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U. S. Policy Update Stresses Security for Space Systems

An a new directive on space policy, the U. S. Department of Defense emphases a commitment to protect U. S. space assets from external threats, while recognizing the rights of other nation’s to use space for peaceful purposes.

The directive also urges greater cooperation among the world’s space faring nations in mitigating the growing hazard posed by the accumulation of man made orbital debris.

NASA's illustration of the manmade orbital debris hazard in low Earth orbit. Image Credit/NASA Illustration


The directive from Ashton Carter, the U. S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, was issued Oct. 18. However, the declaration went largely unnoticed until it surfaced in an article from the American Forces Press Service prior to Thanksgiving.

The U. S. intent to protect national security space assets, ranging from communications and navigation satellites to weather and other remote sensing spacecraft as well as the ground stations involved in the relay of the information they generate, builds on the National Space Policy issued by President Barack Obama in 2010, the National Security Space Strategy of 2011 and the DOD Strategic Guidance from 2012.

In a fast paced global environment, space also is necessary for the early warnings of missile launches and for keeping the U. S.president connected to U. S. nuclear forces.

“Space  capabilities have long provided strategic national security advantages for the United States,” Carter said in a statement.

“This updated space policy institutionalizes the changes the department has made in an increasingly constrained budget environment to address the complex set of space-related opportunities and challenges.”

Today, 60 countries rely on assets in space to improve their welfare.

Among its objectives, the new U. S. space directive seeks to deter disruption or attacks against space-based systems by establishing international norms for responsible behavior in the conduct of space activities; building coalitions to enhance collective security and making the U.  S. space enterprise more resilient to upheaval.

U. S.intentions include the ability to respond to an attack on the space assets of the U. S. and its allies.

Adversarial  activities involving those assets would be viewed as an “infringement” of  U. S. rights — irresponsible in peacetime and potentially provocative  during a crisis, according to the American Forces interpretation.

One hazard shared by all space faring nations is manmade orbital debris — an issue the latest directive notes U. S.  policymakers intend to address globally.

NASA’s estimates place the number of orbital debris exceeding 5 inches in size at more than 21,000. Estimates place the numbers of smaller  fragments at 500,000. Another one million fragments of less than a half-inch are also whipping around the Earth at destructive velocities.





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