Experts study ways to patrol the final frontier

X-37B landing
Workers in protective suits check out the Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle after its touchdown at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in May 2017. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

Two months after President Donald Trump said the United States may create a new military branch to focus on national security space activities, Politico is reporting that CNA Corp., a federally funded research and development center, is studying ways to make it so.

But will it be a separate Space Force, like the Air Force? A Space Corps, like the Marine Corps (which is overseen by the Department of the Navy)? Or something else?

George Nield, former head of the Federal Aviation Administration’s commercial space transportation office, leans toward the idea of a hybrid civilian/military Space Guard, analogous to the Coast Guard.

During peacetime, the Space Guard could monitor safety issues related to commercial space activities. But during wartime, it would be integrated under the Department of Defense. Such an arrangement would fill a gap in policing the final frontier, Nield said.

“There is, today, no single department or agency that is charged with holistically managing U.S. interests in space,” he said last weekend at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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