International Affairs

Biweekly Washington D.C. Updates for the Week Ending on March 22, 2024

Written by: Amanda Nguyen

This Week in Washington

  • SpaceX’s Starship conducted its third flight test, successfully lifting off from Starbase.
  • The Biden-Harris Administration released its Fiscal Year 2025 Presidential Budget Request.
  • The House Science Committee approved eight bipartisan bills during a full Committee markup.
  • Congress unveiled the remaining six FY 2024 appropriation bills in a second “minibus,” which includes funding for the Department of Defense. The U.S. Space Force is set to receive approximately $29 billion, a reduction of about $1 billion from the requested $30 billion.

United States Space Policy Updates

  • The Biden-Harris Administration released the President’s Budget Request (PBR) for FY 2025, investing $25.4 billion in NASA, a 2% increase from the agency’s FY 2024 allocation of $24.9 billion. In the Department of the Air Force (DAF) FY2025 budget request, the U.S. Space Force (USSF) requested $29.4 billion, marking a 2% decrease from its $30 billion request in FY 2024. (White House, March 11)
  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the Taiwan and American Space Assistance (TASA) Act to support cooperation between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Taiwan Space Agency. (H.R.7661 / S. 3936, March 14)
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously approved final rules to establish a Supplemental Coverage from Space (SCS) framework, leveraging satellite technology to expand wireless coverage gaps. (FCC, March 14)
  • Kelvin Coleman, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, stated that the FAA is working with SpaceX to shift toward approving a portfolio of launches for Starship, moving away from a launch-by-launch approval process. (Payload, March 18)
  • The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee (HSST) voted to advance eight bipartisan bills during a full Committee markup, including the ASTRO Act (H.R. 272), the ASCEND Act (H.R. 6219), NASA Streamlining Partnerships Act (H.R. 7687), and the Space Resources Institute Act (H.R. 4152). (HSST, March 20)
  • HSST Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) expressed support for FCC rules proposing limits to unwanted out-of-band (OOBE) emissions in the 23.6-24.0 GHz band in letters to FCC leadership. (HSST, March 20)
  • Reps. Judy Chu (D-CA), Mike Garcia (R-CA), and Adam Schiff (D-CA) led a bipartisan letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson urging him to commit at least $650 million to the Mars Sample Return (MRS) program. The letter was co-signed by 20 other California lawmakers. (Rep. Chu March 20)
  • NASA Administrator Nelson and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra provided an update on the Cancer Moonshot initiative that aims to reduce the nation’s cancer death rate by at least 50% in the next 25 years. (NASA, March 21)
  • The HSST Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics convened a hearing to examine the current and future activities of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD), focusing on the FY 2025 PBR and the MSR program. Read Space Foundation’s summary of the hearing here. (HSST, March 21)
  • The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Subcommittee on Strategic Forces held a hearing to review the U.S. strategic forces posture for FY 2025 and assess our nuclear, space, and missile defense. Read Space Foundation’s summary of the hearing here. (HASC, March 21)
  • Congress has reached a budget agreement for the remaining six FY2024 appropriations bills, with the draft agreement proposing a reduction of slightly over $1 billion from the USSF’s FY 2024 request of $30 billion. (Space News, March 21)

International Space Policy Updates

  • Senior officials from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the U.S. met to discuss their partnership, focusing on astronaut training, International Space Station (ISS) missions, and the Gateway Lunar Space Station. (UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 10)
  • Under Russia’s 2024 BRICS presidency, Roscosmos plans to host a series of meetings with representatives from BRICS space agencies to explore collaboration prospects. (Tass, March 11)
  • The 2024 Space Census, conducted by Space Skills Alliance, was launched to gather data on the United Kingdom’s (UK) space workforce to guide policy, address challenges, and enhance sector appeal. (Space Skills Alliance, March 12)
  • South Korea announced plans to establish a new space industry cluster within eight years, focusing on satellite and rocket manufacturing alongside astronaut training. A budget of $1.14 billion for 2027 has been allotted to support the nation’s aerospace industry, with ambitions for moon and Mars missions in 2032 and 2045, respectively. (The Korea Herald, March 13)
  • The European Union (EU) conducted the Space Threat Response Architecture (STRA-X-24) exercise at the European External Action Service (EEAS) Headquarters in Brussels. The exercise aimed to assess the EU’s response capability to a scenario involving an attack on EU space assets critical for governments, businesses, and citizens. (EEAS, March 13)
  • The second U.S.-France Comprehensive Space Dialogue was held to discuss bilateral space cooperation, with a focus on market access, regulations, sustainability, and innovative ventures, aiming to evaluate progress since the initial 2021 meeting. (Payload Space, March 18)
  • At the United Nations (UN), Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield called for nuclear disarmament, proposed dialogue with Russia and China, and introduced a resolution with Japan against nuclear weapons in orbit under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. (U.S. Mission to the UN, March 18)
  • The EU has approved a security agreement with the U.S. to enable SpaceX launches of Galileo satellites, granting EU and European Space Agency (ESA) access to U.S. launch sites and debris recovery rights. The agreement is scheduled to be signed on March 27. (Politico, March 19)

Space Industry Updates

  • SAIC has been awarded a $444 million contract to support the USSF’s Space Systems Command (SSC) and Space Launch Deltas in digital transformation, acquisition, modernization, and modification. (SAIC, March 11)
  • Comsat Architects and Ubotica Technologies announced a partnership to integrate AI technologies into earth observation on small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO), aiming to unlock the opportunity for live Earth intelligence. (Comsat Architects, March 13)
  • SpaceX conducted a successful third test flight of Starship; however, it lost contact with Starship upon reentry. Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX, stated that the fourth test flight of Starship could potentially occur in as little as six weeks. (SpaceX, March 14)
  • Boeing has initiated the fueling process for Starliner in preparation for its upcoming Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission, with the fueling procedure expected to take a little over two weeks. (Boeing, March 18)
  • Associate Administrator Coleman stated that SpaceX plans to launch between 6 to 9 missions from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, this year. (Payload, March 18)
  • NOAA has awarded Parsons Corporation a $15.5 million contract for the system integration and cloud management of the Traffic Coordination System for Space (TraCSS). (Parsons Corporation, March 18)
  • Northrop Grumman has been selected by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to further develop the concept of a moon-based railroad network as a part of the broader 10-year Lunar Architecture (LunA-10) Capability Study. (Northrop Grumman, March 19)
  • The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) has partnered with Blue Origin on the “Blue Ring” platform, Space Logistics by Northrop Grumman on in-space refueling technologies, and Spacebilt on their in-space assembly and manufacturing (ISAM) approach, to provide services and access to geostationary (GEO) and other orbits beyond LEO. (DIU, March 19)
  • Rocket Lab successfully launched its first dedicated mission for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) from U.S. soil on its Electron rocket. (Rocket Lab, March 21)

Space Leader Spotlight

Enrico Palermo

This week’s space leader is Enrico Palermo, Head of the Australian Space Agency (ASA). Mr. Palermo assumed leadership of the ASA in January 2021, succeeding Megan Clark AC, the agency’s first Head.

Beginning his career in 2003 as a mechanical engineer at Woodside Energy, Enrico Palermo transitioned to the space sector after earning a scholarship to the International Space University (ISU) in Strasbourg, France. His encounter with the then-COO of Virgin Galactic, Alex Tai, during the course, led him to join Virgin Galactic as one of its first ten full-time employees on the Virgin Galactic project in 2006. Over the next 14 years, Mr. Palermo rose through the ranks, becoming President of The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing arm, in 2018 and then Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Virgin Galactic in 2020.

Mr. Palermo earned a dual bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and in physics and applied mathematics from the University of Western Australia. Since leading the ASA, he has accomplished several significant milestones, such as securing a deal with NASA for an Australian rover on a lunar mission, issuing Australia’s first space launch permits and licenses, and initiating the country’s commercial spaceflights.

We look forward to having Mr. Palermo as one of the featured speakers at the 39th annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Specifically, he will be participating in the Space Leaders Spotlight panel on Wednesday, April 10th.

Reading Corner

The Washington Post  March Lunar Eclipse

Did you know that there will be a lunar eclipse this month preceding the total solar eclipse in April? From the late evening of March 24 to the early morning of March 25, the full moon will pass through the Earth’s penumbra, creating what’s known as a penumbral eclipse. Visible across North and South America, this event will slightly dim the Moon over the course of a few nighttime hours, which only occurs about twice a year.