International Affairs

Biweekly Washington D.C. Updates for the Week Ending on February 23, 2024

Written by: Amanda Nguyen

This Week in Washington

  • Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 lunar lander has become the first American spacecraft to successfully land on the moon in over 50 years.
  • Uruguay has become the 36th signatory to the Artemis Accords.
  • The House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held a hearing on current and future LEO activities.

United States Space Policy Updates

  • Senior leaders of the Department of the Air Force (DAF) announced a comprehensive set of 24 decisions aimed at reoptimizing the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and U.S. Space Force (USSF) to uphold superiority in air and space in the face of “Great Power Competition”. (USAF, February 12)
  • General Chance Saltzman, Chief of Space Operations, announced the USSF has created a “Futures Command” to align future needs with the current force more effectively. (USSF, February 13)
  • The House Science, Space and Technology (HSST) Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics convened a hearing to examine the current state of low-Earth orbit (LEO) activity and discuss NASA’s future LEO plans. Read Space Foundation’s summary of the hearing here. (HSST, February 14)
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a regulatory framework for licensing in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing (ISAM) activities. (FCC, February 15)
  • The HSST Committee convened a hearing to assess federal science agencies’ compliance with guidelines and legislation aimed at safeguarding U.S. scientific advancements and addressing the impact of foreign influence on research competitiveness. (HSST, February 15)
  • The USSF is initiating environmental studies to investigate the feasibility of conducting SpaceX Starship launches from either Cape Canaveral Space Force Station or the construction of a new launch complex. (USAF, February 17)
  • Kelvin Coleman, Associate Administrator of Commercial Space Transportation, announced that the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) plans to establish a Part 450 Aerospace Rulemaking Committee (SpARC) and organize an International Spaceport Forum on October 13 ahead of the 2024 International Aeronautical Congress (IAC).  (CST Conference, February 20)
  • Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) announced support for a “long-term extension” of the moratorium on human spaceflight regulation, which is scheduled to expire on March 8, 2024. (CST Conference, February 20)
  • The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that examines FAA AST’s efforts to prepare for expanded oversight of human spaceflight by working with industry to develop future regulations and building the agency’s workforce capacity. (GAO, February 21)
  • The Intuitive Machines-1 (IM-1) mission’s Nova-C lander, named Odysseus, successfully landed on the Moon, marking the first privately developed spacecraft to land on the lunar surface and the first American lunar landing since 1972. (Intuitive Machines, February 22)

International Space Policy Updates

  • The inaugural Space Debris Conference, hosted by the Saudi Space Agency, emphasized innovative strategies for space debris management and highlighted the significance of international collaboration and space technology in promoting sustainability initiatives. (Saudi Press Agency, February 12)
  • In-Space Missions, a subsidiary of BAE Systems, has secured additional funding from UK Space Agency (UKSA) to advance the Faraday Dragon rideshare satellite program, the first multi-agency Asia-Pacific regional rideshare satellite mission. (In-Space Missions, February 14)
  • UKSA has allocated £7.4 million to UK scientists and engineers to contribute to international space science and exploration missions to the Moon, Mars, and Venus, in partnership with agencies like NASA, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). (UKSA, February 14)
  • The White House confirmed the development of an anti-satellite weapon by Russia, with John Kirby, National Security Communications Adviser, stating that they are “closely monitoring this Russian activity and will continue to take it very seriously.” (White House, February 15)
  • Uruguay has signed on to the Artemis Accords, bringing the total number of signatories to 36. (NASA, February 15)
  • In its second test flight, JAXA successfully launched its new H3 rocket. (JAXA, February 17)
  • Gilmour Space Technologies has raised $55 million in funding to support the manufacturing, testing, and orbital launch of Australia’s first sovereign-made rockets and satellites. (Gilmour Space Technologies, February 19)
  • The European Space Agency’s (ESA) ERS-2 satellite re-entered Earth’s atmosphere after nearly 30 years in space without causing any reported damage. (ESA, February 21)

Space Industry Updates

  • Starlab Space, a joint venture between Voyager Space and Airbus, announced its leadership team, with Tim Kopra appointed as CEO and Mohit Sharma as CFO. (PR Newswire, February 12)
  • SpaceX has initiated controlled deorbits for 406 of nearly 6000 launched Starlink satellites, with plans for controlled descents of approximately 100 more. (Starlink, February 12)
  • LeoLabs and the Secure World Foundation (SWF) hosted an Orbital Debris Remediation Summit in Queenstown, New Zealand, to discuss strategies for collectively addressing the operational deployment of remediation missions. (LeoLabs, February 14)
  • BAE Systems has completed the $5.5 billion acquisition of Ball Aerospace. (BAE Systems, February 16)
  • The Space Development Agency (SDA) has awarded EpiSci, in partnership with Raytheon Technologies, a $1.6 million contract to develop an AI software tool capable of detecting hypersonic missiles using satellite data. (SpaceNews, February 18)
  • Impulse Space has named General John W. Raymond, former Chief of Space Operations, to its board of directors. (Impulse Space, February 21)
  • Blue Origin’s New Glenn launch vehicle has been upended on its launch pad for the first time. The vehicle is undergoing a series of tests in preparation for its first launch, which will take place later in 2024. (Blue Origin, February 21)
  • Vast Space shared its intention to bid on two upcoming NASA private astronaut missions (PAMs) to the International Space Station, specifically aiming for participation in the fifth and sixth PAMs. (SpaceNews, February 22)
  • Following delays, Varda Space Industries obtained an FAA license for the reentry of a capsule from its W-Series 1 mission, with the capsule touching down at the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) on February 21. (SpaceNews, February 22)
  • SpaceX has announced that it is aiming for an early to mid-March timeframe for the third launch attempt of Starship. (Ars Technica, February 22)

Space Leader Spotlight

Dr. Jinni Meehan

This week’s space leader is Dr. Jinni Meehan, the new Assistant Director for Space Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Before assuming her role at OSTP in February, Dr. Meehan made significant contributions to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), where she served as the National Space Weather Program Manager since 2018, supporting plans, projects, and policies to strengthen the service capacity of the National Weather Service’s space weather operations. Prior to this, she held positions at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC). Additionally, she serves as an Adjunct Professor at Millersville University of Pennsylvania for their graduate program, “Space Weather and Environment: Science, Policy, and Communication.”

Dr. Meehan earned her Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, followed by a Master of Science in Atmospheric and Space Sciences from Hampton University. She later completed her Ph.D. in Physics at Utah State University and conducted postdoctoral research at the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology.

Dr. Meehan’s distinguished career in space science and policy is characterized by leadership positions and innovative contributions, for which she has been recognized with the DOC Gold Medal and NOAA’s Order of Sherman’s Lagoon. We extend our congratulations to Dr. Meehan on her new role and eagerly anticipate the impactful work she will lead at OSTP.

Reading Corner

Canadian Space Agency | Jeremy Hansen’s patch for the Artemis II mission

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Jeremy Hansen, who is set to fly as part of NASA’s Artemis II crew, unveiled his personal mission patch during a meeting with students from the First Nations University of Canada. Designed by Anishinaabe artist Henry Guimond with guidance from Dave Courchene III (Sabe), Leader of the Turtle Lodge in Sagkeeng First Nation (Manitoba), the patch incorporates elements symbolizing the Seven Sacred Laws, the Greek goddess Artemis, the Big Dipper, and the North Star. Reflecting on the significance of the patch, Hansen remarked, “So [what] is represented here in these Indigenous teachings is a reminder for me on how to walk as I get ready to go on this journey. I am reminded by [this] artwork on how I need to walk to represent humanity.”