New Space Race

August 4, 2017 – Volume 27, Issue 28
Is the U.S. falling behind Russia and China? By Patrick Marshall


New Challenges

Policymakers and analysts fear that failing to fund U.S. space programs at sufficient levels could have serious implications for U.S. national security. U.S. satellites must be better protected soon or the country could lose strategic advantages in communication, guidance, intelligence gathering and other areas important to the military, they say.

“The era of unchallenged U.S. dominance of space is over,” said Colby at the Center for a New American Security. The United States, he said, must “induce, convince, coerce, deter, dissuade, coax, incentivize or otherwise persuade” other countries not to exploit the vulnerabilities of U.S. satellites or the country's other space assets.109

Military officials are working to make U.S. satellites more maneuverable and resistant to jamming, but it is unclear whether Trump administration members understand why such steps are necessary, says Singer, of the New America think tank.

He also says competing interests in space among countries such as the United States, China and Russia make war on Earth more likely. “For most of the 20th century, the idea of great state powers going to war against each other was thinkable,” he says. “It is thinkable once more.”

Some policymakers say the United States must do more to assert its leadership over activities in Earth's orbit. Otherwise, they say, U.S. officials will treat China's progress in space as a potential military threat and will not want aerospace companies involved in space after all.

“China already has demonstrated a strong disregard for interests of other countries in outer space through its anti-satellite tests,” Rep. Smith said at a hearing before his House committee in September. “Here on Earth, illegal incursions into the South China Sea represent a blatant disregard for the international rule of law. Will their disregard of international law continue to extend into outer space?”110

Some experts warn of potential trouble in space from rogue organizations or even individuals.

“Given the revolution in [private space flight], it's possible to imagine other nonstate actors having a go at space as well,” wrote Baiocchi and Welser. “Nongovernmental organizations may start pursuing missions that undermine governments’ objectives. An activist billionaire wanting to promote transparency could deploy a constellation of satellites to monitor and then tweet the movements of troops worldwide. Criminal syndicates could use satellites to monitor the patterns of law enforcement in order [to] elude capture, or a junta could use them to track rivals after a coup.”111

Pace of the Space Policy Institute recommends that the United States work not only with private companies but with other countries as well in planning and conducting space programs.

“In the Cold War, space leadership was about, ‘Look what I can do by myself that nobody else can do? I can land on the moon and nobody else can,’” Pace says. “Today, when there are many more state and nonstate actors in space — a lot more players — leadership is about, ‘What can I get others to do with me?’”

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[109] Colby, op. cit., p. 17.

[110] Statement of Rep. Lamar Smith, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Sept. 27, 2016,

[111] Baiocchi and Welser, op. cit., p. 100.

Document APA Citation
Marshall, P. (2017, August 4). New space race. CQ researcher, 27, 653-676. Retrieved from
Document ID: cqresrre2017080407
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ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Aug. 04, 2017  New Space Race
Jun. 20, 2014  Search for Life On New Planets
Feb. 24, 2012  Space Program
Aug. 16, 2011  Weapons in Space
Oct. 16, 2009  Human Spaceflight
May 23, 2003  NASA's Future
Jul. 23, 1999  New Challenges in Space
Apr. 25, 1997  Space Program's Future
Dec. 24, 1993  Space Program's Future
Mar. 29, 1991  Uncertain Future for Man in Space
Jul. 31, 1987  Space Race
Feb. 07, 1986  Space Decisions after Challenger
Feb. 18, 1983  American Options in Space
Nov. 10, 1978  Changing U.S. Space Policy
Jul. 04, 1975  Cooperation in Space
Mar. 15, 1972  Space Shuttle Controversy
Oct. 01, 1969  Mission to Mars: Benefits Vs. Costs
Nov. 13, 1968  Goals in Space
Jun. 29, 1966  Future of Space Exploration
May 08, 1963  Moon Race Controversy
Jun. 27, 1962  Peaceful Use of Outer Space
Nov. 01, 1961  Space Exploration
Dec. 09, 1959  National Space Policy
Feb. 19, 1958  Control of Outer Space
Arms Control and Disarmament
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General Defense and National Security
General International Relations
Powers and History of the Presidency
Space Sciences and Exploration
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