Space Realities Require New Way of Thinking, Official Says

WASHINGTON, June 1, 2012 — The U.S. has fine-tuned its meth­ods to pro­mote respon­si­ble use of space and strength­en inter­na­tion­al part­ner­ships, Ambas­sador Gre­go­ry L. Schulte, the deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for space pol­i­cy, said dur­ing the 2012 Women in Aero­space Con­fer­ence here today.

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In his keynote address at the con­fer­ence, Schulte out­lined the plan to pro­tect U.S. advan­tages and sus­tain­abil­i­ty in space as direct­ed by the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Strat­e­gy for Space issued by Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta and nation­al intel­li­gence officials. 

“Space is no longer a pris­tine envi­ron­ment,” Schulte said. “We have to think dif­fer­ent­ly about how we coop­er­ate with oth­ers in space.” 

Schulte explained that bur­geon­ing inter­est in space by a num­ber of nations is both an asset and a liability. 

“Allied capa­bil­i­ties can aug­ment ours, add resilience and increase our abil­i­ty to oper­ate in a con­test­ed space envi­ron­ment when adver­saries may be try­ing to take away our space capa­bil­i­ties,” he said. “As there are more and more actors in space, it becomes more impor­tant that we bring a cer­tain amount of order to that domain, that we encour­age coun­tries to act responsibly.” 

As such, Schulte said, Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton and U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand, based at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., have weighed in this year to take delib­er­ate steps in nego­ti­at­ing space sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness agree­ments with coun­tries across the globe. 

The dis­cus­sions have unit­ed “Euro­pean Union and oth­er space-far­ing coun­tries to devel­op an inter­na­tion­al vol­un­tary code of con­duct meant to encour­age coun­tries to act respon­si­bly and call out those who act irre­spon­si­bly,” Schulte said. 

The norms, Schulte asserts, aim to help U.S. and coali­tion coun­tries share infor­ma­tion on an emer­gency basis, encour­age best prac­tices to buffer the uptick of mishaps and con­trol the cre­ation of addi­tion­al debris in space. 

“[Strat­com] tracks over 20,000 pieces of debris — and that’s just what they can see,” Schulte said. “NASA esti­mates there are prob­a­bly hun­dreds of thou­sands of pieces of debris up there.” 

Har­ness­ing inter­na­tion­al part­ner­ships also includes a plan to expand the Joint Space Oper­a­tions Cen­ter at Van­den­berg Air Force Base, Calif., into a coali­tion asset by inte­grat­ing Canada’s first oper­a­tional mil­i­tary space-based tele­scope sys­tem, Sapphire. 

A larg­er con­stel­la­tion of satel­lites sup­plied by inter­na­tion­al part­ner nations pro­vides greater cov­er­age and band­width, Schulte said, and also cre­ates an inter­na­tion­al space alliance that can act as a deter­rent to threats against the U.S. and its allies. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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