Image: NSS COO Dale Skran stands next to Representative Summer Lee (D-PA) during March Storm

By Jonathan Dagle, NSS Policy Committee Chair

March Storm, the premier space development advocacy event, was held in Washington, DC, March 11-13, 2024. About 27 citizen advocates met with 75 offices, including members of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Office of Space Commerce. Meetings were focused on members of both parties on space-related and appropriations committees, as well as the staff of key committees. Typically, 2-5 advocates met with the member’s staffer for space issues, but sometimes the Senator or Representative meets the group.

ASD March Storm contingent meets with staffers of Representative Kevin Mullin (D-CA)

This year’s objectives were organized around the Commercial Space Act, House Resolution 6131, which awaits action on the floor of the House. The bill is sponsored by House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lucas (R-OK) and Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairman Babin (R-TX). It includes several important provisions that the Alliance for Space Development (ASD) highlighted as needing action, even if the full bill isn’t passed. These include extending the “learning period” on commercial human spaceflight, designating the Department of Commerce as the federal authority for licensing commercial activity in space, and a commerce-focused study of the commercial potential of space solar power. These elements and the overall Commercial Space Act formed the core of the March Storm requests.

Additionally, ASD raised as a discussion point, elevating the Office of Commercial Space, Transportation, currently in the FAA, to become a direct report under the Secretary of Transportation. This would remove the federal agency in charge of licensing space launch and reentry from an aviation focused entity and give it the direct attention of the Secretary. It would also mirror the placement of the Office of Space Commerce in the Department of Commerce, as provided in the Commercial Space Act.

A group of secondary objectives were included in March Storm objectives. These are high-priority items that already exist in federal programs, but merit extra emphasis. The secondary objectives call for fully funding the Commercial LEO Destinations program, the NEO Surveyor asteroid-hunting space telescope, and NASA’s Science Technology Mission Directorate. The ORBITS Act (S. 477), which passed the U.S. Senate last year, was also highlighted to the House as an easy win on the path toward mitigating orbital debris.

Since 2015, March Storm has been conducted under the Alliance for Space Development (ASD) umbrella. ASD is a group of 16 space development focused organizations that share common ground on humanity’s future in space. The National Space Society and Space Frontier Foundation are the founding members of ASD. They lead the organization of March Storm and underwrite most of the costs of the event.

Through these member organizations, ASD reaches out to individual citizens to support March Storm. Unlike some other pro-space development organizations, ASD doesn’t represent companies or commercial interests, but individual citizens and nonprofits who support our space future. The Alliance has grown by two this year with the addition of the International Space Elevator Consortium and the United States Space Force Association.

This year several advocates from Students for the Exploration and Development of Space participated. SEDS-USA is a national organization of chapters on university campuses across the country. For some, March Storm provided their first experience with engaging in the political process. SEDS is an active student-run organization for college students interested in space development or a career in the space industry. SEDS organizes a variety of events including an annual conference, called SpaceVision, each year.

One notable meeting highlight was the large contingent that visited the office of Representative Kevin Mullin (D-CA) — see photo at top. Congressman Mullin and Congressman Rich McCormick (R-GA) cosponsored a space solar power amendment to the Commercial Space Act (House Resolution 6131), which was adopted unanimously in committee. Congressman Mullin is perhaps the leading space solar power voice in the House. Last summer an amendment he introduced to HR 2988 authorized NASA and the Department of Energy to use existing programs to research and develop space solar power related technologies.

Another notable meeting was with the Office of Space Commerce, where advocates discussed the potential of commercial space solar power with staff including Gabriel Swiney, the Director of OSC’s Policy, Advocacy, and International Division. Holding talks with Executive Branch agencies is another way ASD is working to advance our space development agenda.

More information about March Storm objectives and several information papers are available at allianceforspacedevelopment.org/about-us/.

ASD meeting in office of Representative Bill Posey (R-FL). From left to right: Rich Pournelle, staffer, Gerald McLaughlin, Jon Dagle.
NSS Policy Committee Chair Jonathan Dagle presents at March Storm Training Day Read More – NSS