COVID-19 Won’t Slow Space Adversaries, and the U.S. Must Take Action

Recent Russian anti-satellite weapon testing and an Iranian space launch serve as poignant reminders of space’s shift to a warfighting domain. As highlighted in the National Defense Strategy, great power nations and rogue regimes are making the global security environment increasingly complex. More than ever before, consistent and bipartisan national security space funding and policy will be paramount to protecting U.S. security and economic prosperity.

With the evolving threat landscape, service members in all domains need game-changing space capabilities to counter adversaries. New systems must quickly transition to operational status, often depending on assured access to space. To meet this need, the U.S. must continue to plan and invest in next generation launch capabilities, so our space capabilities can be delivered to orbit as quickly, safely, and cost efficiently as possible.

The nation must have a variety of reliable launch vehicles able to transport a broad spectrum of payloads, from large and highly capable satellites to microsats. That’s not a simple task, but there are two vital steps our government leaders can take now to help achieve it:

1.     The National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement must continue as structured and scheduled. The Space Force remains on track to award two contracts this summer for launches beginning in 2022. Previous National Defense Authorization Acts  (NDAA) supported this schedule, and HASC Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) believes “we should not delay that decision.” This is essential to continue providing assured access to space and to help usher in the next generation of national security space launch technology.

2.     Even in these unprecedented times, the U.S. must continue to support the Department of Defense and intelligence community programs to take advantage of small launch capabilities. This is particularly important as the DOD’s top procurement official identified the small space launch sector as one of the sectors most impacted by COVID-19. These programs leverage U.S. industry leadership, expanding private sector innovation and investment in small launch systems, and utilize new and emerging mission sets that make use of small launch systems’ uniquely responsive nature.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, our adversaries continue their pursuit of space domain dominance. They understand the value of space and will continue to pursue options to offset the advantage the U.S. and our allies have in this domain. If we continue the above actions, we will not only help ensure U.S. leadership in space, but also the security and economic benefits that come with that leadership.