U.S. and allies to strengthen cooperation in space

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Joint statement: 'Militaries have an important role in contributing to international efforts to ensure freedom of access to and use of space'

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department announced Feb. 22 that the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom have signed a joint vision document that calls for greater cooperation to prevent conflicts in space. 

The Combined Space Operations (CSpO) Vision 2031 states that the seven nations will “generate and improve cooperation, coordination, and interoperability opportunities to sustain freedom of action in space, optimize resources, enhance mission assurance and resilience, and prevent conflict.”

DoD in a statement said the CSpO is an initiative to “address the overarching need to encourage responsible use of space, recognizing challenges to space sustainability, threats presented by technological advances, and the increasingly comprehensive and aggressive counterspace programs of other nation states.”

The allies agreed to follow guiding principles such as freedom of use of space, responsible and sustainable use of space, partnering while recognizing sovereignty, and upholding international law.

“Militaries have an important role in contributing to international efforts to ensure freedom of access to and use of space,” says the document. “The world is reliant on space-based systems — activities in space have consequences across the spectrum of human activity.”

The document is being released in the wake of Russia’s anti-satellite missile test in November that destroyed one of its own satellites, creating a field of at least 1,500 trackable pieces of debris in low orbit, threatening space operations and human spaceflight.

The Vision 2031 document notes that CSpO participants pursue space activities that “endeavor to minimize the creation of long-lived space debris.” 

DoD said CSpO representatives met in December, “reaffirming their nations’ support to the vision, including the intent to prevent conflicts extending to or originating in space and to hold accountable those who threaten the safety of the space environment and the space assets of others.”

Brian Weeden, director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, said Vision 2031 shows that the United States and allies continue to evolve their thinking on International cooperation in space.

“CSpO came out of the 2010 Schriever wargame, where they exercised the concept of a multinational command center for space,” Weeden said. “It sounds simple, but it was quite a revolutionary concept for the DoD at the time. Since then, they’ve gradually but persistently been working towards putting it into place, not as a single physical location but rather as a set of principles and operating practices for linking together their individual national space operations centers.”

Weeden also said it’s notable is that this started as a Five Eyes effort but now formally includes France and Germany, which is “another big step for the U.S.” 

The language in this new document, Weeden said, is “intended to reinforce the messaging on establishing norms of behavior you’re seeing from the U.S. government and its allies in other places.”