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US DoD, NASA agree to collaborate on space exploration, defence

Stephen Kuper

The US Space Force and NASA have expanded their partnership, with Chief of Space Operations General John Raymond and NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine signing a memorandum of understanding detailing the collaboration.

US DoD, NASA agree to collaborate on space exploration, defence
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This agreement commits the Department of Defense and NASA to broad collaboration in areas that include human spaceflight, space policy, space transportation, standards and best practices for safe operations in space, scientific research and planetary defence.

The agreement was discussed at the Air Force Association Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies' Space Power Forum.

The MOU replaces an agreement signed 14 years ago between NASA and the US Air Force Space Command, under which the two organisations exchanged research and development information, sought to reduce duplication of system development and collaborated in the long-term planning of each organisation's space roadmaps.

The security of the space domain has become more challenging with competitor nations able to jam, spoof, hack and use lasers to attack satellites and communications systems, Bridenstine explained. 

"We want to see behaviours improved in space, and the Space Force will be an important partner in ensuring space is secure and is used peacefully for the benefit of all of humanity," he said. 

Gen Raymond explained that the Space Force will defend assets in space including GPS satellites, weather satellites, communications satellites, missile warning satellites, space domain awareness satellites, rockets and the International Space Station.

NASA, on the other hand, is in science, technology and exploration missions, which are distinct from what the Space Force does, Gen Raymond said.

But besides operating together in the space domain, the two organisations share the space industrial base, research and development and science and technology that benefit both, he said.

This MOU reiterates the close collaboration that DOD has had with NASA since its founding in 1958, Gen Raymond said, mentioning that most of the astronauts leading up to the moon landings were military personnel.

Bridenstine mentioned that as part of its Artemis program, NASA plans to send the first astronauts to the lunar surface in 2024 and establish a sustainable presence there by the end of the decade. The agency will then use the moon to prepare for its next giant leap — human exploration of Mars.

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