A consortium of influential space organizations has issued a white paper to the presidential candidates explaining their view on how to ensure United States leadership in space.
The white paper, signed by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), AIAA, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, and the Space Foundation, among others, lists key issues the consortium believes threaten U.S. leadership in space: budget uncertainty, international competition, the space operating environment and workforce trends.
Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham told reporters March 4 that the white paper has been issued to all the presidential candidates and candidates running for other public offices. He said the 12 organizations teamed up because it’s easier for them to reach key figures as opposed to everyone trying to work on their own behalf.
Pulham said though the white paper is to inform candidates of their view of the space industry, he would rather not have candidates make space a major issue. Numerous presidential candidates have offered vague support of space without providing any details.
“I would be perfectly happy if no one on the campaign trail said anything stupid about space, (but) we’d love for everyone to understand that it’s important,” Pulham said.
The consortium calls for Congress to eliminate sequestration-related budget caps, which are scheduled to resume in fiscal year 2018. The government, it says, needs to actively encourage the continued use of fully competitive and innovative partnerships to enable private industry to grow.
In addition to repealing sequestration, the organizations call for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), which regulates commercial space launch and re-entry, to have the authority to regulate, and the resources it needs, to work with industry in a manner that will continue to promote growth and ensure public safety. The consortium calls on the United States to promote public-private partnerships in addition to strengthening investments in research and development (R&D).
The white paper also calls for the United States to continue global space engagement. It cites the International Space Station (ISS) as the “most visible example” of the successful use of space programs to develop and sustain international collaborations and friendly, useful intergovernmental relationships.
The consortium calls for the United States to regain the ability to launch its own astronauts into space and end the practice of buying seats on Russian rockets to get its men and women to ISS. It calls for fully funding both the Space Launch System (SLS), the Orion capsule and both Commercial Crew and Cargo programs.
The white paper advocates for increased funding in national security and space launch programs. It calls for the government to enable “unmatched global capability” to counter nation state and non-state threats and ensure the United States can operate effectively in an increasingly contested space environment.
Other actions the consortium calls for include: further reducing barriers to international trade whenever possible; maintaining and expanding international harmonized spectrum access for space; defining and committing to new missions to expand the frontiers of space and promoting science and promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and the retention of U.S.-educated workers. The consortium says the U.S. civilian space workforce has declined more than 17 percent since 2006 due to reduced space exports, reduced budgets and increased foreign competition. It says of the world’s 25 largest commercial satellite operators only one is based in the United States.
In addition to AIA, AIAA, CSF and the Space Foundations, signees to the white paper were the Aerospace States Association (ASA), American Astronautical Society (AAS), the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, the Colorado Space Coalition, the Satellite Industry Association (SIA), the Silicon Valley Space Business Roundtable, the Space Angels Network, Space Florida, and the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.