Looking ahead to future collaboration, panelist Peggy Finarelli observed that, given the increased capabilities of its partners, the United States might wish to re-examine its approach to leadership of major international space programs. One alternative (as opposed to excluding partners from involvement in critical-path elements), she observed, would make all key partners dependent on the others for successful implementation. Workshop participants then discussed models and approaches to collaboration in robotic and human exploration. In response to several questions, Finarelli observed that NASA’s approach to collaboration on space exploration has been pursued from the bottom up, whereas the collaboration on the International Space Station (ISS) program was pursued from the top down, beginning with a presidential-level effort to engage prospective partners at the political level. Participants also discussed multilateral collaboration on the International Charter for Space and Major Disasters3 as well as the Group for Earth Observations.4 Several participants noted that the engagement of new and emerging space powers in multilateral Earth observations initiatives is growing; China and Brazil have been particularly active in this regard.
Although the main thrust of the workshop concerned international cooperation, the planning committee recognized that there were lessons to be learned from international competitive activities. This was the focus of the second panel. The panel discussion was moderated by Space Studies Board member Joan Vernikos (Thirdage LLC) and included presentations by Clay Mowry (Arianespace), Mark Brender (GeoEye), and Andrew Aldrin (United Launch Alliance).
During the discussion the panelists reviewed their companies’ international business experiences and highlighted several generic problems that have had an impact on commercial space activities. internationally. Clay Mowry commented that in space launch services there is significant overcapacity, with eight countries currently having demonstrated space launch capabilities and five more countries emerging in the field. He further observed that this situation is driven by a variety of individual national interests. Once a nation establishes a launch capability there is tremendous pressure to maintain it through commercial sales, underpinned by government support. Although the situation is very inefficient and counterproductive, it is unlikely to change. Mark Brender observed that significant competition also exists in the commercial remote-sensing-satellite sector. GeoEye and DigitalGlobe, the two U.S. space remote sensing companies, compete in most markets. Additionally, competition is increasing from the growing number of foreign remote sensing satellites. Further, the U.S. government has stated a desire to build and operate its own commercial-class satellites to provide basic broad-area Earth coverage. If realized, these satellites would compete with the commercial data providers in the U.S. government market. Looking ahead, he observed that commercial remote sensing satellites are contributing to increased global transparency through release to the general public of images of natural disasters, areas of conflict, and military installations. Clay Mowry was of the opinion that a potential opportunity exists for space launch service providers in Europe, Japan, and the United States to develop a parallel path for delivering cargo—under a mixed fleet approach—to the ISS.
During the panel session, several participants commented on space competition with China, particularly with respect to how the situation today differs from the Cold War era competition with the Soviet Union. Andrew Aldrin observed that U.S. competition with China today is largely economic, not ideological, as was the case with the Soviet Union. Trying to generate political support for the U.S. space program based on a space race with China would be ill-advised, he added, because China stands to gain much more from competition than the United States. One workshop participant agreed, noting that the United States is not in a space race with China.