Obama Administration Releases “National Space Policy”

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Publication date: 
29 June 2010

“The National Space Policy expresses the President’s direction for the Nation’s space activities” explains the White House Fact Sheet accompanying yesterday’s release of  “National Space Policy of the United States of America.”  This fourteen-page document with the seal of the President of the United States has a wide focus, encompassing many more topics than the proposed use of commercial flight services to the International Space Station.

Neither the policy, the Fact Sheet, nor a NASA press release identifies all of the officials involved in this effort.  The NASA release titled “NASA Plays Key Role in New Administration Space Policy” provided a lengthy statement by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden explaining “NASA is pleased to be an integral part of President Obama's National Space Policy. NASA's new direction, announced as part of the fiscal year 2011 budget, is embodied in the new National Space Policy. I would like to thank Lori Garver, my deputy, who led this policy review for NASA, and Phil Mcalister, the NASA representative, who led our working group effort.”Mcalister is the Special Assistant for Program Analysis, Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation, at NASA Headquarters and was a member of the Review of Human Space Flight Plans Committee.

The policy is divided into five sections: Introduction, Principles, Goals, Intersector Guidelines, and Sector Guidelines.

The key statement in the one and one-half page Introduction, after a description of the importance of space, exclaims: “All nations have the right to use and explore space, but with this right also comes responsibility. The United States, therefore, calls on all nations to work together to adopt approaches for responsible activity in space to preserve this right for the benefit of future generations.”

A one-page statement of Principles describes the U.S. positions on international space exploration, responsible use, and conduct, noting “there shall be no national claims of sovereignty”; the importance of a “robust and competitive commercial space sector”; and national security.

Six overarching Goals are established: 1.) “Energize competitive domestic industries,” 2.) “Expand international cooperation,” 3.) “Strengthen stability in space,” 4.) “Increase assurance and resilience of mission-essential functions,” 5.) “Pursue human and robotic initiatives,” and 5.) “Improve space-based Earth and solar observation.”

Working from these principles and goals, the Space Policy sets forth important guidance to federal departments and agencies in a section entitled “Intersector Guidelines.”  Categorized as follows, the guidelines are between one sentence and several paragraphs in length.

“Foundational Activities and Capabilities”   “Strengthen U.S. Leadership in Space-Related Science, Technology and Industrial Bases”   “Enhance Capabilities for Assured Access to Space”   “Maintain and Enhance Space-based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Systems”   “Develop and Retain Space Professionals”   “Strengthen Interagency Partnerships”

“International Cooperation”   “Strengthen U.S. Space Leadership”   “Identify Areas for Potential International Cooperation”   “Develop Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures”

“Preserving the Space Environment and the Responsible Use of Space”   “Preserve the Space Environment”   “Foster the Development of Space Collision Warning Measures”

“Effective Export Policies”

“Space Nuclear Power”

“Radiofrequency Spectrum and Interference Protection”

“Assurance and Resilience of Mission-Essential Functions”

For what are described as the “distinct but interdependent sectors” of Commercial Space, Civil Space, and National Security, a series of Sector Guidelines were developed. Certain to attract considerable interest in a section within the Civil Space Guidelines is a subsection entitled “Space Science, Exploration, and Discovery” that is shown in its entirety below:

“Space Science, Exploration, and Discovery

The Administrator of NASA shall:

Set far-reaching exploration milestones. By 2025, begin crewed missions beyond the moon, including sending humans to an asteroid. By the mid-2030s, send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth;

Continue the operation of the International Space Station (ISS), in cooperation with its international partners, likely to 2020 or beyond, and expand efforts to: utilize the ISS for scientific, technological, commercial, diplomatic, and educational purposes; support activities requiring the unique attributes of humans in space; serve as a continuous human presence in Earth orbit; and support future objectives in human space exploration;

Seek partnerships with the private sector to enable safe, reliable, and cost-effective commercial spaceflight capabilities and services for the transport of crew and cargo to and from the ISS;

Implement a new space technology development and test program, working with industry, academia, and international partners to build, fly, and test several key technologies that can increase the capabilities, decrease the costs, and expand the opportunities for future space activities;

Conduct research and development in support of next-generation launch systems, including new U.S. rocket engine technologies;

Maintain a sustained robotic presence in the solar system to: conduct scientific investigations of other planetary bodies; demonstrate new technologies; and scout locations for future human missions;

Continue a strong program of space science for observations, research, and analysis of our Sun, solar system, and universe to enhance knowledge of the cosmos, further our understanding of fundamental natural and physical sciences, understand the conditions that may support the development of life, and search for planetary bodies and Earth-like planets in orbit around other stars; and

Pursue capabilities, in cooperation with other departments, agencies, and commercial partners, to detect, track, catalog, and characterize near-Earth objects to reduce the risk of harm to humans from an unexpected impact on our planet and to identify potentially resource-rich planetary objects.”

Other sections within the Civil Space Guidelines pertain to “Environmental Earth Observation and Weather” and “Land Remote Sensing.”

The ““National Space Policy of the United States of America” can be viewed here.

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