The Wolf Amendment has neither discouraged Chinese space ambitions or altered China’s behavior on human rights—it has only muddled our relationship with China and created an opening for a challenger to NASA’s leadership role in space exploration.
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.
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.
This report analyzes ground-based space launches from 1957 to 2018, including brief histories of all active and inactive orbital spaceports, 10 year launch records for the 22 spaceports still in use today, and the current status of several proposals to create new facilities capable of supporting orbital space launches.
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.
Although the Trump administration has not yet released its Missile Defense Review, as mandated by Congress, it is considering the possible deployment of space-based interceptors. At a time of growing budgetary pressures as well as increased competition with other great powers, the United States can ill afford to waste precious dollars on space-based missile defenses and a new arms race that will make us less, rather than more, secure.