An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) flies by during a training mission at Creech Air Force Base in 2015.

An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) flies by during a training mission at Creech Air Force Base in 2015. Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

The Air & Space Brief: Space laser-drone test; New tanker buy; Tourists to ISS; and more...

The Air & Space Brief: Space laser-drone test, Air Force’s new tanker buy, Axiom Space tourism; and more...

Good morning and welcome to Defense One’s Air Force and Space Force newsletter, a weekly look at the events and headlines shaping military aviation and aerospace policy. 

Directing an MQ-9 via space laser: The Space Development Agency is going to test whether it can communicate between low-Earth orbit satellites and MQ-9 Reapers via laser, agency head Derek Tournear tells Patrick Tucker in an exclusive interview set to stream Tuesday at the Defense One Tech Summit. 

Bridge tankers: The KC-46 is still not ready to go, and the Air Force needs to retire older KC-135 and KC-10 refuelers. So last week it announced it is seeking proposals for a “bridge tanker” that must be operational by 2029. The new contract could at last allow Airbus to enter America’s strategic tanker market, Marcus Weisgerber reports.  

Paid customers to ISS: NASA announced last week that Axiom Space will launch three paying customers to the International Space Station in late 2022 aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon. The private astronauts will be accompanied by former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría. (Via Space News.)

SpaceX Mars Starship is preparing for another Texas test launch of its rocket, possibly in July, reported. Defense One correspondent Tara Copp visited the South Texas launch site last week and notes that the firm is starting to face pushback from the local community and state on road closures and environmental impact. 

Sign up to get The Air & Space Brief every Monday morning from Tara Copp, Defense One’s Senior Pentagon Reporter. On June 21, 1983, Sally Ride was halfway through NASA’s seventh Space Shuttle mission aboard the Challenger and making history as the first woman in space. 

From Defense One

US Will Try Using Lasers to Send Data From Space to Drones // Patrick Tucker: In the first experiment of its kind, military researchers will attempt to link drones to satellites via light.

Air Force Begins Search For New Refueling Tanker as Lawmakers Push Airbus // Marcus Weisgerber: Some lawmakers want the Air Force to terminate its KC-46 contract with Boeing.

Russia, US Will Launch Arms Control Talks To Avoid ‘Accidental War’ // Jacqueline Feldscher: The agreement reached during the summit between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a positive first step,” according to one analyst.

As Space Junk Multiplies, Pentagon Is Stuck Tracking It for Civilians // Jacqueline Feldscher: Private industry is launching at a pace with which the military’s space-surveillance system can’t keep up. Now lawmakers say the Commerce Department’s fix is running late.