International Affairs

Biweekly Washington D.C. Updates for the Week Ending on September 22, 2023

Written by: Amanda Nguyen

This Week in Washington

This Week in Washington, Germany became the 29th signatory to the Artemis Accords, the House reintroduced the Space Safety and Situational Awareness Transition Act, and the FAA proposed potential regulation to limit the growth of orbital debris.

United States Space Policy Updates

  • Gen. Chance Saltzman, Chief of Space Operations for the U.S. Space Force (USSF), highlighted the service’s new mission statement – “Secure our Nation’s Interests In, From, and To Space” – during the Air & Space Forces Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference. (USSF, September 12)
  • Frank Kendall, Secretary of the Air Force, penned a memo to the entire U.S. Air Force (USAF) and USSF, urging them to concentrate their efforts on implementing his seven “Operational Imperatives.” This action is essential to addressing security challenges posed by China and other U.S. adversaries. (USAF, September 12)
  • The “Thriving in Space” decadal survey by the National Academies recommended that NASA increase spending on biological and physical sciences research in space to restore research and identify key scientific priorities that will enable space exploration. (National Academies, September 12)
  • Gen. Chance Saltzman announced the establishment of two new Integrated Mission Delta (IMD) provisional units set to activate in Fall 2023. The first is dedicated to electromagnetic warfare, and the second to positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT). (USSF, September 12)
  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Cislunar Ecosystem Task Force released a draft opinion paper advocating for the eligibility of space-related projects and enterprises as economic development projects under current policy. (AIAA, September 13)
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member, called for an extension of the federal moratorium on commercial spaceflight safety regulations, set to expire on October 1, to support further innovation in the space sector. (Reuters, September 13)
  • Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) have reintroduced the Space Safety and Situational Awareness Transition Act. The bill would formally establish civil space situational awareness (SSA) capabilities within the Department of Commerce (DOC) and provide support for enhancing SSA. (H.R. 5431, September 14)
  • The Department of Defense (DOD) stated it is prepared to target adversaries’ space assets in the event of a conflict in space in a new unclassified report entitled “Space Policy Review and Strategy on Protection of Satellites.” The report was mandated by the FY2022 and FY2023 National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA). (DOD, September 14)
  • Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), planned to launch an investigation into the implications of government satellite contracts on national security interests in response to recent public reports on the use of Starlink in Ukraine. (Sen. Reed, September 14)
  • The Planetary Society held its annual “Day of Action” to advocate for increased investments in NASA’s space science program. (The Planetary Society, September 18)
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a draft rule that would require commercial launch providers to dispose of upper stages and launch-related components within 25 years after launch to limit the growth of orbital debris. (FAA, September 20)
  • The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) publicly stated that space should not be categorized as a critical infrastructure sector. In a letter to the National Security Council (NSC), the AIA requested that the NSC evaluate the potential impact of such a designation on space systems and the space industry. (AIA, September 20)
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has directed satellite constellation operators, Iceye and Planet, to take steps to mitigate the impact of its satellite on ground-based astronomy. (Space News, September 20)
  • USSF is in the process of revising a commercial space strategy document to provide additional guidance on what capabilities can be acquired from the private sector and what are “inherently governmental.” (Space News, September 21)

International Space Policy Updates

  • The U.S. and India committed to strengthening their partnership in space exploration on multiple fronts, including (1) the establishment of a commercial space collaboration Working Group, (2) launching a joint effort to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2024, (3) finalizing a strategic framework for human space flight cooperation, and (4) increasing coordination on planetary defense. (The White House, September 8)
  • Leaders from Arab nations and Japan engaged in the third Arab-Japanese political dialogue, emphasizing the significance of Arab-Japanese relations and reaffirming the importance of ongoing coordination in key sectors like space. (WAM, September 8)
  • The Egyptian Space Agency (EgSA) welcomed a delegation from the Philippine Space Agency, underscoring the two countries’ dedication to fostering collaborative endeavors in space, science, and technology. (Space in Africa, September 8)
  • The UAE Space Agency hosted a high-level delegation from the European Space Agency (ESA) to discuss strengthening collaboration in space research and technology, organizing workshops to explore cooperation opportunities and share achievements. (UAE Space Agency, September 8)
  • Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), emphasized the pressing need to address the increasing risk of satellite collisions with debris, stating that the agency will prioritize space sustainability in the shared orbital environment. (Space News, September 11)
  • The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Strategic Support Force (SSF) has established a new base responsible for foreign space object identification, tracking, and analysis to improve military space situational awareness (SSA). (Air University, September 11)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un met for the first time in four years at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, suggesting a potential partnership between the two countries in both space exploration and weapons development. (AP News, September 13)
  • Germany became the 29th country to sign the Artemis Accords. (NASA, September 14)
  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will partner on the development of a methane-fueled engine for a next-generation rocket. (Asia Nikkei, September 17)

Space Industry Updates

  • Audrey Schaffer, former Director of Space Policy at the White House National Security Council, joined Slingshot Aerospace as Vice President of Strategy and Policy. (Slingshot, September 11)
  • ALL.SPACE appointed Chris Emerson, a former senior executive at Airbus, to serve as Chairman of the Board. (ALL.SPACE, September 11)
  • Blue Origin is preparing to launch New Shepard in an uncrewed return-to-flight mission in early October. (Ars Technica, September 12)
  • DLA Piper, an international law firm, opened a Space Exploration and Innovation practice group dedicated to the rapidly growing space industry. (Financial Times, 12)
  • Axiom Space announced the Ax-3 crew, the company’s third private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS), slated to launch in early 2024. (Axiom Space, September 12)
  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) expressed support for USSF’s decision to introduce a third launch provider for National Security Space Launch Phase 3. Currently, ULA and SpaceX are the only providers in this program. (Space News, September 13)
  • Virgin Galactic announced that the “Galactic 04” flight window will open on October 5, the company’s fifth spaceflight in five months. (Virgin Galatic, September 14)
  • Firefly Aerospace successfully launched the VICTUS NOX mission for USSF within 27 hours of receiving the launch and orbit order, demonstrating rapid launch capabilities. (Firefly, September 14)
  • General Atomics announced it acquired EO Vista, a supplier of advanced space-based and airborne electro-optical payloads. (General Atomics, September 15)
  • ABL Space Systems has been awarded a $15 million task order from USSF to showcase tactically responsive space capabilities with the launch of a payload on short notice. (ABL Space, September 18)
  • Rocket Lab confirmed the launch failure of the company’s 41st Electron mission, the first failure in over two years. (Rocket Lab, September 19)
  • Maxar Technologies announced it will restructure as two separate businesses: Maxar Space Infrastructure and Maxar Intelligence. (Space News, September 20)

Space Leader Spotlight

Frank Rubio

This week’s space leader is Frank Rubio, NASA astronaut and member of the space station’s 69th expedition crew, who is set to break the record for the longest-ever space mission in U.S. history.

Rubio most recently served in the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Carson, CO, before being selected to join the NASA Astronaut Candidate Class in 2017. In what will be a momentous milestone, Rubio launched aboard the Soyuz MS-22 on September 21, 2022, to the ISS, and will return on September 27, 2023, completing an awe-inspiring 371 days in orbit. This mission will mark the longest single-duration spaceflight for a U.S. astronaut, surpassing the previous record of 355 days, 3 hours, and 45 minutes held by NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei in 2022.

In addition to his achievements in space, Rubio graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1998 and earned a Doctorate of Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in 2010. Prior to attending medical school, he served as a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot and flew more than 1,100 hours, including more than 600 hours of combat and imminent danger time during deployments to Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Dr. Rubio is a board-certified family physician and flight surgeon.

Rubio’s historic mission and remarkable achievements will leave an indelible mark on the history of American space exploration, demonstrating new limits in the realm of human space exploration.

Reading Corner

NASA | Universo curioso de la NASA

As a unique addition to our reading corner, we are excited to feature an exciting new podcast. In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, NASA is launching “Universo curioso de la NASA,” the agency’s inaugural Spanish-language podcast. The five-episode season will spotlight the invaluable contributions of NASA’s Hispanic and Latino workforce to the agency’s groundbreaking endeavors in Earth and space exploration. Episodes will be released weekly beginning on Tuesday, September 19.