The View From Here

New U.S. National Space Policy Provides Positive Framework

Written by: developer

New U.S. National Space Policy Provides Positive Framework On June 28, the Space Foundation welcomed the release of the new U.S. National Space Policy as "an important milestone in furthering national and international discussions about the future direction of the United States in space."

"Although there are some inconsistencies and areas of concern, largely the new U.S. National Space Policy provides a positive framework that will serve as an important milestone in furthering national and international discussions about the future direction of the United States in space," said Space Foundation Chief Executive Officer Elliot H. Pulham.

"The Space Foundation is particularly gratified with the new policy's emphasis on international cooperation in space, which is essential to bringing the benefits of space to the greatest number of people on the planet," Pulham said.

Among the positive aspects of the policy, the Space Foundation noted the following:

  • The commitment to continue the operation of the International Space Station through 2020 is an important commitment to realizing the scientific benefits of this large, multinational investment.
  • The emphasis on Space Situational Awareness, knowledge and management of the space environment, and commitment to freedom of operation in space is an important fundamental recognition of one of the biggest challenges we face in space.
  • The recognition that space nuclear propulsion and space nuclear power have key roles to play in future human exploration beyond Earth's orbit opens the door to critical thinking, research and development in this promising arena.

Also promising is the commitment of the new policy to space commerce. "The full engagement of the administration, especially the early inclusion of the U.S. Department of Commerce, are very positive signs that U.S. space companies may be unshackled and once again allowed to compete in the international marketplace," Pulham said. "A concrete plan for ITAR reform and export compliance modernization must quickly follow, and we are pleased to be supporting the administration in that effort."

There are, however, concerns with some provisions of the new policy:

  • To be truly beneficial, international cooperation in space would benefit from including India and China, two of the most important space- faring nations. Constructive engagement with the two most populous nations on the planet is fundamentally desirable.
  • The policy provision for developing and retaining space professionals, while admirable, rings hollow so long as the administration's plans for NASA continue to put thousands of American space professionals out of work.
  • The policy would defer human exploration of space beyond low Earth orbit for 15 years - to 2025, essentially ceding U.S. leadership in human space exploration.

"Clearly there is a lot of detail in this plan, and it will take some time to digest it fully," Pulham said. "With a mission 'to vigorously advance space endeavors to inspire, enable, and propel humanity,' we certainly find much of the language in the policy encouraging.

"Nonetheless, it is the implementation of the policy that will matter most. Issues from global earth observation, to access to space, to freedom of operation in space, should be resolved affirmatively as the policy suggests. This requires financial resources - a factor not sufficiently addressed in the policy."

Analysis Compares 2010 with 2006 Policy
The Space Foundation has released a report comparing the 2010 U.S. National Space Policy with the previous 2006 National Space Policy. Prepared by Space Foundation research analyst Mariel John, the report details what is different about the new policy and what areas are similar. Read the report here.

More on 2010 U.S. National Space Policy
For your information, here are links to U.S. Government releases concerning the new National Space Policy:

This article is part of Space Watch: July 2010 (Volume: 9, Issue: 7).