Vice President Kamala Harris will lead the National Space Council as it handles a mix of existing and new space policy issues, White House officials said May 1. Credit: White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris will announce Nov. 5 plans to hold her first meeting of the National Space Council at the beginning of December.

A White House official, speaking on background, said that Harris will announce the Dec. 1 meeting during a visit to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. She will be accompanied on that visit by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and other officials, where they will review the first images from the Landsat 9 Earth science spacecraft launched Sept 27.

The official didn’t elaborate on the agenda for the upcoming meeting. The Goddard visit, the official said, will emphasize climate and space technology work at the center, including Landsat 9 as well as the GOES series of geostationary weather satellites and the On-orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing-1 mission under development there to demonstrate satellite servicing technologies.

Harris confirmed in May that she would chair the National Space Council in the Biden administration. The council was revived by the Trump administration in 2017 after nearly a quarter-century of dormancy. Officials said at the time that Harris would put a “personal stamp” on the council by emphasizing issues such as climate change, cybersecurity and education.

There had been little public progress on the council since then beyond the appointment of Chirag Parikh as executive secretary in August. At the time, White House officials said the first meeting of the council was scheduled for some time in the fall.

Parikh, speaking at the 36th Space Symposium Aug. 25, said Harris was “very energized” by her role as chair of the council. “We’ve had several meetings with her already and she is actively engaged, asking all the right questions, the hard questions,” he said.

He did not go into detail about the council’s activities during a brief talk at the Nov. 4 meeting of the Advisory Committee for Commercial Remote Sensing (ACCRES), instead offering suggestions on what issues the committee should address on commercial imaging regulations and technologies.

Parikh said the council has hired a new director of commercial space policy, Diane Howard, a space law expert who previously worked at the Office of Space Commerce. He cut the presentation short, he said, because he had to brief Harris.

Earlier at the ACCRES meeting, Don Graves, deputy secretary of commerce, said he meets every other week with Parikh to discuss space activities at the department, which includes the Office of Space Commerce, the Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs (CRSRA) office and other space activities within NOAA. “It’s something that the entire administration is focused on,” he said.

Graves also used his comments to address perceptions that the Commerce Department is not engaged in space activities, at least to the same degree as the previous administration. That’s ranged from a lack of visible progress on space traffic management (STM) by the Office of Space Commerce to few comments on space by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

“There’s a very high level of interest” by Raimondo on space issues, Graves said. “The secretary and I meet at least twice a week to talk about a range of issues at the department. The Office of Space Commerce, CRSRA and all the work we’re doing comes up at least once a week in our conversations.”

That includes, he said, the Office of Space Commerce’s work on space traffic management. The office just launched a pilot version of an open architecture data repository that would combine space situational awareness (SSA) data from government and commercial sources. “We’re going to be sharing that with stakeholders over the next few months,” he said. “We think it’s a great step, but it’s only a step towards where we need to be to have a cloud-based SSA system and STM system.”

He hinted the department will seek more funding for the Office of Space Commerce next year. “You will be very pleased at our FY23 request,” he said. “We are expecting to increase staffing for the Office of Space Commerce very quickly.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...