How The U.S. Can Win The Next Space Race

Earth From Space

The vote in 2019 by the U.S. House to establish a United States Space Corps within the Department of the Air Force is another indication that Congressional and military thinking is that the future battlefield will not be on this Earth, but rather in a galaxy far, far away. Space is the next frontier and the need is past due.

Just 62 years ago, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the world’s first man-made satellite. Today, in the age of Waze, Uber and Sirius XM, it’s impossible to imagine a world without satellite technology. But we shouldn’t take it for granted—as space is yet another area where hostile powers can wreak havoc.

The world is increasingly reliant on satellite-powered devices and technology, from the aforementioned ridesharing and satellite radio companies—and soon, drone delivery and self-driving cars. Everyone uses the Global Positioning System, or GPS, which is built on a network of more than 30 U.S. government-operated satellites. It affects everything from texting to banking, internet and video broadcasts.

Most of these services come to your screen or pocket via space networks. Satellites also keep our economy moving, literally, as the backbone for our air traffic control systems. A stable satellite system keeps air traffic at safe distances and helps pilots with challenging routes.

At the same time, those in charge of national space policy are also navigating uncharted waters. Space exploration—and domination—is no longer the domain of one or two superpowers, as technological advancements have leveled the playing field.

The U.S. is facing unforeseen threats in space from “near peers” like China and Russia, as well as new players. China and Russia are not an emerging threat—they are an actual threat. They have demonstrated capabilities that our customers in the highest reaches of national security are concerned about.

They are not alone. In March, India successfully shot down one of its own satellites in a test, demonstrating the ability to hold its own in the battlefield of space. Only the United States, China and Russia had previously shown that ability. Israel’s attempted moon-landing in April failed on descent, but the country still became the first non-superpower to crash a foreign object on the surface of the moon.

In April, we joined the top space minds in Colorado Springs, Colo. for the annual Space Symposium. The expanding guest list is a reminder that space is becoming more competitive. And there’s no natural geographic advantage up there.

The United States dedicates more resources than any other country to maintain supremacy at land and sea. But as satellite paths increasingly become as important as trade routes and high ground were in the past, it’s no longer enough to treat space as secondary to anything.

At Parsons, we believe our nation as a whole benefits from better space situational awareness and the ability to deliver effects in space that maintain our supremacy in any conflict that may occur miles above the atmosphere. As the battlefield expands well beyond the planet, the need to develop technology to keep up becomes more important than ever.

Parsons provides one example of how the government can work with private corporations to ensure the United States remains first in space. We were recently named the prime contractor for the Air Force’s Launch Manifest Systems Integrator program, responsible for developing and delivering small satellite payload carriers and integrated solutions for government-owned and sponsored small satellite systems.

Partnerships like this are we are going to continue to win the satellite race—and boost our economy for years to come. But it takes two to make them work: a defense community willing to dedicate the proper resources to space, and companies with the creativity and expertise to develop and engineer transformational products like the Launch Manifest Systems Integrator.

It is programs like this that represent the building blocks of a cohesive space policy that addresses the evolving threats we face—and ensures the U.S. remains a longtime leader in space. Parsons can’t do it alone. We encourage defense and engineering companies, large and small, to consider investing in space research.

The final frontier is quickly becoming the next critical battlefield. But if we make smart policy decisions and dedicate our efforts toward the frontier of the future, the sky is not the limit—it’s just the start.

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