US Military Sees Great Power Competition for Lunar Resources

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Article by Sandra Erwin                                August 20, 2020                                   (aerospace.csis.org)

• What nations do in space will frame any future international space law, says General Steven Butow, director of the space portfolio at the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), a DoD organization in Silicon Valley that works with private commercial vendors developing technologies relevant to national security. Said Butow, “One of the things we don’t want is to let our competitors and adversaries go out and establish the precedent of how things are going to be done in the solar system, starting with the Moon.”

• The Pentagon is concerned about the possibility that China will establish a presence on the Moon and will try to set the international rules of behavior in space. The issue was raised in a “State of the Space Industrial Base Report 2020” published last month by DIU, the Air Force Research Laboratory, and the U.S. Space Force. “As space activities expand beyond geosynchronous orbit, the first nation to establish transportation infrastructure and logistics capabilities serving GEO and cislunar space will have superior ability to exercise control of cislunar space and in particular the Lagrange points and the resources of the Moon,” the report said.

• Control of lunar resources such as hydrogen and oxygen for propellant will be key to “enable overall space commercial development.” And “China has a grand strategy for this,” said Butow. China’s space strategy integrates government, industry and academia. So in order to compete, the United States has to figure out how to marshal the resources of the private sector in a free market economy. The DIU intends to leveraging public private partnerships to our strategic advantage.

• Cislunar space development is likely to be a “hybrid” effort funded both by government and industry. DIU has funded about $200 million worth of space projects with commercial companies that resulted in an additional $2.5 billion in private investment poured into those projects. “We can leverage a lot of that private investment without putting a burden on programs of record which can only be done by the government,” said Butow.

• Brent Sherwood of the private aerospace manufacturer Blue Origin, cautioned that the US government will need to be a stable customer to anchor private businesses contributing to industry in space and on the Moon. But as yet, no one has yet come up with a product that could be generated on the Moon that would add enough value into the terrestrial economy to get private investors to bankroll lunar operations, Sherwood said. NASA selected Blue Origin’s “national team”, which includes Draper, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, to receive a $579 million NASA contract to design vehicles to land humans on the Moon in 2024 under NASA’s Artemis program.

• “We need government to explore and develop the fundamentals,” said Sherwood. “Then we can determine what are the commercial drivers that would cause investment in growth.” “[A]t the beginning there are too many unknowns.” But NASA, other government agencies and the private sector will have to start developing the logistics infrastructure to reach cislunar space and establish a human presence there. Lots of new technologies, such as communications and navigation systems, will be needed to operate there.

• The DIU-led report says US participation in a cislunar economy “will require security and a stabilizing military presence.” The responsibility will fall on the US Space Force to provide “surveillance, aids to navigation, and help when required.”

 

WASHINGTON — The competition for the moon between the Unites States and China is being closely watched by the Defense Department as the military expects to play a role protecting U.S. access to cislunar space.

              General Steven Butow

One concern for the Pentagon is the possibility that China establishes a presence on the moon before the United States and tries to set the international rules of behavior in space, said Brig. Gen. Steven Butow, director of the space portfolio at the Defense Innovation Unit.

DIU is a Defense Department organization based in Silicon Valley that works with commercial vendors developing technologies relevant to national security.

“Competition is a good thing, but hopefully there’ll be opportunities for cooperative uses of space,” Butow said on Wednesday at the Ascend virtual conference hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Laws are set by precedent, said Butow. What nations do in space will frame any future international space law, he added. “One of the things we don’t want is to let our competitors and adversaries go out and establish the precedent of how things are going to be done in the solar system, starting with the moon.”

      Brent Sherwood

The issue was raised in a “state of the space industrial base” report published last month by DIU, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the U.S. Space Force.

“As space activities expand beyond geosynchronous orbit, the first nation to establish transportation infrastructure and logistics capabilities serving GEO and cislunar space will have superior ability to exercise control of cislunar space and in particular the Lagrange points and the resources of the moon,” the report said.

Control of lunar resources such as hydrogen and oxygen for propellant, the report said, will be key to “enable overall space commercial development.”
“China has a grand strategy for this,” said Butow.

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“State of the Space Industrial Base Report 2020”, Blue Origin, Brent Sherwood, China, Defense Innovation Unit, General Steven Butow, NASA’s Artemis program


ExoNews Editor

Duke Brickhouse is a former trial lawyer and entertainment attorney who has refocused his life’s work to exposing the truth of our subjugated planet and to help raise humanity’s collective consciousness at this crucial moment in our planet’s history, in order to break out of the dark and negative false reality that is preventing the natural development of our species, to put our planet on a path of love, light and harmony in preparation for our species’ ascension to a fourth density, and to ultimately take our rightful place in the galactic community.

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