International Affairs

Biweekly Washington Updates for the Week Ending on February 9, 2024

Written by: Amanda Nguyen

This Week in Washington

  • Greece is set to become the 35th nation to sign the Artemis Accords.
  • Next week, the House Science Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics will hold a hearing on the “ISS and Beyond: The Present and Future of American Low-Earth Orbit Activities.”
  • The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved a bipartisan 5-year Senate FAA Reauthorization.

United States Space Policy Updates

  • The Situational Awareness of Flying Elements (SAFE) Orbit Act was introduced in the Senate by a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). The bill would direct the Office of Space Commerce (OSC) to acquire and share unclassified data and services on space activities and traffic coordination to encourage the development of commercial space capabilities. (S.3658, January 25)
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously approved an “Order on Reconsideration” of the 2020 Orbital Debris Mitigation Report, reaffirming the existing regulatory framework for orbital debris mitigation while offering further clarity to satellite operators in response to industry petitions. (FCC, January 25)
  • NASA astronaut and USSF Col. Nick Hague is set to become the first Space Force Guardian to launch to the International Space Station (ISS), scheduled for SpaceX’s Crew-9 mission in August. (USSF, January 31)
  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), reintroduced the Space National Guard Establishment Act in the Senate, to create a Space National Guard by integrating current Air National Guard and Army National Guard members engaged in space-related duties into the Space Force command structure. (S.3697, January 31)
  • The OSC and SpaceX have formed a no-exchange-of-funds Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) for research on automated collision avoidance and satellite conjunction assessment screenings, with OSC conducting an astrodynamics evaluation of SpaceX software under the terms of the agreement. (OSC, January 31)
  • The United States Space Force (USSF) intends to collect additional fees from launch companies for utilizing its spaceports, in accordance with a provision in the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) aimed at supporting range modernization. (Defense News, January 31)
  • Over 40 lawmakers from California, led by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Sen. Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA), have written to Shalanda Young, Director for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), urging the Administration to overturn budget cuts to the Mars Sample Return (MSR) program, expressing concerns over potential job losses and setbacks in scientific advancement. (U.S. Congress, February 1)
  • Lt. Gen. Philip Garrant has taken command of Space Systems Command (SCC), becoming the second-ever leader of SCC, succeeding Gen. Michael A. Guetlein, who has transitioned to serve as Vice Chief of Space Operations. (SSC, February 1)
  • NASA has announced Joseph Pelfrey as the permanent director of the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, a role Pelfrey has been serving on an acting basis since July 2023. (NASA, February 5)
  • NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) announced a reduction in its workforce impacting approximately 530 employees and 40 contractors, due to budget constraints and the absence of an FY2024 congressional appropriation, as outlined in a memo from Director Laurie Leshin. (JPL, February 6)
  • NASA’s PACE (Plankton, Aerosol, Climate, ocean Ecosystem) satellite, designed to study ocean health, air quality, and the effects of a changing climate, launched successfully into orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. (NASA, February 8)
  • The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee (SCC) approved a bipartisan 5-year Senate Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization. During the markup, Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-TX) highlighted the need to address the work of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) and expressed readiness to contribute to an ongoing collaborative effort on a commercial space bill. (SCC, February 8)
  • The House Science (HSST) Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics is scheduled to conduct a hearing entitled “ISS and Beyond: The Present and Future of American Low-Earth Orbit Activities” on Wednesday, February 14. (HSST, February 8)

International Space Policy Updates

  • Senior officials from South Korea and the United States engaged in discussions regarding cooperation in space exploration as South Korea works to establish its independent space agency in May 2024. First Vice Science Minister Cho Seong-kyung met with NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy during her visit to the U.S. to explore potential avenues for enhancing space cooperation between the two nations. (Yonhap News Agency, January 29)
  • Iran successfully launched three satellites, Mahda, Keyhan-2, and Hatef-1, into orbit using the Simorgh Satellite carrier rocket developed by the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics, with the satellites positioned at orbits ranging from 450 to 1,100 kilometers above Earth. (Reuters, January 29)
  • NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Arianespace to establish a long-term partnership aimed at meeting the needs of the global commercial satellite launch market. (NSIL, January 29)
  • China plans to land its Chang’e-7 mission on the illuminated rim of Shackleton crater near the lunar south pole in 2026, as part of its International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). (Space News, January 30)
  • After power was restored to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) on the lunar surface, the Multi-Band Camera (MBC) successfully completed two high-resolution 10-band observations of rocks and regolith at 13 observation locations. (JAXA, February 1)
  • New Zealand has declared its intent to explore opportunities within the AUKUS security pact’s technology initiatives, particularly focusing on Pillar II, which includes advancements in quantum, cyber, autonomy, AI, hypersonics, and electronic warfare. (The Guardian, February 1)
  • Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko has set a new world record for the most cumulative time spent in space, surpassing 878 days and 12 hours. (The Associated Press, February 4)
  • The Greek Ministry of Digital Governance has announced plans to develop a €60 million Earth observation (EO) microsatellite constellation. (European Spaceflight, February 6)
  • Finnish startup Kuva Space has announced the establishment of its U.S. branch in Fairfax, Virginia, with plans to provide hyperspectral imaging services to U.S. government clients. (Kuva Space, February 7)
  • Greece is set to sign the Artemis Accords, becoming the 35th signatory. (C-SPAN, February 9)

Space Industry Updates

  • Retired USSF Col. Chad Davis, former director of the National Reconnaissance Office’s (NRO) Office of Space Launch, has joined Stellar Solutions as Director of Signals Intelligence Programs. (Space News, January 29)
  • Northrop Grumman’s Space Systems reported a 14 percent year-over-year revenue growth in 2023, generating $13.9 billion in revenue for the year. (Via Satellite, January 30)
  • Starlab Space has selected SpaceX’s Starship for the inaugural launch of the Starlab commercial space station, a joint venture between Voyager Space and Airbus Space and Defence, with an anticipated launch slated before 2030. (Voyager Space, January 31)
  • Sierra Space is in the initial stages of planning to go public and is considering potential acquisitions as the company moves forward with the development of the Dream Chaser spaceplane. (Bloomberg, February 1)
  • During Virgin Galactic’s recent spaceflight, ‘Galactic 06,’ it was discovered that an alignment pin detached from the launch pylon of their mothership, VMS Eve, during the flight. The FAA is overseeing the Virgin Galactic-led mishap investigation. (Virgin Galactic, February 4)
  • The launch window for Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 private moon mission will open on February 14th, marking the company’s inaugural lunar landing attempt as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. (Intuitive Machines, February 6)
  • Tim Solm, aformer Microsoft, Dell, VMware, and Dun & Bradstreet executive, has been named as the new CEO of Slingshot Aerospace. (Slingshot Aerospace, February 7)

Space Leader Spotlight

General Michael A. Guetlein

This week’s space leader is General Michael A. Guetlein, Vice Chief of Space Operations for the United States Space Force. Appointed in December 2023, General Guetlein’s extensive career in space operations is marked by his recent role as the inaugural commander of Space Systems Command, where his leadership was crucial in overseeing the development and management of satellite systems and technologies essential for both national defense and global space initiatives.

Before his tenure at Space Systems Command (SSC), General Guetlein served in various key positions, including as the deputy director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), where his responsibilities encompassed overseeing significant intelligence and reconnaissance satellite programs. His journey in space and defense began after earning a commission through the ROTC program at Oklahoma State University, setting the foundation for his distinguished career.

General Guetlein’s educational background is extensive, holding a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Aerospace Engineering from Oklahoma State University, a Master of Business Administration from Wright State University, a Master of Organizational Management from George Washington University, and a Master of National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College.

Throughout his three decades of service, General Guetlein has been recognized for his contributions to space policy, operations, and technology with numerous awards, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal. General Guetlein’s exceptional leadership and exemplary service will undoubtedly position him well for success in his new role, fostering the continued growth and advancement of the U.S. Space Force.

Reading Corner

America Space | Space Shuttle Endeavour Stacked for Breathtaking Museum Display

The California Science Center has lifted the Space Shuttle Endeavour into the air, joining it with a flightworthy External Tank and Solid Rocket Boosters, creating the only authentic Space Shuttle stack in the world. Endeavour, which completed 25 missions between 1995 and 2011, was awarded to the California Science Center upon the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.