Space Science and Technology

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RAND was an early leader in the field of space science, producing seminal works in the design, launch, and operation of satellites in the 1940s and '50s. RAND continues to pursue space studies: Current topics include international cooperation (and the United States' dependency on foreign components), orbital debris (or "space junk"), and the funding of space missions.

  • Technicians assemble a small satellite, photo by by Johns Hopkins University / U.S. Navy

    Report

    Past Problems and Future Challenges in the Acquisition of Military Space Systems

    Mar 15, 2015

    As Department of Defense plans for the next-generation space systems in an increasingly challenging fiscal and security environment, it is important to apply lessons learned from past space acquisition, which had experienced many difficulties.

  • A satellite orbiting Earth, photo by Andrey Armyagov/Fotolia

    Commentary

    The Democratization of Space

    Mar 28, 2016

    A new economic model for outer space must account for lower barriers to entry and the involvement of more and more stakeholders, such as developing countries and start-ups.

Explore Space Science and Technology

  • A man using a radio transciever

    Report

    Signals Intelligence for Anyone

    Signals intelligence (SIGINT) is intelligence gathered from communications, electronics, or foreign instrumentation. SIGINT has traditionally been considered a governmental function. But new technologies allow citizens to conduct SIGINT activities. This has implications for the government.

    Dec 5, 2017

  • Report

    The U.S.-Japan Alliance and Deterring Gray Zone Coercion in the Maritime, Cyber, and Space Domains

    China is trying to change the status quo in the Indo-Pacific through gray zone coercion -- actions below the threshold that would trigger a military response. This report focuses on deterring such coercion in the maritime, cyber, and space domains.

    Nov 20, 2017

  • Report

    The Creation of the PLA Strategic Support Force and Its Implications for Chinese Military Space Operations

    This report explores the missions and organization of China's Strategic Support Force, created in 2015 to develop and employ space capabilities, in particular launch and operation of satellites to provide C4ISR capabilities for joint operations.

    Nov 10, 2017

  • Journal Article

    The Russian Space Sector: Adaptation, Retrenchment, and Stagnation

    The journey of the Russian space industry since the collapse of the Soviet Union offers a case study in how Russia, in spite of indications to do otherwise, chose not to break with previous models of behavior and organization.

    Jul 20, 2017

  • An artist's rendering of a refueling depot for deep-space exploration between Earth and the moon

    Commentary

    Mining the Moon for Rocket Fuel to Get Us to Mars

    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.

    May 16, 2017

  • An A-29 Super Tucano flies over Afghanistan during a training mission, April 6, 2016

    Report

    Innovation in the United States Air Force

    An assessment of historical cases of Air Force innovation — or apparent failure to innovate — sheds light on whether the service is sufficiently innovative today and what can be done to make it more innovative for the future.

    May 13, 2016

  • Report

    RAPAPORT (Resilience Assessment Process and Portfolio Option Reporting Tool): Background and Method

    Describes industry methods for determining space resilience, the authors' method for the evaluating the non-materiel aspects of resilience, and the tool they developed for performing these resilience calculations and presenting the results.

    Apr 28, 2016

  • The U.S. Air Force's Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site at the summit of Haleakala on the Hawaiian island of Maui

    Report

    Best Practices for Sustainable Operations at the Air Force's Observatory on Maui

    The Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site on the Hawaiian island of Maui is a major site of U.S. space surveillance activity. A study of best practices implemented at similar research institutions offers suggestions for how the Air Force might further streamline its operations and lower operating costs.

    Apr 22, 2016

  • Journal Article

    Competition and Collaboration in Space Between the U.S., China, and Australia: Woomera to WGS and the Impact of Changing U.S. National Space Security Policy

    Australian space activities have been reinvigorated, but remain underfunded. China's space activities remain vigorous, but largely unilateral. Given U.S. policy changes, opportunities for cooperation and collaboration among all three have improved.

    Mar 5, 2015

  • NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman works outside the International Space Station's Quest airlock in October 2014

    Commentary

    Don't Worry About Russia Backing Away from Space and WMD Cooperation

    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.

    Feb 27, 2015

  • Satellite space station

    Blog

    Space Talk Launches Politics Aside

    Hundreds of guests packed the Cary Grant Theatre at Sony Studios to kick off RAND's Politics Aside event with a discussion on space technology, policy, and leadership. Matt Miller, columnist, author, and radio host moderated the panel, which included Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs; George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic; and NASA astronaut Cady Coleman.

    Nov 14, 2014

  • Yool Kim and other witnesses at the July 16, 2014 joint hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee

    Commentary

    Should the U.S. Rely on Russian Rocket Engines?

    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.

    Jul 16, 2014

  • Launch vehicle lift-off for evolved expendable launch vehicle program

    Testimony

    Does Reliance on Foreign Component Supply Chains Put U.S. Launch Vehicles at Risk?

    While there are both risks and benefits of using foreign components in the U.S. Air Force Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, the risk of potential supply interruption of most foreign components is manageable. To mitigate those risks, trade-offs of costs, schedules, and mission significance must be considered.

    Jul 16, 2014

  • satellite image courtesy of NOAA

    Report

    A Safe Way to Implement a Database of Satellite Anomalies

    Satellite anomalies are malfunctions caused by solar particles, cosmic rays, or even space debris. A shared database could help identify solutions to prolong the lifetime of spacecraft that experience problems, and could be implemented in a way that would protect the privacy of the satellite operators.

    Jun 2, 2014

  • A computer-generated image of objects in Earth orbit that are currently being tracked, 95% of which is orbital debris

    Commentary

    Debris Poses Increased Threat to Exploration

    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. Earth's orbit is littered with hundreds of thousands of debris objects.

    May 16, 2014

  • Report

    Achieving Higher-Fidelity Conjunction Analyses Using Cryptography to Improve Information Sharing

    Examines the applicability of secure multiparty computation (MPC) protocols as a means to compute the collision probability of two satellites (conjunction analyses) while maintaining the privacy of each operator's orbital information.

    Feb 12, 2014

  • Haleakala Observatory — AEOS 3.67-meter telescope is the largest in the Department of Defense.

    Report

    A Sixty-Year Timeline of the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site

    Since it was built in the 1950s, the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site's mission, management structure, and operational partners have changed several times to accommodate the contemporary challenges and research tools. This timeline documents some of those historical changes.

    Dec 16, 2013

  • Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu province

    Commentary

    Satellites for Rent

    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.

    Nov 8, 2013