 2024 NDAA. The amendments included a bipartisan provision that directs the Secretary of the Air Force to develop a future force design for the USSF projected through 2050. (House Committee on Rules, July 11)
  • In a letter to leadership at the Department of Defense (DOD), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and three House Democrats urged the Pentagon to conduct a careful review of L3Harris Technologies’ pending acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne. (Reuters, July 11)
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) filed its version of the FY 2024 NDAA. The bill language includes provisions that restrict funding for U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) headquarters until a final basing decision is made and advances the White House-endorsed Space Force Personnel Management Act. The Senate plans to take up the bill next week. (SASC, July 11)
  • SASC raised concerns over USSF’s decision to cut one of the three planned next-generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) satellites in geosynchronous orbit (GEO) in a report accompanying the FY 2024 NDAA. (SASC, July 11)
  • Secure World Foundation (SWF) updated a series of eleven fact sheets that examine counterspace capabilities, including anti-satellite testing (ASAT), robotic rendezvous and proximity operations (RPOs), and the X-37B Orbital Test vehicle. (SWF, June 11)
  • NASA announced the Janus mission will be moved to long-term storage. Originally a ride-along on the Psyche mission, the Janus satellites were removed from the manifest in November 2022 because their intended science target would be inaccessible from the new October 2023 launch window. (NASA, July 11)
  • President Biden nominated Lt Gen Michael Guetlein, Commander of Space Systems Command, and Lt Gen Stephen Whiting, Commander of Space Operations Command, to be promoted to the rank of general. It is reported that Lt Gen Guetlein will be assigned to be Vice Chief of Space Operations, and Lt Gen Whiting will be assigned to be Commander of USSPACECOM. (Government Publishing Office, July 12)
  • NASA released a new image of the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex, the closest star-forming region to Earth, in honor of the one-year anniversary of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) becoming operational. (NASA, July 12)
  • The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee (SCC) advanced the nominations of three Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioners to the full Senate. (SCC, July 12)
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) approved their markup of the FY 2024 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill in a 28-1 vote. (SAC, July 13)
  • The House Science, Space and Technology Committee (HSST) held a hearing on “Continuing U.S. Leadership in Commercial Space at Home and Abroad.” (HSST, July 13)

International Space Policy Updates

  • The Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute (GSSTI) and the Tunisian Space Association signed an agreement to cooperate on research, development, and training in space operations. (Space in Africa, June 30)
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) and the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) to strengthen their partnership in the use of Earth observation data to support agricultural programs for rural food producers. (ESA, June 30)
  • The European Union (EU) announced over $900 million in funding for 41 defense projects, including a space-based early warning architecture project named ODIN’S EYE II. (Breaking Defense, July 3)
  • The French National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) and ESA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding ESA’s support of the SpaceFounders program, a startup accelerator to further the development of space technology across Europe. (Spacewatch Europe, July 3)
  • CNES announced the creation of a Space Mission Ethics Committee. (European Spaceflight, July 4)
  • South Korean President, Yoon Suk Yeol, called for the swift passage of legislation that directs the establishment of the Korea AeroSpace Administration (KASA). The bill was submitted to the National Assembly in April but has been delayed. (The Korea Herald, July 5)
  • The United Kingdom (UK) and EU are negotiating a draft deal for the U.K. to rejoin Horizon Europe, an EU funding program for scientific research and innovation, and Copernicus, the Earth Observation component of the EU’s space program. (Politico, July 5)
  • The Ariane 5 rocket has retired after completing its final launch from Guiana Space Center. With the Ariane 6 program likely delayed until 2024, the European space program will be without a heavy-lift launcher from the continent. (Space Flight Now, July 6)
  • The Saudi Space Agency held talks with representatives from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation(CASC) in Beijing to enhance bilateral relations in the space sector. (Arab News, July 6)
  • The Egyptian Space Agency (EGSA) signed a MoU with the Chinese Land Satellite Remote Sensing Application Centre (LASAC) to enhance Egypt’s access to remote sensing data during the launch of the China-Africa Cooperation Centre on Satellite Remote Sensing Application. (Space in Africa, July 7)
  • Poland has committed to an additional $325 million in funds to support ESA operations, including the costs for a Polish astronaut to fly on an upcoming commercial mission to the International Space Station (ISS). (Space News, July 7)
  • Josef Aschbacher, ESA Director General, reported that the Artemis 4 and 5 missions, slated to launch in 2028 and 2029, respectively, will each include an astronaut from ESA. (, July 11)
  • The China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) revealed its preliminary plans for a manned lunar mission before 2030. (CNN, July 13)
  • India successfully launched its Chandrayaan-3 mission into orbit aboard their LVM3 rocket. The Chandrayaan-3 lander is scheduled to land on the lunar south pole next month. (Reuters, July 14)

 Space Industry Updates

  • Firefly Aerospace signed an agreement with Lockheed Martin to provide launch services with its Alpha rocket. (Firefly, June 29)
  • Thales Alenia Space announced the creation of the Space Business Catalyst, the first industry accelerator dedicated to advancing startups in the space sector. (SpaceRef, July 4)
  • Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith announced plans to build launch facilities outside of the U.S. (Tech Crunch, July 5)
  • Rivida Space Networks will retain its spectrum rights after receiving a waiver from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to forgo a requirement that Rivida deploys 10% of its 576-satellite constellation by September. (Rivida Space Networks, July 5)
  • Viasat signed a long-term contract with the European Satellite Services Provider (ESSP) to manage the European deployment of its Iris program. The program aims to modernize air traffic navigation using Viasat’s L-band satellites. (Viasat, July 6)
  • SpaceX secured two special licenses to expand Starlink’s internet operations to Mongolia. (Reuters, July 7)
  • Voyager Space signed a MoU with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of the India Space Research Organization (ISRO), to collaborate on spacecraft launch development and technology. (Voyager Space, July 7)
  • NASA awarded Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace new task orders under existing Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services contracts to advance spacewalking capabilities in low Earth orbit (LEO) and the lunar surface. (NASA, July 10)
  • Astra seeks to raise up to $65 million through an “at the market” offering of common stock. (CNBC, July 10)
  • Maxar Technologies announced the initial release of its Maxar Geospatial Platform (MGP), which will provide customers with access to geospatial data, imagery, and analytics. (Maxar, July 10)
  • Virgin Galactic announced that the flight window for the launch of its second commercial flight opens on August 10. (Virgin Galactic, July 13)
  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced that the first flight of its Vulcan rocket is delayed until the end of the year due to a testing setback. (Defense News, July 13)

Space Leader Spotlight

Dr. Prasun Desai

This week’s space leader is Dr. Prasun Desai, Acting Associate Administrator of the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA. In his role at STMD, Dr. Desai is responsible for administering a budget of over $1.2 billion to support and advance NASA missions through the development of next-generation technology.

In his 33 years working for NASA, Dr. Desai has made a significant impact in both engineering and leadership at the agency. Dr. Desai began work at NASA’s Langley Research Center in 1990 as a senior systems engineer. Over the course of 19 years, Dr. Desai played a pivotal role in the design, development, and operation of multiple NASA missions, including the Mars Exploration Rover, Stardust, Genesis, and Mars Phoenix Lander. Dr. Desai then moved to NASA Headquarters and worked to stand up STMD from its inception over a decade ago. In 2019, Dr. Desai became the Deputy Associate Administrator of STMD, and on June 30, 2023, he was appointed Acting Associate Administrator. In recognition of his significant contributions at NASA, Dr. Desai has been awarded two Exceptional Engineering Achievement medals, an Exceptional Achievement medal, an Outstanding Leadership Medal, a Presidential Rank Award, and an Exceptional Service Medal.

In addition to his distinguished career at NASA, Dr. Desai has long endeavored to educate the public on space matters. Dr. Desai has authored or co-authored over 60 publications, and is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). He frequently gives public speeches and presentations to promote the importance of STEM education, and was inducted into the NASA Langley Speaker Hall of Fame in 2012. Dr. Desai’s service at NASA and in the greater space community will continue to play a key role in accomplishing U.S. goals in space in the years to come.

Reading Corner

The Atlantic | A Year of Amazing Images From the James Webb Space Telescope

To mark the first anniversary of the release of images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the Atlantic has compiled some of the most breathtaking images delivered by JWST in its first year in space, including the just-released image of the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex.