By Trevor Hunnicutt
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday criticized an “irresponsible” Russian test that endangered the International Space Station with debris, and the Biden administration laid out a new strategy for responsible use of space.
Harris convened the inaugural meeting of the National Space Council and asked members of the government body to promote responsible civil, commercial, and national security-related behavior in space, where there are growing commercial interests and concerns about Chinese and Russian competition.
“Without clear norms for the responsible use of space we stand the real risk of threats to our national and global security,” Harris said.
She said Russia’s “irresponsible act” of testing anti-satellite technology last month created debris that endangered the International Space Station (ISS).
U.S. officials have fretted over rising security activity by Washington’s major rivals in space. China’s test of hypersonic weapons this year raised the prospect of an arms race over Earth-orbiting systems that could dodge current missile defenses.
Meanwhile, a growing number of companies, including SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic, are seeking to usher in a new era of private commercial space flights following years of private firms working alongside the U.S. government’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in rocket launches.
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President Joe Biden also signed an executive order on Wednesday adding the heads of the Education, Labor, Agriculture, and Interior Departments as well as his National Climate Advisor to the National Space Council.
The administration also wants the group’s work to increase space climate data and enhance scientific-related efforts that could aid job creation and U.S. competitiveness, it said in a statement.
The National Space Council is separate from the U.S. Space Force military branch created under former President Donald Trump.
(This story has fixed a typographical error in the first paragraph)
(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Bill Berkrot and David Gregorio)