International Affairs

Biweekly Washington D.C. Updates for the Week Ending on November 3, 2023

Written by: Amanda Nguyen

This Week in Washington

This Week in Washington, President Biden and Australian Prime Minister Albanese reaffirmed U.S. and Australian collaboration in commercial space activities, the Netherlands and Iceland joined the Artemis Accords, and Congress passed the ORBITS Act.

United States Space Policy Updates

  • The Senate unanimously voted to confirm Michael Whitaker to serve as Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). (FAA, October 24)
  • John Plumb, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, shared that the office is developing a strategy to integrate commercial capabilities into the Department of Defense’s (DoD) architecture. This strategy is separate from the one being developed by the U.S. Space Force (USSF) (SpaceNews, October 24)
  • Pam Melroy, NASA Deputy Administrator, expressed the agency’s support for ongoing work by the National Space Council (NSpC) to develop a “mission authorization” framework for commercial space operations. (SpaceNews, October 25)
  • Richard Dalbello, Director of the Office of Space Commerce (OSC), met with Chinese officials regarding space situational awareness (SSA) systems as part of the broader U.S. campaign for a “globally federated system of [SSA] providers.” (SpaceNews, October 25)
  • The NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) issued a recommendation urging the agency to offer a “comprehensive understanding” of the requirements for transitioning from the International Space Station (ISS) to commercial LEO destinations (CLDs). The recommendation was prompted by concerns about the program development schedule. (ASAP, October 26)
  • Kelvin Coleman, the FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, anticipates Congress will extend the regulatory moratorium on commercial human spaceflight, currently set to expire on January 1, 2024. (SpaceNews, October 28)
  • President Joe Biden issued an Executive Order on artificial intelligence (AI) that establishes new standards for AI safety, security, and innovation. (The White House, October 30)
  • The FAA has concluded a safety review of the SpaceX Starship launch license. The agency is currently consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to complete an environmental review before finalizing its evaluation. (FAA, October 31)
  • The Senate unanimously passed S. 447, the Orbital Sustainability (ORBITS) Act, and S. 1648, the Launch Communications Act. S. 447 mandates NASA and other specified agencies to take certain actions to remediate orbital debris, while S. 1648 directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to streamline spectrum access for commercial launches and reentries. (S. 447 / S. 1648, October 31)
  • The FCC Space Bureau hosted its first Transparency Initiative Open House to answer questions on filing and support industry engagement. (FCC, November 1)
  • Iceland and the Netherlands joined the Artemis Accords, bringing the total number of signatories to 31. (NASA, November 1)
  • House Science Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-TX) introduced H.R. 6131, Commercial Space Act, to provide updates and modernize government oversight of commercial space activities. (H.R. 6131, November 2)
  • USSF assumed control of four Joint Tactical Ground Stations (JTAGS), responsible for receiving data from infrared sensor satellites and issuing alerts on detected missile launches from the U.S. Army, as part of a larger effort to consolidate military satellite operations under USSF. (SpaceNews, November 2)
  • Ken Bowersox, NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations, has announced that NASA is open to extending the operational life of the ISS beyond 2030 if commercial space stations are not yet available. (SpaceNews, November 3)

International Space Policy Updates

  • Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) selected Tokyo-based ispace for an $80 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to support the development of the company’s new lunar lander, the Series 3. (ispace, October 20)
  • Belarus has signed on to China’s International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) program. (SpaceNews, October 23)
  • The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has announced two Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) with Indian startups, 114AI and 3rd Itech, marking the first CRADAs with international companies.  (AFRL, October 24)
  • The African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) convened the AU-EU Space Dialogue in Dakar, Senegal, to discuss shared interests in earth observation, satellite navigation, satellite-based connectivity, communication, and space research. (Space in Africa, October 24)
  • The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) delegates announced that lunar communications regulation may be on the agenda for the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRO) in 2027. (SpaceNews, October 24)
  • The China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) opened a call for proposals for cargo transportation systems from both commercial and state-owned entities. All chosen proposals came from state-owned entities, but utilized commercial solutions, providing state support for China’s commercial space companies.  (SpaceNews, October 25)
  • The United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA) has signed an agreement with Axiom Space to partner on the development of a commercially sponsored all-UK astronaut mission. (, October 25)
  • President Vladimir Putin has announced Russia’s intentions to operationalize the first segment of its new orbital station by 2027.  (Reuters, October 26)
  • The U.S. and Australia have signed a Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA) to facilitate U.S. commercial space launch vehicles to operate from Australia and safeguard sensitive U.S. launch technology and data. (The White House, October 26)
  • The UKSA awarded a $4.3 million grant to Germany’s Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA) to support the company’s maiden flight from SaxaVord Spaceport, as part of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Boost! Program. (SpaceNews, October 26)
  • Yuri Borisov, Chief of Russian Space Operations, has indicated that Russia’s satellite development capacity is limited to approximately 40 satellites per year.  (Ars Technica, October 30)
  • Following the merger of UK-based OneWeb and French Eutelsat, the UK Science Minister George Freeman encouraged collaboration between Eutelsat and OneWeb to provide Europe’s global sovereign connectivity network, instead of pursuing separate satellite constellations. (SpaceNews, November 2)
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Mauritius Research and Innovation Council (MRIC) to collaborate on the design, construction, launch, and operation of a Mauritian earth observation satellite. (Space in Africa, November 2)

Space Industry Updates

  • Airbus and Northrop Grumman have signed a MoU to establish a strategic partnership for the development of the UK’s future wideband SKYNET military satellite communications program. (Airbus, October 23)
  • SpaceX and ESA have signed an agreement for the company to launch up to four Galileo satellites in 2024. (Reuters, October 23)
  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) is set to launch its first Vulcan Centaur rocket on December 24. (CNBC, October 24)
  • Vytenis Buzas, co-founder of NanoAvionics, is stepping down as CEO, and Žilvinas Kvedaravičius, the Chief Sales Officer, has been appointed as the Interim CEO. Buzas will continue to serve as a member of the Board. (NanoAvionics, October 24)
  • Sierra Space has announced the successful completion of the first mission Flight Operations Review for the first-ever winged commercial spaceplane, Dream Chaser. (Sierra Space, October 26)
  • L3Harris Technologies has announced a plan to increase solid rocket motor production following its acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne, promising to deliver ‘noticeable improvements’ in rocket motor output by the end of 2024. (Defense One, October 27)
  • Maxar Intelligence has appointed Dan Smoot to CEO, while Interim CEO Daniel Jablonsky transitions to serve on the Board of Directors. (Maxar, October 30)
  • The Space Development Agency (SDA) awarded Northrop Grumman a $732 million contract to design and build 38 data transport satellites as part of Tranche 2 Transport Layer – Alpha (T2TL-Alpha), the latest version of SDA’s low-Earth orbit Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA). (Northrop Grumman, October 30)
  • Space Systems Command (SSC) assigned 21 launch missions to ULA and SpaceX under the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 contract awarded in 2020. ULA received 11 mission assignments, while SpaceX received 10, which are scheduled to launch over the next two to three years. (SSC, October 31)
  • Terran Orbital has secured a contract from Lockheed Martin to manufacture 36 satellite buses for the SDA Tranche 2 Transport Layer Beta constellation. (Terran Orbital, October 31)
  • Amazon founded the Alliance for Satellite Broadband, in collaboration with the International Center for Law & Economics, the Open Technology Institute at New America, and the Digital First Project, to advocate for modernizing regulations related to LEO broadband regulations. (Payload, November 1)
  • Rocket Lab has announced the appointment of retired U.S. Space Force Lt. Gen. Nina Armagno to the company’s Board of Directors. (Rocket Lab, November 1)
  • Virgin Galactic has announced the completion of the ‘Galactic 05’ mission, marking the company’s sixth space mission in six months. (Virgin Galactic, November 2)
  • Viasat has announced plans to lay off 800 employees, approximately 10% of its workforce, to streamline business operations following its acquisition of Inmarsat. (Viasat, November 2)

Space Leader Spotlight

Aarti Holla-Maini

This week’s space leader is Aarti Holla-Maini, Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). She officially assumed the role in June 2023, succeeding former Director Simonetta Di Pippo and replacing Niklas Hedman, who has served as Acting Director since 2022.

With over 25 years of experience in the space industry, Ms. Holla-Maini brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her role. Prior to joining UNOOSA, she served as Executive Vice-President of Sustainability, Policy, and Impact at NorthStar Earth & Space. She also served as Secretary-General of the Global Satellite Operators Association for over 18 years. Ms. Holla-Maini has also contributed her expertise as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Space and the Advisory Board of the Satellite Industry Association of India.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in law with German law from King’s College London and a master’s degree in business administration from HEC Paris. She is also an alumna of the International Space University Executive Space Course.

Ms. Holla-Maini’s extensive international experience and depth of knowledge in the space sector will prove invaluable to UNOOSA as they continue to fulfill their crucial role in space diplomacy.

Reading Corner

NASA | NASA X-ray Telescopes Reveal the “Bones” of a Ghostly Cosmic Hand

NASA’s X-ray space telescopes have captured a spectral image of a stellar explosion, resembling a skeleton hand, in deep space. This eerie phenomenon, officially named MSH 15-52, was formed from the death of a massive star through a supernova explosion, leaving behind a rapidly rotating, extremely dense stellar remnant known as a pulsar.