Northrop Grumman Corporation's Cygnus space freighter with its prominent cymbal-shaped UltraFlex solar arrays is pictured in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm after it was captured by Expedition 57 Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst. NASA acknowledges the need for commercial partnerships with companies like Northrop Grumman. (Image source: NASA)

National Space Council receives report on human spaceflight in low-Earth orbit

The report, a collaborative effort by NASA, the Department of State, and the Department of Commerce, outlines yet to be disclosed directives for developing low-Earth orbit commercial opportunities and a regulatory environment.
As requested by the National Space Council; NASA, the Department of State, and the Department Commerce have submitted a report outlining future opportunities and challenges for human spaceflight in low-Earth orbit (LEO), and its potential economic contributions to the broader field of exploration. NASA lead the interagency effort to produce the report, titled “A Strategy for Human Spaceflight in Low Earth Orbit and Economic Growth in Space,” after receiving tasking by the National Space Council in February this year.

According to the report, developing the sustainable foundations for returning U.S. astronauts to the Moon and enabling a new era of commercial spaceflight in LEO are the linchpins of U.S. human spaceflight policy. NASA also cited the need for maintaining continued international collaboration with International Space Station (ISS) partners, including involvement and coordination regarding lunar exploration strategies.

Footage from the February 2018 National Space Council Meeting

While developing new a set of commercial human spaceflight capabilities, NASA recognizes that their success cannot depend on Federal funding and programs alone and will enable U.S. commercial enterprises to develop and operate under principles of long-term sustainability for space activity.

This strategy follows the direction established by the Administration through Space Policy Directives 1, 2, and 3, which created an innovative new framework for American leadership by reinvigorating U.S. human exploration of the Moon and Mars; streamlining regulations on the commercial use of space; and establishing the first national policy for space traffic management.

While the report was not fully released due to “the inclusion of sensitive information,” the report’s executive summary outlined four overarching goals that expand on the previous Space Policy Directives:
  1. To achieve a continuous U.S. presence in LEO – both with government astronauts and with private citizens – in order to support the utilization of space by U.S. citizens, companies, academia, and international partners and to maintain a permanent American foothold on the nearest part of the space frontier.
  2. To create a regulatory environment in LEO that enables American commercial activities to thrive.
  3. To conduct human spaceflight research in LEO that will advance the technology and systems required for long-duration spaceflight systems, including for interplanetary travel and permanent space habitation.
  4. To expand and extend commercial opportunity though international partnerships and engagement.

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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at
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