Latest News

House Appropriations CJS Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on NASA

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 28-Apr-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

The House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science has scheduled a hearing on NASA for April 29 at 10:00 am in Room 2359 Rayburn House Office Building. Christopher Scolese, Acting NASA Administrator, is the scheduled witness. Note: times and witnesses for congressional hearings are subject to change. Check with the committee for the most up-to-date information:

House S&T Holds Hearing on NOAA's GOES Program

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Apr-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

On April 23, the House Science and Technology Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Environment held a hearing on NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) program. Hearing Charter

Witnesses were:

Mary Ellen Kicza, Assistant Administrator, Satellite and Information Services, NOAA Written statement

David Powner, GAO Written statement

George Morrow, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Written statement

UN COPUOS to meet June 3-12, Vienna, Austria

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 22-Apr-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

The United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space is scheduled to meet June 3-12, 2009 in Vienna, Austria.

SSB Chair Kennel Comments on a "New World Order In the Making"

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 22-Apr-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

Charlie Kennel, chair of the National Research Council's Space Studies Board, comments in the SSB's most recent newsletter on "a new world order in the making -- a world in which President Obama has promised, America would not--could not--act as a hegemon, but would strive to lead in the role of 'first among equals.'"

IISL Colloquium to be Held in October in Daejeon, South Korea

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 22-Apr-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

The 52nd annual International Institute of Space Law colloquium will be held in connection with the International Astronautical Congress in Daejeon, South Korea from October 12-16, 2009. Visit for more details.

CBO Releases Report on Budget Implications of NASA's Exploration Program

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 22-Apr-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

The Congressional Budget Office released a report entitled "The Budgetary Implications of NASA's Current Plans for Space Exploration." The report updates a 2004 CBO analysis of 72 NASA programs that showed that NASA's development programs could grow by 50% on average. Using that as a basis, the new report lays out four scenarios for fulfilling the 2004 mandate to return humans to the Moon and someday send them to Mars.

"Because of the likelihood that NASA will not meet its planned schedules if funded at its current level, CBO considered four alternative scenarios." They are:

  • Keep Funding Fixed and Allow Schedules to Slip
  • Execute NASA's Current Plans and Extend Operation of the Space Shuttle and Space Station
  • Achieve the Constellation Program's Schedule and Allow the Science Schedules to Slip
  • Absorb Cost Growth to Achieve Constellation's Schedule by Reducing Funding for Science and Aeronautics

The new report was required by the 2008 NASA authorization act.

ASAP Releases 2008 Annual Report

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 22-Apr-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) released its 2008 annual report. Among its recommendations, the ASAP "strongly endorses the NASA position on not extending Shuttle operations" beyond what is currently planned. The panel also "is not convinced that the Ares I and Orion initial operating capability (IOC) date can be improved appreciably by additional resources." Nor can the private sector be expected to field capabilities to improve the expected 5-year gap between when the shuttle is scheduled to be terminated and the new Ares/Orion system will be available, according to the panel.

AIAA to Hold Meeting on Export Controls

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 22-Apr-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics will hold a seminar on Entrepreneurial Space and Export Controls on April 29 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. RSVP recommended.

Military/National Security Space Activities

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-Apr-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

<< For current news items and links to other reports and resources, click on those links on the left menu. <<

Brief Introduction

U.S. National Security Space Policy

Other Related George W. Bush Administration Policies Affecting Military Space

For More Information


The 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act specified that U.S. military space activities would be conducted by the Department of Defense (DOD), while creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to conduct the nation's civil space program.

Today, the term "national security space" is often used to encompass the space activities of the intelligence community as well as DOD. National security space programs include launch vehicles and satellite systems for reconnaissance, early warning of missile launches and nuclear detonations, navigation, communications, and weather. Many of these systems have counterparts in the civil and commercial sectors; the line between national security and civil space systems can be quite blurry. For example, the Global Positioning System (GPS) of navigation satellites is a DOD system, but it enables pervasive civil and commercial applications from precision farming to cell phones to automobile navigation systems.

Although NASA conducts a much more visible space program, DOD's space program is larger. There is no easy way to track national security space funding since "space" is not a specific item in DOD's budget. A portion of these activities are classified ("black") programs for which budgetary information is not available on an unclassified basis. The rest of the funding is for unclassified ("white") programs, but is spread throughout the DOD budget in research and development (R&D), operations and management (O&M), and procurement accounts for the three services and defense-wide activities. The majority of funding is in the Air Force accounts, but is difficult to identify except for major programs. According to the fiscal year (FY) 2007 edition of the annual Aeronautics and Space Report of the President (the most recent available), DOD's FY2007 space budget was $22.4 billion, which is thought to represent all spending (classified and unclassified) for national security space activities. By comparison, NASA's total FY2007 budget was $16.3 billion (including about $700 million for aeronautics).

DOD's unclassified space systems include the following programs, some of which are operational and others still in development:

  • Communications Satellites: Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS), Wide-Band Global Satcom (WGS), Milstar, Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF), and Transformational Satellite Communications (TSAT).
  • Navigation Satellites: Global Positioning System (GPS)
  • Early Warning: Defense Support Program (DSP), Space Based Infrared Satellite System-High (SBIRS-High), Third Generation Infrared Surveillance (3GIRS)
  • Weather: Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP), National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS - a joint program with NOAA and NASA)
  • Ballistic Missile Defense-related: Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS, formerly SBIRS-Low)
  • Launch Vehicles: Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (Atlas V and Delta IV), Pegasus, Taurus, Minotaur (all of these also are used by the civil space sector)

DOD also has programs that address the needs for space situational awareness, space control, and operationally responsive space.


U.S. space policy, including national security space policy, was most recently enunciated by President Barack Obama in his National Space Policy, released on June 28, 2010. The Obama policy supersedes the policy issued in 2006 by President George W. Bush.

Other reviews are have been or are being conducted relative to national security space. A congressionally-directed "Space Posture Review" (sec. 913, P.L. 110-417) was due to be delivered to Congress on December 1, 2009, but was delayed pending completion of the National Space Policy. DOD also issued a congressionally required "Quadrennial Defense Review," and with other agencies is working on a presidentially-directed review of U.S. export control policies.

In February 2011, DOD and the Director of National Intelligence issued a National Security Space Strategy (NSSS) to begin the implementation phase of those aspects of the Obama National Space Policy. In addition to an unclassified summary of the NSSS, three other documents were released:

NSSS Unclassified Fact Sheet
NSSS Briefing Slides
NSSS DOD Initiatives Fact Sheet


When the Obama White House released its overarching national space policy in June 2010, it stated that it would release additional specific space policies in the coming months on other topics as previous Presidents have done. Other space policies that were promulated during President George W. Bush's administration related to national security space are:


The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has published a number of reports about national security space programs. For a list of its most recent reports, look on the left menu of our home page under "Government Accountability Office."

Also on the left menu of our home page is a link to "Other Reports of Interest" that may be helpful.

For historical information, the following reports from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) may be helpful.

Space Programs: Civilian, Military and Commercial June 13, 2006 (Previous version: November 17, 2005)

Military Space Activities: Issues Concerning DOD's SBIRS and STSS Programs. January 30, 2006

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International Space Activities

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-Apr-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

<< For current news items and links to other reports and resources, click on those links on the left menu. <<

Launching Countries

NASA and International Cooperation in Space

For More Information


Almost every country in the world is a "space-faring" country in the sense that they use satellites for communications and weather forecasting, and increasingly for satellite navigation and resource management. A smaller number of countries, along with companies and international organizations, own satellites. But the most attention is paid to the few countries with an ability to launch satellites. The following are the launching countries of the world today in the order in which they first placed a satellite into orbit.

Russia (1957)*
United States (1958)
Japan (1970)
China (1970)
European Space Agency (1979)**
India (1980)
Israel (1988)
Iran (2009)

*Formerly the Soviet Union.
** The European Space Agency (ESA) is a multi-national agency that currently has 18 members. Two of its members, France and Britain, launched satellites into space early in the space age (France from 1965-1976, Britain in 1971) as part of their national space programs before joining together with other European countries to build the Ariane launch vehicle. Since neither launches satellites individually today, they are not included in the list above. Ariane launches are conducted by the French company Arianespace.

Download fact sheets, Box Score of 2009 Space Launches and Box Score of 2010 Space Launches , showing how many successes and failures the launching countries had in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

Further information about the space activities of the non-U.S. launching countries can be found at the websites of their government space agencies. All have English-language websites.

China National Space Administration

European Space Agency

Indian Space Research Organization

Iranian Space Agency

Israel Space Agency

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos)


International cooperation in space activities has been a hallmark of the U.S. space program since its inception. Section 205 of the 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act permits NASA to engage in international cooperative efforts.

Sec. 205. The Administration, under the foreign policy guidance of the President, may engage in a program of international cooperation in work done pursuant to this Act, and in the peaceful application of the results thereof, pursuant to agreements made by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.

The language requiring international agreements to be made with the "advice and consent of the Senate" was the subject of a comment by President Eisenhower in his signing statement on the Act: "I regard this section merely as recognizing that international treaties may be made in this field, and as not precluding, in appropriate cases, less formal arrangements for cooperation. To construe the section otherwise would raise substantial constitutional questions."

According to Michael O'Brien, NASA's Assistant Administrator for External Relations, NASA has been involved with more than 3,000 agreements with over 100 nations or international organizations in its first 50 years. (Testimony to a subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Technology on April 2, 2008).

Today, the most far-reaching international space program is the International Space Station. The ISS is being built by the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and 11 members of ESA (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom).


The U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. is a "think tank" that "provides strategic insights and policy solutions to decisionmakers in government, international institutions, the private sector and civil society." Its Technology and Public Policy Program hosts the Space Initiative.

The European Space Policy Institute is a European think tank that provides "decisionmakers with an independent view and analysis on mid- to long-term issues relevant to the use of space." It writes an annual "Yearbook on Space Policy".

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