Fact Sheet
Released by the White House, Office of the Press Secretary
Washington, DC
May 13, 2003

U.S. Commercial Remote Sensing Space Policy

The United States Government last year began a broad review of U.S. space policies to adjust to the domestic and international developments in recent years that affect U.S. space capabilities. One important component of the current review focuses on the relationship between the United States Government and the commercial remote sensing industry. The last policy covering this area was issued in 1994. Since that time, there have been significant changes to this critical area of U.S. national and economic security. This policy is the first product of the ongoing National Space Policy Review.


Vital national security, foreign policy, economic, and civil interests depend on the U.S. ability to remotely observe Earth from space. Toward these ends, the U.S. Government develops and operates highly capable remote sensing space systems for national security purposes, to satisfy civil mission needs, and to provide important public services. U.S. national security systems are valuable assets because of their high quality data collection, timeliness, volume, and coverage that provide a near real-time capability for regularly monitoring events around the world. U.S. civil remote sensing systems enable such activities as research on local, regional, and global environmental change, and support services and data products for weather, climate, and hazard response, and agricultural, transportation, and infrastructure planning.

A robust U.S. commercial remote sensing space industry can augment and potentially replace some existing U.S. Government capabilities and can contribute to U.S. military, intelligence, foreign policy, homeland security, and civil objectives, as well as U.S. economic competitiveness. Continued development and advancement of U.S. commercial remote sensing space capabilities also is essential to sustaining the nation's advantage in collecting information from space. In order to maintain a robust U.S. commercial remote sensing industry, we must enhance the international competitiveness of the industry.

Commercial Remote Sensing Policy

The fundamental goal of U.S. commercial remote sensing space policy is to advance and protect U.S. national security and foreign policy interests by maintaining the nation's leadership in remote sensing space activities, and by sustaining and enhancing the U.S. remote sensing industry. Doing so will also foster economic growth, contribute to environmental stewardship, and enable scientific and technological excellence.

In support of this goal, the U.S. Government will:

  • Rely to the maximum practical extent on U.S. commercial remote sensing space capabilities for filling imagery and geospatial needs for military, intelligence, foreign policy, homeland security, and civil users;
  • Focus U.S. Government remote sensing space systems on meeting needs that cannot be effectively, affordably, and reliably satisfied by commercial providers because of economic factors, civil mission needs, national security concerns, or foreign policy concerns;
  • Develop a long-term, sustainable relationship between the U.S. Government and the U.S. commercial remote sensing space industry;
  • Provide a timely and responsive regulatory environment for licensing the operations and exports of commercial remote sensing space systems; and
  • Enable U.S. industry to compete successfully as a provider of remote sensing space capabilities for foreign governments and foreign commercial users, while ensuring appropriate measures are implemented to protect U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.

Further information is available on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Web Site: www.ostp.gov