International Affairs

Biweekly Washington D.C. Updates for the Week Ending on August 11, 2023

Written by: Amanda Nguyen

This Week in Washington

This Week in Washington, President Biden selected Colorado Springs as the permanent location of U.S. Space Command Headquarters, the FCC introduced new spectrum regulation for commercial space launches, and Russia launched “Luna-25,” its first lunar mission in nearly 50 years.

United States Space Policy Updates

  • The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) announced that SILENTBARKER, a joint NRO and U.S. Space Force (USSF) space domain awareness mission, is scheduled to launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket on August 29. (NRO, July 28)
  • Jessica Rosenworcel, Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Chairwoman, introduced new spectrum rules to provide spectrum certainty for commercial space launches. (FCC, July 28)
  • Dr. Kate Calvin, NASA’s Chief Scientist and Senior Climate Advisor, was appointed to co-chair a  working group for the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is responsible for examining science related to climate change. (NASA, July 28)
  • The Department of Defense (DOD) announced that President Biden selected to keep U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) headquarters at its current location in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (DOD, July 31)
  • U.S. Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) released its Space Doctrine Publication (SDP) 2-0 and SDP 3-0 to provide guidance on best practices for space operations and intelligence within the USSF. (STARCOM, July 31)
  • Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon Press Secretary, confirmed that USSPACECOM will reach full operational capability (FOC) this month. (DOD, August 1)
  • The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), the advanced research and development arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), launched its Space Debris Identification and Tracking (SINTRA) program to monitor small orbital debris. (ODNI, August 1)
  • Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chair, requested transcripts of interviews and other documents related to the USSPACECOM basing decision in a letter to Frank Kendall, Secretary of the Air Force, and Gen. James Dickinson, Commander of USSPACECOM. (Rep. Rogers, August 3)
  • NASA announced the four crew members assigned to the SpaceX Crew-8 mission for a long-duration stay on the International Space Station (ISS), set to launch in early-2024. (NASA, August 4)
  • Joel Montalbano, NASA ISS Program Manager, shared that the agency plans to release a Request for Information (RFI) on draft requirements for commercial space station providers, during the ISS Research and Development Conference. (Space News, August 6)
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs (CRSRA) office, a division of the Office of Space Commerce, lifted various licensing restrictions for commercial remote sensing systems, including conditions placed on X-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery. (NOAA, August 7)
  • NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) project is set to launch in October, as a “piggyback” on NASA’s Psyche mission. NASA plans to conduct a technology demonstration of the DSOC near-infrared laser transceiver from deep space to test how laser communications could increase data transmission beyond current radio capabilities. (NASA, August 7)
  • Jim Free, NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development, confirmed that the Artemis II mission remains on schedule for launch in November 2024, but stressed that the Artemis III mission may be adjusted. (Space Policy Online, August 8)
  • The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) issued a solicitation for proposal on an unclassified report on China’s remote sensing technologies and capabilities. (USCC, August 8)

International Space Policy Updates

  • The Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Center (IN-SPACe), reported that over 20 companies submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI) regarding its Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) program. (Reuters, July 27)
  • Saudi Arabia’s Communications, Space, and Technology Commission (CST) published the second edition of its “Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Space Sustainability in Saudi Arabia” report. (CST, July 30)
  • Iran and Syria’s Ministers of Communications and Technology met to discuss enhancing technological cooperation between Tehran and Damascus, including previous talks that Iran would support Syria in the construction of communications satellites. (Middle East Space Monitor, July 31)
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) shared that its Navigation Innovation and Support Programme (NAVISP) is utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) on several projects to improve the accuracy and performance of its satellite capabilities. (ESA, August 3)
  • The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and France are working to deepen their military relations in space, with the countries preparing an agreement for a five-year project focused on military satellite technology. (Tactical Report, August 3)
  • Rashad Nabiyev, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Digital Development and Transport, met with Stefano Pontecorvo, Chairman of Leonardo, Italy’s largest defense manufacturing company, to discuss collaboration in cybersecurity and space. (MENAFN, August 4)
  • Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev approved the “Law on Space Activities,” defining the legal, economic, and organizational requirements for civil and commercial space activities for the Republic. (APA, August 4)
  • Tunisia reached an agreement with Starlink on the implementation of a three-month pilot program to deploy the company’s broadband satellite technology in several regions across the country. (Space in Africa, August 7)
  • India’s Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft entered lunar orbit, completing the next step on its mission to the lunar south pole. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has reported that Chandrayaan-3 will attempt a soft landing on the Moon on August 23. (Hindustan Times, August 7)
  • ESA announced that the inaugural launch of the Ariane 6 rocket would not take place until 2024. (ESA, August 8)
  • Russia successfully launched its first lunar landing spacecraft in nearly 50 years, Luna-25, to the Moon. (New York Times, August 11)

Space Industry Updates

  • Tory Bruno, ULA CEO, shared concerns regarding the recent expansion of the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program to allow for three launch providers, stating, “It’s not competition if everyone wins.” Bruno also reaffirmed that ULA’s Vulcan rocket would launch in late 2023, despite recent delays. (CNBC, July 28)
  • EchoStar’s Jupiter 3 satellite was successfully launched into orbit aboard SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. Jupiter 3 is the largest commercial satellite ever constructed and will double the capacity of the Hughes Jupiter fleet. (EchoStar, July 29)
  • The Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) awarded KBR a $24.9 million contract to study space situational awareness (SSA) for non-traditional orbits in cislunar space. (Space News, July 31)
  • Northrop Grumman successfully launched NG-19, its 19th resupply mission to the ISS, with its Antares 230+ rocket and Cygnus spacecraft, marking ten years of successful Cygnus missions. (SpaceFlight Now, August 1)
  • Voyager Space and Airbus announced a joint venture to develop and operate Starlab, a commercial space station, to succeed the ISS. (Airbus, August 2)
  • iRocket, a launch vehicle company, signed a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to develop technology for iRocket’s Shockwave rocket. (Satellite Today, August 2)
  • Kathy Warden, Northrop Grumman CEO, reported that the company is reconsidering the future of fixed price contracts after experiencing a $36 million loss on NASA’s Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) module. (Space Policy Online, August 2)
  • NASA selected Axiom Space for the fourth private astronaut mission to the ISS, targeting a launch after August 2024. (NASA, August 3)
  • Astra announced that it is laying off  25% of its workforce, approximately 70 employees, and restructuring to prioritize its spacecraft engine building operations. (CNBC, August 4)
  • Amazon confirmed that the first of its Kuiper satellites would be launched on ULA’s Atlas V rocket, as early as September 2023, in lieu of the inaugural Vulcan rocket. (Spaceflight Now, August 7)
  • The DISH Network Corporation and EchoStar announced that they have entered into a merger agreement. (EchoStar, August 8)
  • Mark Nappi, Vice President and Program Manager of Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program, stated that the Starliner Crew Flight Test would launch in March 2024 at the earliest, during a joint briefing with NASA. (Space Policy Online, August 8)
  • Virgin Galactic completed its first suborbital spaceflight with private astronauts. Galactic 02. (Virgin Galactic, August 10)

Space Leader Spotlight

Andrew (Drew) Feustel

This week’s space leader is Andrew (Drew) Feustel, a veteran NASA astronaut who most recently served as the acting chief astronaut at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. With a remarkable career at NASA, Feustel has made significant contributions to NASA’s mission on Earth and in the stars.

Mr. Feustel embarked on his career at NASA in 2000, when he joined the agency as an astronaut candidate. Following two years of training, he was assigned to the space shuttle and space station branches of the astronaut office. In 2009, Mr. Fuestel completed his first spaceflight as a mission specialist for STS-125, the final Hubble Telescope servicing mission. Over the subsequent decade, he completed two more missions, including a six-month stay on the ISS during Expedition 55/56 in 2018. In total, Fuestel spent 226 days in space, including nearly 62 hours of spacewalking across nine spacewalks. Following his missions, Mr. Fuestel took on pivotal roles within the Astronaut Office, serving as the Deputy Chief of Astronauts from 2020-2022, and Acting Chief from 2022-2023.

In July, Feustel announced his retirement from NASA after a 23-year tenure with the agency. His impressive accomplishments in space and exceptional leadership within NASA’s Astronaut Office will undoubtedly serve as an example for generations of astronauts to come.

Reading Corner

Planetary Society | The Perseid Meteor Shower 2023: How to Watch

The Perseid meteor shower is set to reach its peak this weekend on the night of August 12. This annual event, widely regarded as the most impressive meteor shower of the year, promises to deliver a stunning display with an estimated 50 to 100 meteors gracing the skies every hour. For optimal viewing, it’s recommended to travel to a location away from bright city lights and cast your gaze upwards!