Ok, I finally got around to perusing the new US National Space Policy that came out a few weeks ago. Most of the noise I’ve heard so far has been by people attacking the policy for being too belligerent. While I can see one or two sentences in there that could possibly have ominous interpretations, I think that some of the rhetoric in that direction is a wee bit overblown. It is a wee bit belligerent, but I don’t think the current administration could recite their ABCs without being at least a little bit bellicose. You live, you die, you get over it.
What deserves far more attention was all the language in there regarding commercial space. I’ll just quote a bunch of it:
From the last bullet point in Section Four [emphasis added in italics]:
Strengthen and Maintain the U.S. Space-Related Science, Technology, and
Industrial Base. A robust science, technology, and industrial base is critical for U.S. space capabilities. Departments and agencies shall: encourage new discoveries in space science and new applications of technology; and enable future space systems to achieve new and improved capabilities, including incentives for high-risk/high-payoff and transformational space capabilities. Additionally, departments and agencies shall: conduct the basic and applied research that increases capability and decreases cost; encourage an innovative commercial space sector, including the use of prize competitions; and ensure the availability of space related industrial capabilities in support of critical government functions.
That part about space prizes is amusing seeing as how the two agencies offering prizes (DARPA and NASA) are either being stripped by Congress of funding or authorization for doing such prizes. Hopefully that can be fixed before too late. It’s already a pity that such a miniscule part of DARPA and NASA’s funding is going to such productive ends–outright eliminating those prizes would be a travesty.
There were lots of other good quotes in Section Seven [also with emphasis added]:
Use U.S. commercial space capabilities and services to the maximum practical extent; purchase commercial capabilities and services when they are available in the commercial marketplace and meet United States Government requirements; and modify commercially available capabilities and services to meet those United States Government requirements when the modification is cost effective;
Develop systems when it is in the national interest and there is no suitable, cost effective U.S. commercial or, as appropriate, foreign commercial service or system that is or will be available when required;
Continue to include and increase U.S. private sector participation in the design and
development of United States Government space systems and infrastructures;
Refrain from conducting activities that preclude, deter, or compete with U.S. commercial space activities, unless required by national security or public safety;
Is anyone else surprised that Griffin isn’t trying to draw too much attention to this new policy? I have to admit that this policy is overall pretty darned good. Especially the section seven stuff. I tend to be rather hard on this administration when they do stupid stuff, but I think that I ought to at least say something good when they come up with a good policy.
Now it’d be nice if they actually had the balls to tell Griffin to actually pay attention to it. Anyone want to guess what the probability of that is?