International Affairs

Biweekly Washington D.C. Updates for the Week Ending on April 5, 2024

Written by: Molly Prochaska

This Week in Washington

  • The Pentagon released the “2024 DOD Commercial Space Integration Strategy.”
  • Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall and Chief of Space Operations Chance Saltzman will testify before the Senate Appropriation Subcommittee on Defense next Tuesday.
  • Roscosmos has approved the preliminary design of a future Russian orbital station.

United States Space Policy Updates 

  • Sens. Krysten Sinema (I-AZ) and Eric Schmitt (R-MO), Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Space and Science, introduced S.4064, the Commercial Standards Paramount to Accelerating Cosmic Exploration (SPACE) Leadership Act. In short, the bill would extend the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) “learning period” on commercial human spaceflight regulation by five years. (S. 4064, March 22)
  • Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Chairman of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), announced that he would resign from Congress, effective April 19. (Wisconsin Public Radio, March 22)
  • President Biden signed the FY2024 appropriations package that included the final six appropriations bills. The budget allocated $28.9 billion for the U.S. Space Force (USSF), $2.5 billion more than FY2023 but $1.4 billion less than the FY2024 request. (H.R. 2882, March 23)
  • Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the members of the Texas Space Commission Board of Directors and the Texas Aerospace Research and Space Economy Consortium (TARSEC) Executive Committee. (Office of the Texas Governor, March 26)
  • Dr. John Plumb, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, will step down from his position in May. (Breaking Defense, March 29)
  • The Department of Defense (DOD) released the “2024 DOD Commercial Space Integration Strategy,” identifying four top-level priorities to maximize commercial space solutions. (DOD, April 2)
  • Secure World Foundation (SWF) released the annual “Global Counterspace Capabilities Report: An Open Source Assessment.” (SWF, April 2)
  • The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a memorandum directing the establishment of time standards for celestial bodies, with NASA instructed to provide a strategy for the creation of Coordinated Lunar Time (LTC) by the end of 2026. (OSTP, April 2)
  • Colorado Governor Jared Polis expressed opposition to legislation proposed by the DOD that would transfer Air National Guard space operators to the USSF in a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, citing concerns about overriding gubernatorial authority. (The Gazette, April 3)
  • Frank Kendall, Secretary of the Air Force, and Gen. Chance Saltzman, Chief of Space Operation, are scheduled to testify before the Senate Appropriation Subcommittee on Defense (SAC-D) next Tuesday regarding the President’s FY 2025 Budget Request. (SAC-D, April 9)

International Space Policy Updates

  • Dr. Ahmad Al Falasi, Minister of Education, has been reappointed as Chairman of the UAE Space Agency. (The National News, March 23)
  • The UK Space Agency (UKSA) is opening a new headquarters at the Harwell Science Campus in Oxfordshire and regional offices in Scotland, Wales, and the Midlands. (UKSA, March 25)
  • Eutelsat announced Sat One’s first-time activation of land-based and maritime services across remote regions of Australia and New Zealand under a multi-year, multi-million-dollar agreement. (Eutelsat, March 26)
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) awarded GMV an $85 million contract to develop and demonstrate the advantages of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites for Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT), which includes the launch of five satellites by 2027. (GMV, March 26)
  • The ESA Council hosted Dr. S. Somanath, Chair of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to discuss plans for increasing ESA-ISRO cooperation. (ESA, March 26)
  • Roscosmos has approved the preliminary design of a future Russian orbital station (ROS), set to be deployed between 2027 and 2032. (Tass, April 2)
  • The NewSpace Africa conference was held in Luanda, Angola this week. The theme was ‘The Role of Space in Closing Africa’s Poverty Gap. (Space in Africa, April 5)
  • Thailand has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the China National Space Administration (CNSA) to join the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). (SpaceNews, April 5)
  • Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is scheduled to hold talks with President Biden next week, during which they are “expected to confirm Japan’s participation in NASA’s Artemis moon program and its contribution of a moon rover developed by Toyota Motor Corp. and the participation of an astronaut.” (AP News, April 5)

Space Industry Updates

  • Ingersoll Rand is set to acquire ILC Dover, a primary supplier of spacesuits for NASA since the Apollo program, for $2.325 billion. (Ingersoll Rand, March 25)
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order dismissing SpaceX’s application to modify its Gen2 Starlink authorization, which sought to include authority for operations in various frequency bands, deeming it unacceptable for filing. (FCC, March 26)
  • Clay Mowry, President of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), has joined Vast Space as an advisor. (Vast, March 28)
  • Sierra Space announced the appointment of Amish Patel, who previously served as Vice President of Global Supply Chain at Rocket Lab, as its Chief Operating Officer (COO). (Sierra Space, March 28)
  • HawkEye 360 has announced that Gen. David D. Thompson and Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster have joined as new members of the Advisory Board, alongside returning members Terry McAuliffe and Joan Dempsey. (HawkEye 360, March 28) 
  • IBX announced that Robert Cabana, former NASA Associate Administrator, will join the company as a Senior Advisor to support its portfolio of companies, which includes Axiom Space, Intuitive Machines, and Quantum Space. (IBX, April 1) 
  • Helicity Space, a commercial space company specializing in fusion power technology and propulsion, has announced an investment from Lockheed Martin Ventures. (Helicity Space, April 2)
  • NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test for Starliner has been adjusted to no earlier than May 6 (NASA, April 2)
  • NASA has selected Intuitive Machines, Lunar Outpost, and Venturi Astrolab to advance capabilities for a lunar terrain vehicle (LTV). (NASA, April 3)
  • Blue Origin has announced the crew for New Shepard’s 25th mission, which includes former Air Force Captain Ed Dwight, who was selected as the United States’ first African American astronaut candidate but never flew in space. (Blue Origin, April 4)

Space Leader Spotlight

George W.S. Abbey 

This week’s space leader is George W.S. Abbey, a longtime NASA leader who has been called the “Father of Modern Spaceflight.” On March 24, 2024, Mr. Abbey passed away at the age of 91.

In 1964, Abbey was detailed to the Manned Spacecraft Center as an Air Force officer serving as the technical assistant to the Apollo Spacecraft Program manager. He played a key role in investigating the Apollo 1 accident and aiding in the implementation of safety improvements to support the continuity of the Apollo program. Abbey later served as the center director’s technical assistant and witnessed several monumental moments at NASA, including the Apollo 8 and Apollo 13 missions. Notably, his contributions during the Apollo 13 mission led to his involvement in the operations team that received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Richard Nixon in 1970.

In 1976, Abbey was appointed the Director of Flight Operations during preparations for the Space Shuttle program. During his tenure, he led the selection of the new classes of shuttle astronauts, which included the first women and people of color in the 1978 class. In 1985, Abbey became Director of the Flight Crew Operations Directorate and later served as NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Space Flight in 1988. He also held the position of Senior Director for Civil Space Policy on the National Space Council. Additionally, Abbey was named Special Assistant to NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin before returning to Johnson Space Center (JSC) in 1994 as Deputy Director.

In 1996, Abbey became the seventh director of JSC. Throughout his tenure, he served a critical role in overseeing the joint U.S. and Russian Shuttle-Mir program and the initial phase of the International Space Station (ISS). Abbey served as director until 2001, after which he transitioned to the role of Senior Assistant for international issues before officially retiring from NASA in 2003. Following his retirement, Abbey continued his contributions to space as a senior space policy fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Throughout his distinguished career, Abbey was recognized with numerous honors, including the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, three NASA Distinguished Service Medals, and the 1970 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Abbey’s profound impact and legacy touch some of the most significant moments in spaceflight history. We remember the stunning achievements and personal commitment that George W.S. Abbey brought to the U.S. space community.

Read more about George W.S. Abbey: NASA, The Houston Chronicle

Reading Corner

NASA | 2024 Total Solar Eclipse: Through the Eyes of NASA

On April 8, a total solar eclipse will cross North America, passing through Mexico, across the U.S. from Texas to Maine, and out over Canada’s Atlantic coast. Don’t miss out on the chance to watch NASA’s Total Solar Eclipse Official Broadcast, featuring live views of the eclipse from multiple locations along the path of totality, expert commentary, live demonstrations, and more.