As the world becomes more reliant on space-based capabilities for everyday use,  leaders across the world have expressed concern about the vulnerability of space assets. In this episode, we detail weaponized threats to space systems, military threats emanating from space, and efforts to mitigate such threats. 

Land-Based and Space-Based Weaponry

For decades, militaries have leveraged space-based capabilities to enhance combat operations. Threats to satellites can be land-based and space-based. Countries like the United States, China, and Russia have developed anti-satellite missiles (ASATs) that target orbiting satellites. Additionally, cyber threat actors can target satellite ground stations to disrupt satellite functionality. Moreover, some “dual use” satellites serve peaceful purposes, but can also be used for military applications if necessary.

Space assets may soon include weapons that attack land or air targets. Some US experts are promoting space-based interceptors that would bolster US missile defense by targeting incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). In addition, some have advanced the idea of orbiting tungsten cylinders with an impact on earth equivalent to a small nuclear bomb.

Risk Mitigation Efforts

Military and civilian leaders have taken steps to prepare for risks against space assets. For instance, US government officials have warned that China and Russia’s rapidly developing capabilities may be able to deny access to space in the future, requiring a growth in the military space budget. In fact, the US military has increased US Air Force space program funding by $5 billion from 2015-2020. The US Defense Department also released a “Resiliency Taxonomy” to strengthen mission assurance in space.   

Vulnerability and Dependency

Although only a few countries have the capabilities to weaponize space, the disruption or destruction of space assets will affect every country in the world. With critical services like navigation and communications reliant on satellites, every nation has a stake in advancing the peaceful use of space.

Dig Deeper

Take a look at some of our favorite articles that we came across while researching this topic:

About the Author
Bobby is a second-year MA candidate in the Security Policy Studies program at the George Washington University’s Elliott School. He serves as the Show Notes Writer for Matters of State. Prior to attending GW, Bobby worked as a legal assistant for the government contracts practice of a DC law firm. He earned his BA in Political Science and Economics from the University of Notre Dame. His academic and professional interests are cyber security and energy security policy.