Dec 1, 2020 - Science

Biden's military space future

A figurine of an astronaut.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

President-elect Joe Biden should anticipate major and minor conflicts in space from even the earliest days of his presidency.

The big picture: President Donald Trump's military and civil space policies are well-documented, but Biden's record and views on space are less clear.

"They need to be prepared on day one, for space contingencies that could arise — everything from a hostile attack in space to some sort of anti-satellite test," Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, told me.

  • It's also possible an attack could be in the "gray zone" where a country does something that isn't overt — like jamming or using one satellite to inspect another — but would put the U.S. in a tough spot, according to Harrison.

Between the lines: The Biden administration will face pressure to stay the course on some of Trump's space-related policies.

  • The Space Force, for example, is seen as largely beneficial by space insiders because it makes space a priority.
  • Some experts tell Axios they hope Biden will take a relatively hands-off approach to the Space Force, by comparison to Trump, who used the new military branch as a rallying cry for supporters.

The intrigue: While the U.S.' civil and military space programs operate separately, they often act as a united front geopolitically.

  • Harrison warns that the Trump administration's Artemis Accords and Artemis Moon mission to send NASA astronauts back to the lunar surface could have national security implications for the nations that have signed on as partners.
  • Partnering with NASA, "gives them standing geopolitically," Harrison said. "It also is going to help stimulate their own aerospace industrial base and help counter the influence of China in their regions."

Go deeper: The rise of military space powers

Go deeper