Research Pages

A Selective Chronology of US Space Policy and International Diplomacy

in Program
By Samuel Black, Babar Khan, and Jared Young

Chronology sources can be viewed here.





May 26, 1955

President Eisenhower signs NSC 5520, which authorizes a scientific satellite program as a part of the larger International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1957-58. This program is intended to launch a small scientific satellite that will serve as a technological precursor for intelligence satellites, and establish the principle of “Freedom of Space” in international law.

May 16, 1956

President Eisenhower approves NSC 1553, providing a new role for satellites in the arms control verification process through aerial inspections.

October 4, 1957

The Soviet Union launches Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit the earth.

January 22, 1958

President Eisenhower issues NSC 1846, identifying priorities for missiles and space systems. The effort to develop a reconnaissance satellite receives the lowest priority on the list.

June 20, 1958

The National Security Council (NSC) Planning Board circulates a draft Preliminary U.S. Policy on Outer Space, NSC 5814. The memo, which is to be discussed at a July 3, 1958 NSC meeting, proposes several objectives for the nascent U.S. space program. Among them are ways to establish the United States as the global leader in space; achievement of international cooperation in space; and the negotiation of international agreements that would “assure orderly development and regulation of national and international outer space programs.” It also recommends the evaluation of a U.S. “freedom of space” policy.

December 13, 1958

The U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) approves U.N. Resolution 1348, which establishes an ad hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). The Soviet Union, Poland, and Czechoslovakia boycott the organization, claiming that the voting structure favors the West.

December 12, 1959

The Soviet Union softens its demand for equal communist representation in COPUOS, and Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania are added to COPUOS. The UNGA passes Resolution 1472, which provides for these additions. Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union demands veto power and objects to the idea of cooperating with the West on space activities without having a prior agreement on limiting U.S. military activities. COPUOS fails to meet until 1961.

December 17, 1959

The National Aeronautics and Space Council forwards a draft statement of policy to the National Security Council. The document, NSC 5918/1, is intended to supersede NSC 5814. NSC 5918/1 predicts the eventual prevailing interpretation of the “peaceful uses of outer space,” which anticipates that military support functions will be included under the umbrella of peaceful purposes. It continues to recommend the study of and support for a freedom of space policy.

January 18, 1961

At the end of his presidency, President Eisenhower signs NSC 6108, conferring research and development priority on the nation’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) programs, the Fleet Ballistic Missile (Polaris) submarine program and the reconnaissance satellite programs. NSC 6108 includes new instructions requiring Presidential approval prior to any U.S. anti-satellite test.

December 20, 1961

The UNGA passes U.N. Resolution 1721 on “International Cooperation in the Peaceful Use of Outer Space.” Passage of U.N. Resolution 1721 is facilitated when the Soviet Union drops its demand for veto power in COPUOS and accepts majority rule for its procedures. The resolution is nonbinding and includes no enforcement procedures.

May 26, 1962

President Kennedy issues National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 156, which asks the Department of State to assemble a team to formulate a negotiating position for ongoing negotiations with the U.S.S.R. The negotiations include a discussion of the peaceful uses of outer space.

July 2, 1962

Secretary of State Dean Rusk forwards NSC Action 2454, which lays out possible U.S. negotiating positions, to President Kennedy in response to NSAM 156. It notes the following: “While the U.S. probably cannot keep the Soviets from attempting physical anti-satellite measures if they decide to do so, our objective should be to create conditions in which the Soviets will not attempt this or would pay a political price for doing so by creating a climate of acceptance of the principle of freedom of space and the unacceptability of forcible interference with the exercise of that freedom.

July 9, 1962

President Kennedy accepts the general approach laid out by NSC Action 2454. He also asks his advisors to examine the possibility of negotiating a diplomatic initiative banning nuclear weapons in outer space that would rely on unilateral verification rather than an inspection regime.

October 17, 1962

U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency William Foster proposes a ban on stationing weapons in outer space to Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and Soviet Ambassador the the U.S. Anatoly Dobrynin.

June 10, 1963

President Kennedy delivers the Commencement Address at American University. In the speech, he urges the completion of a treaty limiting the testing of nuclear weapons. He announces that high level negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear test ban. Kennedy also declares that the United States will observe a moratorium on testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere as long as other nations do the same.

June 21, 1963

Mexico tables a draft treaty banning the placing of weapons of mass destruction in outer space.

July 25, 1963

After 12 days of negotiations, the United States and Soviet Union reach agreement on a ban on nuclear testing in outer space, in the atmosphere, or under water.

August 5, 1963

The United States, Soviet Union, and other nations sign the Limited Test Ban Treaty, as agreed to by the U.S. and U.S.S.R. on July 25.

September 19, 1963

Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson both make statements at the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) against placing weapons of mass destruction in orbit.

October 10, 1963

The Limited Test Ban Treaty enters into force.

October 17, 1963

The UNGA passes U.N. Resolution 1884, which calls on states not to place weapons of mass destruction in orbit. The Soviet Union drops its efforts to make “espionage satellites” illegal.

December 13, 1963

The UNGA passes U.N. Resolution 1962 on the Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space. It asserts that outer space and celestial bodies are not subject to claims of national sovereignty. In addition, it says that all states are free to explore outer space in accordance with international law.

March 3, 1964

President Johnson approves National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 285, expanding space cooperation with the Soviet Union based on recommendations from NASA Administrator James Webb. This cooperation includes the exchange of meteorological data, serving as a precursor to the Apollo-Soyuz Program

August 20, 1964

The International Telecommunications Consortium (INTELSAT) comes into being. It is composed of the members of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). In spite of Soviet and European criticism, it is agreed that this consortium will give majority control to the U.S.-controlled COMSAT. In exchange, other Western members gain access to U.S. technology.

September 23, 1965

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Arthur J. Goldberg suggests in a speech to the UNGA that interested nations begin work on a treaty that deals with the exploration of outer space.

April 5, 1966

A memorandum from Walt Rostow, Special Assistant for National Security Affairs, to President Johnson states that “The Secretary’s recommendation has become urgent because there are signs that the Soviet Union may be planning to introduce its own treaty at an early date in order to preempt this subject. It would be to our advantage to act before they do.

June 16, 1966

The United States and Soviet Union both submit draft treaties on outer space at the UNGA. While America’s deals only with celestial bodies, the Soviet draft deals with the entirety of the outer space environment.

July 29, 1966

President Kennedy issues National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 354. It is based on a National Aeronautics and Space Council report calling for the U.S. to define a policy regarding the European Launcher Development Organization (ELDO). This policy offers U.S. assistance in training, testing and licensing in support of ELDO, and places constraints on the transfer of technology.

July 12 – August 4, 1966

The U.N. Legal Committee agrees to nine articles of the draft treaty.

September 15, 1966

The National Security Council meets to discuss the remaining points of contention on the draft outer space treaty: access to facilities on celestial bodies, requirements for reporting space activities to an international body, access to space tracking facilities located outside the U.S. or U.S.S.R., and the use of military equipment and personnel in space exploration.

September 17 – December 7, 1966

Informal negotiations between members of the U.N. Legal Committee settle the remaining points of contention on the draft outer space treaty.

December 8, 1966

President Johnson announces the conclusion of negotiations on the draft outer space treaty and describes the event as the “most important arms control development since the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963.

January 27, 1967

Sixty-four countries sign the Outer Space Treaty, including the United States and Soviet Union.

April 25, 1967

The U.S. Senate approves the Outer Space Treaty by a vote of 88 to 0.

July 12, 1967

President Johnson signs National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 338 outlining technology transfer guidelines for space technologies critical to U.S. communications satellite capability. These guidelines instruct U.S. government agencies that interact with foreign nations and businesses to place restraints on specific technologies through an export licensing procedure.

October 10, 1967

The Outer Space Treaty enters into force, formally incorporating U.N. Resolutions 1884 and 1962 into law. The treaty’s key provisions include: that space is to be used for peaceful purposes, that space and celestial bodies are not and cannot become the sovereign territory of any nation, that weapons of mass destruction are not to be placed in orbit or on any celestial body, that weapons and military installations are not to be located on celestial bodies, and that military activities are not to be carried out on celestial bodies.

April 22, 1968

The United States signs the Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts, and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space (“Rescue Convention”). It clarifies the procedures to be followed in case the personnel on a spacecraft are in an emergency situation.

December 3, 1968

The Rescue Convention enters into force.

January 20, 1969

President Nixon takes office. The Soviet Union expresses willingness to discuss strategic arms limitations. The scope of the talks will include both offensive and defensive strategic arms, including the possible placement of missile defenses in space.

November 17 – December 22, 1969

The first round of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) between the United States and the Soviet Union takes place in Helsinki.

July 10, 1970

President Nixon approves National Security Decision Memorandum (NSDM) 70, calling for a cooperative space program between the United States and the Soviet Union, that results in NASA’s Apollo Soyuz Test Project. This directive emerges from National Security Study Memorandum 72, which states that cooperation with the Soviet Union in space matters is desirable. NSDM 70 outlines possible areas of cooperation including space research, practical applications of space technology, space rescue and safety, tracking and planetary exploration. This directive also characterizes previous cooperation as unsuccessful, and lists criteria for future cooperation.

July 17, 1970

President Nixon distributes National Security Decision Memorandum (NSDM) 72, which directs the NASA Administrator and senior appointees of the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the National Aeronautics Council to establish an interagency group to review policy and establish a program of technical data exchange between the United States and other foreign governments.

October 25 – 28, 1970

A high-level U.S.-Soviet meeting on space cooperation takes place between Dr. Robert Gilruth of NASA and Soviet Academician Boris Nikolaevich Petrov. The countries decide to form three working groups to hold talks over the course of next year.

November 15, 1971

The Soviet Union launches Intersputnik, a communications network designed to aid communication between communist areas. This acts as a counterbalance to the U.S.-dominated INTELSAT, which was formed in 1964.

March 29, 1972

The Convention on International Liability for Damage Cause by Space Objects (“Liability Convention”) is opened for signatures. It establishes that countries are liable for any damage caused by a space object launched from their territory.

April 6, 1972

The United States and the Soviet Union create the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP). It calls for “a highly complicated, joint manned rendezvous and docking mission, requiring close contact between U.S. and Soviet technicians and on-site visits to one another’s previously off-limits space facilities.” The first mission is scheduled for 1975.

May 26, 1972

The U.S. and the Soviet Union sign the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The treaty limits the development and deployment of anti-ballistic systems and bans the deployment of ballistic missile interceptors in space.

August 30, 1972

President Nixon signs National Security Decision Memorandum (NSDM) 187, extending U.S. launch assistance to all friendly countries and international organizations. Launch assistance was previously offered only to member countries of the European Space Agency.

September 1, 1972

The Liability Convention enters into force.

November 12, 1974

The UNGA passes U.N. Resolution 3235, the Convention on the Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (“Registration Convention”). It requires that countries launching satellites report to the United Nations basic information about newly-launched satellites, including their basic orbital parameters and general function.

July 15, 1975

The first and last Apollo-Soyuz mission is launched.

July 7, 1976

President Ford issues National Security Decision Memorandum (NSDM) 333, which directs the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the DCI, and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to ensure the nation’s military and reconnaissance spaces assets survivability in space. The Secretary of Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence are charged with developing policy that provides early warning of attacks, and verification of interference with U.S. military and intelligence satellite capabilities.

September 15, 1976

The Registration Convention enters into force.

January 18, 1977

National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft distributes National Security Decision Memorandum (NSDM) 345, which directs the Secretary of Defense to develop a non-nuclear, low-altitude anti-satellite weapon (ASAT). The memo emphasized that “the United States will continue to stress international treaty obligations in space, including free use of outer space and non-interference with national technical means.” NSDM 345 also requires the Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency to identify initiatives to: restrict the development of high-altitude ASATs, raise the crisis threshold for the use of an ASAT, and clarify acts which constitute interference with space systems.

March 9, 1977

President Carter states that the United States and the Soviet Union should “forego the opportunity to arm satellite bodies, and also to forego the opportunity to destroy observation satellites.

March 28, 1977

President Carter issues Presidential Review Memorandum PRM/NSC-23, which calls for the creation of the NSC Policy Review Committee (PRC) to “thoroughly review existing policy and formulate overall principles which should guide our space activities.” A steering group and a small ad hoc Anti-satellite Working Group are also created. Eventually, the groups coalesce around a dual policy of pursuing ASAT research and development while also pushing for ASAT arms control.

March 27 – 30, 1977

U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance visits Moscow to propose negotiating deep cuts in strategic weapons stockpiles and an ASAT arms control agreement.

March 10, 1978

President Carter issues Presidential Directive/NSC (PD/NSC) 33, which authorizes the Department of Defense to conduct ASAT tests if they are “deemed essential to achieve an ASAT capability.” The memo states that the U.S. negotiators “should indicate that we intend to seek an ASAT capability as soon as possible unless they [the Soviets] are willing to take very positive actions to preclude such a move on our part.

May 11, 1978

President Carter releases an updated U.S. National Space Policy. The document, PD/NSC 37, commits to the use of space by all nations for peaceful purposes. “Peaceful purposes” are interpreted as including some military and intelligence-related activities. It also includes a policy on interference with satellites: “Purposeful interference with operational space systems shall be viewed as an infringement upon sovereign rights.

June 8-16, 1978

The first round of bilateral talks between the United States and Soviet Union on the topic of banning anti-satellite weapons is held at Helsinki, Finland.

October 10, 1978

PD/NSC 37 is augmented by PD/NSC 42, which contains additional elements of National Space Policy. The document confirms American support for legal instruments that assure the safe and peaceful use of space and elaborates upon the U.S. government’s role in civil space activities.

January 23 – February 19, 1979

The second round of U.S.-Soviet ASAT talks is held in Bern, Switzerland.

April 23 – June 17, 1979

The last round of U.S.- Soviet ASAT talks is held in Vienna, Austria. Although progress is made towards “defining a ‘non-use’ agreement with additional ‘rules of the road’ for activities in space,” the ASAT talks lose momentum. The U.S. and U.S.S.R. disagree on whether or not to include the Space Shuttle and third-party satellites in the talks. When the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan, the United States ends the negotiations.

November 16, 1979

President Carter issues Presidential Directive/NSC-54, establishing oversight and policy guidelines for Civil Operational Remote Sensing for land, weather and ocean programs.

December 18, 1979

The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (“Moon Treaty”) is opened for signatures. It calls for all celestial bodies in the solar system, except the earth, to be used solely for peaceful purposes. It again bans the placement of weapons of mass destruction on the moon. It also prohibits the establishment of any military facilities or the placement of weapons of any kind on the moon or other celestial bodies.

August 20, 1981

The Soviet Union submits a draft treaty, “Treaty on the Prohibition of the Stationing of Weapons of Any Kind in Outer Space,” to the UNGA. Under its provisions, parties would “undertake not to place in orbit around the earth objects carrying weapons of any kind.

November 18, 1981

President Reagan distributes National Security Decision Directive Number 8 (NSDD-8), confirming the Space Shuttle as the primary U.S. space launch system for all U.S. military and civil space launches, and assigns priority in shuttle launches to the National Reconnaissance Program.  This directive reverses President Carter’s policy decision calling for the continued procurement of Expendable Launch Vehicles (ELVs) for military and reconnaissance space missions.

July 4, 1982

President Reagan supersedes prior U.S. National Space Policy with National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 42. The new policy retains the language used in PD/NSC 37 with respect to peaceful use and purposeful interference. It also includes a specific policy on space arms control for the first time: “The United States will consider verifiable and equitable arms control measure that would ban or otherwise limit testing and deployment of specific weapons systems should those measure be compatible with United States national security.” The fact sheet accompanying the policy stated the Reagan administration’s intent to develop an ASAT capability to deter threats to American space systems.

August 6, 1982

President Reagan replaces National Security Decision Memorandum (NSDM) 187 with National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 50. The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs is instructed to implement guidelines for U.S. assistance with launch vehicles, space hardware, software, and related technologies, and international space cooperation.

December 10, 1982

The UNGA adopts Resolution 37/92, Principles Governing the Use by States of Artificial Earth Satellites for International Direct Television Broadcasting. It declares that all states have the right to carry out satellite-based television broadcasting, but must take international responsibility for activities carried out under their jurisdiction.

March 23, 1983

President Reagan announces his Strategic Defense Initiative, envisioning defenses that would ultimately make nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete.” Space-based missiles defenses figure prominently in President Reagan’s vision.

May 16, 1983

President Reagan signs National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 94, which endorses the use of existing American expendable launch vehicles (ELVs) for commercial satellite applications in an effort to retain ELV manufacturing capabilities. This places NASA’s Space Shuttle (also known as the Space Transportation System/STS) in direct competition with ELVs for commercial launch operations.

May 18, 1983

The Union of Concerned Scientists presents “A Treaty Limiting Anti-Satellite Weapons” to a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

August 19, 1983

The Soviet Union submits a draft treaty on the “Prohibition of the Use of Force in Outer Space and From Space Against Earth.” It seeks to ban the use of force in outer space and from space against Earth to the UNGA.

January 6, 1984

President Reagan issues National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 119, which authorizes the exploration of earth and space based ballistic missile defense technology. NSDD 119 instructs the Department of Defense to manage a strategic defense initiative that will explore active and passive defenses, and non-nuclear kill concepts.

March 31, 1984

President Reagan submits a report on ASAT arms control to Congress. In the cover letter to the report, Reagan states that “no arrangements or agreements beyond those already governing military activities in outer space have been found to date that are judged to be in the overall interest of the United States and its Allies.

July 5, 1984

President Reagan lays out the U.S. response to a month-old Soviet space arms control proposal in NSDD 142. In it, he offers to “discuss and seek agreement on feasible negotiating approaches, which could lead to verifiable and effective limitations on anti-satellite weapons.

July 11, 1984

The Moon Treaty enters into force.

February 25, 1985

President Reagan distributes National Security Decision Memorandum (NSDD) 164, confirming the Space Shuttle as the primary space launch system for national security and civil government space applications. NSDD 164 also directs the Department of Defense to pursue an improved assured launch capability with Expendable Launch Vehicles (ELVs).

March 12, 1985

The U.S. and the Soviet Union begin Nuclear and Space Talks (NST). The Reagan administration’s declared aims are “to discuss a transition from deterrence based solely on the threat of nuclear retaliation to increased reliance on defenses, either ground- or space-based, against ballistic missiles.” The Soviet Union seeks a comprehensive ban on research, development, testing, and deployment of “space-strike arms” in response to the American Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).

May 30, 1985

President Reagan issues NSDD 172, which outlines the way in which the SDI is to be discussed in public by administration officials. The guidelines note that restrictions on researching the anti-ballistic missile technologies involved in SDI have long been recognized as unverifiable. The Reagan administration recognizes the dual-use nature of ballistic missile defense and predicts that the Soviet Union will attempt to restrain SDI by proposing ASAT-limiting treaties.

September 13, 1985

The United States carries out a rare destructive ASAT test. The interceptor is launched from an F-15 fighter aircraft and destroys a Solwind satellite orbiting at an altitude of 373 miles.

December 3, 1986


UN General Assembly passes A/RES/41/65, Principles relating to remote sensing of the Earth from space. The resolution established norms for remote sensing and promotes international cooperation between states that participate in remote sensing operations.

December 27, 1986

President Regan issues National Security Decision Directive No. 254 which establishing a policy of maintaining a robust capability to rapidly reconstitute U.S. space assets. The directive mandates the Department of Defense to have a robust ability to rapidly replenish U.S. space assets should they come off line.

April 16, 1987


The United States becomes a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime. The MCTR is an informal political agreement to curb the proliferation of ballistic missiles and relevant components. 

December 7-10, 1987

President Regan and General Secretary Gorbechav agree to abide to the ABM treaty, as signed in 1972, and not withdraw from the treaty for a specified period of time. They also agree to not pull out of the treaty for the purpose of deploying defensive systems.

January 5, 1988

The President Reagan issues the Presidential Directive on National Space Policy outlining the goals of U.S. civil, national security, and private sector space operations. The directive establishes that the United States has three distinct sectors – civil, national security, and private – that contribute to U.S. space operation goals and outlines specific objectives for each sector. Furthermore, the directive issued a set of guidelines that encouraged inter-sector cooperation between the three organizations.

September 5, 1990

President Bush issues National Space Policy Directive 2 (NSPD-2), Commercial Space Launch Policy which established a free market for commercial space launch service.

February 11, 1991

President Bush signs and issues National Space Policy Directive 3 (NSPD-3), U.S. Commercial Space Policy Guidelines. The NSPD-3 directed “U.S. Government agencies to utilize commercial available space products and services to the fullest extent feasible,” and to provide these services at the earliest possible time.

July 10, 1991

 President Bush issues National Space Policy Directive 4 (NSPD-4), National Space Launch Strategy. The NSPD-4 was an amplification of President Reagans NSSD-4, and mandated an improvement in the reliability of U.S. space launch capabilities. NSPD-4 also required the DoD to work with NASA on the development of a new space launch system to meet civil and national security requirements.

March 9, 1992

President Bush issues National Space Policy Directive 6 (NSPD-6) which called for the creation of a space exploration program similar to the Apollo program, but Congress refuses to fund the program.

December 14, 1992

The United Nations General Assembly passes Resolution 47/68, Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space, which restricts the use of nuclear powered space assets. Resolution 47/69 regulates the use of space based nuclear power to only, and establishes a safety guideline for states launching nuclear powered space assets. It also establishes a set of parameters that space based nuclear powered assets can operate within.

January 3, 1993

The United States and Russia sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II). START II sought to limit U.S. and Russian offensive strategic weapons through the reductions of both delivery systems and warheads. START II effectively ended in June 2002 when Russia withdrew from the treaty in retaliation to the United States withdrawal from the ABM treaty.

March 9, 1994

President Clinton issues Presidential Decision Directives/NSC-23, US Policy on Foreign Access to Remote Sensing Space Capabilities, which allowed private firms to petition with governments for permission to conduct remote sensing from space. The directive would allow U.S. firms to seek licensing from the U.S. government to conduct commercial space imaging.

May 5, 1994

President Clinton signs Presidential Decision Directives/NSTC-2, Convergence of U.S. Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite Systems, which combined the U.S. military and the commerce department’s Weather Bureau polar-orbiting environmental satellite programs into one program.

August 5, 1994

President Clinton signs Presidential Decision Directive/NTSC-4,National Space Transportation Policy, which sought to “sustain” and “revitalize” U.S. space launch capabilities. The directive established the DOD as the lead agency for the development of an expendable launch vehicle, and NASA as the main agency for manned transportation systems. NTSC-4 also superseded similar directives issued under the Bush and Regan administrations.

September 14, 1996

President Clinton signs the National Space Policy directive which establishes the goals and objective of U.S. space operations. The directive provides a list of objective for each space sector, and provides guidelines on how these objectives can be accomplished.

February 4, 1997

The United Nations General Assembly passes resolution A/Res/51/122 which mandates international cooperation in the exploration and use of space. The resolution calls for the peaceful exploration of outer space and encourages international cooperation to accomplish this endeavor.

October 17, 1997

The U.S. Army test-fires the Mid Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) against a U.S. Air Force satellite. The tests simulated a hostile/accidental attack on a U.S. space asset, and were criticized by critics as an Anti Satellite Weapons (ASAT) test. On October 21, 1997, the Russian Foreign Ministry criticized the MIRACL tests as an overt U.S. attempt to develop laser based ASAT weapons.

June 4, 2000

The United States and Russia sign a memorandum of agreement to establish the Joint Data Exchange Center (JDEC) to promote mutual early warning information of missile and space launches.

December 16, 2000

The United States and Russia sign a memorandum to establish a pre- and Post-Launch Notification System (PLNS) for launches of ballistic missiles and some civil space aviation launches.


January 11, 2001



The U.S. government publishes an executive summary outlining U.S. national security objectives in space. The executive summary examined the organization and management of U.S. space national security priorities, and made short and long term recommendations regarding the future of U.S. national security objective in space.

June 28, 2002

CD 1679 is proposed at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament introducing a treaty that would ban the deployment of weapons in outer space and use of force against objects in outer space. 

June 26, 2004

The United States and European Union reach an agreement regarding satellite navigation services. The agreement ensured that the U.S. GPS satellites would not interfere with the EU’s planed Galileo system.

June 9, 2005

Russia releases a document defining legal instruments to prevent the militarization of outer space.  The report defines major technical terms to provide a legal framework to challenge claims of space militarization in the context of international legal regimes.

September 15, 2005

Russia sends a letter to the UN Conference on Disarmament endorsing an eventual treaty that bans the deployments of weapons in outer space. The letter reflects on previous meetings discussing the subject and reinforced Russia’s commitment for the passage of such a treaty. 

December 1-2, 2005

The International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems is established by the United Nations for the purpose of promoting mutual civil space related projects.


January 11, 2007

The Chinese government, in a test, launches an ASAT against an aging Chinese satellite.

February 23,2007

The Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space holds a meeting at the United Nations Office at Vienna. During the meeting discussions over key areas of space security such as space debris and space based nuclear power.

June 6-15, 2007

The United Nation General Assembly meets to discuss the peaceful use of outer space. The meeting discussed mechanisms that the international community can do in maintain the peaceful use of space commons.

February 20, 2008

The U.S. Navy launches a Standard SM-3 at a non-functioning U.S. satellite in low Earth orbit. The SM-3 successfully hit the satellite which was slated to return into the Earth’s atmosphere.

December 8-9, 2008

The European Union drafts and approves a space code of conduct. The code of conduct called for outer space to be free and open to all state parties without inference, the inherent right to access space, and the responsibility of States to promote peaceful exploration and use of space.

February 10, 2009

Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 satellites collide over Siberia resulting in a massive increase in orbital debris. The collision brought the issue of Space Situational Awareness and orbital debris into the forefront of discussions involving code of conduct and liability in space.

March, 7 2009

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechei both emphasize the need to keep weapons out of outer space at the Conference on Disarmament at the United Nations. Both foreign ministers also stressed the importance of preventing an arms race in space.

May 14, 2009

President Obama issues Presidential Study Directive – 3 reviewing U.S. space policy. PSD-3 covered a range of issues including international cooperation, acquisition reforms, and protection of U.S. space assets. PSD-3 also encouraged the safer use of space based nuclear powered satellites, and promoted space as an open commons.  

April 22, 2010

U.S. Air Force launces the X-37B reusable space Orbital Test Vehicle. Air Force officials believe that – once operational – the X-37 can be an asset utilized for SSA and reconstitution of U.S. space assets.

November 3, 2010

U.S. CYBERCOMMAND becomes fully operational.  U.S. CYBERCOMMAND, a sub-unified command under STRATCOM, was established to protect U.S. cyberspace assets from adversarial interference.  

January 19, 2011

The U.S. National Security Space Strategy is issued by the Department of Defense. The report highlights status quo space environment, and provides a list of recommendation for U.S. policy to promote the peaceful use of space. The strategy also emphasizes the importance of international space cooperation and preventing an attack on U.S. space assets.

September 24, 2011

The NASA satellite, UARS, renters the Earth’s atmosphere near Easter Island. The satellite reentry was one of multiple high profile satellite reentries during 2011.

November 11, 2011

The European Space Agency satellite, GOCE, falls out of orbit and disintegrates over Siberia. GOCE exhausted its fuel supply causing it renter the Earth’s atmosphere.

December 29, 2011

China releases a white paper on its integrated national space policy. The strategy recognizes outer space as a common, and stresses the importance of developing space for China’s interests. The white paper also stresses the importance of international and regional cooperation between the Asia-Pacific

January 11, 2012

U.S. and Canada sign an agreement to share data on orbiting space debris. The agreement, which the U.S. also has with Japan, Australia, and Italy, permits Canada’s Department of National Defense to share data with USSTRATCOM regarding debris related issues.

October 10, 2012

SpaceX delivers the first commercial payload to the International Space Station (ISS). NASA and SpaceX had a contract for 12 more subsequent trips to the ISS.

October 18, 2012

The Department of Defense issues its 2012 Space Directive which reaffirmes the U.S. commitment to the peaceful promotion of space, maintaining U.S. national security interests in space, and increasing international cooperation on space related issues. The SPD also recognized the importance of space situational awareness as the foundation of a peaceful outer space.

October 3, 2013

A Chinese military satellite performs a satellite capture by using a robotic arm. The satellite capture was part of a covert space weaponization program and was closely monitored by U.S. defense officials.

November 21, 2013

The National Space Transportation Policy is issues. It which reaffirms the Obama administration’s commitment to promoting the development of space assets through civil aerospace outlets. The policy reaffirms the importance of U.S. space based assets for the U.S. economy, and encourages more cooperation between civil and government sectors.




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