Pentagon sets the tone for future outer space exploration

DoD releases National Security Space Strategy for future journeys to the cosmos

It obviously leans heavily on the military's concerns for outer space exploration but the National Security Space Strategy released today by the Department of Defense outlines concerns like protection from space junk and system security that all space travelers in theory would want addressed. 

The NSSS document emphasizes the Obama administration's desire to protect US space assets and to further commercialize space but also to ensure that the US and international partners have unfettered access to outer space.  "The National Security Space Strategy represents a significant departure from past practice," said Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in a statement.  "It is a pragmatic approach to maintain the advantages we derive from space while confronting the new challenges we face."

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According to the NSSS: "When the space age began,  the opportunities to use space were limited to only a few nations, and there were limited consequences for irresponsible or unintentional behavior.  Now, we find ourselves in a world where the benefits of space permeate almost every facet of our lives. The growth and evolution of the global  economy has ushered in an ever-increasing number of nations and organizations using space. The now ubiquitous and interconnected nature of space capabilities and the world's growing dependence on them mean that irresponsible acts in space can have damaging consequences for all of us. For example, decades of space activity have littered Earth's orbit with debris; and as the world's space-faring nations continue to increase activities in space, the chance for a collision increases correspondingly."

How any of these issues will be addressed and ultimately paid for remains to be seen, but according to the DoD, when President Obama presents his budget for next year it will include "initial steps toward implementing the strategy, and the department will use the coming year to lay the foundation for changes in fiscal 2013 and beyond."

Key Elements of the National Space Policy:

  • The United States remains committed to many long-standing tenets in space activities. The United States recognizes the rights of all nations to access, use, and explore space for peaceful purposes, and for the benefit of all humanity.
  • The United States calls on all nations to share its commitment to act responsibly in space to help prevent mishaps, misperceptions, and mistrust. The United States will take steps to improve public awareness of government space activities and enable others to share in the benefits of space through conduct that emphasizes openness and transparency.
  • The United States will engage in expanded international cooperation in space activities. The United States will pursue cooperative activities to the greatest extent practicable in areas including: space science and exploration; Earth observations, climate change research, and the sharing of environmental data; disaster mitigation and relief; and space surveillance for debris monitoring and awareness.
  • The United States is committed to a robust and competitive industrial base. In support of its critical domestic aerospace industry, the U.S. government will use commercial space products and services in fulfilling governmental needs, invest in new and advanced technologies and concepts, and use a broad array of partnerships with industry to promote innovation. The US government will actively promote the purchase and use of US commercial space goods and services within international cooperative agreements.
  • The United States recognizes the need for stability in the space environment. The United States will pursue bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence building measures to encourage responsible actions in space, and will consider proposals and concepts for arms control measures if they are equitable, effectively verifiable, and enhance the national security of the United States and its allies. In addition, the United States will enhance its space situational awareness capabilities and will cooperate with foreign nations and industry to augment our shared awareness in space.
  • The United States will advance a bold new approach to space exploration. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will engage in a program of human and robotic exploration of the solar system, develop new and transformative technologies for more affordable human exploration beyond the Earth, seek partnerships with the private sector to enable commercial spaceflight capabilities for the transport of crew and cargo to and from the International Space Station, and begin human missions to new destinations by 2025.
  • The United States remains committed to the use of space systems in support of its national and homeland security. The United States will invest in space situational awareness capabilities and launch vehicle technologies; develop the means to assure mission essential functions enabled by space; enhance our ability to identify and characterize threats; and deter, defend, and if necessary, defeat efforts to interfere with or attack US or allied space systems.
  • The United States will fully utilize space systems, and the information and applications derived from those systems, to study, monitor, and support responses to global climate change and natural disasters. The United States will accelerate the development of satellites to observe and study the Earth's environment, and conduct research programs to study the Earth's lands, oceans, and atmosphere.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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