Space Defense

U.S. and China Eye Space Domination

As NASA scientists try to cooperate on research using their Chinese counterparts, more communication between the agencies is probably not this kind of bad idea, a partnership that might even bolster space agreements, officials say.

The Air Force shows an artist’s depiction of the Space Based Space Surveillance satellite. The Joint Space Operations Center uses data collected from SBSS to track orbiting objects in geostationary and low earth orbit, providing space situational awareness to U.S. military and commercial space users. Could the U.S. work with China on similar programs in the future?

Speaking at a DefenseOne Space, Satellite and Communications briefing Tuesday near Washington, D.C., Brian Weeden, technical adviser towards the Secure World Foundation, said the scope of how the U.S. works together with China has to expand.

While space wasn’t a dominant topic within this year’s election, Weeden said both Trump and Clinton campaign surrogates publicized “fairly favorably some form of cooperation engagement with China.”

Weeden said it’s unknown whether those favorable views toward China inside space realm will result in hard policy under President-Elect Donald Trump. “But I think there’s a growing sense that keeping the only interaction with China maintain a national security, military context, I think is an issue,” he explained within a discussion.

Weeden said there needs to be “commercial or civil engagement” to aid cope with additional challenges, for example managing space traffic and debris control.

Since 2011, Congress has banned NASA from joint research and technology programs or data sharing with China although the U.S. and Russia have experienced a strong association, during points during the conflict.

However, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden continues to be trying to build bridges with China on the space program. In August, he visited China and met with the Chinese Aeronautical Establishment and the Civil Aviation Administration. The next month, NASA announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with those agencies to analyze data from Chinese airports “to identify potential efficiencies in air traffic management.”

It may not be space, but it’s a start.

“It’s not feasible within my tenure as NASA administrator,” Bolden said in May while addressing spaceflight and technological agreements with China. “But I think we’ll evolve to something reasonable.”

The DefenseOne panel also featured Winston Beauchamp, director in the principal Department of Defense Space Adviser Staff and Air Force deputy under secretary for Space; Chirag Parikh, director of source strategies, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; and Robert Tarleton, director from the MILSATCOM Systems Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base.

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