Today’s Tidbits: August 14, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: August 14, 2018

Here are’s tidbits for August 14, 2018:  U.S. worries about “abnormal behavior” of Russian satellite; CNBC reports on possible SpaceX connection in Tesla buyout proposal.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

U.S. Worries About Russian Satellite

Yleem D. S. Poblete, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. Credit: State Department

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Yleem D.S. Poblete delivered a speech today at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament (CD) that laid out the U.S. Government’s assessment of Russian counterspace efforts.  Threats to U.S. national security space systems posed by Russia and China are frequently cited by Pentagon and White House officials explaining why Congress should provide more money for space security and, more recently, why they believe a U.S. Space Force is needed.

Poblete specifically made the Space Force connection in her speech, quoting from Vice President Pence’s remarks last Thursday.  She called Russia’s pursuit of counterspace capabilities “disturbing given the recent pattern of Russian malign behavior.”

Her statement is a continuation of the years-long debate in the CD over a draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT) proposed by Russia and China.  The gist of her statement is that Russia is conducting activities that would be prohibited by its own draft treaty.

Of particular note is her description of a Russian “space apparatus inspector” that is exhibiting “very abnormal behavior” and causing concern in U.S. circles.

Mr. President, in October of last year the Russian Ministry of Defense deployed a space object they claimed was a “space apparatus inspector.” But its behavior on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities, including other Russian inspection satellite activities. We are concerned with what appears to be very abnormal behavior by a declared “space apparatus inspector.” We don’t know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it. But Russian intentions with respect to this satellite are unclear and are obviously a very troubling development – particularly, when considered in concert with statements by Russia’s Space Force Commander who highlighted that “assimilate[ing] new prototypes of weapons [into] Space Forces’ military units” is a “main task facing the Aerospace Forces Space Troops.” — Yleem D.S. Poblete, U.S. State Department

She rhetorically asked how treaty compliance could be verified in a case like that — one of the many reasons the United States views the draft treaty as a “flawed document.” Her full statement is quite interesting: []

CNBC Reports on Possible SpaceX Connection in Tesla Buyout Proposal

Elon Musk’s surprise tweet last week that he may take Tesla private if its stock price reaches $420 is not directly related to space policy, but since he is the founder and CEO of both Tesla and SpaceX there may be an indirect connection.

SpaceX is held privately, while Tesla is a public company traded on the NASDAQ exchange.  Musk explicitly said in a blog post [] last week that his intention is “not to merge SpaceX and Tesla. They would continue to have separate ownership and governance structures.”

What he wants to do is restructure Tesla to be like SpaceX where “external shareholders and employee shareholders have an opportunity to sell or buy approximately every six months.” Musk went on to say that he owns 20 percent of Tesla and does not expect that to change.

However, CNBC reported Monday [] that Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas is telling clients that Musk may use his stake in SpaceX to take Tesla private, putting Musk’s ownership in SpaceX at 54 percent “which could be worth $15 billion” and used as “collateral in a Tesla buyout.” CNBC quotes Jonas as writing that “We see increasingly compelling areas of industrial and strategic cooperation between SpaceX and Tesla in telecommunications/satellite broadband which we see as potentially advantageous for shared and automated transport networks.”  Note that CNBC has a lengthy disclaimer about not treating opinions expressed on its website as an inducement to make investments or follow any particular strategy.

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