Reaching out (6/27/23)
Happy Tuesday. Congress is taking a summer break, and so is Polaris. We won’t be sending next Tuesday for the Fourth of July, but we’ll be back in your inbox on July 11!
Did someone forward you this email? Subscribe to Polaris here.
A ‘Significant Uptick’ in Global Space Collaboration
Ecuador joined the Artemis Accords last week. State’s Valda Vikmanis-Keller is second from right. Image: NASA
The Biden administration’s “very intentional” effort to make space part of its international engagement has boosted the number of partners interested in collaborating with the US in orbit, the State Department’s Valda Vikmanis-Keller told Payload.
Last week, Ecuador and India became the 26th and 27th nations to join the Artemis Accords. Just a few months prior, the Biden administration announced a trio of space partnerships within the span of a week: increased SSA sharing with the Philippines, more cooperation in orbit with South Korea, and the Czech Republic’s signing of the Artemis Accords.
Vikmanis-Keller said adding space priorities to the agenda when foreign officials visit Washington is no accident.
“With all of these partners, whether they are advanced spacefaring countries, whether they are interested in being spacefaring countries, whether they want to partner in some way…it has been very intentional,” Vikmanis-Keller said. “There is really a significant uptick in the amount of activity surrounding space and all of the potential partners that are interested in some sort of collaboration, cooperation, or dialogue.”
We sat down with Vikmanis-Keller, the director of State’s Office of Space Affairs, this month on the sidelines of the Secure World Foundation’s Summit for Space Sustainability in NYC to get an update on the administration’s international space outreach, what’s happened since the department’s Strategic Framework for Space Diplomacy roll out last month, and upcoming milestones for the Artemis Accords.
Artemis Accords 101: More than two dozen nations have signed on to the Artemis Accords, a set of guidelines led by the US for the responsible use of space. Even though they share a name with NASA’s Artemis program to send humans back to the Moon, Vikmanis-Keller stressed that the accords are different from and broader than just the lunar mission, and that they include driving conversation about collaboration on things such as sustainability and orbital debris mitigation.
“I anticipate that as we continue to grow our number of signatories, as this conversation continues to mature and develop, we will talk about things like post-ISS [and] the whole host of issues that have been touched on here today,” she said. “I see it as a platform that can augment existing discussions.”
A work in progress: Signatories have established two working groups that meet virtually every month and will present their findings at the IAC in Baku, Azerbaijan in October, Vikmanis-Keller said. One working group is focused on how to deconflict activities on the lunar surface, while the other is considering what value nations get by signing onto the accords, especially if they don’t have a domestic space program.
A place for all: Vikmanis-Keller said she’s made her own pitch to non-spacefaring nations to convince them of the value of joining the accords, especially if they use space data for priorities such as studying climate change, predicting extreme weather and flooding, or studying illegal fishing.
“Even if you are not going to be a launching state or going to have a robust space sector, you as a country that benefits from space data—as we all do—you want a seat at the table,” she said. “You want to hear what the discussions are, and you want to have a voice and be part of that discussion.”
It takes two: In addition to multilateral fora like the Artemis Accords or the UN’s COPUOS, Vikmanis-Keller said her office is in active discussion with “tens” of countries who want to talk bilaterally with the US about their plans in space.
“We more and more are getting countries [that are] reaching out and saying, ’Hey, we are thinking about developing a framework for space activities’, or ‘We're thinking about how this may impact our commercial sector…Can we talk to you?’” she said. “The answer is yes.”
She also said partners are reaching out to her office about the Strategic Framework for Space Diplomacy released last month, saying that it serves as an example they can point to when considering how to elevate the conversation about space and organize the complex interagency oversight of space in their own countries.
What’s next? The State Department is considering doing a rollout of the framework specifically targeted to foreign governments to discuss the document and answer any questions, Vikmanis-Keller said.
Draper: Ursa Major’s Newest Engine
Ursa Major is excited to introduce Draper, a revolutionary new engine designed for hypersonics defense, in-space propulsion, and rapid launch. Draper is a 4,000-pound-thrust closed catalyst cycle engine that uses storable hydrogen-peroxide/kerosene propellant, making it ideal for vehicles that need to launch on demand. Draper contains architectural and manufacturing heritage from Ursa Major’s Hadley engine but doesn’t require cryogenic conditions for its fuel.
Library of Cosmos
India and the US announced several new space partnerships during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to DC (via Payload).
The Biden administration showcased its priorities to study climate change from orbit and boost diversity in the space industry at a pair of events last week (via Payload).
The Senate’s NDAA adds an “additional lane” for new launchers to join the National Security Space Launch program two years after Phase 3 begins.
ESA unveiled its Zero Debris Charter initiative, which is expected to set goals by the end of the year to be achieved by 2030.
Alabama and Colorado are still feuding over where US Space Command will call home, but everyone agreed on one thing: It's time for the Air Force to make a final HQ decision.
See You Thursday!
Is your company or office releasing news that you’d love to see covered in Payload? We’re excited to be hosting a webinar on “How to Pitch Journalists,” that will give a behind-the-scenes look at how space companies can best share their stories with the press. We’ll talk about topics such as:
What are journalists looking for in a story?
Do I need to write a press release?
The difference between embargoed and exclusive stories.
Tweet of the Week
Huntsville won SPACECOM based on the facts.
Now the media says Joe Biden wants to punish Alabama because we’re a pro-life state.
It’s wrong and it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars.
The bill I’m introducing with @RogerMarshallMD says enough is enough.
— Coach Tommy Tuberville (@SenTuberville)
Jun 22, 2023