WASHINGTON: In her first official outing as chair of the National Space Council, Vice President Kamala Harris is today visiting NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to highlight the critical role US space capabilities play in combatting climate change.
In her remarks, Harris will (briefly, anyway) touch upon the importance of space and the climate crisis to national security, White House officials told Breaking Defense.
Harris further will announce that the fist meeting of the council will take place Dec. 1, and will present the first imagery returns from NASA’s recently launched Landsat 9 Earth observation mission, a White House official said.
The Pentagon earlier this month released a new climate change strategy, which laid out five lines of effort explaining how the Pentagon can incorporate climate change into its future planning and operations. Those efforts include enhancing cooperation with partner nations and other US agencies that can increase knowledge about climate change, contribute to resiliency, and reduce costs.
Landsat 9, launched Sept. 27 and built by aerospace and defense giant Northrop Grumman, will be used to support disaster management via high-fidelity data to support mapping, climate change monitoring, and the environmental effects of urban expansion, according to NASA’s website. The Defense Department typically plays a major role in supporting civilian agencies in responding to humanitarian crises and disaster management both domestically and overseas.
Harris, joined by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and leaders from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Geological Survey (USGS), will also be briefed on NASA’s On-orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing–1 (OSAM-1) robotic spacecraft for satellite servicing, and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES), the official explained.
GOES, built under a partnership agreement between NASA and NOAA, is a constellation of satellites that provide various types of weather data over the Western Hemisphere 24/7.
Weather is a major, if easy to overlook, factor in US military planning — one that is becoming even more critical as climate change threatens operations in many areas of the world. DoD, however, is still struggling to replace its ancient Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) polar orbiting constellation, first launched in the 1960s, after the collapse of the ill-fated (and exorbitant) National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) in 2010.
The Space Force is now working on two new military satellite systems designed to replace the most critical capabilities of DMSP, but the new satellites won’t begin operations until 2024 and 2026, which is barely under the wire of the expected DMSP lifespan.
As a gap filler, the Pentagon last September converted one of the GOES satellites — GOES 13, first launched in 2006 and retired in 2018 — for it’s own use, renaming it the Electro-Optical Infrared Weather System – Geostationary, or EWS-G1.
Harris also is set to continue her efforts to promote international space cooperation, a White House official said.
“Next week, the Vice President will travel to Paris, France and is expected to discuss increased space cooperation with French President Emmanuel Macron,” the official said.
Harris pushed space cooperation meetings in August in Singapore and Vietnam. In September, during a summit meeting of the so-called Quad countries (Australia, India, Japan, and the United States), she met with leaders to discuss a first-ever agreement on space cooperation.