3 – What U.S. National Space Policy implies about becoming spacefaring

The updated
U.S. National Space Policy (not to be confused with the U.S. Space Transportation Policy) was released about nine months ago.  The background section (new in this update) is quite interesting in terms of its statements regarding America’s future as a true spacefaring nation.  Here are the two paragraphs of this section:


“For five decades, the United States has led the world in space exploration and use and has developed a solid civil, commercial, and national security space foundation.  Space activities have improved life in the United States and around the world, enhancing security, protecting lives and the environment, speeding information flow, serving as an engine for economic growth, and revolutionizing the way people view their place in the world and the cosmos. Space has become a place that is increasingly used by a host of nations, consortia, businesses, and entrepreneurs.


“In this new century, those who effectively utilize space will enjoy added prosperity and security and will hold a substantial advantage over those who do not. Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power. In order to increase knowledge, discovery, economic prosperity, and to enhance the national security, the United States must have robust, effective, and efficient space capabilities.”


In the previous blog entry, I put forth a definition of a true spacefaring nation as “one that has built the spacefaring logistics infrastructure enabling its citizens, as spacefarers, to access and work in space to reap knowledge, wealth, and security from space.” The second paragraph parallels this line of thought.  It very concisely states why and what the U.S. needs to do in space this century to become truly spacefaring.


The “why” is clearly stated: “to increase knowledge, discovery, economic prosperity, and enhance national security.” 


Throughput history, becoming a true seafaring nation was critical to becoming a great nation.  Persia, Greece, Rome, China, Spain, Portugal, France, and England, as examples, used the sea to great national benefit.  In the 20th century, aeronautics (air-fairing) emerged as a new arena for nations to compete for great nation status, with the ten years of the preparation for and conflict of World War II seeing the fate of the world being largely defined by the strength of the warring nations’ ability to assert and sustain air superiority in support of their land and naval forces.  The first sentence acknowledges that the nation-against-nation competition for space–that technologically started in the 1920’s and 1930’s and first operationally peaked in the 1950’s and 1960’s–continues into the 21st century.  If the U.S. is to remain fully engaged in the on-going competition for world-leading status, then it will need to compete to effectively utilize space.


The “what” is to establish “freedom of action in space” comparable to what the nation has at sea and in the air. 


America’s freedom of action at sea and in the air comes from the nation’s robust, effective, and efficient sea and air capabilities–also referred to as sea power and air power.  (Note: This is not a statement strictly about military power, but about the collective capabilities of the nation to undertake civil, commercial, and security operations at sea and in the air.)


What’s missing with the current state of America’s freedom of action in space, or space power, is the comparable logistics infrastructure (including transportation) that provides the operational foundation for sea and air power.  Lacking comparable capabilities in space, America’s freedom of action in space is constrained due to the lack of spacefaring logistics infrastructure.


In the previous blog entry, I proposed this definition: “A true spacefaring nation will be one that has built the spacefaring logistics infrastructure enabling its citizens, as spacefarers, to access and work in space to reap knowledge, wealth, and security from space.”  It would appear the writers of the updated national space policy had something similar in mind when they added the background section that did not appear in the previous 1994 and 1988 versions of the policy.  Maybe this reflects some advance indications, so to speak, about what the next update to the space policy may address in greater detail–the need for an integrated plan to develop a national spacefaring logistics infrastructure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *