The Space Advocate • May 11, 2022
The Space Advocate Newsletter, May 2022
From the Chief Advocate
As Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine grinds on, we now have a better sense of how global space activities are (and are not) changing in its wake. To examine these consequences, I spoke with international space policy expert Mariel Borowitz in the latest episode of the Space Policy Edition podcast.
Perhaps the most novel contribution is from the commercial space sector. Private companies are providing daily high-resolution imagery of the invasion and critical communications services to the Ukrainian public and resistance forces. Many of these images are released publicly and are used to track Russia’s troop movements and even provide evidence of war crimes. These activities blur the lines between private and state activities. Experts worry that this behavior could escalate Russian attacks on commercial space assets.
While reports of the death of the International Space Station (ISS) partnership remain greatly exaggerated, the ongoing threats and bluster from Dmitry Rogozin, director general of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, present an ongoing challenge and will negatively impact future efforts at cooperation in space.
I fear that the lesson learned from the ISS program’s noble experiment in international cooperation may be a negative one. The rigidity inherent in the ISS partnership — while very much a purposeful design — represents a post-Cold War policy in a post-post Cold War world. From the perspective of the U.S. and its allies, ongoing cooperation at the ISS creates an uncomfortable tension with efforts to isolate Russia into a pariah state. From the Russian perspective, the world’s first space power cannot pursue an independent space program.
China, India, and other emerging space powers may look upon the ISS and see not a shining example of cooperation, but a policy trap; an impediment to national self-determination in space. China, partly due to a policy of isolation by the U.S., has built an increasingly capable space program. As they launch taikonauts to their own space station on their own terms, do they look at the ISS with envy or with relief?
And as humanity turns its ambitions toward the Moon, what lessons will the world take from the ISS? Will we see an effort to work together across national and ideological boundaries? Or retreat into a handful of competitive ideological blocs? Working toward the same goal, but carrying with them burdens from Earth.
The Planetary Society
Space Policy Highlights
Legally, Russia can’t just take its Space Station and go home (arstechnica.com) "It appears that the partnership among Russia, the United States, and 13 other nations will continue to hold. The real question about the near-term future of the International Space Station, therefore, is whether Russia wants to continue flying it. The answer is probably, yes."
See also: The Western space community should set Dmitry Rogozin to "ignore"
NASA Administrator Nelson blasts cost-plus contracts, says Russia not leaving ISS (spacepolicyonline.com) "At a Senate hearing, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson praised the agency's shift to public-private partnerships and fixed-price contracts, calling cost-plus contracts a “plague” that increases program costs. He also reassured the committee that nothing has changed in the U.S.-Russian space station relationship despite “misleading headlines” in recent days that Russia will soon withdraw from the program."
The geopolitical and national security implications of commercial space and Ukraine (spacenews.com) "The war in Ukraine is perhaps the first where a mature commercial space industry existed and had an appreciable effect on the understanding of the war...While not parties to the war itself, their involvement vividly illustrates the potential spillover. It is becoming increasingly difficult to hide behind the “commercial” label when their work has geopolitical and national security implications."
Senate rejects effort to strip NASA lunar lander provision from authorization bill (spacenews.com) "Senators overwhelmingly voted against a motion that would have dealt a setback in NASA’s efforts to select a second company to develop an Artemis lunar lander. Sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), it would have instructed senators participating on a conference committee to remove a section authorizing funding for the Human Landing System (HLS) program and directing NASA to support at least two companies."
Planetary Radio: Space Policy Edition
Mariel Borowtiz on how Russia's invasion of Ukraine has changed space
It's not just the ISS partnership — commercial satellites, international cooperation, and managing space debris may all be impacted by the war in Ukraine. Professor Mariel Borowitz, an expert in international space policy and space sustainability, joins the show to discuss the immediate consequences, potential policy changes, and lessons the global community is learning from the conflict.