Space policy is the political decision-making process for, and the application of, public policy regarding space exploration. It includes policy regarding a country's civilian space program, as well as its policy on both military use and commercial use of outer space. Space policy intersects with science policy, since national space programs often perform or fund research in space science, and also with defense policy, for applications such as spy satellites and anti-satellite weapons. It also encompasses government regulation of third-party activities such as commercial communications satellites and private spaceflight.[1]

Space policy also encompasses the creation and application of space law, and space advocacy organizations exist to support the cause of space exploration.

Space law

Space law is an area of the law that encompasses national and international law governing activities in outer space. There are currently five treaties that make up the body of international space law.

The inception of the field of space law began with the launch of the world's first artificial satellite by the Soviet Union in October 1957. Named Sputnik 1, the satellite was launched as part of the International Geophysical Year. Since that time, space law has evolved and assumed more importance as mankind has increasingly come to use and rely on space-based resources.

Space policy by country


The Chinese space program consists of the China National Space Administration and the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, a state-owned company which is the main contractor for the Chinese space program.

The China National Space Administration states that it aims are maintaining the country's overall development strategy, making innovations in an independent and self-reliant manner, promoting the country's science and technology sector and encouraging economic and social development, and actively engaging in international cooperation.[2]


The ESA is an international organization whose membership overlaps with, but is not the same as, that of the EU.
  ESA and EU member countries
  ESA-only members
  EU-only members

The [3]

The ESA was founded to serve as a counterweight to the dominant United States and Soviet space programs, and further the economic and military independence of Europe. This has included the development of the [4]

The ESA Director General’s Proposal for the European Space Policy states, "Space systems are strategic assets demonstrating independence and the readiness to assume global responsibilities. Initially developed as defence or scientific projects, they now also provide commercial infrastructures on which important sectors of the economy depend and which are relevant in the daily life of citizens.... Europe needs an effective space policy to enable it to exert global leadership in selected policy areas in accordance with European interests and values."[5]


The space program of Russia was inherited from its predecessor state, the Soviet Union. Russia's civilian space agency is the Russian Federal Space Agency, and its military counterpart is the Russian Space Forces.[6]

In the 1980s the Soviet Union was considered to be technologically behind the United States, but it outspent the United States in its space budget, and its cosmonauts had spent three times as many days in space as American astronauts. The Soviet Union had also been more willing than the United States to embark on long-term programs, such as the Salyut and Mir space station programs, and increased their investment in space programs throughout the 1970s and 1980s.[7]

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the 1990s saw serious financial problems because of the decreased cash flow, which encouraged Roskosmos to improvise and seek other ways to keep space programs running. This resulted in Roskosmos' leading role in commercial satellite launches and space tourism. While scientific missions, such as interplanetary probes or astronomy missions during these years played a very small role, Roskosmos managed to operate the space station Mir well past its planned lifespan, contribute to the International Space Station, and continue to fly additional Soyuz and Progress missions.[8]

The Russian economy boomed throughout 2005 from high prices for exports, such as oil and gas, the outlook for subsequent funding became more favorable. The federal space budget for the year 2009 was left unchanged despite the global economic crisis, standing at about 82 billion rubles ($2.4 billion). Current priorities of the Russian space program include the new Angara rocket family and development of new communications, navigation and remote Earth sensing spacecraft. The GLONASS global navigation satellite system has for many years been one of the top priorities and has been given its own budget line in the federal space budget.[9][10]

United States

President Kennedy committed the United States to landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s decade, in response to contemporary Soviet space successes. This speech at Rice University on 12 September 1962 is famous for the quote "We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

The current space policy of the United States was developed by the George W. Bush administration.

In the United States, space policy is made by the President of the United States and the United States Congress through the legislative process.[11] The space policy of the United States is carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which is the civilian and scientific space program of the United States, and by various agencies of the Department of Defense, which include efforts regarding communications, reconnaissance, intelligence, mapping, and missile defense. In addition, the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration operates various services with space components, such as the Landsat program.[12]

The early history of United States space policy is linked to the US–Soviet Space Race of the 1960s. The National Aeronautics and Space Act creating the NASA was passed in 1958, after the launch of the Soviet Sputnik 1 satellite, and in response to the flight of Yuri Gagarin as the first man in space, Kennedy in 1961 committed the United States to landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Although the costs of the Vietnam War and the programs of the Great Society forced cuts to NASA's budget as early as 1965, the first moon landing occurred in 1969, early in Richard Nixon's presidency. Under the Nixon administration NASA's budget continued to decline and three of the planned Apollo moon landings were cancelled. The Nixon administration approved the beginning of the Space Shuttle program in 1972, but did not support funding of other projects such as a Mars landing, colonization of the Moon, or a permanent space station.[13]

The Space Shuttle first launched in 1981, during Ronald Reagan's administration. Reagan in 1982 announced a renewed active space effort, which included initiatives such the construction of Space Station Freedom, and the military Strategic Defense Initiative, and, later in his term, a 30 percent increase in NASA's budget. The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in January 1986 led to a reevaluation of the future of the national space program in the National Commission on Space report and the Ride Report.[13]

The United States has participated in the [14] but the Obama administration cancelled the Constellation program, opting instead to emphasize development of commercial rocket systems.

See also


  1. ^ Goldman, Nathan C. (1992). Space Policy:An Introduction. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press. p. vii.  
  2. ^ "China's Space Activities in 2006". Information Office of China's State Council. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  3. ^ "European Space Policy". European Space Agency. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  4. ^ Goldman, pp. 34–36.
  5. ^ "Resolution on the European Space Policy: ESA Director General’s Proposal for the European Space Policy". European Space Agency. p. 21. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  6. ^ "Russian and Soviet Space Agencies". Space Policy Project: World Space Guide. Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  7. ^ Goldman, pp. 38–42.
  8. ^ Harvey, Brian (2007). "The design bureaus". The Rebirth of the Russian Space Program (1st ed.). Germany: Springer.  
  9. ^ "No cut in Russian 2009 space spending, $2.4 bln on 3 programs". RIA Novosti. 18 March 2009. Retrieved 23 August 2009. 
  10. ^ "Russia increases number of operational Glonass satellites to 17". RIA Novosti. 4 June 2009. Retrieved 23 August 2009. 
  11. ^ Goldman, pp.79–83.
  12. ^ Goldman, pp. 91–97.
  13. ^ a b Goldman, pp. 84–90.
  14. ^ Connolly, John F. (October 2006). "Constellation Program Overview" (PDF). Constellation Program Office. Retrieved 6 July 2009.