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The Space Briefing Book

A Reference Guide to Modern Space Activities

Space impacts every facet of 21st century life. Business, governance, security, education, manufacturing, healthcare, communication, and more all rely on space-based infrastructure and the technologies derived from exploring and operating in space. With rapidly expanding space access, miniaturization of technology, growing scientific knowledge, and the enduring human desire to explore our universe, there has never been a more exciting or important time in space.

This Space Briefing Book is a primer and reference guide on the organizations, laws
and regulations, technologies, and factors in modern space operations. It is designed to support and inform legislators and staff, journalists, and others whose work holds a nexus
to space.

The global space economy is worth hundreds of billions of dollars, and in the balance sheet of national priorities, space is a critical investment. It yields cascading dividends for job creation, technology transfer, expanded entrepreneurship, international partnerships, shared research and development, and much more. Indeed, space exploration and operation delivers wider opportunity than any effort on the planet—or beyond it.

Space Sectors

Space endeavors are grouped into sectors: civil, national security (i.e., defense and intelligence), and commercial. Each sector operates with its own goals and assets, although they all rely on a common space industrial base, workforce, and infrastructure.

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Civil

Non-defense-related government space activities, including launching and managing satellites, conducting research, and exploring the solar system. In the United States, nearly all civil space missions are managed or run by NASA and NOAA.

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National Security

The defense and intelligence sectors are commonly considered together as a “national security” sector. The U.S. Department of Defense oversees space missions in support of military operations, and several agencies in the U.S. intelligence community are involved in operating space assets for intelligence purposes to support military and law enforcement operations.

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Commercial

All space-related endeavors—including goods, services and activities—provided by private sector enterprises with the legal capacity to offer their products to nongovernmental customers. Commercial space efforts range from satellite communication
to space tourism.

Recent Space Briefing Book Posts

Minuteman launch abort motor test

Space Sectors

By Space Foundation Editorial Team | October 2, 2019
Posted in

Space endeavors are grouped into sectors: civil, national security (i.e., defense and intelligence), and commercial.

Components of a Space Launch System

By Space Foundation Editorial Team | October 2, 2019
Posted in

Reaching Earth orbit and beyond requires a careful combination of rocket engines, spacecraft, fuels, and other systems. Here is a diagram of a launch system’s components.

Types of Orbits

By Space Foundation Editorial Team | October 2, 2019
Posted in

There are several types of Earth orbit, and each offers certain advantages and capabilities.

International Space Law

By Space Foundation Editorial Team | October 2, 2019
Posted in

There are five international treaties underpinning space law, overseen by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS).

Space Stations

By Space Foundation Editorial Team | October 2, 2019
Posted in

Space stations allow astronauts to conduct research and experiments in space over a long duration. The largest and most sophisticated of these is the International Space Station (ISS).

Space Situational Awareness graphic

Space Situational Awareness

By Space Foundation Editorial Team | October 2, 2019
Posted in

Space Situational Awareness (SSA) refers to keeping track of objects in orbit and predicting where they will be at any given time.

Space Policy Organizations

By Space Foundation Editorial Team | October 2, 2019
Posted in

U.S. Government space policy is guided, developed and established by several organizations within the Executive Branch

Civil Space Agencies

By Space Foundation Editorial Team | October 2, 2019
Posted in

Within the U.S. government, civil space endeavors are managed primarily by NASA or NOAA, with input from other civil agencies.

Space Weather

By Space Foundation Editorial Team | October 2, 2019
Posted in

Tracking space weather is important because solar flares and sunspots can impact Earth’s space- and ground-based infrastructure and technology.

U.S. Space Law

By Space Foundation Editorial Team | October 2, 2019
Posted in

U.S. legislation of existing space-related laws are compiled in Title 51 of the United States Code.