"Presidential Directive on National Space Policy," February 11, 1988.

[Editorial headnote: Between the issuance of the first Reagan administration space policy statement in July 1982 and 1987, there were a number of significant changes, including the Challenger accident, increased emphasis on the commercial uses of space, and the report of the blue ribbon National Commission on Space. A five-month SIG (Space) review during the second half of 1987 resulted in a new statement of national space policy reflecting these and other changes. President Reagan approved the new policy statement on January 5, but witheld its release until a parallel review of commercial space policy initiatives being conducted by the Economic Policy Council was completed. The policy statement itself was classified; this unclassified summary was all that was publicly released. Available in NASA Historical Reference Collection, History Office, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC. Page references to original document in brackets.]



Presidential Directive on National Space Policy

The President approved on January 5, 1988, a revised national space policy that will set the direction of U.S. efforts in space for the future. The policy is the result of a five-month interagency review which included a thorough analysis of previous Presidential decisions, the National Commission on Space report, and the implications of the Space Shuttle and expendable launch vehicle accidents. The primary objective of this review was to consolidate and update Presidential guidance on U.S. space activities well into the future.

The resulting Presidential Directive reaffirms the national commitment to the exploration and use of space in support of our national well being. It acknowledges that United States space activities are conducted by three separate and distinct sectors: two strongly interacting governmental sectors (Civil, and National Security) and a separate, non-governmental Commercial Sector. Close coordination, cooperation, and technology and information exchange will be maintained among sectors to avoid unnecessary duplication and promote attainment of United States space goals.


The directive states that a fundamental objective guiding United States space activities has been, and continues to be, space leadership. Leadership in an increasingly competitive international environment does not require United States preeminence in all areas and disciplines of space enterprise. It does require United States preeminence in key areas of space activity critical to achieving our national security, scientific, technical, economic, and foreign policy goals.


The directive states that:


The directive states that the United States government shall not preclude or deter the continuing development of a separate, non-governmental Commercial Space Sector. Expanding private sector investment in space by the market-driven Commercial Sector generates economic benefits for the Nation and supports governmental Space Sectors with an increasing range of space goods and services. Governmental Space Sectors shall purchase commercially available space goods and services to the fullest extent feasible and shall not conduct [3] activities with potential commercial applications that preclude or deter Commercial Sector space activities except for national security or public safety reasons. Commercial Sector space activities shall be supervised or regulated only to the extent required by law, national security, international obligations, and public safety.


The directive further states that the United States will conduct those activities in space that are necessary to national defense. Space activities will contribute to national security objectives by (1) deterring, or if necessary defending against enemy attack; (2) assuring that forces of hostile nations cannot prevent our own use of space; (3) negating, if necessary, hostile space systems; and (4) enhancing operations of United States and Allied forces. Consistent with treaty obligations, the national security space program shall support such functions as command and control, communications, navigation, environmental monitoring warning, and surveillance (including research and development programs which support these functions).


This section contains policies applicable to, and binding on, the national security and civil space sectors:


The directive states that normal interagency procedures will be employed wherever possible to coordinate the policies enunciated in this directive. To provide a forum to all Federal agencies for their policy views, to review and advise on proposed changes to national space policy issues to the President for decisions as necessary, a Senior Interagency Group (SIG) on Space shall continue to meet. The SIG (Space) will be chaired by a member of the National Security Council staff and will include appropriate representatives of the Department of State, Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Commerce (DOC), Department of Transportations (DOT), Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Office of Management and Budget, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Other Executive agencies or departments will participate as the agenda of meeting shall dictate.


The directive also enumerates Policy Guidelines and Implementing Actions to provide a framework through which the policies in the directive shall be carried out. Agencies are directed to use this section as guidance on priorities, including preparation, review, and execution of budgets for space activities, within the overall resource and policy guidance provided by the President. Within 120 days of the date of this directive, affected Government agencies are directed to review their current policies for consistency with the directive and, where necessary, establish policies to implement the practices contained therein.





The directive states that the following paragraphs identify selected, high priority cross-sector efforts and [9] responsibilities to implement plans supporting major United States space policy objectives:

For additional information contact Roger D. Launius, NASA Chief Historian,