On December 6, the American think tank Atlantic Council held a discussion about new threats in outer space.

It was attended by the former deputy of the US General Staff and the current director of the space defense program at the US Department of Defense.

We present to your attention their main theses.

From discoveries to commerce


James Cartwright

, former Deputy Chief of Staff and former Chief of Strategic Command of the US Armed Forces:

  • The US National Intelligence Council's report "Global Trends - 2040" expresses concern about how norms of behavior in space will be determined.

    The absence of such norms can lead to conflict situations.

  • Outer space is now in a transitional state – from the period of discoveries (which in the United States was mainly carried out by the space agency NASA) to the commercial period.

  • When I was the head of the Strategic Command [from 2004 to 2007], the number of space vehicle launches per year could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

    There were already commercial satellites, but at that time there was no large-scale commercial activity in space.

    But now mega-constellations of satellites are being launched, and launches are happening more often than once a week.

    NASA is gradually transferring activities in orbit around the Earth to commercial organizations.

  • In recent months, China and Russia have conducted tests of anti-satellite weapons, as well as arranged so-called "non-kinetic" actions, for example, cyber activity in space.

    Space is not only filled with large constellations of satellites, but also becomes an arena of competition and competition.

Space is not exactly a sea

  • Today, there is a lack of a legal mechanism for regulating activities in space.

    There is no agreement on the norms of behavior, because there is a competition for benefits.

    Unfortunately, such basic things as "right of way" or "hostile intent" in space are currently undefined.

    We cannot simply take international maritime law and transfer it to space.

    It can help us, but it is not the same.

  • The United States needs to work on this together with other countries.

    And we will have to be careful here, because otherwise everything will be decided in secret and as a result we will get unpleasant surprises.

  • The use of force or steps taken to paralyze an enemy force are considered acts of war in the legal sense.

    And space in this sense does not differ from other spheres.

    There is also no distinction made in the sense of whether physical actions are used.

    Therefore, if we "blind" or "hack" some system, it is considered, if not acts of military aggression, then elements of war.

    In addition, we also need to understand what intentions will look like in space when the interaction of unmanned vehicles takes place.

  • The US no longer has an exclusive strategic position in space.

    And we need to decide which course to follow in this competition.

Space as the key to military strategy

Travis Langster

, director of the Space and Missile Defense Program at the US Department of Defense:

  • The unclassified part of the 2022 US National Defense Strategy was recently published.

    It is important for general understanding, because space does not exist in isolation from the rest of the strategy.

    Space plays a very important role in all four priorities of this strategy.

  • These four priorities are the defense of US territory, prevention of strategic attacks on the US and its allies, deterrence of aggression [where the main priority is China's actions in the Indo-Pacific region, and then Russia's actions in Europe], as well as building a sustainable ecosystem of joint forces and protection.

    All of them depend on the ability of the US to operate in space both in peacetime and during conflicts.

  • The defense strategy is based on the concept of "integrated deterrence", in which space plays a key role.

    Space is the key to bringing together both strategic and conventional US forces.

  • Space is an important element in the strategy of military operations for the United States, and the adversaries of the United States are well aware of this.

    And this creates big challenges: China and Russia are trying to build the capacity to destroy US space missions.

The main competitor of the USA is China.

Then Russia

  • In 2007, China destroyed an old satellite with a rocket, creating a lot of debris that will remain in orbit for many years.

    China now has anti-satellite missiles designed for targets in low Earth orbit [about 2,000 kilometers].

    According to the estimates of the American intelligence community, China seems to be working on a similar system that will be able to deliver targets to the distance of the geostationary orbit [more than 35 thousand kilometers].

  • China has a powerful potential for electronic warfare, the purpose of which is to block satellite communications, radar systems and GPS navigation.

    It is also developing a laser weapon that could potentially destroy elements of satellites.

    China also launched a satellite with experimental technology that could be used to intercept other satellites.

  • Meanwhile, Russia remains a strong threat to the American space structure.

    Russia is also working on systems to counter space objects.

    It develops, tests and deploys a range of destructive and non-destructive anti-space weapons, including for jamming space communications and for fighting in cyberspace.

  • Among other things, Russia has ground-based missiles designed to destroy satellites, including a new anti-satellite missile that the Russian Federation irresponsibly tested in November 2021.

    Then more than 1500 pieces of debris were formed.

    At the same time, the USA undertook not to conduct destructive tests of anti-satellite missiles.

  • It appears that China is trying to build a space system based on the American model.

    In 2022 alone, China launched more than 150 satellites into space, bringing their total number to over 650. Among them are satellites with the most modern tracking and intelligence technologies.

    And this will significantly improve the efficiency of Chinese missile systems.

  • Resilience in space, along with cyber resilience, is listed among the priorities in the US National Defense Strategy.

    A more resilient space architecture should render ineffective potential attacks on the US space system.

    One of the first steps in this direction is a new system of notification and defense against missile attacks.