Aerospace Defense

Vice President Mike Pence Announced New Space Traffic Policy

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence tweeted April 16, 2018, that he had landed at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs and was on his way to speak at the Space Symposium.

The National Space Council has formulated a comprehensive space traffic management policy, that this will “soon” be delivered to the president’s desk for approval, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced Monday.

“This new policy directs the Department of Commerce to provide a basic of space situational awareness for public and private use depending on the space catalog provided by the Department on Defense to ensure that our military leaders can give attention to protecting and defending our national security assets in space,” Pence said during a speech at the Space Symposium.

“The policy will even encourage the commercial space industry to partner while using government to develop data-sharing systems, technical guidelines and safety standards to use domestically and turn into promoted internationally that will aid minimize debris, avoid satellite collisions during launch and while in orbit.”

Managing the movement of objects in space has been a concern to the U.S. government, while using U.S. military serving as a de facto regulator of space traffic. The Defense Department manages the U.S. Space Surveillance Network, which uses ground-based sensors and radars to track satellites and debris in space, which are then logged inside the space catalog.

Pence noted that there are “tens of a large number of man-made objects orbiting the Earth, including over 1,500 active satellites and thousands of inactive satellites and spacecraft fragments.” That number raises exponentially within the long term, as entry to space grows and low-cost launch vehicles and small satellites end up being the norm.

Although the vp’s brief statements at Space Symposium didn’t formulate the specifics from the Commerce Department’s new responsibilities, if Commerce has the capacity to take a larger role in regulating space traffic, it follows the U.S. military could have more resources to give attention to the business of war fighting in space.

“Under this new policy, we’re going to preserve the integrity individuals critical space assets and foster an orbital environment, where America’s space companies can propel our nation to new heights for generations to come,” Pence said.

Brian Weeden, director of program planning space policy think tank Secure World Foundation plus a former Air Force officer who worked in space situational awareness, tweeted that this announcement sounded “just like what Obama administration was working on” except with all the Department of Commerce, not Transportation, inside lead.

During his 23-minute-long speech, Pence praised President Donald Trump’s leadership on space issues, touted the task in the Space Council he chairs and recognized leaders in the audience including Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Rep. Jim Bridenstine, that has been nominated as NASA’s administrator.

But for that most part, his speech was focused on space exploration and reforms to the commercial space industry. He failed to touch on national security space issues, including Trump’s own call for a “Space Force.”

The closest Pence reached speaking explicitly about national security was during his opening comments, which mentioned the task from the defense industrial base in developing the weaponry accustomed to strike Syrian chemical weapons sites on Friday.

The vp didn’t onsite visit Raytheon or Lockheed Martin, which manufacture the Tomahawk cruise missiles and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles launched during the airstrikes, by name.

But he explained he was conscious of “many of the great American firms that helped develop the missile technology,” adding which he can be “remiss not to express the truly amazing admiration and gratitude from the commander in chief along with the American people.”

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