By Marina Malenic

The Obama administration’s new space policy will emphasize cooperation with other space-faring nations as well as the creation of good “rules of the road” as technology evolves and international participation in space activities increases, a top Pentagon official said recently.

“We need to share rules of the road in space to provide predictability,” said Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, according to a copy of his prepared remarks to Air Force and industry officials. He was speaking at the National Space Symposium in Colorado.

Lynn noted that space technologies have given the military tremendous new capabilities, from precision strike to electronic communications and improved battlefield situational awareness.

“These advantages make U.S. forces more accurate and agile than ever before,” Lynn said. “They have changed the nature of warfare.”

Lynn outlined the administration’s strategy for addressing the changing space environment. The forthcoming Space Posture Review, which is expected to spell out detailed space policy goals sometime this summer, begins with the premise that space has become a “congested and contested” environment, he said. He noted that more than 60 nations operate over 1,100 orbiting systems. Further, tens of thousands of pieces of large “space junk” also circle the Earth, along with tens of thousands more that are too small to monitor.

“Space has also become more competitive, with more nations working in space than ever before,” Lynn said. Therefore, he said, countries ought to make greater efforts to cooperate on valuable space programs such as GPS.

“We’re approaching a point at which the limitless frontier no longer seems quite so limitless,” he said.

Lynn also warned that the United States can no longer take access to space for granted as more and more nations become adept at signals jamming, anti-satellite weapons employment and other electronic warfare capabilities.

“Our space assets could be targeted as part of a deliberate strategy to deny us access to the domain,” he said. “By crippling key sensors and platforms, such anti-access tactics could offset our conventional-force capabilities.

“Never before have our space assets been so vulnerable to destruction,” he added.

A new strategy must include international cooperation to establish norms of behavior in space and methods for denying potential space attacks, Lynn said. He added that the Pentagon is already working to prevent communications signals from inadvertently jamming. And a new effort to track satellites and other space objects is well under way.

Lynn said the second part of the new strategy is “selective interdependence.” Because space is a competitive sphere in many respects, he said, nations should cooperate where they can, in areas such as environmental monitoring and missile warning.

“Our shared interests prop open the door to possible cooperation,” he said.

The department also plans to build redundancies into satellites and ground stations to make any potential attack less successful. In addition, he said, smaller satellites with modular parts would make replacement easier.

Last week, top NASA leaders defended Obama’s Fiscal 2011 agency budget, which includes the proposed cancellation of the Constellation Space Shuttle replacement effort.

The program had been made up of the Ares I launch vehicle and Orion capsule and future Ares V heavy-lift rocket. ATK [ATK] has been the prime contractor for the Ares I first stage, Boeing [BA] has developed the Ares I upper stage, and Lockheed Martin [LMT] has been making Orion.

The Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, a blue-ribbon panel led by retired Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine, found last year that Constellation, begun during the Bush administration, was facing major schedule problems and had not been adequately funded.