The current Administration has adopted a high-profile approach to space issues. It established a National Space Council, chaired by the Vice President and including various senior members of the Executive Branch. The Council authored multiple Space Policy Directives for Presidential signature on a variety of topics—NASA’s exploration efforts, bolstering the commercial space sector through regulatory streamlining, space traffic management, and the establishment of a Space Force. These efforts were individually laudable but lacked the cohesion of a grand strategy for envisioning America’s future in space.
Several cases illustrate this point:
- A proposal to return to the Moon by 2024 electrified the imagination of many, but if theonly acceptable path to success lies through such inordinately expensive and perennially delayed projects as the Space Launch System or Orion crew vehicle, how could such a challenging schedule goal conceivably be met?
- An ever-increasing population of orbital debris threatens commercial, civil, and defense spacecraft alike, yet the obvious agency choice for dealing with the issue—the Federal Aviation Administration—was passed over in favor of the Commerce Department’s Office of Space Commerce, which has little experience or historical association with the problem.
- While a space-focused arm of the Defense Department can act as an advocate and steward for critical national space priorities, the new U.S. Space Force has focused almost exclusively on operations and protection of legacy satellites and systems at the expense of fielding a new, more resilient space architecture.