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Hickenlooper Leads Calls to Protect U.S. Interests in Space

Nov 30, 2021

Calls come ahead of first National Space Council Meeting tomorrow, follows a Russian missile test that threatened U.S. astronauts   

Hickenlooper also introduced a bipartisan amendment to the annual NDAA condemning Russia’s aggression in space

Washington, D.C. – Today U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Space and Science, and Senators Maria Cantwell, Roger Wicker, and Cynthia Lummis called on the Biden administration to take urgent action to protect U.S. interests in space.

The bipartisan call comes in the form of two letters, sent ahead of Wednesday’s inaugural meeting of the National Space Council under the Biden Administration.  Earlier this month a Russian anti-satellite missile test created 1,500 new space debris objects, which threaten U.S. satellites, future space missions, and astronauts aboard the International Space Station. 

Hickenlooper also introduced an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) condemning Russia’s reckless anti-satellite test and affirming the U.S. commitment to establishing norms of behavior in space. 

In the first letter, Hickenlooper and his colleagues called on the Department of Commerce to strengthen the capacity to monitor and respond to current and future space debris and other space threats that could affect U.S. assets and personnel. Currently, the Office of Space Commerce (OSC) and the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) are charged with initiating a space traffic management (STM) pilot program, which includes an open architecture data repository (OADR) to better track congestion and orbital debris.

“Effective leadership and a functioning OADR that incorporates commercial data and capabilities will contribute to the growth of the space economy and improve space safety. These capabilities will support the nation’s ability to manage the emergence of new debris fields, such as the debris field created by the Russian test,” wrote Hickenlooper and the lawmakers. “Further, these capabilities will help the nation understand and respond to unforeseen disasters in space and play a critical role in protecting U.S. property and personnel.” 

The senators also inquired about the staffing progress of the OSC and the appointment of a director to better implement these crucial programs and operations. 

In a separate letter, the senators urged the National Space Council to discuss the development of international norms for responsible behavior in space during the group’s first meeting this week.

“The space domain is essential for the United States’ modern economy. From fostering scientific discovery and planetary exploration to facilitating next-generation communications and the Global Positioning System (GPS), these scientific, technological, and national security benefits must be protected,” the senators wrote. “We request that, at the upcoming National Space Council meeting, you advocate for aligning space sustainability priorities and activities across the Federal Government and work to develop international dialogue on norms of responsible behavior in space.” 


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