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May 23, 2024

Congress Pushes for Expanded Space Force to Counter China’s Ambitions

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Jan 18, 2024

The House space subcommittee held a hearing on January 17th examining NASA’s Artemis program and the imperative for the United States to commit the necessary resources to maintain leadership in cislunar space. With China rapidly expanding its space capabilities, lawmakers and experts warned that without additional funding and personnel the U.S. Space Force risks falling behind.

Artemis Key to Establishing Lunar Presence

The Artemis program aims to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine testified that reaching this goal is contingent on securing the requested $3.3 billion budget augmentation in fiscal year 2025. Bridenstine explained:

We need the $3.3 billion increase to achieve the 2024 lunar landing goal. The budget amendment provides resources for the Space Launch System rocket, Orion crew capsule, human landing system development, spacesuits, and other key areas. Artemis is core to expanding the human presence beyond Earth.

Artemis Funding Requirements
SLS Rocket $2B
Orion Capsule $400M
Landing Systems $1B
Spacesuits & Other $500M
Total $3.3B

While the Artemis program’s focus is on the Moon, Bridenstine noted that the technologies and capabilities developed will be crucial for eventually sending astronauts to Mars.

Concerns Over China’s Space Ambitions

However, lawmakers raised concerns that China’s rapidly expanding space program poses a threat to U.S. leadership and interests. Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) stated:

China has grown increasingly aggressive in space with a plan to establish permanent bases and operations on the Moon. If China is able to achieve this goal before the U.S. returns through Artemis, it would represent a major setback to America’s space leadership.

China recently landed a rover on the far side of the Moon and has outlined an ambitious roadmap for cislunar development over the next decade. Experts testifying warned that China intends to exploit lunar resources, develop infrastructure to support missions to Mars, and potentially even position weapons on the Moon.

“Made in China 2025” Space Goals

Year Goals
2030 Establish lunar base & research station
2035 Crewed missions & base construction on Mars
2045 Establish permanent, large scale lunar presence

Congressman Michael Waltz (R-FL) echoed these worries, saying “the Chinese space program is sponsored, funded and directed by the People’s Liberation Army. Make no mistake – any expansion into cislunar space has military underpinnings.”

Space Force Lacks Resources to Secure Cislunar Domain

In response to China’s space agenda, policy experts advised that the United States must commit to winning the race to establish the rules, norms and infrastructure for cislunar development.

A recent report from the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies warned that the U.S. Space Force presently lacks the budget and personnel to effectively secure American interests and leadership in the cislunar domain.

“The Space Force needs substantial boosts in funding and personnel to achieve space dominance from geosynchronous Earth orbit to the surface of the Moon.”

Key capability gaps highlighted:

  • Insufficient Space Domain Awareness: Ability to continuously monitor orbital regimes and deep space environment for threats and hazards. Requires a network of space-based sensors and ground-based radar systems.
  • Limited Satellite Protection: Capacity to identify and mitigate attacks on U.S. space assets across expanded orbital envelope. Involves developing defensive cyber, electronic warfare, and rapid reconstitution capabilities.
  • Under-Resourced Expeditionary Units: Teams to quickly deploy to establish U.S. presence at strategically valuable locations and conduct counter-space operations if required. Necessitates additional funding for training and equipage.
Projected Space Force Growth 2025 2030
Military Personnel ~16,500 ~25,500
Funding (FY20 $B) $18 $29

While still building up, the Space Force must leverage capabilities from across the joint force and enhance collaboration with commercial partners and allies, the report concluded.

Outlook: Accelerated Competition to Shape Cislunar Environment

In summing up the hearing, Space Subcommittee Chairman Jose Calzada (D-NM) described the current state of affairs as the “dawn of a intensified space race” between the United States and China.

“Making Artemis a success and guaranteeing American leadership in cislunar space requires that we rapidly upgrade Space Force capacities. We are in a race to set the terms for how this vital domain will operate.”

With neither power appearing willing to cede ground, competition over activities from lunar resource utilization to orbital logistics is likely to heat up dramatically over the next decade. Whichever nation can establish and sustain strategic footholds fastest may shape the cislunar environment to its advantage.

Cislunar Space Domain

To meet the Artemis schedule and counter China’s space ambitions, Congress will need to approve multi-billion dollar budget increases for both NASA and the Space Force in the near future. Expect heated debate on the scale and pace of space investments needed to defend long-term U.S. interests. Failure to keep the pace risks allowing China to elipse American dominance beyond Earth.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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