Space Foundation News

Space Foundation CEO Delivers State of Space Keynote Urging U.S. to Declare Space as Critical Infrastructure

Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — March 2, 2023 — In an annual State of Space 2023 keynote video and commentary, Tom Zelibor, CEO of Space Foundation, a nonprofit advocate organization founded in 1983 for the global space ecosystem, speaks to business and government leaders to showcase the diverse perspectives and experiences that are contributing to the growth of the space ecosystem and the pressing need to declare space a U.S. critical infrastructure.

With over 90 countries operating in space and more companies and participants than ever before taking their place in the $469 billion economic frontier, opportunities are flourishing.

Today, we are in a new renaissance for space with revolutionary opportunities for shared exploration, commerce, research, innovation and security.

In 2022, we saw the largest number of satellite deployments ever, the launch and lunar orbit of NASA’s Space Launch System, and even altered the course of an asteroid.

Happening alongside these groundbreaking achievements were numerous private sector missions as well as the first revealing images and discoveries captured by the James Webb Space Telescope.

We’re also experiencing firsthand how our dependence on space technology impacts everything from precision agriculture and environmental sustainability to medical care and national security.

Quite simply, space is an indispensable critical infrastructure, and it’s time it should be treated as such.

Declare Space a Critical Infrastructure — Here’s Why

When most people think of infrastructure, they think of roads, dams, bridges and utilities. These elements of infrastructure are necessary for modern society to function and are appropriately treated as “critical” when it comes to policy, budgetary and legal decision-making. Space should be viewed the same way.

Space affords access and essential data and connectivity that is necessary for every country, industry and community to be part of the 21st century. And it should go without saying that the disruption or destruction of space assets and access would have a debilitating effect on national and economic security that would ripple across the globe.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has 16 defined critical infrastructure sectors. Space is not one of them. The reasons are both political and economic. Many still fail to see just how essential space is to everyday life, and if it were designated as critical infrastructure, the government would have to fund it in ways it is not prepared to do. That must change.

As a retired Rear Admiral, I can’t help but harken back to the earliest days of the Navy to describe the role space plays. In 1794, Congress established the U.S. Navy to protect commercial ships from pirates in the Mediterranean and Atlantic waters. This branch of the service operated under Maritime Law, securing our borders and ensuring safe trade and commerce as well as international cooperation. It’s difficult to imagine a world where the Navy hadn’t performed this role.

Like our oceans, no single country owns space. Today, countries and companies operate in space cooperatively for research, exploration, commerce and security operations every day. As impressive as this is, it poses significant risks regarding our assets both “up there” and on Earth, as other countries possess and seek to acquire capabilities to adversely impact those assets.

Just as the oceans needed international guidelines as established by Maritime Law, we also need them for space. These guidelines are how we will cooperate with and support other nations in the future, regardless of who is asking for help. The lives of people across our planet depend on space, and as such, we have a responsibility to one another to fund and protect it.

Failure to appropriately exploit space will be a national and economic security downfall if we do not act strategically.

With the establishment of Space Force and the current administration’s National Security Strategy, the U.S. government has declared our dependence upon space assets, systems and networks — and the need to protect them from a range of threats. But those recognitions do not go far enough. Space must be viewed, funded and resourced as critical infrastructure.

To be sure, a formal or official declaration of critical infrastructure will not on its own mitigate those threats. However, a declaration of space as critical infrastructure from the administration and U.S. Congress will allow the mobilization of policy and programmatic structures to better integrate space into the resilience planning and coordination efforts necessary to safeguard it. Those steps will secure the promise of a growing and enterprising space economy and all the services, resources and people that depend on it — today and for every generation.

That has always been the intent with every other critical infrastructure, and the same should be true for space. The state of space today demands a new status, and the time for action has come.

State of Space 2023

All information courtesy of Space Foundation’s The Space Report

To see the complete State of Space 2023 keynote by Tom Zelibor and the entire event including guest speakers noted below, visit

  • National Security: Kari Bingen, Director of the Aerospace Security Project and Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  • Media: Miriam Kramer, Senior Space Reporter, Axios
  • Business/Investment: Jeffrey Manber, President of International and Space Stations, Voyager Space Holdings
  • Education: Heidi Ragsdale, STEM educator and International Teacher Liaison
  • International: Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of the Space Economy Evolution Lab and former head of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA)

About Tom Zelibor

Tom Zelibor, Rear Admiral, USN (ret.), is the CEO for Space Foundation, a nonprofit advocate organization founded in 1983 for the global space ecosystem. Headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Zelibor manages a national staff with a global impact across the business, government, education and local communities. Before joining Space Foundation in April 2017, Zelibor served as chairman and chief executive officer for Lightwave Logic Inc., among other executive roles in commercial enterprises. Prior to his leadership tenure in the private sector, Zelibor had a distinguished 30-year career in the United States Navy.

About Space Foundation

Space Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1983, offering information, education and collaboration for the global space ecosystem. Driven by partnerships, Space Foundation unites the entire spectrum of stakeholders — business, government, education and local communities — through support from corporate members, sponsors, fundraising and grants. Visit Space Foundation at, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.


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Tags: Space Foundation, State of Space, Tom Zelibor, Space Force, space technology, space innovation, space ecosystem, space advocate, space commerce, space exploration, critical infrastructure, National Security Strategy, commercial space, space-inspired industries

Media Contacts:

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Space Foundation
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