The United States can't afford all the national security space assets it needs, so the military must work with the commercial sector, other government agencies and other nations, including Russia, three top Pentagon leaders on space policy said on Wednesday.
That cooperation and steps to help preserve the space industrial base, which is facing increasing global competition, are key elements of the recently released National Security Space Strategy, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Lynn said it is the first national strategy for space and was produced to address the fact that space is becoming more congested with active satellites and debris; more contested, posing threats to vital U.S. assets; and more competitive as more than 60 nations have satellites in orbit.
Because of the growing competition, the United States has fallen from a two-thirds share of the global market in space products to 25 percent or 30 percent, Lynn said.
The new strategy aims "not only to protect our space assets, but to protect space itself and protect the industrial base," he added.
Part of the strategy, reflected in the fiscal 2012 Defense budget, is to shift from buying unique space systems one or two at a time to buying similar systems en bloc, beginning with a multi-year purchase of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, Lynn said.
Donley said buying the rockets separately from the satellites they will carry into space is another change aimed at reducing the cost of replacing space assets; those adjustments will provide more stability for the producers and allow for faster reconstitution of lost national security satellites.
Cartwright, who previously led U.S. Strategic Command, said there is a growing need for better "space situational awareness," which means knowing what is in space that could threaten U.S. satellites and allow for quicker detection of "anomalies," such as potential anti-satellite devices.
There are more than 20,000 known pieces of space debris and at least 1,100 active satellites, according to the strategy document.
"We have a good idea of what's out there, as long as you give us days," Cartwright said.
A way to get better situational awareness would be to get more cooperation from other nations that have satellites, the general added.
Even if the cost of new space systems was reduced, he said the United States "still can't afford most of the constellations we have up there."
That means the nation needs to cooperate with all the other users of space assets, including Russia, with whom Cartwright worked during his days at Strategic Command.
"I think there is great opportunity in space for partnering with Russia," he said.
The new strategy was developed with NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Director of National Intelligence.