International Affairs

Biweekly Washington D.C. Updates for the Week Ending on April 20, 2024

Written by: Amanda Nguyen

This Week in Washington

  • Switzerland, Sweden, and Slovenia joined the Artemis Accords this week.
  • The U.S. Space Force released its Commercial Space Strategy.
  • NASA Administrator Bill Nelson testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies.

United States Space Policy Updates 

  • Vice President Kamala Harris has called for action from both the private and public sectors to extend the benefits of space to communities across the U.S., with initiatives including Find Your Place in Space Week, the Space4All campaign, the Space Workforce Coalition, and SpaceTechConnect. (The White House, April 8)
  • The Office of Space Commerce (OSC) has released its “Global Space Situational Awareness” document, outlining its vision of a global, coordinated system of space situational awareness (SSA) providers. (OSC, April 8)
  • NASA released Volume 1 of its Space Sustainability Strategy for Earth’s Orbit. To facilitate the strategy, NASA will appoint a new director of space sustainability to coordinate activities across the agency. (NASA, April 9)
  • The U.S. Space Force (USSF) released its Commercial Space Strategy, outlining four lines of effort: Collaborative Transparency, Operational and Technical Integration, Risk Management, and Secure the Future. (USSF, April 10)
  • Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Ken Calvert (R-CA), Co-Chairs of the California Aerospace Caucus, have introduced a resolution to designate May 3, 2024, as National Space Day. (H.Res. 1129, April 10)
  • OSC has announced plans to establish operations centers in Colorado and Maryland for the Traffic Coordination System for Space (TraCSS). (SpaceNews, April 12)
  • NASA has released its response to the Mars Sample Return (MSR) Independent Review Board report featuring an updated mission design and plans to solicit architecture proposals from industry. (NASA. April 15)
  • NASA’s Science Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is requesting feedback from the U.S. aerospace community on nearly 190 national technology shortfalls identified for future space exploration and science missions. (NASA, April 16)
  • The Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) has announced that it will no longer provide authorization for the launch of a reentry vehicle as a payload unless the operator has already obtained a reentry license. (Federal Register, April 17)
  • NASA Administrator Bill Nelson testified before the House Appropriations (HAC) Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) on the agency’s FY2025 budget request. During the hearing, he addressed questions related to the MSR and On-Orbit Servicing, Assembly and Manufacturing (OSAM) 1 missions. (HAC, April 17)
  • The Select Committee on the CCP held a member roundtable entitled “The Space Race Returns.” (Select Committee on the CCP, April 17)
  • Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman, and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Allvin testified before the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) on the Department of the Air Force (DAF) FY2025 budget request. (HASC, April 17)
  • HASC Chairman Mike Rogers has expressed support for the DAF’s legislative proposal to transfer Air National Guard space units into the USSF. (Breaking Defense, April 17)

International Space Policy Updates

  • Russia has announced it has received an application from Turkey to participate in the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) program. (Atlas News, April 8)
  • Azerbaijan has increased the budget for its space agency, Azercosmos, from 295.6 million manats ($173.9 million) to 398.6 million manats ($234.5 million). (Trend News Agency, April 9)
  • NASA Administrator Nelson and Japan’s Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) Masahito Moriyama have signed an agreement for Japan to develop a pressurized rover for crewed and uncrewed exploration on the Moon, with NASA providing delivery of the rover to the Moon as well as two opportunities for Japanese astronauts to travel to the lunar surface. (NASA, April 10)
  • NASA Administrator Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy will visit Mexico City next week to meet with senior Mexican government officials, including President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and leaders of the Mexican Space Agency (AEM), with the aim of strengthening bilateral cooperation in Earth science and exploration. (NASA, April 16)
  • The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has awarded MDA Space a $250 million contract extension to continue supporting robotic operations on the International Space Station (ISS) from 2025 to 2030. (MDA Space, April 18)
  • Canada announced the establishment of a National Space Council, which will support “a new whole-of-government approach to space exploration, technology development, and research.” (CBC, April 18)
  • Switzerland, Sweden, and Slovenia joined the Artemis Accords this week, bringing the total number of signatories to 39 countries. (NASA, April 19)

Space Industry Updates

  • Euroconsult and SpaceTec Partners have announced their merger to form Novaspace. (Novaspace, April 5)
  • Astroscale U.S. has announced that Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.) Dennis Wille, former Chief of Legislative Affairs for U.S. Space Command, has joined the company as Senior Director of Business Development for National Security.   (Astroscale, April 5)
  • The 2023 State of the Space Industrial Base (SSIB) Report, prepared by the USSF, Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), and the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), focuses on building enduring advantages in space for economic security and collective security. (DIU, April 8)
  • Axiom Space announced the appointment of Koichi Wakata, a recently retired Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut, as the company’s Astronaut and Chief Technical Officer for the Asia-Pacific region. (Axiom Space, April 8)
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded a $567 million contract to a consortium of companies led by Thales Alenia Space to restart work on the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin mission. (ESA, April 9)
  • Vast announced plans to install SpaceX’s Starlink laser terminal on its Haven-1 station to enable internet connectivity with the Starlink network, with the agreement extending to future Vast platforms. (Vast, April 9)
  • Sierra Space has announced that Dr. Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute and Professor of the Practice of International Affairs at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, has joined its National Security Space Strategic Advisor Group. (Sierra Space, April 11)
  • The USSF selected Rocket Lab and True Anomaly to launch and support the VICTUS HAZE tactically responsive space mission. (SpaceNews, April 11)
  • ABS has announced the appointment of Mark Rigolle, former COO for Rivada Space Networks, as CEO, effective April 29th. (ABS, April 16)
  • Senior Boeing officials leading the Space Launch System (SLS) program have announced the likelihood of “a significant number of layoffs and reassignments” for employees on the program. (Ars Technica, April 18)

Space Leader Spotlight

Dr. Laurie Leshin

This week’s space leader is Dr. Laurie Leshin, Director of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Dr. Leshin, who assumed the role in May 2022, is the first woman to serve as JPL Director, a position that also encompasses serving as Vice President at Caltech. Furthermore, she holds the position of Bren Professor of Geochemistry and Planetary Science at Caltech and maintains her role as co-investigator for two instruments on NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover.

Before assuming her current position, Dr. Leshin served as President of Worcester Polytechnic Institute from 2014 to 2022 and previously held the position of School of Science Dean at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Prior to these roles, she served as Deputy Associate Administrator of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in 2010, where she oversaw future human spaceflight initiatives. Earlier, from 2005 to 2008, Dr. Leshin held positions as Director of Science and Deputy Director for Science and Technology at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, where she directed strategy, planning, and implementation for over 50 Earth and space flight projects.

Throughout her career, Dr. Leshin has received numerous honors, including NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal and Distinguished Public Service Medal, as well as the Meteoritical Society’s Nier Prize for outstanding research by a scientist under the age of 35. The International Astronomical Union also recognized her and named asteroid 4922 Leshin in honor of her contributions to planetary science.

Dr. Leshin earned her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Arizona State University and her master’s and doctoral degrees in Geochemistry from Caltech. Recently, she delivered remarks at the Space Technology Hall of Fame Dinner during the Space Symposium, and we extend our gratitude and applause for her participation and leadership at JPL, academia, and beyond.

Reading Corner

NASA 2024 Earth Day Poster

Each year, NASA creates an Earth Day poster designed to inspire, with this year’s poster entitled “Water Touches Everything.” Listen to NASA Science Mission Directorate Art Director Jenny Mottar explain her inspiration behind this year’s poster concept and design, as well as the satellite imagery used to create the artwork. The posters, including this year’s and past years, are available for download and printing.