International Affairs


Biweekly Washington D.C. Updates for the Week Ending on December 15, 2023

Written by: Amanda Nguyen

This Week in Washington

  • The Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Space and Science convened a hearing on mission authorization.
  • Congress voted to pass the National Defense Authorization Act.
  • The GAO issued a report examining mishaps in commercial space transportation.

Congressional Hearing Summaries

Did you miss the congressional hearings this week? Catch up with hearing summaries of:

United States Space Policy Updates

  • NASA has launched the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Center, in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to serve as a hub for data and observations on greenhouse emissions. (NASA, December 4)
  • The House passed H.R.2988, the Department of Education (DOE) and NASA Interagency Research Coordination Act, by voice vote. The bill would authorize DOE and NASA to collaborate on research and development activities on topics such as propulsion systems, data analytics, high-energy physics, and earth and environmental sciences. (H.R. 2988, December 5)
  • The Senate confirmed 105 senior military nominations for the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and U.S. Space Force (USSF), including the appointment of Lt. Gen. Philip A. Garrant to be lieutenant general and Commander for Space Systems Command (SCC). (Senate, December 5)
  • The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on commercial space transportation, recommending that the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) enhance its mishap investigation process by (1) establishing criteria for authorizing launch operators to lead investigations and (1) evaluating the overall effectiveness of the mishap investigation procedures. (GAO, December 7)
  • NASA, NOAA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and USAF signed a memorandum of agreement to enhance intergovernmental collaboration in space weather research and operations. (NASA, December 8)
  • NASA has announced leadership changes for 2024, including the retirement of Stennis Space Center Director Richard Gilbrech after over 30 years of service. In addition, Chief of Staff Susie Perez Quinn is set to transition to a senior advisor role, with Bale Dalton succeeding her. (NASA, December 11)
  • USSF announced the establishment of the U.S. Space Forces – Space (S4S) as the Service Component to U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM). (USSF, December 12)
  • The House Natural Resources (HNR) Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing entitled “The Mineral Supply Chain and the New Space Race,” which discussed the critical role of space development and the celestial mineral supply chain in the long-term economic strategy for international powers. (HNR, December 12)
  • The Senate Commerce (SCC) Subcommittee on Space and Science held a hearing entitled “Government Promotion of Safety and Innovation in the New Space Economy” that discussed the Federal government’s role in ensuring the safety and economic competitiveness of commercial space activities and discussed regulatory approaches for the evolving industry. (SCC, December 13)
  • Congress approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), ensuring its enactment into law for the 63rd consecutive year. The legislation includes several space-related provisions, notably Section 1609, which restricts USSPACECOM from constructing or modifying facilities for its headquarters, and Section 1803, which requires the Department of Defense (DoD) to commission an independent study to assess options related to the development of a Space National Guard. (H.R. 2670, December 14)

International Space Policy Updates

  • During a week-long visit to India, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced NASA’s commitment to training two Indian astronauts, with one flying to the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of 2024. (Space.com, December 4)
  • The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has announced that its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), launched on September 7th, is operating smoothly and has scheduled its lunar surface landing for January 20, 2024. (JAXA, December 5)
  • The Rwanda Space Agency and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Space Agency (UAESA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on ‘civil space activities, research and development, space technologies, geospatial data sharing, and joint space sector projects.’ (Space in Africa, December 5)
  • NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has shared that NASA is engaged in discussions with the UAE Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) regarding the potential inclusion of Emirati astronauts in the Artemis program. (The National, December 6)
  • As part of a series of space agreements between the two countries, the Egyptian Space Agency (EGSA) has officially signed on to China’s International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) program. (SpaceNews, December 7).
  • Pakistan’s federal cabinet approved the nation’s first-ever National Space Policy, which will establish a regulatory regime for space activities, enable international companies to offer communication services through low-orbit satellites, and allocate funds for research and development initiatives in the space sector.  (Dawn, December 13).
  • The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) World Space Forum was held in partnership with the Austrian government from December 12 to 14. The forum featured five sessions, entitled (1) Space Communication, (2) Emergency Platforms, (3) Global Digital Compact, (4) Future Generations, and (5) Outer Space and the Summit of the Future. (UNOOSA, December 14).
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) Council has approved the renewal of Josef Aschbacher’s term as Director General of ESA for an additional four years, extending until March 1, 2025. (ESA, December 14)

Space Industry Updates

  • Airbus has initiated production of six Galileo Generation 2 (G2) satellites, with plans for delivery within the next two years. (Airbus, December 1)
  • Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic, has announced that he does not plan to invest additional funds into the company, stating that the company should possess sufficient funds to sustain itself. (CNN, December 4)
  • DARPA has selected 14 companies, including Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, Redwire, Sierra Space, and SpaceX, for a 10-year Lunar Architecture (LunA-10) Capability Study aimed at exploring the necessary technologies for establishing a functional lunar economy. (DARPA, December 5)
  • NASA has revised the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the ISS Deorbit Vehicle, extending the proposal deadline until February and allowing companies the flexibility to choose between fixed-price or cost-plus contract structures for both the design and production of the U.S. Deorbit Vehicle (USDV). (SAM.gov, December 5)
  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced that the maiden flight of the Vulcan rocket, initially scheduled for December 24, is delayed until 2024. (Ars Technica, December 10)
  • The SpaceX private astronaut mission Polaris Dawn, which includes the first private spacewalk, has been postponed to April 2024. The mission, which was announced in February 2022, had an initial launch target of late 2022. (Space.com, December 11)
  • True Anomaly has completed a $100 million Series B fundraising round. (PR Newswire, December 12)
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has upheld its decision to reject a Starlink application for nearly $900 million in subsidies under the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program. (FCC, December 12)
  • Blue Origin has announced it is preparing to launch its New Shepherd rocket, ending an over-year-long hiatus. The mission’s launch window opens on December 18th. (CNBC, December 12)
  • L3Harris has announced that it will suspend its merger and acquisition activities for the ‘foreseeable future’ to improve revenue forecasting and strengthen its balance sheet. (Reuters, December 13)

Space Leader Spotlight

Dr. Marla Pérez-Davis

This week’s space leader is Dr. Marla Pérez-Davis, Director of Kent State University’s Center for Advanced Air Mobility and Professor for the College of Aeronautics and Engineering at Kent State University. Dr. Pérez-Davis is the 2023 recipient of the Women in Aerospace’s (WIA) Lifetime Achievement Award.

A native of Puerto Rican, Dr. Marla Pérez-Davis studied and earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico. She furthered her education by completing a Master of Science from the University of Toledo and a doctoral degree in chemical engineering from Case Western Reserve University.

Before her current role, Dr. Marla Pérez-Davis served as the director of NASA’s John Glenn Research Center. Throughout her NASA career, she has held various leadership positions, including deputy director of the Research and Engineering Directorate and chief of the Electrochemistry Branch. Recognized for her achievements, she has received several awards during her career, such as the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal and the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executives. In December 2022, she was also elected as a member of the National Space Council’s (NSpC) User Advisory Group (UAG).

Space Foundation had the privilege of seeing Dr. Pérez-Davis accept the WIA Lifetime Achievement award at the 38th Annual Awards Dinner & Ceremony, and we extend our congratulations to her for this well-deserved recognition. We look forward to the continued influence of Dr. Pérez-Davis’s exceptional leadership and innovation within the space community.

Reading Corner

Select Committee on the CCP Reset, Prevent, Build: A Strategy to Win America’s Economic Competition with the Chinese Communist Party 

The House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has issued a report entitled “Reset, Prevent, Build: A Strategy to Win America’s Economic Competition with the Chinese Communist Party.” One of the publication’s key findings was that the United States is lagging in the race for leadership in critical technologies, including space-based technologies. To counter this, the committee makes several recommendations to stimulate commercial space ventures, develop strategic infrastructure, and establish multilateral space governance.


Posted in International Affairs