Challenges to Security in Space
Defense Intelligence Agency
Full Report (PDF)
Space-based capabilities provide integral support to military, commercial, and civilian applications. Longstanding technological and cost barriers to space are falling, enabling more countries and commercial firms to participate in satellite construction, space launch, space exploration, and human spaceflight. Although these advancements are creating new opportunities, new risks for space-enabled services have emerged. Having seen the benefits of space-enabled operations, some foreign governments are developing capabilities that threaten others’ ability to use space. China and Russia, in particular, have taken steps to challenge the United States:
- Chinese and Russian military doctrines indicate that they view space as important to modern warfare and view counterspace capabilities as a means to reduce U.S. and allied military effectiveness. Both reorganized their militaries in 2015, emphasizing the importance of space operations.
- Both have developed robust and capable space services, including space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Moreover, they are making improvements to existing systems, including space launch vehicles and satellite navigation constellations. These capabilities provide their militaries with the ability to command and control their forces worldwide and also with enhanced situational awareness, enabling them to monitor, track, and target U.S. and allied forces.
- Chinese and Russian space surveillance networks are capable of searching, tracking, and characterizing satellites in all earth orbits. This capability supports both space operations and counterspace systems.
- Both states are developing jamming and cyberspace capabilities, directed energy weapons, on-orbit capabilities, and ground-based antisatellite missiles that can achieve a range of reversible to nonreversible effects.
Iran and North Korea also pose a challenge to militaries using space-enabled services, as each has demonstrated jamming capabilities. Iran and North Korea maintain independent space launch capabilities, which can serve as avenues for testing ballistic missile technologies.
The advantage the United States holds in space—and its perceived dependence on it—will drive actors to improve their abilities to access and operate in and through space. These improvements can pose a threat to space-based services across the military, commercial, and civil space sectors.