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Space Industrial Base Report Extends Geopolitics Out to the Moon

Aug. 24, 2020 (EIRNS)—The report “State of the Space Industrial Base,” released last week by the Defense Innovation Unit, the U.S. Space Force, and the Air Force Research Laboratory, is, in effect, the space annex to the National Security Strategy of 2017. That document defines Russia and China as strategic adversaries of the United States. “China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity,” it claims on page 2. That outlook is extended directly into the space domain by this report, writes Gen. John Raymond, chief of the U.S. Space Force, in the foreword to the document.

The report itself flowed out of a space industrial base workshop that met in New Mexico in May and brought together 120 experts in government, industry, and academia; but the report that they produced is not an official policy document. Rather, it’s an assessment of the state of the industrial base along with a set of recommendations. Nonetheless, “it is important that we listen to these insights and evaluate the feasibility of implementing them in the advancement of national interests. America’s future in space is a partnership and, as with any partnership, communication is key,” Raymond writes.

In the introduction, the report cites an assessment produced by Air Force Space Command in 2019 entitled “The Future of Space 2060 and Implications for U.S. Strategy,” which itself was the product of yet another workshop. That report, among other things, complains that “China is executing a long-term civil, commercial, and military strategy to explore and economically develop the cislunar domain with the explicit aim of displacing the U.S. as the leading space power. Other nations are developing similar national strategies.”

“The U.S. is not alone in planning to return humans to the Moon or expanding the use of space,” the space industrial report says.

“China has announced its intention to do so by 2035. China 22 is committed and credible in its pledge to become the leading, global super-power, to include space, by 2049 marking the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic. A key component of China’s strategy is to displace the U.S. as the leading power in space and lure U.S. allies and partners away from U.S.-led space initiatives, through its Belt and Road Initiative and plans for an Earth Moon Economic Zone.”

The report cites a Global Times article of Nov. 1, 2019 entitled “China Mulls $10 Trillion Earth-Moon Economic Zone.” It quotes Chinese experts talking about the economic benefits of such an economic space, but it says nothing about displacing the U.S.

“As space activities expand beyond geosynchronous orbit, the first nation to establish transportation infrastructure and logistics capabilities serving GEO and cislunar space will have superior ability to exercise control of cislunar space and in particular the Lagrange points and the resources of the Moon,” the report goes on. The job of the U.S. Space Force is to provide “security and a stabilizing military presence” for the U.S. economic presence in this zone.

“As part of its mission, the USSF should articulate its role to secure commerce and protect civil infrastructure in the space domain,” it says. “This examination should consider the degree to which this role should emulate the U.S. Navy role in assuring the maritime domain. Clarity on this issue will drive commercial confidence for a more rapid expansion of U.S. space entrepreneurial activity. When implementing this part of its mission, the USSF should examine an increased role in America’s return to the Moon (such as providing safety of navigation services) and expanded opportunities for partnerships with companies to develop prototypes, to procure operational product services, and to sponsor new competition. The USSF should articulate its role in planetary defense. Such a role could accelerate America’s edge in asteroid mining and in-space transportation.”

In perhaps its most general, NASA-like statement of objective, the report says,

“Building on the foundation for continued U.S. space leadership created by recent policy and organizational advances, the U.S. should develop a guiding national vision for long-term space industrialization and national space development to catalyze whole-of-nation efforts and enable the United States to compete and win now and into the future.”

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