The new year will present many challenges for the global defense industry. Among these is the imperative to advance our technical superiority in space to combat the increasing threats we face from China.

United Launch Alliance is committed to ensuring that the United States remains the leader in space and is ably capable of protecting our national interests and the peace of the global commons during this next evolution of the space race. With the establishment of Phase 2 of the National Security Space Launch program last year, the U.S. space industry is well positioned to build upon our past successes in delivering critical payloads to orbit and to stay well ahead of our adversaries in 2021.

China remains a major threat to all aspects of the United States defense community. Experts in the intelligence world have characterized China’s intentions as a comprehensive strategy to dominate the U.S. economically, militarily and technologically. Its efforts to become a military superpower span from stealing our intellectual property to using its intelligence services to replicate our capabilities in emerging technology sectors. These threats are real and should be a focus for the international defense community. The recent National Defense Authorization Act conference report referenced these same threats, citing China’s efforts to “to seize control of critical elements of the United States space industry supply chain and United States space industry companies.”

ULA is combatting these efforts by staying one step ahead of China. We know it will respond to America’s latest rocket technology with its own, leading us to think creatively, plan proactively and create new solutions that will maintain America’s leadership.

Fundamentally new capabilities will be needed both in how we reach orbit and what we do there. A critical element will be to determine the requirements of Phase 3 of the NSSL program. This will guide the United States to field space capabilities that stay ahead of our adversaries. By understanding the needs of the next-generation space architectures, we can reap the benefits of innovation and ward off emerging security threats. This will be a crucial next step for our industry this year, and we look forward to working with the new administration to see it through.

We are committed to maintaining our superiority in space while protecting America’s national security interests, but we can only do so by remaining realistic about the threat posed by China. The opportunity to continue to position the U.S. as the leader in space is where our industry’s real opportunity to grow, lead and serve our great nation lies.

Tory Bruno is the president and CEO of United Launch Alliance.