Remarks as Prepared for Secretary Brouillette
Meeting of the National Space Council
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Thank you for that introduction.
Vice President Pence, I’d like to begin by thanking you and President Trump for your leadership in our response to COVID-19, especially your role in leading the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and the indispensable part the President played in stabilizing global energy markets and protecting American energy producers.
Administrator Bridenstine, I’d also like to thank you for your partnership with us on the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, through which we are accelerating the response and the search for lasting solutions. I’d also like to wish you, and the crew of NASA and SpaceX, good luck and Godspeed on your upcoming Commercial Test flight!
As you know, we formally rejoined this Council in February, and are excited to work with you to tackle the challenges of our new era of space exploration and development.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has an accomplished history in these efforts – of reaching to, and beyond the horizon – and as I shared with you at the last council meeting, I argue that in many ways, DOE actually stands for the Department of Exploration.
To better communicate, coordinate, and focus our efforts on the directives of the President’s space policy, we have established a high-level Space Coordination Group that cross-cuts the entire DOE enterprise and reports directly to my policy team.
I also charged the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) with developing strategic advice and guidance for our space-related programs, and am excited to have Admiral Richard Mies and Norm Augustine co-chairing this effort.
In addition, we have been meeting regularly with our colleagues at NASA to better align space program activities to support America’s return to the Moon, its next giant leap to Mars, and its future beyond. Together, we and NASA are revitalizing a memorandum on cooperation and standing up senior-level working groups to jointly address some of the highest priority technical hurdles NASA has identified.
Meanwhile, we have launched a series of briefings for Department of Defense officials on our capabilities that could contribute to the mission of the new U.S. Space Force.
We have had a long relationship with our friends in the Defense Department, as well as excellent collaboration between DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration, DoD, NOAA and NASA for the release of space weather data collected by DoE-developed space-based nuclear explosion monitoring payloads. We will rely on these experiences to grow our cooperation and engagement with the Space Force by identifying DOE technical capabilities that could support its critical mission.
And recognizing the large potential of a future space economy, we have re-doubled our efforts to communicate and cooperate with the Department of Commerce and sister agencies on encouraging U.S. space commercial growth in a safe and stable orbital environment.
In particular, DoE’s world-leading work in next-generation computing technologies, like quantum information and artificial intelligence, could greatly assist in Commerce’s role to protect space industry partners from space weather events and debris.
Our 17 National Laboratories are actively working on a portfolio of space related research and development activities, and our Office of Technology Transitions has established a space portal on its Lab Partnering Service (https://space.labpartnering.org/), where information can be found on our work, spanning everything from launch vehicles to robotics and propulsion.
One of the most fundamental needs for any space mission is a reliable and sustained supply of power, and this is where we at DOE come to the fore.
Specifically, as part of a broader strategy to regain American global leadership in nuclear energy, we’re leading efforts with the private sector to promote the development and deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs) and microreactors … technologies that could be modified to provide sustainable power sources for space applications such as surface power and nuclear thermal propulsion.
We are already working with our colleagues at NASA and DoD on applications of these technologies, and we look forward to the expanded use of safe and secure nuclear energy technologies.
In particular, we are partnering with NASA to demonstrate nuclear thermal propulsion and surface fission reactors, which will support power requirements for crew transportation to the Moon and eventually Mars, as well as help power our envisioned outposts there. With nuclear propulsion, we can potentially cut the time of space travel to Mars by half, while offering increased mission flexibility.
This is just the beginning. The President’s Space Policy has challenged us to think differently about the space domain than we have during the Space Race, or even during more recent times. And, the Vice President’s leadership has called us together to meet the challenge. I am honored to be here and to represent a Department that will be an essential part of the solution.
So I thank you again for the opportunity to join you today, and I look forward to our future, powering innovation, driving exploration, and reaching again to the edge of the horizon.