Op-ed | The importance of thinking internationally on space collaborations
In October 2017, the National Space Council started off its first meeting since re-establishment setting an important tone – that international partners bring value to the U.S. space program. There, Vice President Mike Pence lauded the moon as a “venue to strengthen our commercial and international partnerships,” and both council members and industry representatives focused on the International Space Station as evidence of arguably the most successful international collaboration ever in orbit.
Beyond civil space partnerships, allied defense relationships in space also deliver benefit for the United States. Benefits include the capabilities, resources, and technologies that allies and partners bring, such as the Canadian Sapphire satellite which serves as a contributing sensor to the U.S. Space Surveillance Network. Such burden sharing in turn creates a stronger and more resilient space enterprise for deterring or defending against adversary threats. Allies and partners also provide the U.S. geographic advantages, for example providing a much-needed Southern Hemisphere location for tracking space objects, as provided by Australia. Allies and partners also share information with the U.S. and contribute to the legitimacy of U.S. security activities in space by, for example, providing independent attribution of nefarious activities in orbit.
Furthermore, these benefits contribute to the four lines of effort described in the implementation plan for the National Space Strategy, as spelled out by Assistant Secretary of Defense Kenneth Rapuano in his testimony to the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces in March 2018. Per Rapuano, the four lines of effort are:
- Mission assurance
- Deterrence and warfighting
- Organizational support
- Creating conducive domestic and international environments for U.S. space objectives
It is fair to say each of these lines of effort are strengthened with the involvement of allies and partners