WASHINGTON — The Defense Department released an updated policy document that recognizes space “as a priority domain of national military power” and formally adopts rules for safe operations in space.

DoD Directive 3100.10, “Space Policy” was signed Aug. 30 by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks. It replaces a previous space policy document issued in 2012 and updated in 2016. 

The newly updated policy is the first one that lays out the roles of DoD’s space organizations that didn’t exist until 2019, including the U.S. Space Force, U.S. Space Command, and the assistant secretary of defense for space policy.

The document also reflects DoD’s shift in posture since 2016 with regard to space amid concerns that rival nations are challenging U.S. access to Earth’s orbit. 

DoD says it will “protect and defend the use of space for U.S. national security purposes, the U.S. economy, and allies and partners of the United States.”

The updated policy formally adopts a list of “tenets of responsible behavior in space” issued by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a July 2021 memo. The five tenets call for the U.S. military to: Operate in, from, to and through space with due regard to others and in a professional manner; limit the generation of long-lived debris; avoid the creation of harmful interference; maintain safe separation and safe trajectory; and communicate and make notifications to enhance the safety and stability of the domain. 

Brian Weeden, director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, noted that the policy effectively “directs compliance with the memo.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...