International Affairs

Biweekly Washington D.C. Updates for the Week Ending on January 26, 2024

Written by: Amanda Nguyen

This Week in Washington

  • Belgium joined the Artemis Accords as the 34th signatory.
  • The House Science Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held a hearing on the Artemis program. Read Space Foundation’s summary of the hearing here.
  • NASA held its annual Day of Remembrance to commemorate the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia.

United States Space Policy Updates

  • Dr. Kurt “Spuds” Vogel has been appointed as the new associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). (NASA, January 16).
  • A recent report from the Mitchell Institute recommends that the Department of Defense (DOD) formulate a strategy to support military objectives in cislunar space, stressing the importance of congressional support and partnerships with NASA and industry, while also expressing concerns about potential dominance in this domain by China and Russia. (Mitchell Institute, January 17)
  • Dr. John F. Plumb, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, detailed the DOD’s strategy for maintaining the United States’ edge in space, focusing on deterring aggression, prioritizing resilience in joint force development, fostering cooperation with allies, and integrating space policy across various areas such as warfare, nuclear deterrence, and cyber capabilities. (DOD, January 17)
  • Kathleen Hicks, Deputy Secretary of Defense, has approved a revised classification policy for space programs, focused on reducing over-classification and improving information sharing with U.S. allies and industry partners. (Breaking Defense, January 17)
  • The House Science (HSST) Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held a hearing to review and discuss updates to the Artemis program. Read Space Foundation’s summary of the hearing here. (HSST, January 17).
  • The Office of Space Commerce (OSC) launched the consolidated pathfinder project, partnering with three U.S. commercial space companies—COMSPOC, LeoLabs, and Slingshot Aerospace—to enhance space situational awareness (SSA) in low Earth orbit (LEO) as part of the Traffic Coordination System for Space (TraCSS). (OSC, January 19)
  • Oklahoma State University (OSU) hosted the Human Research Program for Civilians in Spaceflight and Space Habitation (HRP-C) conference, organized by the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS). The two-day conference convened global aerospace leaders, including House Science Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, to explore discussions on the health, safety, and performance of civilians in space. (OSU, January 25)
  • NASA announced the conclusion of the mission of the Ingenuity Mars helicopter after it sustained damage to at least one rotor blade during its latest flight on January 18, rendering it unable to fly. Despite the damage, the helicopter remains in good condition, having completed 72 flights covering 17 kilometers, surpassing its original goal of five flights as a technology demonstration. (NASA, January 25)
  • NASA held its annual Day of Remembrance to honor those who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery, paying tribute to the crews of Apollo 1, space shuttles Challenger, and Columbia. (NASA, January 25)

International Space Policy Updates

  • The Ax-3 mission, launched by SpaceX, marks the first all-European commercial astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS), featuring Turkey’s first astronaut. (NASA, January 18).
  • In a joint initiative, the UK Space Agency (UKSA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) have launched the Aqualunar Challenge to award cash prizes to domestic companies for developing technology to purify water on the Moon, with potential applications for Earth. (UKSA, January 18).
  • Despite a malfunction in one of its landing engines causing Japan’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) to tip over and disrupt power generation, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is hopeful that changes in the sun’s angle in the coming days may allow for the reactivation of SLIM’s solar panels. (JAXA, January 22)
  • NASA Administrator Bill Nelson welcomed the Czech Minister of Transport Martin Kupka to the agency’s headquarters to discuss cooperation between the two countries in space exploration. (X, January 22).
  • Dr. Tidiane Ouattara has been appointed as the Head of the Science, Technology, and Space Division at the African Union Commission. In this role, he will lead efforts to advance the role of science and technology in socio-economic development and oversee the African Outer Space Programme. (Africa News, January 23)
  • Belgium has joined the Artemis Accords as the 34th signatory. (NASA, January 24)
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission (EC) have selected five launch companies, including four startups and Arianespace, to participate in the European Flight Ticket Initiative, a new program designed to provide flight opportunities for emerging technologies. (SpaceNews, January 24).
  • The EC, ESA, and European Investment Bank (EIB) have announced an agreement to enhance financing for space companies, including access to the Strategic European Security Initiative fund, with the EIB actively identifying and providing financial advice to promising European space projects. (DEFIS, January 24)
  • ESA has formally approved two science missions: the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission designed to detect gravitational waves using three spacecraft, and the EnVision mission focused on studying Venus from its inner core to its outer atmosphere. (ESA, January 25)

Space Industry Updates

  • The Space Development Agency (SDA) awarded contracts totaling $2.5 billion to L3Harris, Lockheed Martin, and Sierra Space for the development of 54 satellites to establish the Tranche 2 (T2) Tracking Layer. This layer will integrate fire control missile defense infrared sensors to support preliminary missile defense mission capabilities and hypersonic and ballistic tracking. (SDA, January 16)
  • In response to proposed rulemaking on “Safeguarding and Securing the Open Internet” by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)SpaceX has urged the FCC to adopt a flexible network management standard capable of accommodating the cycle of innovation confronted by next-generation satellite operators. (FCC, January 17)
  • NASA has exercised options in Human Landing System (HLS) awards for Blue Origin and SpaceX to commence the initial design and development of cargo versions for their crewed lunar landers, enabling the transport of 12 to 15 metric tons to the lunar surface. (SpaceNews, January 21).
  • Sierra Space has successfully conducted the first full-scale structural test of the Large Integrated Flexible Environment (LIFE) module, an inflatable space station structure, exceeding NASA’s Recommended Safety and Certification Guidelines in a burst pressure test. (Sierra Space, January 22).
  • Philip Hover-Smoot has assumed the position of CEO at Scout Space Inc., succeeding co-founder Eric Ingram, who has taken on the role of Chairman of the Board and Chief Strategy Officer. (Space Watch Global, January 22).
  • A new joint report from the World Economic Forum and Deloitte underscored the importance of leveraging AI to extract more value from Earth observation (EO) satellite data, emphasizing its potential applications in climate and sustainability monitoring, precision agriculture, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting. (Deloitte, January 22).
  • ClearSpace and OrbitFab have announced a partnership to advance in-space refueling and servicing capabilities, pairing ClearSpace’s shuttle and Orbit Fab’s fuel depot to create a refueling service architecture. (ClearSpace, January 24).
  • The U.S. Space Force (USSF) has awarded $66 million contracts to Boeing and Lockheed Martin for the design of new narrow-band communication satellites, as part of a program to expand the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), a satellite network used by the U.S. military to facilitate voice and data communications. (SpaceNews January 25)
  • The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has confirmed that Firefly Aerospace has been qualified to compete for task orders to launch NRO small satellites using its Alpha rocket under the NRO’s Streamlined Launch Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity Contract (SLIC). (GovConWire, January 26)
  • Virgin Galactic has announced that the ‘Galactic 06’ flight window will open on January 26, 2024, the company’s sixth commercial spaceflight. (Virgin Galactic, January 26)

Space Leader Spotlight

General James Dickinson

This week’s space leader is General James Dickinson, the former Commander of the United States Space Command (USSPACECOM). General Dickinson retired from his position on January 10, 2024, changing command to General Stephen Whiting.

Reestablished four years ago, General Dickinson assumed the role of USSPACECOM’s first deputy commander in 2019 and later became its second commander in August 2020. He previously served as the Commanding General of the United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command and the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense. He was also the Chief of Staff at the United States Strategic Command.

Graduating from Colorado State University in 1985, General Dickinson earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. Continuing his academic pursuits, General Dickinson earned a Master of Science in Operations Research and Systems Analysis at the Colorado School of Mines. Later, he obtained a master’s degree in strategic studies from the United States Army War College.

General Dickinson retired from the U.S. Army after 38 years of honorable service, concluding with his command of USSPACECOM during a crucial period in the nation’s space endeavors. We extend our sincere acknowledgment, honor, and congratulations to General Dickinson for his outstanding service and leadership.

Reading Corner

NASA | New U.S. Postal Service Stamps Feature Iconic NASA Webb Images

The U.S. Postal Service has released a new stamp series featuring iconic images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Celebrating JWST’s achievements as it continues its mission to explore the unknown in our universe, this commemorative issue features images of the “Cosmic Cliffs” in the Carina Nebula and “Pillars of Creation” set within the Eagle Nebula.