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“Space Matters” Session 1 Event Recap: A Space of Transition

Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team

We are facing one of the most significant transitions in space history. The difference between 2021 and what’s to come for 2022 is astronomical. On the horizon are a series of missions, innovations of technologies, and a desire for each country to claim its spot in space development.

“Space Matters” is a series of virtual panel discussions that brings together space policy experts to discuss emerging issues and trends. Space Foundation’s Thomas Dorame kicked off the January 13, 2022 session, focused on transition.

New Opportunities Are in Store

The assembled speakers were excited to discuss how space is changing like never before. Bob Walker, CEO of Moon Walker Associates, shared his perspective as a former U.S. congressman (R-PA) who served as a Chairman of the House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee. He expressed his enthusiasm for more government support for space exploration.

What’s Happening in the U.S. Space Sector?

Rapid innovation is opening the doors to unprecedented space access. One significant change is that while the U.S. has come a long way in its technological developments, it’s still behind some other countries developing at rapid rates today.

Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux, Founder and CEO of Global Space Ventures, shared her feeling of shock when she learned the difference between our advancements and other countries’ progress. She was given a stark reminder after China completed a hypersonic test, which for her highlighted the work that needs to be done by the U.S.

As space becomes more available to more countries, it can pose a risk. However, Garriott de Cayeaux shared, having adversaries is nothing new. She expressed that it is more of concern not that certain countries have access to space, but that we in the U.S. are not as competitive in our endeavors.

Growing Innovations Bring Defense Risks

August 4 KPLO LaunchSpace innovations in 2022 bring security and defense risks. James Bridenstine, Senior Advisor for Acorn Growth Companies and former NASA Administrator and former U.S. congressman (R-OK), emphasized the importance of considering the risks now and in the future. Decisions made now, he stated, can have a lasting impact on future generations. 

As more countries become actively involved in space exploration, more satellites and other pieces of technology are entering Earth’s lower space orbit. While satellites entering the lower orbit isn’t inherently dangerous, it does create a risk for collisions of space debris.

Bridenstine added that while the U.S. has its own regulations per the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the organization is not internationally recognized. Each country has somewhat of its own system for controlling what goes on in space.

We must, Bridenstine stressed, consider our footprint in space and the impact of other countries as well. This is especially true of objects we cannot track. While we can track satellites, smaller objects and debris can go unnoticed, and they impact the traffic in Earth’s lower orbit.

Bridenstine added that given these present risks, he hopes we can move towards an international system of regulations to protect our planet against the consequences of reckless space exploration.

The Importance of Resilient Space Architecture

Both Garriott de Cayeaux and Bridenstine emphasized the importance of creating resilient architectures. Resilient architectures have the ability to adapt to known and unknown risks and vulnerabilities.

For example, resilient architectures in space don’t rely on a few military-grade satellites to keep their country’s communications in operation. Just like putting on your eggs in one basket, this approach poses a risk when it comes to defense. Rather, a resilient architecture will provide backups and redundancy through a multitude of less expensive satellite systems, so a country isn’t left without vital technology in the event of a security threat.

The speakers noted that government help is required to address threats and build this resilient infrastructure,  as space development creates a demand for space defense.

Policies Paving the Way for Advancement

It’s essential to have proper funding to fuel space exploration and technological development. Commercial companies have thrived in recent years, but there is still a need for government funding, as our everyday lives depend on space technology.

Although space exploration is not limited to specific groups of people, it can often be treated like a partisan issue in the U.S. The speakers strongly emphasized the importance of addressing space issues together, rather than making space a partisan issue.

One of the most immediate actions needed, said Walker, is for the U.S. Congress to finish its budget and allocate space funding. Bridenstine strongly agreed, noting that it was overdue. Like Walker, Bridenstine also served on the Committee on Science, Space and Technology during his time in Congress. He added that the Space Directive Policy 3 (SPD-3) has been in place for a few years, but that it is time for more budgeting and further discussion regarding policies.

Space Aspirations for 2022

All three speakers shared their aspirations for what 2022 could bring in terms of space exploration and development. 

Lunar LanderWalker expressed his confidence that three American commercial companies—Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX—will make their way into Earth’s lower orbit. While there are no guarantees, it seems very likely that these launches will occur thanks to technological advancements.

Garriott de Cayeaux hopes that the U.S. will experience the same excitement and invigoration from space achievements as during the first Space Age fifty years ago. She hopes this will fuel further exploration and encourage commercial space development.

Bridenstine hopes that under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services, the U.S. will once again land on the Moon. 

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