National Space Council Priorities Begin to Emerge

National Space Council Priorities Begin to Emerge

The space community is eagerly waiting to see what Vice President Kamala Harris’s priorities are for the White House National Space Council, which she chairs. The Council’s Executive Secretary, Chirag Parikh, told a satellite conference today that continuity, international cooperation, Space Traffic Management, and STEM education are at the top of the list. He also announced that nominations for the Users’ Advisory Group will open next week.

Chirag Parikh, Executive Secretary, White House National Space Council, speaking at Satellite 2021, National Harbor, MD, September 9, 2021.

Parikh is a seasoned member of the space policy community and a White House veteran having served as the space policy director at the National Security Council during most of the Obama Administration. He left government in early 2020, but returned last month when appointed to his current position.

He hit the ground running, speaking at the Space Symposium just three weeks into his new assignment and again today at Satellite 2021.

An assurance that the Biden-Harris Administration wants continuity of policy from previous administrations was key to his decision to take the job.

“Part of my decision criteria to come back into government was if and only if there was a continued commitment on behalf of the Administration to be able to do what we’ve been doing over the past several Administrations … on space, whether it’s space security, commercial space, and, of course, our civil space program and international partnerships. And I can tell you with first hand knowledge that … the Biden-Harris Administration and particularly Vice President Harris is very enthused about this and committed to ensuring U.S. leadership in space across civil, commercial and national security efforts.”

That includes a commitment to a sustainable return to the Moon through the Artemis program and moving forward with the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command.

International partnerships, including developing norms of behavior, is one priority for this Administration. Another is moving forward with the work of the Office of Space Commerce at the Department of Commerce. “We definitely want to make sure they are enabled to provide the regulatory as well as advocacy functions that we need on behalf of the commercial space industry.”

That includes the Trump Administration’s Space Policy Directive-3, which designates the Department of Commerce as the civil agency for Space Traffic Management.  “That’s certainly something that we’re taking seriously” and looking at the criteria for the Open Architecture Data Repository (OADR) “making sure that we figure out the best way to be able to provide the private sector piece into this.”

“We’re talking about the need to be able to bring in commercial services and what’s the hand off — what the Department of Defense does as opposed to what the Department of Commerce inherently would be doing. This is an active conversation right now.”

The Space Council is not interested only in the direct benefits of the space program, but intangibles like inspiration. “STEM education is a huge priority not just for the Space Council, but across the Administration,” he said, noting that Harris will be visiting Hampton University, one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), in Virginia tomorrow to talk about it.

Parikh also stressed the need for the Space Council to get input from the space industry.  The members of the Council are all government officials, but it has a Users’ Advisory Group (UAG) administered by NASA.

He said at the Space Symposium that its charter and membership were under review to reflect the priorities of the Biden-Harris Administration. Today he announced a call for nominations will be published in the Federal Register next week. He anticipates it will have 30 members, similar to its size during the Trump Administration, and will represent the diversity of society as well as the diversity of the space industry.

Nominations will be open through the end of the month and he implored everyone to “please follow the instructions!”

Parikh did not say when the first Space Council meeting will take place, but the White House said it would be in “the fall” when they announced his appointment. That would put it sometime before December 21.

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