Latest News

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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Civil Space Activities

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

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

Brief Introduction


NASA's FY2009, FY2010 and FY2011 Budgets

NASA's FY2012 Budget Request

U.S. Civil Space Policy


The 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to conduct a civil space program, while assigning military space activities to the Department of Defense.

Over the past five decades, other U.S. government agencies have taken leadership roles in various aspects of civil space activities, but NASA remains by far the largest and most visible U.S. civil space agency. Others with significant roles in civil space include:

Other agencies also have roles in the space program. The President submits to Congress an annual Aeronautics and Space Report of the President that provides funding and programmatic information about all U.S. Government agencies involved in space activities. The most recent version is for fiscal year (FY) 2008.


NASA conducts both aeronautics and space activities. This website is devoted to space policy and thus does not discuss NASA's aeronautics programs as critical as they are to the nation. For information on NASA's aeronautics programs, visit the website of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

NASA is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and has nine field centers around the country: Ames Research Center (Mountain View, CA); Dryden Flight Research Center (Palmdale, CA); Glenn Research Center (Cleveland, OH); Goddard Space Flight Center(Greenbelt, MD), which also operates Wallops Flight Facility (Wallops Island, VA), the Goddard Institute of Space Studies (New York, NY) and the Independent Verification and Validation facility in Fairmont, WV ; Langley Research Center (Langley, VA); Johnson Space Center (Houston, TX), which also operates White Sands Test Facility (White Sands, NM); Kennedy Space Center (Cape Canaveral, FL); Marshall Space Flight Center (Huntsville, AL); and Stennis Space Center (in South Mississippi). Many consider the Jet Propulsion Laboratory(Pasadena, CA) as another NASA center, but it is a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) operated for NASA by the California Institute of Technology. Nonetheless, NASA is usually referred to as having 10 centers around the country, in addition to its headquarters in Washington, D.C.

NASA's FY2009, FY2010, AND FY2011 BUDGETS

For FY2009, NASA received $17.8 billion in the FY2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act (compared to the $17.6 requested by President Bush). In addition, Congress added $1 billion for NASA in FY2009 in the stimulus bill (America's Recovery and Reinvestment Act), bringing the total funds available to NASA in FY2009 to $18.8 billion.

President Obama's FY2010 request for NASA was $18.686 billion. NASA's budget website provides FY2010 budget request documentation for the agency and transcripts of related press conferences. Funding for NASA was incorporated Into the FY2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 3288, P.L. 111-119), which provides $18.724 billion for the agency. A fact sheet tracked the NASA budget as it worked its way through Congress. One of the major points of contention was the future of the U.S. human space flight program. The White House directed NASA to establish a blue ribbon panel, the Augustine committee, to develop options for the human space flight program. The President did not make a decision about which option to take during the course of congressional deliberations on the FY2010 budget, so Congress included language in the FY2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act prohibiting NASA from spending any funds to terminate the existing program, Constellation, or initiate a new program until Congress approved of such action through another appropriations act. The exact language on p. 110 of the act (H.R. 3288) is:

"That notwithstanding section 505 of this Act, none of the funds provided herein and from prior years that remain available for obligation during fiscal year 2010 shall be available for the termination or elimination of any program, project or activity of the architecture for the Constellation program nor shall such funds be available to create or initiate a new program, project or activity, unless such program termination, elimination, creation, or initiation is provided in subsequent appropriations Acts."

For FY2011, NASA requested $19.0 Billion, 1.5% more than the FY2010 appropriation. Detailed information about the request is available from NASA on its budget website. Congress and the President did not complete action on the FY2011 appropriations bill for NASA or other government agencies until April 2011, however, half way through the fiscal year. NASA operated on a series of "Continuing Resolutions" (CRs) at its FY2010 level while the debate continued. [Congress did pass an authorization bill for FY2011-2013 (the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, P.L. 111-267), but authorization bills set policy and recommend funding levels; they do not actually provide any money.] NASA was appropriated $18.45 billion for FY2011 in the so-called "full year CR" -- P.L. 112-10 -- signed into law on April 15, 2011. More information is available in this fact sheet.

The FY2011 budget request proposed dramatic changes to NASA's plans for the future of the U.S. human space flight program. Briefly, the Obama Administration decided to retain President George W. Bush's plan to end the space shuttle program as soon as construction of the International Space Station (ISS) was completed, but to terminate development of its successor, which was part of the Constellation program developed in response to President Bush's 2004 Vision for Space Exploration speech. President Bush had directed NASA to return humans to the Moon by 2020 and someday send them to Mars and the spacecraft that would be used for that purpose would also be used to take crews to and from ISS. The Bush Administration expected a four-year gap between the end of the space shuttle and the availability of the successor system.

Instead, the Obama Administration proposed that development and operation of crew space transportation systems to take people to and from low Earth orbit (LEO), including the ISS, be turned over to the private sector. Under the Obama plan, NASA would focus on developing "game-changing" technologies to enable lower cost human space flight missions beyond LEO in the future while subsidizing private sector companies to develop new crew space transportation systems (launch vehicles and spacecraft) at a total of $6 billion over five years (FY2011-2015). This concept is called "commercial crew."

The proposal was very controversial and the subject of many congressional hearings during 2010. Congress wanted NASA to develop a new crew space transportation system to service LEO as well as take astronauts to destinations beyond LEO as expected under the Bush plan. One concern was that private sector systems for LEO transportation would not materialize and the "gap" between the end of the space shuttle program and the availability of a new U.S. crew space transportation system would be even longer than four years. The Obama Administration insisted that commercially-developed systems could be ready sooner than a government-developed system, shortening that gap.

A compromise was reached in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act (P.L. 111-267) in which NASA was directed to do both: build a new Space Launch System and a Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle for use both in LEO and for yet-to-be-determined beyond LEO destinations, as well as help commercial companies build LEO crew space transportation systems. The law also supported President Obama's request to extend operations of the ISS through at least 2020; the Bush Administration had envisioned ending U.S. participation in the program in 2015.

Many view the authorization act as recommending insufficient funds to do all that NASA would be required to do, and the FY2011 appropriations level was even less than what was authorized. The debate over the future of the U.S. human space flight program is continuing in the FY2012 budget cycle.


For FY2012, NASA is requesting $18.7 billion, the same as the amount appropriated for FY2010. It is slightly more than what it received for FY2011 (see above). More information about the request is available in this fact sheet, which tracks the request as it works its way through Congress.

The debate over this year's NASA budget request mirrors the debate over the FY2011 budget. The Obama Administration and Congress remained at odds over the future of the human space flight program for the first half of the year, though it improved in September with the release of the SLS design (see below). The bipartisan leadership of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and its Science and Space Subcommittee was particularly strong in criticizing the Obama Administration's FY2012 NASA budget request because they believed it contravened the compromise reached in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act (P.L. 111-267). They believed they made it clear that the priority was for NASA to develop a new Space Launch System (SLS) and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), while also permitting NASA to financially assist commercial companies develop commercial crew space systems. The FY2012 budget request, however, asks for more money than was authorized for commercial crew and less money than was authorized for the SLS and MPCV.

The SLS has been a particularly sore point between the Administration and Congress. In June 2011, the Senate Commerce committee issued a subpoena to force NASA to provide documentation about its efforts regarding the SLS because they felt the Administration was dragging its feet. NASA was directed in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act to submit a report to Congress by January 2011 on the SLS and MPCV, but the agency submitted what it calls an interim report. It promised a final report in the spring, which slipped to summer, and in July NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden told the House Science, Space and Technology Committee that it might be fall before the report was ready. He asked for patience, but it was clear that congressional patience had worn thin.

The matter came to a head in September after the Wall Street Journal published a story saying that the White House had "sticker shock" over the cost of potentially accelerating the program. Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) issued a blistering press release about "a campaign to undermine" the U.S. human spaceflight program, pointing out that no one was suggesting that the program be accelerated and the cost was perfectly reasonable. The two met with NASA Administrator Bolden and OMB Director Lew on September 13 and the next day the SLS design was released in a hastily called press conference in one of the Senate office buildings. NASA held a media teleconference shortly thereafter providing more details about the design and program plan. The current plan is to spend approximately $3 billion per year on SLS and MPCV, with a first test flight of SLS in 2017 and the first flight with a crew in 2021. That would mean the new system would not be available for crew flights until after the current date for ISS operations to end (2020), which means it would not serve as a backup to the commercial crew systems NASA hopes will be ready sooner than that. The 2010 NASA Authorization Act directed that the SLS/MPCV be available as a backup to commercial crew. Until a new U.S. system, government or commercial, is ready, the United States will have to rely on Russia to take astronauts to and from the ISS.

At the same time, the increasingly austere budget environment is making it difficult for all government agencies that are part of the "discretionary" budget. That includes most of the agencies with which the public is familiar, including all the cabinet-level departments (such as the Department of Defense) and independent agencies like NASA. The drive to cut the deficit by reining in federal spending has become the crucial topic in Washington politics. How NASA will be able to afford a new crew space transportation system of its own while helping commercial companies build their systems, as well as pay for the scientific and aeronautics research that also is part of NASA's portfolio, is a challenge. This is particularly true as NASA's primary astrophysics program, the James Webb Space Telescope, is encountering significant overruns.

Thus, although the SLS design has been announced and NASA is moving forward with it, the future of the human spaceflight program remains somewhat controversial, though less so than last year. The Administration appears to have accepted that it must build SLS and MPCV, and Congress is allowing the Administration to financially support commercial crew development, though at a lower level than the Administration prefers. Exactly how much money will be available for each of those endeavors awaits final action on the FY2012 appropriations bill and those that await in the future.


U.S. civil space policy is set both by presidential directive and in law.

The most recent presidential national space policy directive was issued by President Barack Obama on June 28, 2010. It supersedes the policy issued by President George W. Bush in 2006.

The Obama White House said that it would issue additional specific policies for other topics as earlier Presidents have done. President Bush issued these other space policies in addition to his 2006 national space policy:

Congress has set policy most recently in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act (P.L. 111-267). That and other U.S. domestic space laws, including the 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Law that created NASA, are discussed under the Space Law section of this website.

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DOD Recommends Terminating the Transformational Satellite Communications (TSAT) Program

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

On April 6, 2009, DOD Secretary Robert Gates announced his department's key FY2010 budget recommendations one of which is that "Third, we will terminate the $26 billion transformational satellite program, TSAT, and instead will purchase two more advanced extremely high-frequency satellites as alternatives."

President calls station to chat with astronauts

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Mar-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

President Barack Obama, hosting school kids and members of Congress, called the crews of the shuttle Discovery and the international space station today, quizzing the astronauts about life in space and offering congratulations for a successful station assembly mission.


House Armed Services Holds Hearing on Space and National Security

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 18-Mar-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

On March 18, 2009, the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Strategic Forces held a hearing on space and national security.


Mr. Bruce W. MacDonald (pdf)

Author of recent Council on Foreign Relations Study on China, Space Weapons, and U.S. Security

Mr. Michael Krepon (pdf)


The Henry L. Stimson Center

Major General James Armor, USAF (Ret.) (pdf)

Owner and CEO

The Armor Group, LLC.

Events of Interest

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