Science and Exploration

Report: State Of The Space Industrial Base: Winning the New Space Race for Sustainability, Prosperity and the Planet

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
August 24, 2022
Report: State Of The Space Industrial Base: Winning the New Space Race for Sustainability, Prosperity and the Planet
State Of The Space Industrial Base

At the conclusion of the 20th century, Americans identied scientific and technological advancements as the nations greatest achievements, with the space program as the most-cited source of American pride. The space program, and more specifically landing humans on the Moon, marked the culmination of a great power competition for space dominance with the former Soviet Union.

The U.S. was able to triumph in the last space race because of a positive and unique relationship, a public private partnership, between the government and commercial industry. As a result of clarity of public purpose and private entrepreneurialism, the U.S. built a vibrant space ecosystem enabling it to be the first and only nation to send humans to the Moon, explore every planet in the Solar System, deliver free global positioning and timing, share Earth observation data globally for the benefit of humanity, create an international space station to facilitate global space development and engagement, achieve rocket reusability and ubiquitous commercial broadband communication.

The world is freer and more prosperous for America having won the first space race against the first authoritarian space power, and having shaped an open system of commerce and information. Six decades later, U.S. leadership is once again contested by not one, but two authoritarian regimes, who seek to exert global dominance through control of the space domain.

Winning the New Space Race is a national imperative and a critical component of the preservation of liberty and prosperity in the 21st century for the United States, our allies, and partners. The rise of China as both an economic and space power is an imminent threat to democracy, the free market economy, and the international liberal order.

China’s many achievements in space are the result of Xi Jinping’s Space Dream (航天梦) – a long term strategy that galvanizes a whole-of-nation approach toward a singular objective: displace the U.S. as the dominant space power both militarily and economically by 2045 (though some participants expressed concern that this may happen within the next decade absent significant us actions).

In order to compete and retain its leadership role, the U.S. must clearly articulate a North Star vision for space that transcends administrations, and aggressively pursue a whole-of-nation action plan to achieve it. Both the vision and plan must integrate and synchronize efforts across civil, commercial and national security space and leverage both the disruptive innovation that is rapidly maturing within the new space economy domestically and abroad. They must fully enable the tools of commerce, innovation, and integration to achieve this outcome.

The bold vision of the future and the incredible opportunities afforded by space demand it. The world order inherited by our children and grandchildren depends on it. A safe, secure, and sustainable space and Earth environment requires it. And the time for national unity of effort and purpose is now.

Note: The views expressed in this report reflect those of the workshop attendees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Government, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Defense (DoD), the U.S. Air Force (USAF), or the U.S. Space Force (USSF). Use of NASA photos in this report does not state or imply the endorsement by NASA, or by any NASA employee, or the DoD, or by any DoD employee, of a commercial product, service, or activity.

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SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.