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White House Report Outlines Strategy for Space Exploration and Development

Article by Jeff Foust                                   July 23, 2020                                 (spacenews.com)

• On July 23rd, the White House released a new National Space Council report entitled, “A New Era for Deep Space Exploration and Development”, which outlines how various government agencies, as well as international and commercial partners, will play a role in implementing a national space policy to include a return to the Moon and human missions to Mars.

• The report, requested in August 2019 by Vice President Mike Pence as chairman of the National Space Council, builds on an existing ‘SPD 1’ policy directive and a 2018 National Space Strategy which calls for a sustainable return to the Moon and “peace through strength in the space domain.” It’s not just about NASA or Space Force. It’s about an integrated approach to space exploration and development.

• Space exploration strategy will focus on three major functions: a) commercializing low Earth orbit activities; b) creating a permanently occupied Moon base; and c) sending humans to Mars.

• To accomplish this, the report identifies five roles for the government: a) to create a “secure” space environment with space traffic management; b) support commercial activities in space; c) fund the research and development of key space technologies; d) back space-related scientific activities; and e) being a “reliable customer” to the private space industry by investing in space infrastructure.

• The report outlines how existing policies will be implemented by NASA and other government agencies such as the Departments of Commerce, Defense and Transportation. Providing an idea of how the US government should proceed in the development of space should prove useful when forming international partnerships. “This is hopefully a useful communications tool for dialogue with other space agencies, expressing strategic intent,” said one government official.

• A ‘Users’ Advisory Group’ argued for more attention to academia in the strategy, which was later incorporated into the report. NASA feedback led to more discussion about ‘Low Earth Orbit’ commercialization.

• But the report warns against moving ahead too quickly. “Some people argue that humanity is destined to develop space settlements and become a ‘multi-planetary species,’” the report states. But in order to develop space commerce and habitation, we first need to develop both the technical knowledge of the use of space resources as well as economic rationales to sustain such settlements. “At present, we do not yet know if any of these conditions are possible,” the report concludes.

 

WASHINGTON — A new National Space Council report argues that the exploration and development of space must be an integrated effort that involves not just NASA but other government agencies, as well as international and commercial partners.

The report, “A New Era for Deep Space Exploration and Development,” released July 23 by the White House, is intended to outline how various government agencies will play a role in implementing national space policies, including a human return to the moon and eventual human missions to Mars.

   Vice President Mike Pence

“Although NASA is, and will remain, the primary United States Government entity for civil space exploration efforts, other departments and agencies have increasingly important roles to play in space,” the report states.

The report builds on existing policies, in particular Space Policy Directive (SPD) 1, which called for a sustainable return to the moon led by NASA with various partners, as well as a 2018 National Space Strategy, a broader space policy document that called for “peace through strength in the space domain.”

A senior administration official, speaking on background, said that the new report was intended to emphasize an integrated approach to space exploration and development. “A lot of people weren’t aware of how our approach on space was not just about NASA, not just about Space Force,” the official said. “The point of the report was to build on SPD-1 and also to paint a whole-of-government picture about what we were doing.”

The report describes three major areas of effort in that overall space exploration strategy: commercializing low Earth orbit activities, returning humans to the moon permanently and then sending humans to Mars. Those elements, the report says, also support science and education.

To carry out that strategy, the report identifies five major roles for government: promoting a “secure and predictable” space environment that involves both addressing space traffic management as well as regulatory reforms, supporting commercial activities in space, funding research and development of key space technologies, investing in private space infrastructure by being a “reliable customer” and backing space-related scientific activities.

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We Are in a Space Race That America Needs to Win

Article by Richard M. Harrison and Peter Garretson                          July 10. 2020                          (newsweek.com)

• The Trump administration views space as a new arena of strategic competition. The Pentagon’s recently released ‘Defense Space Strategy’ defines the space domain as “vital to our nation’s security, prosperity and scientific achievement.” Today, the space market is estimated to be $350 billion. But the US Department of Commerce says that current projections put the global space economy at $1 trillion by 2030 and $3 trillion by 2040.

• Meanwhile, American private sector space firms have reduced launch costs, making the positioning of technologies in space more feasible and affordable than ever before. New technological breakthroughs have made activities like mining asteroids achievable within a decade. But this future space economy depends on investment, which depends on security, which depends on a committed US military presence in space. The US Space Force must be capable of defending American interests against both global adversaries who would disrupt US space architecture, as well as natural threats such as asteroids and comets.

• Undoubtedly, the biggest danger is the People’s Republic of China. Beijing recognizes the value of the space domain, and is now trying in earnest to utilize space to achieve its great power ambitions. In April 2019, Dr. Namrata Goswami told the U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission that China had plans to become the world’s leading space power by 2045. To this end, China has already landed on the far side of the Moon and created a lunar biosphere simulation, housing inhabitants within its closed ecosystem for a year. China is developing techniques for asteroid mining, and has developed nuclear-powered shuttles for space exploration and for the industrialization of the Moon. It plans to fabricate satellites that can harness energy in space to become the world’s top supplier of non-carbon producing energy.

• More specifically, China plans to create space-based commercial and industrial facilities and transportation by 2021; space-based power generation by 2030; lunar mining by 2030; and asteroid mining by 2032. China could also gain advantages in areas such as artificial intelligence and cyber-related technologies, thereby increasing its war-fighting capabilities and telecommunications

• The strategic role in space to which Beijing aspires is potentially threatening to the United States, both economically and militarily. The United States will need a concrete plan to go on the strategic offensive to prevail as the planet’s dominant space power.

 

The Trump administration is getting serious about space. Although they have been mocked by critics ignorant of their importance, steps like the administration’s commissioning of the U.S. Space Force, its establishment of a dedicated Space Command and the creation of a dedicated space technology development arm are all signs that the White House is beginning to view space as a new arena of strategic competition. The latest sign in this regard came last month, when the Pentagon formally released its Defense Space Strategy, which defines the space domain as “vital to our nation’s security, prosperity and scientific achievement.”

       Dr. Namrata Goswami

This bold statement reflects a potentially transformative reality: that space is still a largely untapped resource. Today, the current space market is estimated to be $350 billion, but in three decades, it could be worth exponentially more. By the middle of the 21st century, both Bank of America and Merrill Lynch estimate, the space economy will be worth roughly $2.7 trillion.

American policymakers are eager to tap into that potential wealth. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross gave a speech earlier this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos in which he noted that, “Current industry projections place the 2040 global space economy at between $1 trillion and $3 trillion. And I think we will certainly get to a trillion before 2030.” He specifically mentioned America’s near-term priorities in this domain to include lunar mining, asteroid mining and space tourism.

Industry, meanwhile, is already moving in this direction. American private sector space firms have reduced launch costs, making the positioning of technologies in space more feasible and affordable than ever before. Meanwhile, new technological breakthroughs have made activities like mining asteroids achievable within a decade.

But all of that hinges upon investor confidence, and that in turn requires security. For the space economy to expand to its full potential, tech firms and investors alike need to know that their stakes will be safeguarded by a U.S. government that is serious about space. Increasingly, American national security, and our growing list of space-based economic assets, requires a committed military presence with the capability to defend against dangerous naturally occurring phenomena (including asteroids and comets), as well as potential adversaries who are actively developing the means to disrupt, degrade and destroy vital components of the emerging U.S. space architecture.

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Artwork by Dave Simonds for The Economist

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Swiss Start-up ClearSpace Has Support from Microsoft to Clean Up Space

Article by Microsoft Schweiz                            June 22, 2020                            (news.microsoft.com)

• With a rapidly increasing number of satellites launched every year, the population of man-made debris orbiting Earth has exploded over the last ten years. Today there are more than 3,000 failed satellites orbiting Earth. These uncontrollable objects present risks of explosions or collisions with other satellites.

• After repeated notifications by the US Air Force Space Observation Center of collision risks between the SwissCube and other Space objects, the European Space Agency selected ClearSpace to execute the first-ever capture and removal of an uncontrolled satellite orbiting at 7 Kilometers per second at more than 600 Kilometer above sea level. The mission, called ClearSpace-1, is scheduled for 2025. In the meantime, ClearSpace, based in Ecublens, Switzerland, will focus on developing state-of-the-art technologies for sensor fusion, autonomous navigation and space robotics, integrating them into an agile satellite chaser.

• Luc Piguet, CEO and founder of ClearSpace, said, “ClearSpace-1…is the first milestone on the road to a future Space debris removal service at an affordable cost. …We are honored and delighted to have been selected for the Global Social Entrepreneurship Program and look forward to taking our collaboration to the next level – benefitting from Microsoft’s deep expertise and global reach while pursuing our quest in a cutting-edge, secure environment.”

• Andrew Reid, Head of the Swiss Microsoft for Startups program is very excited about the support from Microsoft saying, “The fact that ClearSpace has been selected to join Microsoft’s Global Social Entrepreneurship Program is a well-deserved recognition of the achievements and commitment of the entire team. This enables us to support ClearSpace on a global level and with even more international resources.”

 

Today there are more than 3,000 failed satellites orbiting Earth. These uncontrollable objects present risks of explosions or collisions with other satellites. With a rapidly increasing number of satellites launched every year, the population of man-made debris orbiting Earth has exploded over the last ten years. Keeping space clean in order to ensure sustainable growth in the future has become a huge challenge.

                         Luc Piguet

ClearSpace is committed to solve this problem. The international team, which brings together many years of experience from science and research (EPFL, MIT), agencies (ESA, Nasa/JPL and DLR) and major prime integrators (Airbus, Thales, Ruag, SSTL and others), can also count on the support of a high-ranking Advisory Board, including Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier. The idea emerged from the joint work of some of the founding members of ClearSpace at the EPFL Space Center after the launch of the SwissCube satellite in 2009. The team decided to tackle the problem following repeated notifications by the US Air Force Space observation center of collision risks between the SwissCube and other Space objects.

Pioneering the capture and removal of space debris

The European Space Agency (ESA) has decided to break the ground into sustainable Space development by pioneering this landmark mission and selected ClearSpace to lead it. ClearSpace’s mission is to execute the first-ever capture and removal of an uncontrolled satellite, that is orbiting at 7 Kilometers per second at more than 600 Kilometer above sea level. The team, in collaboration with renowned industrial partners, will focus on developing state-of-the-art technologies for sensor fusion, autonomous navigation and space robotics, integrating them into an agile chaser. The mission called ClearSpace-1 is scheduled for 2025.

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