2023 Recap: Biden Admin’s International Outreach in Orbit

Image: NASA

The National Space Council is meeting tomorrow to discuss international partnerships in orbit, so today we’re taking a look back at how the Biden administration has worked with allies in space so far this year.

Wednesday’s meeting at the Mellon Auditorium will be the third of the Biden administration, under the leadership of VP Kamala Harris. It’s the first since the council unveiled its proposal to split mission authorization duties between the FAA and Commerce Department after a year-long review. 

You’ve got a friend in me: Space was part of the discussion during many foreign leaders’ visits to DC in 2023. Whether space cooperation made an appearance in a joint statement, foreign leaders visited space facilities as part of their trip to the US, or American space officials traveled abroad, sharing the US’ space priorities with allies was a common theme this year. Some highlights include: 

  • A framework signed in January to increase cooperation with Japan on the peaceful exploration of space, including the Moon. 
  • A joint statement of intent with South Korea in April to boost space cooperation in areas such as communication, exploration, lunar research, and planetary science. The agreement coincided with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s state visit to DC. 
  • An agreement with Australia in May to share sensitive launch technology and data, plus a commitment to build a new ground station in the Land Down Under to support the Artemis missions to the Moon.
  • More bilateral space cooperation with the Philippines after a May meeting in DC, including in areas such as SSA, maritime domain awareness, pollution monitoring, and image sharing. 
  • The establishment of a “new space dialogue” between the US and Italy in July to boost industrial cooperation. The statement specifically highlighted a partnership on commercial space stations. 

Handshake agreement: One of the most robust new international space agreements this year came when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the White House in June. A joint statement laid the groundwork for more cooperation on a range of priorities in orbit, including training Indian astronauts in Houston to prepare for a joint mission to the ISS next year. 

NASA chief Bill Nelson followed up on the commitment with a visit to India last month, where he said the space agency could help with construction of an Indian space station. 

Artemis Accords: The US-led guidelines to increase cooperation on the responsible use of space ended the year with 30+ signatories, with eight countries signing on in 2023. New additions in 2023 include the Czech Republic, Spain, India, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, and Angola.

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