National Security and the Commercial Space Sector

An Analysis and Evaluation of Options for Improving Commercial Access to Space

This report examines the relationship between U.S. national security and the commercial space sector, with specific focus on the current state of the space launch industry and launch market. Building on a CSIS annotated briefing released in 2008, entitled “Health of the U.S. Space Industrial Base and the Impact of Export Controls,” this new report describes the importance of the commercial space sector to U.S. national security, catalogues several principal concerns regarding commercial access to space, provides a framework for analyzing options to improve access to commercial launch services, and evaluates those options. The report is a vehicle for further discussion of two key issues: (1) the relationship between the commercial space sector and national security, and (2) the ways in which U.S. policymakers might better manage the nexus between them. Distilled to its core findings, the report concludes that commercial space assets and services are critical to U.S. national security and economic health and, because commercial space is critical, assured access to space for commercial payloads should be an important U.S. national security priority.

This study is divided into five parts. Part 1 discusses the relevance of the commercial space sector to national security and addresses the question of why policymakers should care. Part 2 describes the current state of the commercial space launch market—the federal policies and directives governing space launch, international and domestic capacity, and expected global demand. Part 3 outlines a series of options that could improve commercial access to space with a concomitant benefit to U.S. national security interests. Part 4 defines a set of criteria by which to evaluate the options outlined in Part 3. Finally, Part 5 presents the CSIS evaluation of the option sets using the evaluation criteria. The analysis asks vital questions about the best way forward for both the public and private sectors, pointing to possible solutions that meet the goals and objectives of both. .

Tara Callahan, Lindsey Ohmit, Thomas Patterson, and Gregory Sanders

Gary Powell, Stephanie Sanok Kostro, Guy Ben-Ari, Brian Green and David J. Berteau