The U.S. military and intelligence community is increasingly dependent on its satellite capabilities to do everything from communicating securely to targeting precision weapons. Billions of taxpayer dollars are spent trying to expand and protect this strategic edge.
Unlike the public, military planners cannot afford to take reliable and secure access to space for granted.
Yet our space launch policy deserves more attention today than it has received in recent years. Russia’s incursion into the Crimea provides an opportunity to reassess the national security implications of current space programs, particularly the role of Russian suppliers.
In a particularly sensitive case, Russia supplies rocket engines for a mainstay launch vehicle used to send some of America’s most secret satellites into orbit. Rather than buying or licensing Russian rocket engines, the U.S. government should aggressively pursue domestic alternatives. This offers an opportunity to boost the U.S. aerospace industrial base. It will also help shore up American competitiveness and aerospace know-how, which depend on encouraging private sector investment in cutting-edge and engineering-driven programs.
The Defense Department is working to increase competition in space launch, but it can do more.
America’s long-term strategic advantage and economic security depend on policies that create safe, reliable and affordable satellite launch capabilities. U.S. power cannot be measured in the 21st Century without accounting for the safety and security of our military space access.