US turns focus to space as rivals China and Russia loom
- As the National Space Council meets for the first time, VP Kamala Harris will ask the body to develop and expand rules for responsible behaviour in space
- Recent hypersonic and anti-satellite weapons tests raise concerns over increasing competition from other superpowers and a possible arms race
The Biden administration on Wednesday laid out a new strategy for responsible civil, commercial and national security-related use of space amid growing commercial interests and concerns about Chinese and Russian competition.
US Vice-President Kamala Harris, set to convene the inaugural meeting of the National Space Council, planned to ask members of the government body “to accelerate, expand, and develop rules and norms for responsible behaviour in space”, the White House said.
“We are on the cusp of historic changes in access to and use of space – changes that have the potential to bring the benefits of space to more people and communities than ever before,” the administration said in a report outlining its space priorities.
The council’s inaugural meeting comes as Washington frets over rising security activity by its major rivals in space.
China’s test of hypersonic weapons this year raised the prospect of an arms race over Earth-orbiting systems that could evade current missile defences.
The administration also condemned Russia’s anti-satellite weapons test last month that they said created debris and endangered the International Space Station (ISS).
Meanwhile, a growing number of companies, including SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, are seeking to usher in a new era of private commercial space flights following years of private firms working alongside the US government’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) in rocket launches.
The administration also wants the group’s work to increase space climate data and enhance scientific-related efforts that could aid job creation and US competitiveness, it said in a statement.
The National Space Council is separate from the US Space Force military branch created under former president Donald Trump.