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SpaceX nighttime rocket launch on March 6, 2018. Credit: SpaceX

As private companies plan to send thousands of satellites into space to expand broadband internet services and for other uses, the Trump administration is taking steps to ensure that space debris doesn't get out of control.

Why it matters: We are beginning to see a large uptick in the number and diversity of satellites being launched into space by governments and private companies, such as Elon Musk's SpaceX. If no one modernizes the rules governing space, then there's the potential for overcrowding at various altitudes above Earth. This overcrowding could hold back the burgeoning space industry, and threaten national security.

What's next: On Monday, the president signed a space policy directive that gives various government agencies clearer roles in governing space.

“The space operating environment are becoming increasingly crowded. Orbital debris poses a growing threat to space operations."
— Scott Pace, the executive secretary of the National Space Council, on a call with reporters.

The details: The new policy directive requires that updates be made to orbital debris mitigation practices, as well as new guidelines for designing and operating satellites.

  • Under the directive, the Pentagon will continue to maintain the official catalog of all space-based assets, while the Commerce Department will take on new responsibilities in fostering the development of the private sector space industry.
    • For example, Commerce will be the agency that the public can go to for information on satellites currently in space or planned to be launched (unless they're classified military missions).
  • Commerce, which houses an eclectic mix of agencies, such as the Census Bureau and NOAA, will also be one of the main agencies for private sector space companies to go to for oversight of their planned launches.

What they're saying: “We’re basically getting everyone in their lanes," Pace said of the new division of oversight between departments.

President Trump, when signing the directive, alluded to the billionaires whose companies are launching rockets to space, such as Musk and Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin, saying: "I always said, rich guys seem to like rockets. All of those rich guys dying for our real estate to launch -- we won't charge you too much, just go ahead."

Go deeper

Updated 57 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Congressional leaders clinch support for crucial defense bill, debt limit votes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer passes waiting reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress has found a shortcut to pass its annual defense funding bill and raise the debt limit.

Driving the news: The House voted Tuesday night on two major bills — one creating a one-time, fast-track process for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, and another passing its annual defense bill.

House passes annual defense bill

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House voted to pass the annual defense bill 363-70 on Tuesday night, authorizing nearly $770 billion in funding for defenses and national security programs.

Why it matters: The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) still has to clear the Senate, but the House passage greatly increases the chances that the must-pass defense bill will move through both chambers of Congress before the end of the year.

Women politicians are under siege

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Kevin Dietsch, Stefani Reynolds, and Alex Wong/Getty Images

Women in Congress feel besieged and singled-out amid surging threats against lawmakers at all levels, with some frustrated more hasn't been done to halt the trend.

Why it matters: As record numbers of American women are being elected to public office, their growing political power is being met with death and rape threats, sexist and racist abuse and online disinformation. Collectively, it's discouraged women from running for office.