Vice President Pence speaking at the second National Space Council meeting in February, is expected to make a space policy announcement in a speech next Monday in Colorado. In a speech today (April 16), Pence announced that the National Space Council will soon send President Donald Trump new recommendations to address the growing threat of space junk circling Earth. "President Trump knows that a stable and orderly space environment is critical to the strength of our economy and resilience of our national security systems," Pence told a crowd of space and military officials here at the 34th Space Symposium. "And that's why the National Space Council has developed the first comprehensive Space Traffic Management Policy, which we will soon be sending to the president's desk for his approval." There are more than 1,500 active satellites in orbit today, along with tens of thousands of "dead" satellites and spacecraft fragments, Pence added.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said that the Starship spacecraft that will one day ferry humans to Mars is now the company's "top priority". In a company-wide email, Mr Musk urged employees to accelerate the development of the next-generation rocket "dramatically and immediately". The internal email, which was obtained by CNBC, came just a week after SpaceX successfully launched two Nasa astronauts into orbit aboard its Crew Dragon spacecraft to join the International Space Station (ISS). "Please consider the top SpaceX priority (apart from anything that could reduce Dragon return risk) to be Starship," he wrote in the email. SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In an announcement at the Pentagon today, Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary James Mattis outlined the basic structure of the administration's proposed Space Force. The plan expanded on President Donald Trump's unexpected directive issued to the Commander of the Joint Chiefs in June. During a routine meeting of the National Space Council on June 19, Trump surprised the room of dignitaries, space experts, astronauts, and representatives of the aerospace industry by announcing that he wanted to create a sixth branch of the military that he referred to as the Space Force. "Space is one of our vital national interests," Mattis said, comparing it to land, sea, and cyberspace as a war-fighting domain. He cited China's 2007 missile test that destroyed one of its own satellites, and evidence that both China and Russia are actively looking for technologies that could interfere with or disable United States space-based systems, either through ground or space-based means, including increasing satellite maneuverability to interfere with the satellites of other nations, and hypersonic missile development, which China tested last week.
SpaceX is planning to launch the next batch of its Starlink internet satellites on Wednesday, marking the second major launch for the private space firm in less than a week. A Falcon 9 rocket will carry 60 Starlink satellites into orbit, with lift-off scheduled for 9.25pm EDT (2.25am Thursday UK time) from the Complex 40 launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Adverse weather conditions delayed last week's launch from the same location of Nasa astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), which resulted in a delay for the latest Starlink mission. Weather forecasts from the US Space Force's 45th Weather Squadron project that there is a 70 per cent probability of favourable conditions for Wednesday night's launch. It is the eighth launch of Starlink satellites and if successful it will bring the total number of Starlink satellites to 480.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has inked a deal with ClearSpace SA to clean up orbit with craft equipped with pincers designed to grab space junk. As space agencies and private companies go beyond research and start exploring the potential of commercial space and tourism, the space'junk' we are accumulating will only grow. This is a severe issue, considering the smallest satellite or piece of defunct technology zooming around at thousands of meters per second, if it collides with craft or other objects, can cause massive damage that also sends additional debris into space. To tackle the problem, the ESA has signed an €86 million contract with startup ClearSpace to fund and launch debris-removal missions. Due to launch in 2025, the first active debris removal mission, dubbed ClearSpace-1, will propel a craft into space equipped with pincers able to capture satellites.