A Microsoft leader with a smart background leads the White House Space Council

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The White House space policy nuclear facility will be led by Chirag Parikh, intelligence veteran and senior vice president of Microsoft space-based cloud services, Vice President Kamala Harris, announced Monday. Harris, chairman of the National Space Council, used an experienced national security officer to lead the day-to-day operations of the council as the Biden administration sees increasing global competition in space.

The appointment of Parikh three months after the White House confirmed Harris will lead it on the Space Council will set the ball in motion for space coordination coordinated by the Biden administration. Harris is working to put “his own personal stamp on the council,” which could include more focus on cybersecurity in space assets and ways to use satellites in Biden’s efforts to combat climate change, officials said in May.

In 2017, the Trump administration revived the Space Council, which had been disbanded since 1993, four years after it was founded by George HW Bush. Parikh follows Scott Trace, secretary general of the Trump Space Council, whose space policy directives sought to set standards for international behavior in space and reconstructed the Obama-era space exploration program into commercial sprints for human landings on the moon. Artemis program.

Parikh served for two years as an assistant chief of science and technology in the U.S. intelligence community, and later led the National Security Council’s space policy wings for six years during the Obama administration, when the National Space Council was disbanded. Prior to his appointment to direct Biden’s space council operations, he was a senior director of Microsoft’s Azure Space cloud platform, which connects to satellites in space.

Space analysts welcomed Parikh’s appointment, and he said his experience managing space-related bureaucracy makes him fit for his new role. The Space Council brings together a number of cabinet-level officials, from the NASA administrator to the Director of National Intelligence, for quarterly or biennial meetings to discuss civil and international space issues.

“He was almost like an inter-agency coordinator, very similar to the role he will be as secretary general of the National Space Council,” said Victoria Samson, a space policy analyst and director of the Secure World Foundation in Washington. “So he brings years of expertise to do many of the same things he does in his new role.”

Two months before the Biden administration confirmed that Harris would chair the Space Council, it was not immediately clear whether the White House should, even after the Trump administration. The Obama administration formulated its space policy through the Science and Technology Policy Office and the National Security Council – in Parikh space. But the vice president’s commitment to lead the council in May became one of the few cases where Biden’s White House agreed with Trump-era initiatives.

National Space Council

Former Vice President Mike Pence will speak at the sixth meeting of the Trump National Space Council in August 2019.
Photo: Aubrey Gemignani / NASA via Getty Images

Biden has embraced NASA’s Artemis program, Trump’s landmark effort to land on the Moon by 2024 and use its surface as a training ground for future Mars missions. Under Biden, NASA continues to favor commercially focused space projects, such as the Commercial Crew program launched under Obama and key elements of the Artemis program created during the Pace Space Council.

“They certainly have different backgrounds,” space policy analyst Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation said in the resumes of Pace and Parikh. “It could be that Chirag [Parikh] is a little more early on the national security side of space than the civilian side because that’s his background … but the Biden admin also expressed strong support for the Artemis program, the Gateway, and commercial cargo and crew, so I don’t expect it to be ignored. “

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