Documents to download

Space has been used for military purposes for decades, albeit limited to the deployment of non-offensive military systems such as communications, navigation, imaging and surveillance satellites. Several countries, including the UK have developed a comprehensive space-based military architecture to facilitate military activities on the ground.

However, space is becoming an increasingly contested environment. The last few years has seen a proliferation in the number and type of actors operating in space, and a growing interdependence between the military, civil and commercial space sectors.

Protecting critical space-based assets, both civilian and military, has therefore become a priority. Space is also increasingly viewed as a military domain in its own right, as countries look to utilise space to enhance their own military capabilities and security.

In the last few years there has been considerable investment by several states, most notably Russia and China, in offensive counterspace capabilities that potentially threaten the use of space by the UK and its allies. The US has responded by calling for a rapid increase in the development of counterspace capability and the adoption of more aggressive space policies and postures.

Combined with the lack of regulation and accepted international norms of responsible conduct in space, and little appetite to advance that agenda, this more overt behaviour among nations is fuelling fears of a new arms race.

This briefing paper examines how the militarisation of space is evolving into the weaponisation of space and what role the UK envisages for itself going forward. It does not address civilian or commercial space programmes or the synergy between them and the military sphere.

The UK’s civil space sector is examined in more detail in The UK Space Industry, House of Commons Library, April 2021.

Documents to download

Related posts