Wicker Launches Space Security Efforts

Space is a Battlefield, and the U.S. Must Be Ready

March 4, 2024

For the first time in 50 years, an American-made spacecraft has landed on the moon. The mission is the most recent step in NASA’s Artemis program, a bold initiative in partnership with Intuitive Mechanics to build a permanent lunar base.

Mississippi is playing a key part in this adventure. Last week, a crew at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County tested new rockets built for Artemis flights. These engines will one day launch astronauts on their journey to the moon. This is a remarkable honor for our state, but it is nothing new. Since the Apollo program started in 1966, NASA has relied on Stennis to certify its engines.

Mississippi is Central to Modern Space Missions

The vast Stennis Space Center hosts nearly 40 government and private organizations and continues to attract space-related jobs to our state. Those public-private partnerships reflect a trend. NASA is pursuing the latest stage of exploration in a truly American way, by tapping into the resources and creativity of the booming space industry.

Mississippi has become a hub for these cutting-edge companies – in large part thanks to Stennis. I have worked to make the most of this progress.

In 2010, NASA’s Constellation program was cancelled by President Obama, casting the future of U.S. space research in doubt. It also left a test stand half-built at Stennis. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I successfully rallied support to finish construction of the project. My efforts eventually bore fruit as the private space industry took off. Last year, a company signed up to test rockets at that very stand, creating jobs and contributing to our innovation economy.

My work on the Commerce Committee also led to the NASA Authorization Act of 2022 being signed into law. The legislation made the Artemis program possible and established a plan to get humans to Mars. It also invested in Mississippi by improving operations at Stennis. Finally, it helped resist space-based threats from our adversaries.

Space Has Become a Battlefield

Space exploration taps into the fundamental human desire to explore the unknown. But that is not the only reason we are moving into the final frontier. A constellation of satellites orbits above our planet, enabling our everyday communications, commerce, and military operations. These satellites are vulnerable to attack, and our enemies know it.

China is our most dangerous threat in this domain, but Russia is also eager to create space weapons. Last month, news broke about Vladimir Putin’s aspirations to launch a nuclear warhead that can destroy our communications satellites. The Kremlin does not possess this weapon yet, but their plans shatter any dreams Americans harbored of a conflict-free space. Space has become a battlefield.

The Biden administration has been too slow to respond and has often been flat wrong. Vice President Harris said that the U.S. would not test offensive anti-satellite weapons and she hoped to manifest a multinational arms control pact. This naive announcement resulted in tying the U.S. military’s hands without restricting our foes.

Congress is Equipping Our Space Force

Today, I am the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which writes Congress’ annual national defense bill. Last year, our bill included a provision to improve the way U.S. forces counter attacks from space. We made it easier for new private space companies to get military contracts, which will help stimulate this growing industry while lowering prices for the Department of Defense.

Space exploration boosts our economy, strengthens our security, results in life-saving research, and expands the imagination of our state and country. I will continue supporting this exciting work, to infinity and beyond.