The Trump administration released a new presidential memorandum on August 20, 2019, that details its new policy on the “Launch of Spacecraft Containing Space Nuclear Systems.” From the title, some may assume this policy concerns the placement of nuclear weapons in space, which would violate the Outer Space Treaty, but in fact, it is a move to restructure how the U.S. government regulates and approves space-based nuclear power systems—particularly nuclear propulsion systems.
In 2018, President Trump requested the creation of the U.S. Space Force. Since then three competing visions for its structure have been crafted: one from the Department of Defense and two from the U.S. House and Senate. This brief compares these three legislative proposals to create a new military service for space.
Space Threat Assessment 2019 reviews the open-source information available on the counterspace capabilities that can threaten U.S. space systems. The report is intended to raise awareness and understanding of the threats, debunk myths and misinformation, and highlight areas in which senior leaders and policymakers should focus their attention.
As the administration moves forward with establishing a new military service focused on space, leaders should keep their language clear and use this opportunity to educate the public about both civil and national security space. Keeping NASA and the Space Force separate rhetorically and organizationally is best for national security and for space exploration.
Establishing a Department of the Space Force by 2020 is rushing into an end solution without proper consideration. Although there have been several space reorganization studies in the past two decades, a comprehensive public debate of our current space capabilities and their organization is just beginning. An incremental approach to developing a comprehensive organization for our national security space enterprise is a smarter decision.