Uh Oh: The Space Community Is Writing A White Paper - Again

Keith's note: Here we go again. Its presidential transition team season and all the space fans are lining up trying to get their ideas in front of the new Administration. As is usually the case someone starts a white paper and looks for supporters who invariably start to edit and nick pick and add wish lists. Space organizations such as the Space Foundation, the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, the Satellite Industry Association, and the Aerospace Industries Association are supporting this particular white paper/position paper effort. There may be other organizations lurking in the shadows. Meanwhile, organizations such as the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and the AIAA are shunning the effort. For now. Other organizations have not been approached. Then there's swarm of space advocacy groups, pundits, and thought influencers, whose views will be all over the map. Welcome to the space community.

Eventually, since these efforts inevitably turn into a circular firing squad with everyone wanting everything they want - but not what anyone else wants, some early participants will walk out in a huff and badmouth the effort. In the end this will be yet another example of choir practice by the usual suspects in an echo chamber. Invariably, since only a subset of the usual suspects are involved, other efforts will pop up and the net result will be a inconsistent bunch of noise from the space community. Surprise surprise.

At one point the white paper says "It is imperative to fully fund the nation's space exploration enterprise in the face of competing policy priorities." Why is that at all imperative? Isn't defeating COVID-19 and bringing our economy back more of an imperative? Space fans seem to not be listening to President-elect Biden or reading the newspapers. It may well be that NASA's budget and the budgets of other agencies will need to take a hit to get us through this. Or maybe NASA can tweak what it does to be more of partner in a whole-of-government effort to solve pressing national challenges.

Oh and then there's the whole climate change issue that the Biden team has listed as one of its top 4 priorities. That is not even mentioned. Nor does this paper even reflect a cognizance of what the Biden team has been saying that it wants to do in other areas - and why it thinks that these things are important. Is NASA Independent of the national priorities that affect the rest of the government? Indeed the word "Biden" appears nowhere in this paper. Nor is there any mention of the pending issues affecting the new Congress. Cluelessness abounds within this paper that purports to represent the consensus of the space community. But space fans know more than the Biden folks do, I guess.

Meanwhile, the Biden Transition Team is having to work with zero cooperation from the Trump Administration while facing a raging pandemic and an economy that is spiraling downward. Yet space people seem to think that there is going to be a lot of interest by the Biden Transition Team in the self-serving wish list of all the space fans who think that all of their things are important because they think that these things are important. Read on and you will see every tired and worn justification for spending piles of money on space stuff in a shopping list meant to make everyone's Christmas stocking full.

And when the Biden Transition Team gives the space fans a look of bewilderment in reaction to a totally self-serving laundry list of "gimmies" the space community will turn and tell everyone that Biden is anti-space. Truth be known, the space community has lived in a little alternate reality bubble for far too long - a bubble inflated to near bursting with fairy dust and unicorns by the Trump Administration and its Make Space Great Again memes. Oh and then there's the Space Force waiting to beam everyone up.

The exploration and utilization of space offers to enable an incredible future full of promise, benefits, and adventure for both our nation and the rest of the world. Yet if we just leave it to the space community to call the shots then all we will get is a disjointed collection of more of the same - and less of the immense potential of what could otherwise come to be.

As such, here is the latest iteration of the space community wish list I have seen. Stay tuned. There will be more ...

"Leading the next generation in space - A vision for the 117th Congress"

"Space impacts every facet of 21st-century life. Business, governance, security, education, manufacturing, healthcare, communication, and many other sectors rely on space-based infrastructure and technologies. The nation's space exploration enterprise is facing unprecedented challenges and demands attention and action from policy makers.

To ensure that the United States continues to prosper and lead in outer space, the incoming 117th Congress will have to:"

"Support Key Space Policy Decision-Making Bodies

The global space policy environment is rapidly evolving. Increased global space development is bringing forth untold opportunities for peaceful collaboration in space between peaceful, like-minded nations. 

Addressing the complex international policy environment requires a whole-of-government approach to space policy. The National Space Council, chaired by the Vice President, and the Users' Advisory Group, have been effective in coordinating the United States' space exploration enterprise. While NASA is the leader of national efforts in civil space, there are dozens of agencies, departments, and organizations throughout the U.S. government with a role in space operations, policy, funding, and other matters. Further coordination of regulatory frameworks across government agencies, such as those for space traffic management and spectrum allocation, will be vital in ensuring access to space and continued growth of U.S. industry.

The United States should maintain strong bipartisan support for the national security space community. Recognition of increasing space threats and reliance of the military on space technologies, including robust satellite communications, remote sensing, and the Global Positioning System, demand coordination across military space organizations. The United States Space Force, in partnership with U.S. Space Command, is essential to addressing space threats, properly streamlining military space acquisitions, and nurturing a dedicated military space warfighting culture.

The commercial sector continues to be key to U.S. space preeminence, and the Office of Space Commerce has sought to promote the broader space economy through mechanisms such as regulatory streamlining and promoting U.S. government utilization of commercial space products and services. Therefore, maintaining the structure and role of the National Space Council and its coordinating agencies will enable the United States to have a unified and coordinated vision for space.

Protect Space as Critical Infrastructure

Space continues to be the backbone of America's infrastructure. As of 2019, the global space economy constituted an estimated $424 billion across a wide variety of economic sectors. Satellite services continue to support our nation's food supply, providing the precise agriculture services and high-resolution imagery that improves the efficiency of an industry that feeds our nation.

When terrestrial services fail, space-enabled services are essential to save lives. After Hurricane Maria, space-based communications provided crucial emergency services to affected populations after impact, connecting first responders and enabling life-saving weather forecasting.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, space-based assets have played critical roles in providing connectivity for lifesaving telework and telehealth options for remote communities. GPS services continue to be vital for supply chain tracking and the financial services sector, providing approximately $1 billion per day of value to the U.S. economy.

Presidential Policy Directive 21 designates the vast majority of the space economy as critical infrastructure, including the defense industrial base and satellite communications, as well as defining Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) series as a key enabler of many sectors. rotect and funding space as critical infrastructure would enhance capacity to assess and respond to threats related to space missions, assure American access to space, bridge the digital divide in rural America, and promote economic development.

Ensure that NASA Is Consistently Funded

Funding NASA development of new technologies such as robotics to further planetary exploration missions improve life on Earth demonstrate technical prowess and advance the United States' role as a global power. According to the Pew Research Center, 75% of Americans believe it is essential that the United States continue to lead the world in space exploration. It is imperative to fully fund the nation's space exploration enterprise in the face of competing policy priorities. NASA must have budget stability to maintain continuity of major programs and mitigate mission delayscost. It is also important to encourage a balanced science portfolio across NASA's directorates as informed by the National Academies' Decadal Surveys.

Over the decades, investments in NASA research have unlocked the secrets of the universe and have drastically improved life on Earth. Probes throughout the solar system allow us to rove across the Martian surface and glimpse the most distant solar objects, revolutionizing our understanding of the universe. Microgravity research conducted aboard the International Space Station has led to advancements in manufacturing and medical research that are contributing to dramatic advancements in health and industry on Earth, and the commercial sector increasingly is participating in research. ensures the development of robust low-Earth orbital (LEO) economy.


Supporting key decision-making bodies such as the National Space Council will enable cross-agency coordination in addressing regulatory concerns, promoting the growth of the United States' space industry. Protecting space as critical infrastructure the of space technology for Americans across the country and supports other domestic industries. Maintaining continuous funding for NASA would further scientific advancements and ensure . With rapidly expanding space access, miniaturization of technology, growing scientific knowledge, and the enduring human desire to explore our universe, we must continue to develop these priorities to maintain the benefits from operating and exploring in space."

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on November 19, 2020 7:32 PM.

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