US DOE and DOD agree to increase cooperation in space research

22 January 2021

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Deputy Secretary Mark W Menezes and the Department of Defence’s (DOD) Deputy Secretary David Norquist have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) affirming a mutual interest in confirming and enhancing the longstanding partnership between the departments on space-related research and technology development in support of US national space policy goals.

The agreement – first discussed as a part of a space technology mini-summit at the Pentagon in October 2020 – broadly supports US national space policy priorities and deepens the decades-long space cooperation between the two agencies.

“This MOU lays out the framework for DOE to harness the world’s greatest science and technology researchers at DOE’s National Labs, and program offices, to augment DOD’s critical national security space mission and will play a crucial role for future space developments across the two departments,” Menezes said.

DOE's announcement of the MOU comes less than a week after an Executive Order signed by former US President Donald Trump, "Promoting Small Modular Reactors for National Defense and Space Exploration”, which also detailed the need for closed cooperation between the two agencies as well as cooperation with NASA.

The MOU includes cooperation with a focus on propulsion and power in space, dual-use critical and emerging technologies related to the industries of the future (e.g. artificial intelligence/machine learning, quantum information science, communications infrastructure, future computing ecosystems, and autonomous or remotely piloted vehicles), and other areas of mutual interest.

Goals include strengthening the national space innovation base and deepening scientific exchange between DOD and DOE research laboratories and facilities.

The MOU also calls for the creation of a senior-level executive forum between DOD and DOE, establishes senior-level working groups, and lays out the framework for future joint programmes between DOD and DOE to further space cooperation in the national security space.

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