Category Archives: Spacepower

UAE to go to Mars

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) formally announced on May 6, 2015, its intention to launch an an indigenously built probe to Mars by July 2010 and have it in orbit around the Red Planet by 2021 to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE.

This is more than just a prestige space mission – though it will have plenty of that for the UAE since, if successful, the probe will be the first Arab and Islamic spacecraft launched for space exploration. More importantly, however, the probe will actually contribute to scientific knowledge about Mars by collecting data on the Martian climate. The science from the UAE mission to Mars will be shared freely with scientists around the world.

This mission is also important because it is demonstrative of the rapid changes occurring in the space sector around the world. The UAE is on the cusp of graduating from an emerging space power – of which there are at least 50 around the world – to an established (and hopefully accomplished) space power. There are geopolitical implications too. The UAE is likely to emerge as the space hub for both the Middle East and for Africa, and will therefore accrue global influence. In fact, the UAE Space Agency has already established a cooperative relationship with the French space agency, CNES, and is engaged in government-to-government space dialogues with a number of other countries, including the United States.

The slick video posted above is a great overview of the UAE mission to Mars. Some might be tempted to dismiss the UAE’s space ambitions, and certainly they face a great number of technological and other challenges. But don’t write these guys off – I’ve met a number of them and they are professional, serious, and have the engineering, scientific, and financial capacity and resources to pull this off.

They’re serious, and everyone I speak with in U.S. and European space circles take them very seriously.

I’m rooting for them, and I hope they achieve – and exceed – their dreams and ambitions in space.

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Filed under Emerging Space Powers, Spacepower, United Arab Emirates

Maritime Domain Awareness Visualization

I came across this video from 2012 that offers a cool visualization of the maritime domain awareness (MDA) tools provided by FleetMon, a German company that provides automatic identification system (AIS) services.

Enjoy!

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When is a space race not a space race?

 The Economist’s Graphic Detail blog posted a chart (see above) on February 18, 2014, on the spending by emerging space powers. It’s a cool chart and very informative.
Less informative is the usual media guff about a so-called space race. The Economist piece is titled “Ye Olde Space Race” while not mentioning who is racing who. Why? Because it is far from obvious that any race is happening between any of the countries cited.
I would say that we should expect better from The Economist, but unfortunately they are among the worst offenders of this nonsense.
Unless, of course, one really believes that when more than two countries develop an interest in acquiring satellites this immediately constitutes a space race…

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Global Space News for Friday, February 14, 2014

Today’s selection of space news from around the world:

1. “GPS pioneer warns on network’s security,” Financial Times (London).

2. “Azerbaijan and Japan to cooperate in production and export of innovative products,” APA News (Baku).

3. “US-French deal gives green light to UAE observation satellites,” Space News (Alexandria, VA).

4. “Global spending on space programs dips,” NBCNews.com (New York City).

5. “US Space Wars: Military space plane aims for 2017 lift off,” The Voice of Russia (Moscow).

6. “Defunct Soviet reconnaissance satellite may hit Earth,” RIA Novosti (Moscow).

7. “China’s Jade Rabbit rover comes ‘back to life’: reports,” The Straits Times (Singapore).

8. “Yutu’s fate unclear as China’s space program rises,” China Digital Times (Berkeley, CA).

9. “Geoimage + Skybox Imaging – FMV + High Resolution Agreement,” SatNews Publishers (Sonoma, CA).

10. “HAL delivers crew module for space program to ISRO,” Outlook (New Delhi).

11. “Scientists use satellites to track whales,” Business Standard (Mumbai).

12. “ISS launches low-cost earth-imaging micro-satellites,” Gizmodo Australia (Sydney).

13. “Turkey’s fifth communications satellite to be launched Friday,” WorldBulletin.net (Istanbul).

14. “Iran satellite case in NY takes complex turn,” The Times of Israel (Jerusalem).

15. “Report: NASA needs agency-wide rules for foreign access to centers,” Space News (Alexandria, VA).

1. “GPS pioneer warns on network’s security,” Financial Times (London):

(PAY-WALL)

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/fadf1714-940d-11e3-bf0c-00144feab7de.html?siteedition=intl#axzz2tGmHBa85

The Global Positioning System helps power everything from in-car satnavs and smart bombs to bank security and flight control, but its founder has warned that it is more vulnerable to sabotage or disruption than ever before – and politicians and security chiefs are ignoring the risk.

Impairment of the system by hostile foreign governments, cyber criminals – or even regular citizens – has become “a matter of national security”, according to Colonel Bradford Parkinson, who is hailed as the architect of modern navigation.

“If we don’t watch out and we aren’t prepared,” then countries could be denied everything from ‘navigation’ to ‘precision weapon delivery’, Mr Parkinson warned.

2. “Azerbaijan and Japan to cooperate in production and export of innovative products,” APA News (Baku):

http://en.apa.az/news/207046

Azerbaijan intends to cooperate with Japan in production and export of innovative products, as well as in satellite technology, the Minister of Communication and Information Technologies Ali Abbasov told journalists.

Today, cooperation issues will be discussed with Japan leading company NEC (Nippon Electric Corporation).

The minister said that company’s delegation will hold a seminar at the Ministry on introduction of the company, improvement of broadband internet and other issues.

3. “US-French deal gives green light to UAE observation satellites,” Space News (Alexandria, VA):

http://www.spacenews.com/article/civil-space/39480us-french-deal-gives-green-light-to-uae-observation-satellites

The U.S.-French summit in Washington has produced a U.S. agreement on the export of U.S. satellite components for a French contract to provide two high-resolution optical Earth observation satellites to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), European industry officials said.

The decision, which they said came only after the U.S. State Department agreed to the deal and then withdrew its agreement and passed the subject to the White House, should enable the $1.1 billion Falcon Eye contract to begin its production phase.

Nonetheless, the Feb. 12 U.S. approval for the export to France of satellite components used in the two satellites came about two weeks after a contractually agreed deadline of Jan. 29.

4. “Global spending on space programs dips,” NBCNews.com (New York City):

http://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/cosmic-shift-global-spending-space-programs-dips-n29861

Global spending on government space programs dropped for the first time in almost two decades in 2013, a report showed on Thursday, as rising investment among emerging nations failed to offset cuts by the United States.

An annual report by consultancy Euroconsult showed global budgets for space programs dropped to $72.1 billion from $72.9 billion in 2012, the first drop since 1995.

The United States invested $38.7 billion in civil- and defense-related space projects, $8.8 billion down from its 2009 peak but still more than half of the global total.

5. “US Space Wars: Military space plane aims for 2017 lift off,” The Voice of Russia (Moscow):

http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_02_12/US-space-wars-Military-Space-Plane-aims-for-2017-lift-off-8796/

The US Defense Department is attempting to develop a new unmanned spacecraft that could enter low Earth orbit faster and with more frequency than ever before.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) plans to award the first design contracts for the vehicle project — known as Experimental Spaceplane, or XS-1— in May or thereabouts, officials said. Current schedules call for the vessel to get off the ground for the first time in late 2017 and make an orbital test flight the following year.

DARPA has high expectations for the XS-1 program, which it hopes can eventually launch 3,000- to 5,000-lb (1,361 to 2,268 kilograms) payloads to orbit for less than $5 million per flight — and to do it at least 10 times per year.

6. “Defunct Soviet reconnaissance satellite may hit Earth,” RIA Novosti (Moscow):

http://en.ria.ru/russia/20140212/187469462/Defunct-Soviet-Reconnaissance-Satellite-May-Hit-Earth.html

A decommissioned Soviet military satellite will burn up in the atmosphere Sunday in an uncontrolled descent and surviving fragments may hit Earth, according to an aerospace defense official.

The military is actively monitoring the satellite using its space tracking network, which has indicated that it will impact the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, Colonel Alexei Zolotukhin said Friday.

“As of February 7, 2014 the fragments are expected to fall on February 16. The exact impact time and location of the fragments from the Kosmos-1220 satellite may change due to external factors,” Zolotukhin said.

7. “China’s Jade Rabbit rover comes ‘back to life’: reports,” The Straits Times (Singapore):

http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/asia/story/chinas-jade-rabbit-rover-comes-back-life-reports-20140213

China’s troubled Jade Rabbit lunar rover, which experienced mechanical difficulties last month, has come “back to life”, state media reported on Thursday.

“It came back to life! At least it is alive and so it is possible we could save it,” the official Xinhua news agency quoted Pei Zhaoyu, spokesman for the lunar programme, as saying on a verified account on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

The probe, named Yutu or Jade Rabbit after the pet of Chang’e, the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology, had experienced a “mechanical control abnormality” last month, provoking an outpouring of sympathy from weibo users.

8. “Yutu’s fate unclear as China’s space program rises,” China Digital Times (Berkeley, CA):

http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2014/02/jade-rabbit-dies-chinas-space-program-rises/

Communication was established with Chang’e-3 [the lander module] but today, the ECNS news agency reported efforts to reactive the rover were unsuccessful. “China’s first lunar rover, Yutu, could not be restored to full function on Monday as expected, and netizens mourned it on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service. Yutu experienced mechanical problems on Jan 25 and has been unable to function since then.” No other details were given.

The rover’s mechanical problems are likely related to critical components that must be protected during the cold lunar night. When temperatures plunge, the rover’s mast is designed to fold down to protect delicate instruments, which can then be kept warm by a radioactive heat source. Yutu also needs to angle a solar panel towards the point where the sun will rise to maintain power levels. A mechanical fault in these systems could leave the rover fatally exposed to the dark and bitter cold.

9. “Geoimage + Skybox Imaging – FMV + High Resolution Agreement,” SatNews Publishers (Sonoma, CA):

http://www.satnews.com/story.php?number=1340068326&menu=1

Geoimage has been selected by Skybox Imaging (Skybox) to distribute Skybox’s high-resolution imagery and full motion HD video to the Australasian region and Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

SkySat-1 is a high-performance satellite capable of providing 4-band, high-resolution, sub-metre class imagery. Operating in a sun-synchronous orbit of 600 kilometers, SkySat-1 also provides the first commercial high-resolution, full-motion video from space at 30 frames per second. SkySat-1 is the first of Skybox’s planned 24-satellite constellation, which will enable revisit of up to four times per day.

“Geoimage has extensive local expertise in providing Australian customers with superior support and augmented geospatial solutions,” said Matt Wood, Skybox Senior Director of Enterprise Solutions. “Selecting key partners in the industry is fundamental to our strategy of making our imagery accessible, timely, and easy-to-use. We are proud to announce our partnership with Geoimage to introduce our products to the Australasian market.”

10. “HAL delivers crew module for space program to ISRO,” Outlook (New Delhi):

http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=828822

Defence major Hindustan Aeronautics Limited today said it has handed over the first “Crew Module Structural Assembly” for the “Human Spaceflight Program” to Indian Space Research Organisation.

HAL handed over the Crew Module to ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, in Bangalore, recently, the company said in a release.

The first Crew Module will be further equipped with systems necessary for crew support, navigation, guidance and control systems by ISRO for experimentation in the forthcoming GSLV-MK3 launch, the release said.

11. “Scientists use satellites to track whales,” Business Standard (Mumbai):

http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/scientists-use-satellites-to-track-whales-114021300614_1.html

Scientists are using a new high-resolution satellite technology to track whales, count their numbers and estimate their population size.

Using Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite imagery, alongside image processing software, researchers were able to automatically detect and count whales breeding in part of the Golfo Nuevo, Peninsula Valdes in Argentina.

The new method could revolutionise how whale population size is estimated, researchers said.

12. “ISS launches low-cost earth-imaging micro-satellites,” Gizmodo Australia (Sydney):

http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2014/02/meet-the-flockers-iss-launches-low-cost-earth-imaging-micro-satellites/

Since the launch of the Landsat program in 1972, generating images of Earth from space has been the near-exclusive domain of enormous, multi-million dollar satellites sponsored by nations and major defence corporations. But these new micro-satellites, recently launched from the ISS, aim to make real-time imaging available for a fraction of the price.

Designed, built, and operated by San Francisco-based Planet Labs, the micro-satellite (aka “CubeSats”) system consists of 28 imaging satellites, individually known as Doves, and collectively known as Flock 1.

These CubeSats are constructed largely from low-cost, non-traditional components, which drastically reduces the cost of each unit. The Flock was first delivered to the ISS last December aboard Orbital Sciences’ robotic Cygnus vessel, and were released from the ISS using the station’s on-board cube cannon.

13. “Turkey’s fifth communications satellite to be launched Friday,” WorldBulletin.net (Istanbul):

http://www.worldbulletin.net/news/128848/turkeys-fifth-communications-satellite-to-be-launched-friday

The TURKSAT 4A Communication Satellite – Turkey´s fifth to be put into orbit – will be launched on Friday from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan.

The Turksat 4A telecommunication satellite was jointly produced with Turkish and Japanese engineers who arrived at the Baikonur on January 16.

Turkey’s Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Minister Lutfi Elvan travelled to Kazakhstan to follow the launch of the satellite.

14. “Iran satellite case in NY takes complex turn,” The Times of Israel (Jerusalem):

http://www.timesofisrael.com/iran-satellite-case-in-ny-takes-complex-turn/

Federal agents intercepted the wealthy Iranian entrepreneur at a US airport, questioned him about his business and charged him with illegal export of American-made satellite equipment to his native country.

Seyed Amin Ghorashi Sarvestani pleaded guilty soon afterward, but changed circumstances now have encouraged him to challenge his 30-month prison sentence.

Since his plea, the federal government has approved for export to Iran the very products he was convicted of helping ship, his lawyers say. Then federal prosecutors in New York told a judge after the sentencing hearing that they had mistakenly exaggerated the equipment’s capabilities. The judge hasn’t moved to change the sentence, though lawyers for both sides are continuing to press their arguments.

15. “Report: NASA needs agency-wide rules for foreign access to centers,” Space News (Alexandria, VA):

http://www.spacenews.com/article/civil-space/39484report-nasa-needs-agency-wide-rules-for-foreign-access-to-centers

NASA should centralize the patchwork of security procedures and personnel governing foreign access to its U.S. field centers, an independent panel recommended in a report triggered by allegations of security breaches at the centers.

“There is no systematic approach to [foreign national access management] at NASA,” said the report from the National Academy for Public Administration. “[T]he result is a broad range of outcomes, many of which are insufficient.”

The report, “An Independent Review of Foreign National Access Management,” is the result of an investigation NASA requested back in March 2013 after Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) went public with allegations of security breaches involving foreign nationals at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. Wolf is chairman of the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee that funds NASA.

 

 

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Defense News: A New Opportunity for US-Asian Space Cooperation

Japan IGS

My Tokyo associate Lance Gatling and I are now three for three. A shortened version of the Space News opinion piece by us, published on February 11, is published in this week’s edition of Defense News, and can be read here.

Opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region for U.S. space industry abound!

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Filed under Asia-Pacific, Defense News, Emerging Space Powers, Lance Gatling, Publications, Shameless Self-Promotion, Space News, Spacepower, U.S. National Security Space, U.S. Space Industry

An Investment Strategy for US National Security Space

040210dsp

In collaboration with my friend and George C. Marshall Institute boss Jeff Kueter, I authored a Special Report for the Heritage Foundation titled “An Investment Strategy for US National Security Space.”

Jeff and I wrote the report last summer, partly during when I was still working for the U.S. Air Force. For the purposes of full disclosure, when I was employed by the U.S. Air Force I wrote this report in my own spare time using my own private resources.

The report can be accessed for free, but I am posting the abstract here for those hard-pressed for time to wade through a 26 page document:

Today’s space systems fulfill five purposes: (1) environmental monitoring; (2) communications; (3) position, navigation, and timing; (4) integrated tactical warning and attack assessment; and (5) intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. These missions are integral to a new American way of warfare. Direct and indirect challenges to American power in space are growing. Other nations are expanding their capabilities to interdict or deny U.S. access to space. Mounting fiscal pressures will likely necessitate changes in national “security space” force structures and acquisition approaches. This Special Report explores the implications of these challenges on U.S. national security space programs and policies. It sets the context for future decision making, providing insight into the myriad issues—from allied capability and intentions to extant arms control proposals—that will likely influence these decisions.The United States is approaching a critical juncture on its investments in national security space capabilities. This juncture is imminent due to the convergence of three forces: (1) a fundamental shift in U.S. defense and diplomatic strategy from the western to the eastern Eurasian landmass—the so-called pivot toward the Asia-Pacific; (2) a large number of the national security space capabilities upon which the United States and its allies critically rely are now legacy systems in need of upgrades and replacement; and (3) severe fiscal pressures on Department of Defense and intelligence community budgets. As the strategic context shifts, the military’s dependence on space systems becomes ever more acute. Since the 1990s, military use of space has grown exponentially, but new strategic demands, bolstered by the accumulating demands of technology, require development of entirely new national security space systems if the United States is to meet future national security challenges with plausible preparedness.

I welcome any comments on this report, and – of course – any other publications I post here.

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A New Chance for U.S.-Asian Space Cooperation

Asia from Space

The February 11, 2013, edition of Space News has published the second essay by Lance Gatling and I on the opportunities for US.-Asia-Pacific national security space cooperation. Our first installment was published in The Straits Times (Singapore), on Friday, February 8, 2013 – and can be found here.

Subscribers to Space News can access the essay here; I provide the text of the essay for non-subscribers below:

A New Chance for U.S.-Asian Space Cooperation

By Lance Gatling, John B. Sheldon | Feb. 11, 2013

The enactment of much-needed satellite export control reforms in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is not only a welcome opportunity for the U.S. space industry to compete on a more level playing field with international competitors, it also offers a unique opportunity for U.S. commercial interests to dovetail with Washington’s strategic interests in the vitally important Asia-Pacific region.

Hopefully, the new export control regime set out in the 2013 NDAA is not just the only step on the road to comprehensive reform of how the U.S. regulates sensitive, dual-use space technologies. If properly structured and administered, it will also provide the long-sought opportunity for the U.S. space industry to compete on a more equal basis in the expanding and increasingly important Asia-Pacific space market by providing simplified and faster export procedures and administration compared with the more restrictive and complex export controls of the State Department’s Munitions List currently in place.

While still providing adequate export controls, the speed and transparency of a new system should result in U.S. procedures being more competitive with European export control regimes. But while this change provides much desired clarity and transparency in commercial and civil space export procedures, the opportunity to address broader U.S. bilateral — and possibly multilateral — cooperation in Asia-Pacific national security space should not be forgotten.

Responding to years of discussion and the President’s Export Control Reform Initiative, the 2013 NDAA allows the president to propose removing satellites and related items from the State Department’s highly restrictive Munitions List — a compilation of sensitive, controlled militarily-useful technology and hardware — and restore them, subject to conditions to be proposed by the administration, to the Department of Commerce’s less restrictive yet still carefully controlled Control List of dual-use technologies, which is how they were successfully managed from 1996 to 1999. Such a change will not mean that all requests to export satellites and related subcomponents abroad will be automatically granted, but any reasonable Commerce Department system should make it much easier and quicker for policymakers to approve most exports when U.S. manufacturers and their customers abroad meet appropriate criteria. This is especially important when the reality today is that the technology in question is more and more widely available throughout the world; failing to recognize this harms U.S. strategic and commercial interests.

While the industrial and commercial benefits of satellite export control reforms are obvious and welcome, more broadly the timing of this policy change may also present an opportunity for U.S. commercial interests to dovetail with Washington’s strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region. In particular, U.S. satellite export control reform may provide a unique opportunity for the United States to further strengthen key close alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia and Singapore; reinforce links with traditional friends such as the Philippines and Thailand; and expand ties with countries such as Indonesia, Myanmar, Mongolia and Vietnam.

Most of these Asia-Pacific allies are established, new or aspirational space powers and seek to exploit satellite capabilities for civil as well as national security purposes. The region is already a prime commercial and civil market for American space systems, turnkey space services and even significant industrial cooperation in some areas; U.S. willingness to offer Asia-Pacific allies appropriate levels of cooperation and visibility into national security space solutions should provide additional opportunities on all sides. Also, a glance at the current web of telecommunications, Earth observation, maritime shipping and fishing, and weather satellite coverage of the Asia-Pacific region, as well as its soaring telecommunications demand, shows that international cooperation in broad area communications coverage, maritime domain awareness, primary and alternate ground stations, and remote sensing systems can and does serve a number of nations and interests.

Japan, South Korea and Australia are now developing their own space systems capable of supporting national security tasks. With the 2013 NDAA export control reforms, these nascent efforts might be further encouraged and strengthened by deeper U.S. engagement and space capacity building — which would be consistent with the 2010 U.S. National Space Policy. Once the new export control regime is established, the United States should study opportunities to deepen cooperation with these allies. For example, Japan has expressed interest in the co-development of certain space systems with the United States that could be of utility to U.S., Japanese and perhaps other countries’ security interests. Similar opportunities might be explored with South Korea, which has supported the development of an increasingly sophisticated national satellite manufacturing and launch capability. Certainly there are many technical and operational details to be mastered before meaningful cooperation can result, including compartmentalization and protection of operational and technical information, but these two advanced economies have much to contribute under the right conditions. Other countries’ interests should be considered, too, as the Japanese have engaged Vietnam to provide radar remote sensing satellites, and Thailand and Mongolia seek their own remote sensing capabilities to monitor vastly different environments, ranging from Mongolia’s plains to tropical jungle, but which of necessity will use very similar orbits and excess capacity that will be useful to several countries.

With the fulcrum of the global economy increasingly shifting towards Asia, and the myriad security challenges that trouble the region, the pursuit of the strategic attributes of space power — perspective, access, presence and extended strategic depth — by any number of Asian nations will both create economic opportunities and provide opportunities to ameliorate the potential for conflict. Space technologies not only provide national and international connectivity, but also can revolutionize land and resource use as well as urban planning. These benefits are of huge importance to resource-hungry nations with insufficient infrastructure and growing population pressures. Addressing these challenges with new, innovative space applications can create value and new economic opportunities from satellite communications, navigation and remote sensing systems. Also, new value-added services may be developed with controlled, national-level data; as the space segment hardware is already developed and proved, there may be substantial opportunity in the development of software and distribution systems, technologies for which the technical and economic barriers to entry are relatively low, and may prove attractive and viable to any number of Asian countries.

At the same time, such systems can enhance the national security of U.S. friends and allies by providing redundant and secure communications, and by supporting greater and more efficient border security and maritime domain awareness and exclusive economic zone monitoring. Dual-use remote sensing space systems also can help countries more efficiently utilize scarce naval and air assets in ensuring regional freedom of navigation and the defense of sovereign rights, such as the monitoring and patrolling of fisheries and exclusive economic zones.

Space systems contribute to national and regional security because of their unique strategic attributes of perspective, access, presence and enhanced strategic depth. Satellites in orbits ranging from 241 to 35,880 kilometers in altitude occupy the oft-cited “high ground,” providing a unique perspective from which to observe a large swathe of Earth’s surface. This broad perspective, combined with the ability of satellites to legally overfly the sovereign territory of other countries (guaranteed in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty as ratified by every Asia-Pacific nation except Cambodia), provides legal access to observation beyond national boundaries. In turn, this legal access confers a measure of presence over areas of strategic interest for the purposes of surveillance, as is the case with space-based maritime domain awareness.

This, combined with the increasing technical capabilities of small Earth observation satellites — such as the U.S. Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space satellites or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Space Enabled Effects for Military Engagements microsatellite development program — is one of the reasons that small satellites in low Earth orbit are increasingly performing the Earth observation and reconnaissance roles heretofore performed by aircraft. The final link in this chain, affordable launch services for small satellites, is being pursued by a number of countries and commercial companies, and is another potential area of international cooperation because of the wide appeal of its utility.

The combination of perspective, access and presence provides the fourth attribute of space power — enhanced strategic depth. The ability to establish a long-term capability to see beyond national boundaries and access otherwise denied territory, or to observe quickly vast areas over these places, such as oceans, enhances strategic depth since it allows countries to literally trade space for time. This can lead to better-informed decision-making as well as more measured and improved response options to potential provocations and crises.

Not only can space systems provide improved national and regional security for U.S. friends and allies in the Asia-Pacific, they could also help the United States better manage its security commitments in an era of tremendous fiscal constraints; consequently, it is very much in the economic and strategic interests of the U.S. to help its friends and allies in the region become dependable space powers in order to better defend themselves, which in turn would strengthen regional security.

The growing realization of the importance of coordinating regional space policy can be seen in the recent introduction of national security space issues to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum and the growing dialogue on civil space issues in the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum. With or without strategic advantages accruing to the U.S. as a result of engagement, the reality of space technology today is that an increasing number of countries, including the U.K. and other European countries, Russia, China and Japan, are willing to provide their expertise in space hardware and launch services for either commercial or “soft power” political engagements to any number of aspiring spacefaring nations.

Space cooperation on dual-use space systems will demonstrate to allies that the U.S. is prepared to take relationships to a new level of trust, as the technology involved has been seen as overly guarded for years. For the United States, well-coordinated, broader engagement could result in allies or cooperative bilateral systems shouldering some of the onerous costs of providing much-needed information on the region by filling blind spots or providing redundancy. Further, active dual-use space cooperation engagement would provide a strategically and politically powerful statement of commitment from America to its allies in the region. The net result could mean a greater level of political and strategic commitment to trans-Pacific security relationships and greater trust in partnership with America in space. The time is right for this step.

 

Lance Gatling is president of Nexial Research Inc., an aerospace and defense consultancy based in Tokyo. John B. Sheldon is president of the Torridon Group LLC, an international space and cyberspace policy and strategy consultancy based in Washington.

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