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Partnership will guide military, civilian space activities

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Scott Elliott
  • Air Force Print News
The nation's leading space agencies added a new member to their alliance recently by signing a memorandum of agreement with the director of defense research and engineering, a Department of Defense agency focusing on technology.

The agreement formally establishes cooperative relationships for space technological research and development, said Undersecretary of the Air Force Peter B. Teets during a Space Transportation Association meeting here. He said the partnership is vital to both national security interests and future commercial applications.

"The partnership that comes from these kinds of interchanges (is) important to all of our national security space activities," Teets said. "Our national security activities can pay dividends to the NASA civil space program as well."

The partnership's other members, all of whom had representatives attending the meeting, include NASA, U.S. Strategic Command, the National Reconnaissance Office and Air Force Space Command.

"I think it's natural to develop common technologies together," said Dr. Ron Sega, director of defense research and engineering. "At the end of the day, we may have different requirements and different systems, but there's a lot of...common work that can we can do in research and development."

Teets said an example of space technology with both military and civil application is the global positioning system.

"I think the recent military conflict has shown us, without a doubt, how important the use of space is to national security and military operations," Teets said. "GPS accuracy and capability...has been vitally important to our efforts in the war in Afghanistan."

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said assured space accessibility is an area the space technology partnership could immediately address.

"Propulsion power generation advances that are so critical to the purposes of (achieving) our exploration and discovery objectives are the same technologies that national security seeks to utilize," he said.

"Though applications may differ in the end," O'Keefe said, "(they) nonetheless can begin with similar technologies."

A push is already under way to develop a reusable launch system to both assure access to space, and to lower the cost of boosting cargo into orbit.

"I've been concentrating quite heavily on our new evolved expendable launch vehicle program," Teets said. "(But) the EELV isn't the end-all for assured access. We need to look forward to the (next) generation of launch systems.

"We'll be working closely with NASA, as NASA continues to be involved with reusable launch vehicle technology. It's in a technology development phase now, but there's not a doubt in my mind that we will have a reusable launch system," Teets said.

Other research projects include telecommunications initiatives and space-based radar.

"It's important that we leverage our capabilities together, as a nation, to make sure we have the best space program possible, in both (our) military and civilian space programs," Teets said.