The ability to provide relatively low cost internet access outside of government control is both a challenge for authoritarian states and an opportunity for democracies. What are low-altitude, low-latency satellites and why are authoritarian states so concerned?
To make better progress on global norms for responsible behavior in space, the U.S. defense and intelligence communities might first consider reaching a consensus among themselves on what these norms should be. Until they reconcile their differences the United States will be less likely be in a position to play a leadership role.
The potential for conflicts to originate in outer space, or for terrestrial conflicts to extend there, has grown with the development of counterspace weapons and the explosion of commercial space activity. But previous efforts to establish norms have had limited results. The Biden administration has an opportunity, working with like-minded allies and partners, to galvanize nascent international efforts.
Some 70 countries and multinational organizations own or operate satellites and there are plans for many more. Multilateral cooperative efforts could help set a foundation for the adoption of transparency and confidence measures that offer realistic hope of reducing risks and protecting freedom of access to space for all nations.
Our recent RAND report on the global heavy lift launch market highlights the potential for a near term shortage of launch vehicles needed to lift U.S. defense and intelligence satellites to orbit. These satellites are the eyes, ears, networks and timekeepers of U.S. armed services, and an inability to launch them in times of need could compromise national security.
As space becomes more congested with satellites, the need for every nation to actively participate in the space safety coordination system grows. Most spacefaring countries participate, but a few countries do not—notably, Russia and China. That creates greater potential for collisions and hazards from debris.
Seventy years ago, a group of researchers established the independent RAND Corporation. From the first satellite design, to helping ensure GPS as a public good, to laying the groundwork for the internet, RAND has been making a difference ever since.
Space-enabled connectivity, technology, and services support a diverse array of political, military and economic activities, many of which modern life on Earth relies upon and which the public often takes for granted. How prepared is global society to deal with the growing reliance on this technology and to mitigate associated risks?
NASA astronaut Dr. Mae C. Jemison delivered RAND's 2018 Haskins Lecture. She discussed how the pursuit of interstellar travel benefits society, the vital role science plays in our lives, and the importance of continued investment in research and technology.
Merton Davies spent his early years using satellite imagery to spy on terrestrial targets. His work led to the first successful reconnaissance satellite, Corona. Later, he used deep-space photographs to map the planets in our solar system.
Students from around the world participated in the 2017 Caltech Space Challenge. They proposed designs of what a lunar launch and supply station for deep space missions might look like, and how it would work.
Two symbols of U.S.-Russian cooperation are nearing the end of their life expectancies, the International Space Station and the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. But both stand as remarkable milestones of achievement and reminders of what can be accomplished when nations put aside political differences for the betterment of humanity.
One of the two launch vehicles that lift U.S. satellites into orbit depends on a rocket engine made by a company located in Russia. Russia's recent clashes with Ukraine and its claims on the Crimean peninsula have caused friction with the United States and thereby raised questions among U.S. policymakers about the potential for an interruption in the supply of the engines.
According to consumer research, the ability to consume media, write an email, or even sleep during transport is a key selling point for autonomous vehicles (self-driving cars), which could be widely available in the fairly near future. Autonomous vehicle technology could also produce a wide range of public benefits.
Today, every satellite launch and maneuver is carefully coordinated because some orbits are strewn with the space-based equivalent of blown tires, abandoned vehicles, loose gravel and, of course, other traffic.
Reports earlier this year that the U.S. Department of Defense leased a Chinese satellite to support military operations in Africa sparked concern that the arrangement could compromise control over U.S. military communications, or, worse, allow Chinese intelligence gatherers access to privileged military data.
The future of manned space flight, including missions to Mars and other deep space destinations, will likely depend on the combined resources of governments and commercial enterprises, say Dave Baiocchi and William Welser.
Even in the face of a budgetary spending cap and the ever-looming possibility of new cuts, NASA continues investing in a robust and diverse human spaceflight program. But with fiscal uncertainty expected to continue, it should consider reordering its spending priorities.
This isn't going to be an easy problem to solve because, like spilled petroleum products, debris can spend years lurking in an environment that is foreign to most people's daily lives, write Dave Baiocchi and William Welser.
While the event in Russia was caused by a medium-sized (10,000-ton) meteor, larger objects, like the asteroid 2012 DA14 that also passed near Earth last week, have the potential to be significantly more damaging, write Dave Baiocchi and William Welser.
Sea Launch's recent failure means more than just a lost payload and revenue for Intelsat: It means the status quo for launch services will continue for a while longer, write Dave Baiocchi and William Welser.
Celestial real estate is increasingly popular. Now that Iran has joined the space club, 10 countries have demonstrated the ability to launch a probe into orbit.... All in all more than 900 satellites, along with tens of thousands of bits of man-made space detritus, jockey for elbow room overhead, write Caroline S. Reilly and Peter D. Zimmerman.
The Atlantic Monthly Magazine features a compilation of ten short essays written by experts at RAND, collectively titled Headlines Over the Horizon. The RAND authors examined developments in international and military affairs drawing little attention today that are expected to be major issues in the next three to five years.