International Affairs

Biweekly Washington D.C. Updates for the Week Ending on June 14, 2024

Written by: Molly Prochaska

This Week in Washington

  • The House approved its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
  • Armenia became the 43rd Artemis Accords signatory.
  • Boeing’s Starliner has successfully launched and docked with the ISS.
  • SpaceX’s Starship successfully completed its fourth flight test.

United States Space Policy Updates

  • The House Science (HSST) Subcommittee on Environment held a hearing on the FY25 budget proposal for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Read Space Foundation’s summary of the hearing here. (HSST, June 4)
  • Provisions in the FY24 omnibus spending bill aimed at supporting NASA’s Habitable Worlds Observatory (HWO) have inadvertently impacted the Science, Technology, Architecture Review Team (START) and the Technical Assessment Group (TAG). Both bodies were established to guide the HWO’s early development, but NASA is now directed to establish a project office at Goddard Space Flight Center. (Space News, June 4)
  • NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) performed an audit of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) Initiative to assess its implementation and management and made six recommendations to address cost and schedule controls. (NASA OIG, June 5)
  • Nine Democratic lawmakers have urged NASA Administrator Bill Nelson to maintain full FY25 funding of $68.7 million for the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, arguing against proposed budget cuts that they believe would threaten U.S. leadership in high-energy astrophysics. (Rep. Seth Moulton, June 6)
  • NASA is advancing 10 studies to explore more cost-effective and expedited methods for returning samples from Mars to Earth as part of the Mars Sample Return (MSR) program, awarding up to $1.5 million in firm-fixed-price contracts for 90-day studies to seven industry proposers. (NASA, June 7)
  • The Space Development Agency (SDA) is urging prime contractors to secure secondary and tertiary suppliers for key satellite components to prevent supply chain shortages that could delay deployment of Tranche 0 of the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA). (Space News, June 9)
  • Major General Steven J. Butow, the first Director of the Space Portfolio for the DIU, has been appointed as Military Deputy for the DIU. (DIU, June 10)
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it will not require an investigation into SpaceX’s Starship Flight 4 mission, stating that “all flight events…appear to have occurred within the scope of planned and authorized activities.” (Valley Central, June 12)
  • The House Appropriations Committee (HAC) has advanced the $833 billion defense appropriation act for FY25 in a 34-25 vote. The bill allocates $28.7 billion to the U.S. Space Force (USSF), approximately $900 million less than the President’s budget request. (HAC, June 13)
  • The House approved its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in a 217-199 vote. (H.R.8070, June 14)

International Space Policy Updates

  • Josef Aschbacher, Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), announced at the ILA Berlin Air Show that the first launch of Ariane 6 is targeting July 9. (ESA, June 5)
  • ESA and Vast signed a MoU to explore collaborative opportunities for European access to space via future Vast space stations. (Vast, June 6)
  • Issa Zarepour, Iranian Minister of Communications and Information Technology (ICT), announced that the Chabahar Space Center, set to be the largest space center in West Asia, will become operational in February 2025, with its first launch planned before the end of March 2025. (Mehr News Agency, June 6)
  • The governments of the U.S. and Germany held the first bilateral U.S.-Germany Space Dialogue in Berlin on June 3-4 to strengthen cooperation and advance bilateral exchanges in space matters. (U.S. Department of State, June 7)
  • Ten astronauts have been selected for China’s Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) fourth class, comprising eight pilots and two payload specialists, with the latter marking China’s first astronauts from Hong Kong and Macau. (SpaceNews, June 11)
  • Armenia has become the 43rd signatory of the Artemis Accords. (NASA, June 12)
  • ESA has stated that there are no decisions to continue Chinese-European space cooperation for the Chang’e-7 or Chang’e-8 missions, and ESA will not participate in the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). (SpaceNews, June 12)
  • China’s Chang’e-6 spacecraft is preparing its return to earth, carrying the first lunar samples from the far side of the moon. A parachute landing is expected on June 25. (USA Today, June 14)

Space Industry Updates

  • Brad Henderson has been named the Chief Commercial Officer of Starlab Space. (Voyager Space, June 4)
  • Astroscale has been listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Growth Market. (Astroscale, June 5)
  • Boeing’s CST 100 Starliner has successfully launched and docked with the International Space Station (ISS). Starliner is scheduled to return to Earth no earlier than June 22 to allow additional time for further testing. (Boeing, June 5)
  • SpaceX’s Starship successfully completed its fourth flight test. (SpaceX, June 6)
  • Elizabeth L. Schmid has been appointed as Senior Vice President for Government Relations and Communications at General Dynamics. (General Dynamics, June 6)
  • Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity completed its final commercial flight, set to be replaced for commercial service by Virgin Galactic’s Delta Class spaceship in 2026. (Virgin Galactic, June 8)
  • Nora Khalil, previously a Professional Staff Member (PSM) for the House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee, has joined the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) as Vice President of Legislative Affairs. (AIA, June 11)
  • Virgin Galactic announced that its board has approved a 1-for-20 reverse stock split, effective after markets close on June 14, to meet the minimum share price requirements for continued listing on the New York Stock Exchange. (Virgin Galactic, June 12)
  • Thales, Spire Global, and European Satellite Services Provider (ESSP) have signed a Memorandum of Cooperation to develop an air traffic surveillance satellite constellation, with plans to begin operations by 2027. (Spire, June 13)
  • Blue Origin, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance (ULA) have been selected by the USSF to compete for contracts totaling $5.6 billion under the National Security Space Launch Phase 3 program. (Reuters, June 13)

Space Leader Spotlight

Major General John Olson

This week’s space leader is Major General John Olson. Maj. Gen. Olson retired on June 4 from his position as Mobilization Assistant to the Chief of Space Operations.

Maj. Gen. Olson has served as Mobilization Assistant to the Chief of Space Operations (CSO) since 2021. In this position, he assisted the CSO with the responsibility to organize, train, and equip space forces; develop and acquire military space systems; and conduct space operations to advance and secure U.S. and allied interests in, from and to space. Amongst numerous other roles in both the private and public sector, he served in various capacities as a Senior U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer and served as the first Department of the Air Force Data and AI Office Chief.

Maj. Gen. Olson is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, a freefall parachutist, and was a European and Eurasian Foreign Area Officer. From 2003-2004, he served as the Chief of the Test Operations, and Programs Division in the Space and Missile Systems Center at Kirtland Air Force Base. He transitioned to the Air Force Reserve in 2004, joining NASA as the Manager of International Space Station Operations. At NASA, Maj. Gen. Olson served in several capacities, including the Director of the Directorate Integration Office, and Director of the Strategic Analysis and Integration Division. In 2012, he was the NASA Senior Executive assigned to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as the Assistant Director of Space and Aeronautics.

Maj. Gen. Olson was commissioned in 1992 as a distinguished military graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he earned two bachelor’s degrees in Aero and Astronautical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. Additionally, Maj. Gen. Olson has two master’s degrees from the University of Tennessee Knoxville and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He earned a Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering, Human Factors, Systems Safety, Occupational Safety, and Ergonomics from Auburn University.

We congratulate Maj. Gen. Olson on his long and distinguished career and service in the USSF and appreciate his years of exceptional leadership within the space community.

Reading Corner

NASA | Moon Tree Dedication with Artemis II Crew

The Artemis II Crew planted a “moon tree” on the U.S. Capitol grounds on June 4. The sweetgum sapling was one of more than 1,000 tree seeds that was flown on NASA’s 2022 Artemis I mission, which completed a successful journey around the moon and returned to Earth. The Artemis moon trees echo a collection of seeds flown on the 1971 Apollo 14 mission, later planted as moon trees at various locations across the U.S.