International Affairs

Biweekly Washington D.C. Updates for the Week Ending on May 17, 2024

Written by: Molly Prochaska

This Week in Washington

  • NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has traveled to Italy, Vatican City, and Saudi Arabia.
  • The House Armed Services Committee released its draft FY25 NDAA.
  • Lithuania has become the 40th signatory to the Artemis Accords.
  • The SASC Subcommittee on Strategic Forces is scheduled to convene a hearing on DOD space activities next week.

United States Space Policy Updates

  • A bipartisan group of 44 Members of Congress requested the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (HAC-CJS) to allocate $9 billion for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in the FY25 appropriations bill, exceeding the President’s Budget Request by $1.4 billion and the FY24 allocation by $1.67 billion. (U.S. Congress, May 1)
  • The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has announced the establishment of a Joint Mission Management Center (JMMC) to facilitate the integration of space intelligence data from the Department of Defense (DOD), Intelligence Community (IC), and international partners. (C4ISRNet, May 6)
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) issued a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III expressing concern about reports of illicit use of Starlink terminals by Russia, urging the DOD to hold contractors accountable for any expropriation of their technology by hostile actors. (Senator Warren, May 6)
  • The U.S. Space Force (USSF) will join the IC’s Commercial Space Council as a voting member this year. (Breaking Defense, May 6)
  • NASA’s Office of Technology, Policy, and Strategy (OTPS) is requesting responses for a Lunar Non-Interference Questionnaire that will inform the development of a framework for further work on non-interference of lunar activities. (NASA, May 8)
  • The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) plans to conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS) to assess the potential environmental impacts of SpaceX’s Starship launches from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center (KSC). (Federalaunch l Register, May 10)
  • David Salvagnini has been appointed as NASA’s new chief artificial intelligence (AI) officer, expanding his current role as chief data officer. (NASA, May 13)
  • The House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC) draft of the FY25 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes provisions authorizing the transfer of Air National Guard members performing space functions to the USSF and establishing the Commercial Augmentation Space Reserve (CASR), among other items. The committee is set to markup the bill on May 22. (HASC, May 13)
  • The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) held an open panel to discuss national security issues facing the U.S., addressing topics such as Russia’s development of a nuclear weapon in space. (HPSCI, May 15).
  • Congress approved an FAA reauthorization bill including a short-term extension for the human spaceflight “learning period.” Set to expire in May, the learning period is now extended until January 1, 2025. (H.R.3935, May 16).
  • The Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces (SASC) is scheduled to convene a hearing on DOD space activities next week. (SASC, May 21)

International Space Policy Updates

  • China’s Chang’e-6 spacecraft has entered lunar orbit, carrying various international payloads along with an undisclosed small rover. (SpaceNews, May 6)
  • The Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) and South Korean company Perigee Aerospace have signed a collaborative agreement to jointly launch satellites from Esrange Space Center in Sweden starting in 2025. (SSC, May 7)
  • NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has traveled to Italy, Vatican City, and Saudi Arabia to meet with key government and space officials. (NASA, May 9).
  • Serbia has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the China National Space Administration (CNSA) for cooperation on the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). (SpaceNews, May 10)
  • The Kenya Space Agency has released its 2023-2027 Strategic Plan. (YouTube, May 13)
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is developing plans for Chandrayaan-4, a multi-launch, multi-spacecraft mission to collect lunar samples within the next five years. (SpaceNews, May 14)
  • Lithuania has become the 40th signatory to the Artemis Accords. (U.S. Department of State, May 15)
  • The U.S. and Portuguese governments intend to begin discussions for Portugal to join the Artemis Accords. (U.S. Department of State, May 15)

Space Industry Updates

  • ICEYE has announced the launch of two application programming interfaces (APIs) to enable customers to directly task and automate the company’s Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite constellation. (ICEYE, May 6)
  • Rocket Lab’s Neutron launch is now expected in mid-2025, shifting from its previous target of the end of 2024. (Payload, May 7)
  • Mike French, Former Vice President for Space Systems at the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), has announced that he is now leading the Space Policy Group and is a senior advisor with Boston Consulting Group (BCG). (LinkedIn, May 8)
  • Redwire announced the development of a new European-built very low Earth orbit (VLEO) spacecraft platform, Phantom. (Redwire, May 13)
  • Intuitive Machines is moving forward with plans for a return lunar mission during the last quarter of 2024. (Bloomberg, May 9)
  • The Pentagon is considering allowing United Launch Alliance (ULA) to carry a mass simulator on the next Vulcan Centaur flight as a substitute payload, if Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser is not ready by end of the year. (SpaceNews, May 13)
  • SpaceX’s Starship next launch is expected to take place within the next three to five weeks. (Yahoo, May 11)
  • The Honorable Frank Calvelli, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration, expressed concerns about ULA’s capability to scale up manufacturing of the Vulcan rocket and increase its launch cadence to meet their needs in a letter to Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s space divisions. (The Washington Post, May 13)
  • The U.S. Air Force (USAF) issued postponement fees to ULA for delays in two military satellite launches. (Bloomberg, May 14)
  • NASA, Boeing, and ULA have announced that the Boeing Crew Flight Test will launch no earlier than May 21 to conduct additional testing. (Boeing, May 14

Space Leader Spotlight

Dr. Ellen Ochoa

This week’s  Space Leader is Dr. Ellen Ochoa, former center director and astronaut at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC). Recognized for her leadership at NASA JSC and as the first Hispanic woman in space, Dr. Ochoa was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a ceremony at the White House this month.

Dr. Ochoa dedicated more than three decades at NASA before retiring in 2018 holding numerous significant positions. She joined the agency in 1988 as a research engineer at Ames Research Center, before transitioning to JSC in 1990 upon her selection as an astronaut. Notably, she made history in 1993 as the first Hispanic woman to fly in space aboard Space Shuttle Discovery during the STS-56 mission. Throughout her distinguished career, she completed three additional spaceflights—STS-66, STS-96, and STS-110—logging nearly 1,000 hours in orbit. Dr. Ochoa later served in key positions at JSC, such as Deputy Center Director and Director of Flight Crew Operations, before becoming the eleventh Director in 2013. She served as Center Director for five years and oversaw significant milestones, including the selection of the first crews for commercial spacecraft launches and the first yearlong mission aboard the International Space Station.

Dr. Ochoa graduated as valedictorian with a B.S. in Physics from San Diego State University and holds an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. In addition to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she has received several awards including NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal and the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award. She was also inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2017.

We extend our congratulations to Dr. Ochoa on her outstanding achievement and her ongoing contributions to the space community.

Reading Corner

The Bipartisan Senate AI Working Group | Driving U.S. Innovation in Artificial Intelligence (AI)

A bipartisan working group of senators, led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) along with Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Todd Young (R-IN), released the “Driving U.S. Innovation in AI” report, outlining a roadmap for AI policy in the Senate. The report aims to guide legislative efforts to maintain U.S. competitiveness in AI while highlighting its benefits and risks. Notably, the report calls on relevant committees to explore utilizing advanced AI models to manage and mitigate space debris, recognizing the growing threat it poses to space systems and encouraging collaboration with space agencies to enhance mitigation efforts.

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Written by Molly Prochaska and Amanda Nguyen