for local emergency responders in the United States and around the world—and it provides an effective means to influence progress and economic opportunity on a worldwide scale. NOAA operates a constellation of weather, climate, and environmental monitoring satellites. The Department of Transportation is responsible for regulating and promoting a commercial space sector, now including space tourism. The Federal Communications Commission licenses orbital positions and spectrum use by commercial satellites and advocates for U.S. commercial space in international forums. Many federal agencies rely on data gathered by both government and commercial spacecraft.
Civil space includes research at universities and nonprofit institutes, which provide ideas, build scientific experiments, interpret results, and educate and inspire the next-generation workforce.
Commercial communications and remote sensing satellites have become an essential component of the basic infrastructure of the world. Satellites support worldwide communications, providing a critical backbone for daily commerce—carrying billions of global financial transactions, for example. Direct broadcasting brings television signals into homes globally, delivering the images that bring awareness, unprecedented in human history, of events that are occurring throughout the world. The military global positioning satellites provide ubiquitous signals that support a stunning variety of functions, from assisting in the navigation of civilian airplanes and shipping, and allowing individuals to find their way in automobiles, to transmitting timing signals that enable cell phone and power grid switching, as well as conducting geographically dispersed scientific experiments—all simultaneously. Remote sensing satellites obtain high-resolution images from around the world, available now on the Internet. Other commercial space activities are nascent but hold the promise of new industries that will exploit the opportunities in space.
Civil space participants abroad include governments and commercial activities in the European Space Agency (and a number of individual European countries, particularly France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom), Canada, Japan, Russia, South Korea, India, China, Iran, Israel, and Brazil. Sometimes, much to the consternation of the United States, the dual-use nature of the technology makes it difficult to distinguish civil space activities from those of potential value to military space activities, complicating potential cooperative opportunities in space, commercial transactions with U.S. aerospace companies, and foreign relations in general.
Private space enthusiasm has evolved into an astounding constellation of activities. Amateur astronomers track satellites, and some discover comets and other objects and observe transient phenomena. Space artists, popular broadcast programs and film, and print and electronic media articles broaden the reach of data collected. Full Web access to data and images from exploration spacecraft has built a large public community. Privately funded entrepreneurs have begun to