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FACT SHEET: Strengthening U.S. International Space Partnerships
18 MINUTE READ
December 20, 2023

Today, Vice President Kamala Harris will convene the third meeting of the National Space Council during the Biden-Harris Administration in Washington, D.C., where she is announcing that, alongside American astronauts, the United States will land an international astronaut on the surface of the Moon by the end of the decade.

The meeting will highlight the United States’ extraordinary progress in broadening and deepening international space partnerships across a range of areas, including supporting American leadership and strength, providing societal benefits here on Earth, and helping the United States lead a return of humans to the Moon with an unprecedented network of allies and partners.

International Partnerships as a Source of American Leadership and Strength

Our allies and partners remain a source of enduring U.S. strength and competitive advantage, including in outer space.

President Biden approved classified Space Security Guidance in June 2023, which directs the United States to increase integration with allies and partners on space activities, operations, plans, capabilities, and information sharing for mutual benefit in response to growing space and counterspace threats and to protect U.S. forces from hostile uses of space.

More broadly, under the Vice President’s leadership of the National Space Council, the United States is leading efforts in the responsible, peaceful, and sustainable use of space, to include promoting international rules and norms of responsible behavior.  A key element of that effort is the U.S. commitment not to conduct destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing.  As of today, 36 other countries have made their own national commitments.

During today’s meeting, the Biden-Harris Administration will make clear the United States is leading the world in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space.

The Vice President is announcing the following initiatives:

  • Expanding and Strengthening the Artemis Accords Coalition:  The State Department and NASA will advance the Artemis Accords principles through collaborative work among signatories on practical challenges facing space actors with imminent plans to return to the Moon, as well as engagement in multilateral fora to advance shared values.  The Artemis Accords have been signed by 33 nations to support the sustainable and safe exploration of space.
  • U.S. Science Envoy for Space:  The State Department will select a U.S. Science Envoy in 2024 focused on civil use of space, who will build peer-to-peer connections with foreign researchers, promote space science education, and raise awareness of the importance of space science to society.
  • Embassy Science Fellows:  The State Department and NASA will partner together to increase the number of Embassy Science Fellows with backgrounds in space.
  • Next Generation Low Earth Orbit (LEO) National Laboratory: In September 2022, the National Space Council directed NASA to “develop a plan for the next generation microgravity national lab in a commercial space station world.”  NASA is working to develop this strategy, to include considerations for establishing robust international partner pathways outlined in a report titled “Models for Facilitating Government-Funded Activities in the Post-International Space Station (ISS) Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) Ecosystem,” as one step in NASA’s effort to define and develop a comprehensive strategy.
  • Observations of the Cosmos to Enable International Academic Partnerships:  NASA has enabled partnerships between faculty and students in South Africa and the United States pursuing astrophysics research using observations of the cosmos from stratospheric scientific balloons.  Over the next year, NASA plans to expand this program, adding partnerships with other emerging space faring nations in southern Africa and South America. The goal of the program is to create strong, sustaining, and mutually beneficial collaborations between scientists in the United States and the next generation of scientists and engineers who will remain and lead the science, engineering, and technology developments in their home countries.
  • Vera C. Rubin Observatory: The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy announced that the Vera C. Rubin Observatory being constructed in Chile (with future operational partners including more than two dozen countries) will collect its first photon in 2024.

The Department of Defense (DOD) will accelerate space cooperation, collaboration, and combined operations with allies and partners, including:

  • U.S. Space Force Guidance for Global Partnerships: The U.S. Space Force (USSF) will release an unclassified summary of its guidance for international cooperation.
  • Regional Space Advisor (RSA): The U.S. Space Force is establishing the RSA program, which will develop select Guardians to enhance USSF capabilities, strengthen relationships, secure common interests and promote shared values in space. RSAs will be the USSF’s Security Cooperation workforce.
  • Combined Space Operations (CSpO) Initiative: DOD is expanding international participation in the CSpO initiative, including adding Italy, Japan, and Norway earlier this month.  Australia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom also participate in CSpO.
  • AUKUS: Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, under the auspices of their trilateral security partnership – AUKUS, is expanding its their intent to collaborate on space, including the Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) announced earlier this month.  DARC will help ensure responsible space operations that benefit the security, safety, economy, and environment of each nation.
  • U.S.-Japan Space Security Cooperation: The US and Japan are integrating two U.S. optical space domain awareness payloads on two Japanese-built satellites in the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS). These hosted payloads will augment the U.S. ability to detect, track and identify space objects while providing increased sensor diversity/capacity and architecture resiliency.  The first QZSS Hosted Payload will launch as soon as next year.
  • U.S.-Norway Space Security Cooperation: U.S.-Norway collaboration enabled the integration of two U.S. Enhanced Polar System Recapitalization (EPS-R) payloads on two Norwegian-built and flagged Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission satellites. EPS-R is an Extremely High Frequency military satellite communications (SATCOM) system that will provide 24/7 protected SATCOM for forces operating in the Arctic. EPS-R is projected to save the USSF over $900 million, extend services into the early- to mid-2030s, and deliver capability to the polar region three years faster than traditional satellite acquisition.  The first launch is planned in 2024.
  • Satellite Communications: DoD is leading an International Partner Working Group to support a Narrowband SATCOM Analysis of Alternatives. This unprecedented study includes 12 partner nations contributing to requirements, current utility, and plans for tactical SATCOM.

The Vice President will also announce that she has directed the U.S. Government to do the following:

  • Develop a strategy for international capacity building using space.
  • Develop a plan for tangible next steps on deepening our implementation of the Artemis Accords.
  • Continue to strengthen outreach to nations to encourage further commitments not to conduct destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing.
  • Develop minimum cybersecurity standards for space systems.

International Partnerships Providing Societal Benefits on Earth

Supporting the U.S. Space Economy

Space data, products, and services provide tangible benefits and economic opportunity to the American people, including well-paying jobs across the nation.  Increasing international commercial space partnerships leads to growth in the U.S. space economy and the creation of well-paying jobs.

The Vice President is announcing the following initiatives:

  • Harmonizing International Launch and Reentry Regulations: The Department of Transportation (DOT) will pursue new efforts to reduce international duplication and dual licensing of launches and reentries.  DOT will work toward enabling recognition of launch safety approvals between foreign governments to eliminate dual licensing of a single U.S. launch activity when conducted from another country.
  • Promoting Safety Multilaterally for Launch and Reentry: DOT will begin a multilateral discussion on safety standards for launch, reentry, and operation of launch and reentry sites.
  • Foreign Investment: The Department of Commerce (DOC) will include a session on space during its annual SelectUSA Investment Summit in June 2024.
  • International Commercial Space Cooperation: The Departments of State and Commerce will strengthen commercial space diplomacy efforts intended to deepen U.S. international commercial space partnerships, including through bilateral and multilateral engagements.
  • Public Release of Space Manufacturing Technology Report: NASA and the Departments of Commerce and Defense have developed a Space Manufacturing Technology Report based on a vision of transformative innovation to advance U.S. leadership, leverage international collaboration, grow and diversify space-related STEM education and the workforce, and strengthen the U.S. industrial base.  The report will be posted here.
  • New Public-Private Partnership: NSF will launch a new public-private partnership through NSF’s Geodetic Facility for the Advancement of Geoscience that has developed a commercial data product for use in vehicle navigation and high-precision land surveys across the globe.  This partnership will support observations of the water cycle, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and atmospheric processes.

Leveraging Space to Combat the Climate Crisis, Natural Disasters, and Extreme Weather Events

Space assets play a unique role in providing action-oriented global measurement and monitoring capabilities, as well as life-saving data to combat the climate crisis.  Space capabilities assist our understanding, prediction, and prevention of natural disasters and extreme weather events.

The Vice President will announce the following initiatives:

  • Improving Societal Health in South America and Africa Using Environmental Data: In April 2023, Vice President Harris directed the National Space Council to develop a plan to enhance air quality monitoring in the Southern Hemisphere.  To help fulfill that direction, NASA is deepening cooperation with the U.S. Agency for International Development to expand the upcoming Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) mission to improve measurements of airborne particulate matter associated with adverse health outcomes in Africa and South America.  NASA and the Italian space agency are partnering to build and launch MAIA.
  • Expanding Landsat Initiatives: The Department of the Interior is launching the Landsat 2030 International Partnership Initiative to enhance U.S. and partner governments’ abilities to sustainably manage their land, surface water, and resource use by leveraging the Landsat Next Earth Observation mission.  NASA is harmonizing Landsat Earth observation satellite data with European partners to enable faster access to international datasets for use by farmers, city planners, and other decision makers.
  • Coordinating via the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Center: NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and DOC published an initial version of the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Center website that will facilitate coordination across Federal, non-Federal, domestic, and international entities to combat the climate crisis, including incorporation of data from U.S., Canadian, European, and Japanese satellites.
  • Expanding Global Climate Data Sharing: NASA is expanding its efforts to promote Open Source Science globally in order to increase engagement with other countries to improve our shared understanding of global climate challenges.
  • Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Astronomy: NSF is working with international partners through its Environmental Sustainability Program to reduce its total annual carbon footprint by 50% at its ground-based optical astronomical facilities which support space research and activities by the end of the decade.  This is being achieved primarily through installation of solar panels and batteries at its facilities in Chile.

The Vice President is also announcing that she has directed the U.S. Government to do the following:

  • Conduct a review of space export controls to enable a globally competitive U.S. industrial base while protecting our national security and foreign policy interests.

Leading the Return to the Moon with an Unprecedented Network of Allies and Partners

As the United States continues to lead the return to the Moon, the Vice President will announce the following:

  • Developing International Partnerships on the Lunar Gateway: NASA is working with international partners to develop the lunar Gateway, which will be the first space station to orbit the Moon.  Europe and Japan are building the International Habitation Module (I-Hab), Japan will provide cargo resupply with an upgrade of its H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-X), Europe is providing the European System Providing Refueling, Infrastructure and Telecommunications (ESPRIT) module, and Canada is developing Canadarm3, a robotic arm to perform science utilization and maintenance.
  • Enabling International Contributions on the Moon: At the direction of the Vice President during the September 2022 National Space Council meeting, NASA developed a lunar surface architecture definition document to identify areas the United States is seeking commercial and international partnerships in Moon to Mars exploration. NASA is working with international space agency on multiple future partnership opportunities, including a Japanese pressurized crew rover, an Italian crew habitation module, European Space Agency lunar cargo landers, and a Canadian science and utilization rover.
  • Promoting Radio Astronomy on the Moon: NSF, working with NASA, will develop a report on planned radio astronomy facilities in the shielded zone of the moon (SZM), including unique science not possible from Earth and supporting radiocommunication needs for SZM observations, working with international partners at the International Telecommunications Union.
  • Improving Space Weather Forecasting: The Office of Science and Technology Policy will release its Implementation Plan of the National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan, which brings together Federal Departments and Agencies to continue to build capabilities to improve the safety and security of our nation, and to protect the lives of our astronauts, during space weather storms.