International Affairs

Biweekly Washington D.C. Updates for the Week Ending on October 20, 2023

Written by: Amanda Nguyen

This Week in Washington

This Week in Washington, NASA successfully launched the Psyche mission destined for the same-name asteroid Psyche, Azerbaijan announced its commitment to join China’s International Lunar Research Station, and the Senate Subcommittee on Space and Science conducted a hearing on commercial operations for human spaceflight.

United States Space Policy Updates

  • Space Systems Command (SSC) has opened applications for Project Apollo, a collaborative tech accelerator aimed at addressing critical challenges in space domain awareness (SDA). (SSC, October 10)
  • Scientists from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission revealed the first samples collected from the asteroid Bennu, the largest carbon-rich asteroid sample ever brought back to Earth. (NASA, October 11)
  • NASA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has published a report evaluating ‘NASA’s Transition of the Space Launch System (SLS) to a Commercial Services Contract,’ concluding that NASA’s aim to achieve a 50 percent cost reduction from current SLS expenses is not feasible. However, the report suggests specific measures the agency can implement to enhance potential cost savings. (NASA, October 12)
  • NASA has rescheduled two spacewalks outside the International Space Station (ISS), following a coolant leak on the station’s Nauka module. The spacewalks were deferred to allow engineers additional time to analyze the coolant leak. (NASA, October 12)
  • NASA successfully launched the Psyche spacecraft to the asteroid Psyche, ‘a unique metal-rich asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter.’ (NASA October 13)
  • The Department of the Air Force (DAF) published a ‘Comprehensive Strategy for the Space Force’ for public review. (DAF, October 13)
  • The U.S. Space Force (USSF) is set to prototype a new System Delta concept to complement the recently unveiled Integrated Mission Deltas, structured around specific mission areas such as position, navigation, timing, (PNT), and electromagnetic warfare. (USSF, October 13)
  • NASA’s astrophysics division is considering unspecified cuts in the operating budgets of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope to reallocate funds for other division priorities. (SpaceNews, October 14)
  • The University of California, Berkeley, and NASA Ames Research Center announced plans for a $2 billion Berkeley Space Center in Mountain View, California. (NASA, October 16)
  • Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) received new committee assignments. Sen. Sinema will be seated on the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) and Sen. Kelly will be seated on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). (Senate Democrats, October 17)
  • Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has given approval to the USSF’s Commercial Augmentation Space Reserve (CASR) program to ensure rapid access to commercial satellite services during national security emergencies. (SpaceNews, October 18)
  • The Senate Commerce Committee voted unanimously to approve Michael Whitaker’s nomination to be the next FAA administrator. (SCC, October 18)
  • The Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Space and Science held a hearing on ‘Promoting Safety Innovation Competitiveness in U.S. Commercial Human Spaceflight Activities.’ The hearing discussed concerns regarding regulatory delays, increased funding for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), and an extension of the FAA “learning period” for commercial human spaceflight operations. (SCC, October 18)
  • The Department of Defense’s (DoD) latest annual report, ‘Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,’ highlights China’s consistent efforts to enhance military capabilities via space technologies, underscoring China as America’s primary strategic competitor. (DoD, October 19)

International Space Policy Updates

  • Iran has submitted a formal complaint to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) over the operation of the Starlink system within its borders, violating prohibitions on unlicensed satellite delivery systems. (Advanced Television, October 9)
  • Azerbaijan has signed on to China’s International Lunar Research Station, joining a group of around 15 signatories, including Russia, Venezuela, and South Africa. (SpaceNews, October 9)
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) and Axiom Space have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to broaden collaborative opportunities in human spaceflight, science, technology, and commercial activities. (ESA, October 10)
  • A coolant leak in the Nauka module’s radiator on the ISS, which occurred on October 9, has stopped. This marks the third occurrence of similar leaks in Russian hardware within a year. (SpaceNews, October 9)
  • Korea is in the process of canceling a satellite launch contract with Russia due to restrictions caused by international sanctions. The two satellites will be launched on alternative rockets, with the Arirang 6 satellite confirmed for launch on Arianespace’s Vega-C rocket, while the launch vehicle for the Compact Advanced Satellite 500-2 satellite is still under consideration. (Korea Times, October 11)
  • Euroconsult and Iceye will lead the Advanced European Governmental Innovative ISR Secured Service (AEGIS²), an Earth Observation (EO) consortium of 15 members representing eight European countries aimed at exploring solutions for the future European Union’s Earth-Observation governmental service. (Iceye, October 11)
  • Changguang Satellite Technology, a Chinese commercial satellite firm, has completed a high-speed laser image transmission test. The company has a fleet of over 100 satellites and plans to have 300 in orbit by 2025. (SpaceNews, October 13)
  • India has revealed ambitious plans for its space program, aiming to establish the ‘Bharatiya Antariksha Station’ by 2035, send the first Indian to the Moon by 2040, and conduct interplanetary missions to Venus and Mars. (Press Information Bureau, Government of India, October 17)
  • Data collected by Slingshot Aerospace has revealed abnormal movement by Russia’s second Luch/Olymp satellite, including proximity to non-Russian satellites and stops near them. The Russian rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) satellite came as close as 10 miles to another satellite. (Breaking Defense, October 17)
  • The Canadian government has allocated $1.012 billion to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) over 15 years to extend and eventually replace the long-standing RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), the country’s flagship Earth observation program. (Government of Canada, October 18)
  • Space Systems Command (SSC) is set to host its inaugural ‘international reverse industry days,’ with the FVEY countries – U.K, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand – as well as France, Germany, and Japan to examine international supply chain resilience. This collaborative effort aims to address gaps in each nation’s space capabilities. (SCC, October 20)

Space Industry Updates

  • Six companies – Phase Four, Dawn AeroSpace,, Magdrive, TRL11, and High Earth Orbit Robotics – were selected to participate in the Hyperspace Challenge Accelerator supported by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and USSF’s Space Rapid Capabilities Office (Space RCO). (Hyperspace Challenge, October 5)
  • Riverside Research has secured a $1.45 million contract from the USSF for the Data Exploitation and Enhanced Processing for Space Domain Awareness (DEEP-SDA) prototype, aimed at analyzing existing data to generate actionable insights concerning space objects in congested orbits. (SatNews, October 8)
  • SpaceX has issued a letter in response to the October 5 report by the FAA concerning the potential risk associated with the reentry of large satellite constellations. The letter disputes the report’s findings, asserting that the assessed risk is inaccurate and does not reflect the company’s own analysis of satellite reentry. (CNN, October 10)
  • The first crewed flight of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft has been delayed until at least April 2024. (NASA, October 12)
  • Ligado Networks has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Government, the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Commerce (DOC), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) regarding the DoD’s utilization of spectrum owned by Ligado under a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license. (Ligado, October 12)
  • SES has named Adel Al-Saleh, an executive from T-Systems International, as its new CEO, succeeding former CEO Steve Collar who departed in June. (SES, October 13)
  • Blue Origin unveiled Blue Ring, a multi-orbit space mobility platform, designed for in-space logistics and delivery, catering to both commercial and government customers for missions. (Blue Origin, October 16)
  • Amazon’s Project Kuiper prototype satellites successfully passed initial tests following launch, operating as intended, and are now prepared for the next phase of mission testing. (Amazon, October 16)
  • Axiom Space has refined private astronaut training procedures, incorporating lessons from its first two missions, in preparation for the upcoming Ax-3 mission scheduled to launch in January. (Axiom Space, October 16)
  • Co-founder Payam Banazadeh is stepping down as Capella Space’s CEO, succeeded by Frank Backes from Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, Inc. Banazadeh remains on the board. (Capella Space, October 17).
  • Members of the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) reaffirmed their calls for the government to designate space systems as the 17th U.S. critical infrastructure sector. (SpaceNews, October 17)
  • Lockheed Martin reported that the company’s space section experienced an eight percent increase in revenue during the third quarter, primarily attributed to higher sales in strategic and missile defense programs. (Lockheed Martin, October 17)

Space Leader Spotlight

Dr. Dante Lauretta

This week’s space leader is Dr. Dante Lauretta, the Principal Investigator for the OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission. Renowned for his expertise in near-Earth asteroid formation and evolution, Dr. Lauretta has served as a Regents Professor of Planetary Science and Cosmochemistry at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory since 2001.

He previously held the position of Deputy Principal Investigator for OSIRIS-REx from 2008 to 2011 before assuming the role of Principal Investigator. Additionally, he is a co-investigator for the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Hera mission, focused on studying the Didymos binary asteroid system. Dr. Lauretta received a Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Sciences, from Washington University in St. Louis. He also holds a B.S. in Physics and Mathematics and a B.A. in Oriental Studies from the University of Arizona.

Dr. Lauretta’s academic and practical expertise in asteroid formation and cosmochemistry, combined with his leadership in the ongoing study of the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample, will play a pivotal role in advancing our understanding of the origins of life on Earth.

Reading Corner

U.S. Department of State | Space Stories Series

Actor Mark Hamill has teamed up with the U.S. State Department to create a six-part video series discussing space innovations, including microbes, exercising in space, and more. These videos, available on the State Department website, aim to spotlight the ISS and other significant developments in space exploration.