NATO Defense College
Individual paper submitted by Colonel Xavier Périllat-Piratoine (FR AF)
Senior Course 121- Committee 7-
Space, NATO final frontier ?
Space is traditionally defined as comprising of outer Space and celestial bodies, where, as foreseen by the relevant international law[i], States cannot claim or exert sovereign or exclusive rights. Most scholars define it as the volume of space extending over fifty nautical miles or one hundred kilometers above Earth ground (Karman Line).
Space generally offers a remarkable case for the study of how is a balance found between the pursuit of national interests and international cooperation. Ongoing diplomatic efforts pursued by China and Russia for the prevention of an arms race in outer Space Treaty with the PAROS project, those of the European Union with the Draft Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities are just the last of a long list. From a national perspective, France in 2008 with the “Loi 2008-518 relative aux opérations spatiales” or the USA with the adoption of a new “National Space Policy of the United States of America, June 28, 2010” have published their respective policies and have indicated at least partially how they intend to achieve them.
During the Cold War, Space mostly remained a private domain for the two superpowers, one unshared with NATO, and a “new frontier” for the United States. Now eleven Nations have Space-launch capacity, and over sixty own and operate more than 1,100 satellites of a civil, military or dual nature. May Space become a new and final frontier for NATO and how does NATO fare in space?
Space activities and Space policies are of a strategic nature due to the immediate global impact they have on both civil and military activities on Earth. Rapidly described they amount to providing our societies and military with crucial services :
- Civilian uses include but are not limited to telecommunications, and space technology provides tools for protecting the environment, combating climate change, responding to disasters with global monitoring systems or or managing transport satellite navigation systems… In the security area, far reaching monitoring of the seas, border surveillance, and awareness prior to crisis intervention might be mentioned. The space industry generates economic growth, innovation and highly skilled jobs; it also spawns innovative new products and services in other industries.
- With regard to military uses of Space, satellites serve military (Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT); Communications; Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR); and Space Situational Awareness (SSA) uses or wider intelligence-gathering uses for the governments who oversee them.
- Most uses are of a dual nature or might serve both civil and military purposes.
Often associated with other Global Commons -high seas, international airspace and cyberspace- and more and more interrelated with them, Space is then from a military point of view, an active, present and future and more importantly a critical operating environment. It also is a domain that is increasingly congested, contested, and competitive..
Within that context, NATO, as such, is not a prominent actor. It faces difficulties to position itself and to maximize the use it has for Space (1). A comparison with the European Union effort shows that NATO is generally lagging in terms of policy and doctrine even though EU faces challenges of its own (2). Some encouraging trends are however worth mentioning and common ground may be found between Nations, NATO and the EU in some key areas of Space cooperation despite diverging perspectives(3). Finally, despite the plea that can be made in favor of a limited but well defined NATO policy with regard to Space, and very recent openings, Space may generally remain out of reach for NATO for the foreseeable future (4).
1 . NATO’s precarious position in Space.
Although NATO is an Alliance enabled by Space and although it recognizes the importance of Space in the Strategic Concept, it mostly does so in a sort of incidental and restrained manner..which ultimately may be signalling the lack of appetite of space-empowered Nations for a NATO as a separate Space actor.
Space assets are procured through Nations funding and operated under national command and control. NATO as such does not own separate assets and relies on nationally owned satellites for its telecommunications requirements and for other military uses of Space. NATO acts more then as an integrator of space-provided resources for its operations. In Libya, satellites helped acquire and attack targets. Off the Horn of Africa, satellites help NATO maritime forces track ships and contribute to anti-piracy operations. NATO conducts operations effectively insofar as it has access to Space capabilities.
Without an organic capability to command and control, or at least to guide and coordinate, NATO commanders have to rely on ad hoc arrangements with Nations, most notably the USA. But collaborative Space support, which consists in exchanges of products or services, on a voluntary basis and in response to an operational need has its limits. ISAF reported in 2010 significant shortfalls concerning the use of space-based capabilities owing mainly to lack of Space culture, and OUP lessons in 2011, described a preoccupying absence of coordination and common procedures or common formats for information/intelligence sharing.
Despite numerous studies and recommendations over the years and some pertinent attempts at mobilizing Nations for establishing concepts and understanding the required capabilities to operate in Space, NATO still relies on dated practices and doctrine (AJP3.3) without an unified and inclusive vision of what a Space policy, strategy and doctrine should be.
2. The European Union (EU) ambition and its limits. NATO/EU a strategic comparison
Contrariwise, EU and its Commission, following the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty and a significant transfer of competence in Space matters, have been very proactive in establishing a Space policy at European level, signalling its intent to take the lead in areas of vital strategic importance that involve complex interactions between players at regional, national and international levels. Furthering the Council of the EU 16864/10 Resolution “Global challenges : taking full benefit of European space systems”made in Brussels, 26 November 2010, that strongly links the EU Space programs to European Security and Defense Policy, the EU affirms itself as a prominent actor. EU wishes to federate EU, ESA and national efforts. It also pushes an international agenda through diplomatic efforts aimed at the signing by space-faring Nations of the Code of Conduct for Outer Space activities which is still being discussed in its draft form. The flag programs of the EU, GMES and GALILEO, once financial and technical difficulties have been overcome, shall provide EU and Nations with capabilities for both civilian and military uses in the same way that GPS, GLONASS and observation satellites service provide the same for global users. Maritime surveillance, border control and support for EU global operations and external actions are routinely evoked as EU core competences in Space.
EU though, does not have , far from it, a monopoly in spatial activities in Europe and European countries who have in a demanding field, both financially and technologically, produced long range efforts, also retain full autonomy regarding Defense. They have real reservations to a wider role for EU. Carrying on funding and developing separate ISR and telecommunications programs, they show little interest for sharing their high end ISR products.
As for NATO, the last -2012- Shriever Wargame held in the USA saw a internationalization of this classic exercise, and for the first time fully included NATO as such. It was built around a scenario heavily involving NATO command and control capabilities. Previously limited to “four eyes” Nations, “Shriever” now typically also includes civil actors and institutions, although notably not the EU. Numerous recommendations were made in its aftermath. When it comes to the Alliance, a key takeaway is that there is a need for clear political guidance on Space to include how NATO will develop doctrine, capabilities, and partnerships that will enable the effective use of Space during operations by NATO forces.
But to this day, NATO is an arena where space empowered Nations flatly refuse the idea of a Space policy even being discussed, and refuse capability studies..This state of things is a reminder that NATO is a military toolbox under an intergovernmental organization rather than an supranational organization who may as EU does, develop its autonomy in Space matters.
3. Some encouraging global trends or opportunities.
As various challenges to long-term sustainability of Space have appeared, and as maturing capabilities of medium size Space powers have emerged, so has the requirement for cooperations of a global nature, albeit with a limited spectrum.
EU is for that matter, trying to find ways to coordinate national activities in precise areas and notably Space Situational Awareness (SSA). SSA has repeatedly emerged in recent conferences as a key area for collaboration between Nations. SSA is of utmost importance with regard to ensuring safety and security for all functioning satellites and Spacecraft. It generally consists in monitoring and understanding Space with a view to providing timely warnings of potential collisions, or assessing Space events (coronal flares ejection etc..) and their consequences on space enabled activities.
Space Security through the Transatlantic Partnership is viewed as of the essence by the EU. The U.S. on its side currently views cooperation on SSA as a building-block enterprise. For the space empowered Nations of Europe, and elsewhere, SSA is likewise viewed as fundamental for cooperation. A number of bilateral arrangements or MoUs have been signed or are being negociated between ministries of Defense and/or relevant agencies to exchange information relating to orbits, velocity, probable collision course, evasive maneuvers etc.. SSA could represent a constructive European contribution to transatlantic cooperation, should EU obtain to take the lead.
EU, though, which for these purposes utilizes the European Space Agency, seem to encounter difficulties in transcending individual national interests as SSA is often built using military Space assets.. EU SSA sharing then needs to be conducted in a way that adds value and complements nations’ operational capacity without having them relinquishing sovereign control of their respective national systems.
There are though significant differences between the doctrines of European countries and those of the U.S. regarding Space security. When Space security encompasses offensive actions by other Space-faring actors for the the US doctrine and by the US themselves in defense of access to Space, EU primarily focuses on the threats posed by Space debris, satellite collisions and other such phenomena.
Stemming from bilateral or multilateral efforts, shared SSA is making some progress, with EU vying for its strategic independence and struggling to federate the efforts of European space empowered Nations. NATO, where SSA could be construed as some form of Space Recognized Picture, although it is absent from the picture, would be a perfect candidate for a military SSA, feeding from the Allies, providing them with a common understanding of the Space situation, enabling them in turn in military activities. Nations though do not want a “Space NATINADS” despite the success of the collective Air defense system.
Other areas are promising, as, as has been mentioned, most space assets may have a dual use. Maritime and border surveillance, climate change, of EU competence, are matters mentioned in the Strategic concept. Should existing political obstacles to EU-NATO cooperation be removed, NATO could profitably get involved in the EU/US/Japan dialogue with regard to those civilian aspects (whole of governement) of space enabled activities. On its side, EU who would have to overcome there some EU members strong reservations would gladly get involved in  several fields of possible cooperation involving NATO and the military dimension of Space, which would in turn push forward NATO as a space actor and major user.
4. Space may remain out of reach for NATO for the foreseeable future : After NATO JAPCC provided a number of recommendations over the years to no avail, and an ACT informal ad hoc group was dissolved this year, a Space Bi-SC Working Group (NSBi-SCWG) has been established. A mandate might be given by mid-november 2012 by the Military Committee to exclusively address NATO Space military shortcomings, in the areas of training, organisation and operating procedures, without any consideration to be given to policy or strategy, or especially to capabilities. This scope of direction and guidance for space support to NATO operations is a far cry from an Alliance’s full involvement in Space matters. Policy and capabilities might be adressed by the NAC, if consensus can be found to start such discussions at the political level.. Another indication of the general trend regarding the involvement of NATO in Space matters may be found in the fact that among the Smart Defense projects listed August 2012, only one might have limited spatial implications. Space matters remain national matters.
NATO as such is not then, at this point, to formulate a policy or express capability requirements, much less engage with Space actors (nations, partners, international bodies, industry). At the same time, the pressure is building from outside NATO for a shared SSA between NATO Nations, EU and Partners, and there is a push for accompanying Trust Building Confidence Measures, as well as for the adoption of binding or non binding international instruments. A Space debris crisis could also take place. These considerations have serious military implications as Schriever Wargame has demonstrated. Alliance unified views based on informed military opinion, itself guided by an Alliance policy in Space matters would certainly be helpful in adressing the fact that Space has become a disputed and indispensable medium for military and global civilian uses. In short NATO has a use (many) for Space and Space has a use for NATO, be it a crisis on Earth ground or a crisis in Space.
Allied Joint Publication 3-3 (A) Air and Space Operations.
Astropolitics, May August 2012, Space strategy consideration for medium Space Powers by John J. Klein.
Astropolitics, May December 2010, “Space and strategy : aconceptual versus Policy analysis” by James Clay Moltz and “The political vacuum of Space and the Quest for Strategy” by James J Wirtz
SACT letter to MC Chairman dated September 21st, 2012.
CNN “Security Clearance blog” Space junk diplomacy” by Jamie Crawford July 2nd, 2012
JFK speech, May, 25th, 1961 “urgent national need” placing Space within the general concept of national security and specifying overarching goals for US Space efforts.
NSC -37, May 11th, 1978, Carter,
Conference Prague, June 2011 “Space Security through the Transatlantic Partnership”, co-sponsoredby the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI) and the Prague Security Studies Institute (PSSI).
Conference “Securing the Peaceful and Sustainable Use of Space”, 24 May 2012, Toronto, “Europe's Emerging Policy Toward Space Security” by Jana Robinson Resident Fellow, European Space Policy Institute.
National Space Policy of the UnitedStates of America, June 28, 2010.
European Commission’s Communication COM (2011) 152 "Towards a Space strategy for the European Union that benefits its citizens” 4th April 2011.
Loi 2008-518 relative aux opérations spatiales du 23 mai 2008.
 Some equatorial countries have tried though in 1976 with the “Bogota declaration” to claim a right to orbital fixed geolocations above the equator, which are very much sought after and a scarce resource, to no avail.
 The Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT) project is another one.
 Most scholars read the development of the international legal frame for outer space as heavily determined by the will of the superpowers to neutralize one another while other countries, despite their lack of capabilities took an immediate and keen interest in preserving their freedom of movement for thr future.
 SC Adopted by Heads of State and Government at the NATO Summit in Lisbon 19-20 November 2010.
“§14 . A number of significant technology-related trends – including the development of laser weapons,electronic warfare and technologies that impede access to Space – appear poised to have major global effects that will impact on NATO military planning and operations.” Compare with “cyber” cited four times in the SC.
 Two common funded satellites have ceased to operate in 2007 and 2010.
ESPI Perspectives No 12, September 2008, JAPCC 2011”NATO space assessment” etc..
 Multinational Experiment 7, « access to the Global Commons »
 With very few exceptions, NATO Space capabilities always have been national Space capabilities used in a NATO context. Historically, no NATO board, bureau, working group, committee, or command possessed an official mandate to formally speak on the Alliance’s behalf about Space policy, use of Space capabilities outside of specific channels such as Air and Missile Defence.
 “The Union shall draw up a European Space policy (…)may take the form of a European space program” Article 189, Lisbon Treaty
 Communication COM (2011) 152 of the EU Commission “TOWARDS A SPACE STRATEGY FOR THE EUROPEAN UNION THAT BENEFITS ITS CITIZENS”
 it seeks to: develop and exploit Space applications that serve Europe's public policy objectives and the needs of Europe's citizens and enterprises; meet Europe's Space-based security and defence needs; ensure Europe retains a strong and competitive Space industry that is innovative and provides sustainable, high-quality and cost-effective services; contribute to the knowledge-based society by investing significantly in Space-based science and playing a strong role in international Space exploration; secure Europe's unrestricted access to the best technologies, systems and capabilities to ensure the availability of independent European Space applications.
 Communication COM (2011) 152 of the EU Commission “TOWARDS A SPACE STRATEGY FOR THE EUROPEAN UNION THAT BENEFITS ITS CITIZENS” §20 ACKNOWLEDGES the reinforced EU engagement in security and defence matters embedded in the Lisbon Treaty and the setting-up of the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the significance of crisis management as a key element of the EU and its Member States’ actions both in Europe and globally; therefore INVITES the European Commission, the EU Council, assisted by EDA, together with Member States and ESA, to explore ways to support current and future capability needs for crisis management through cost-effective access to robust, secure and reactive space assets and services (integrating global satellite communications, Earth observation, positioning and timing), taking full advantage of dual-use synergies as appropriate; and INVITES the European Commission and the EU Council to propose policy solutions where necessary;
 Recent events in Space, like China‘s 2007 ASAT test, 2009 Iridium 33/Cosmos 2251 collision, or uncontrolled satellite re-entries (e.g. Phobos-Grunt Spacecraft) have underscored an urgent requirement for measures to enhance safety and security of Space activities. Debris in low orbit may gravely impede on space use either for civil or military uses. Coronal radiation ejection from the sun may also negatively impact those activities and must be predicted, with mitigation measures to be implemented.
 Arguably the European Commission’s Communication COM (2011) 152 "Towards a Space strategy for the European Union that benefits its citizens” dated 4th April 2011 in §2.3.2 has tried to offer that EU should coordinate member states’ means and facilities, without success as of today…
 The bifaceted aspect of “Space for security” and “Security for Space”.
 ESPI, the EU Think Tank is putting forward several recommendations among them :” Explore establishment of a combined Space operations centre as a vehicle for closer cooperation, including the sharing of information on the Space environment, objects, and interference, Examine the prospects for more robust multilateral coordination concerning incidents or threats via joint exercises between governments and private operators (beyond the Schriever Wargames) to establish a crisis response roadmaps, Assess the potential of joint U.S.-EU.NATO exercises on different contingencies associated with transatlantic Space crisis management”.
“JAPCC Space Operations Assessment 2009”
 To include : “Short term way ahead Focus:Dependencies of NATO operations to national Space capabilities; the level of Space Support Availability that SHAPE and operational commanders need and how to provide it; Awareness of senior leaders on Space related issues; NATO Space doctrine with a specific focus on SCA in operations; Required supporting staff at strategic and operational level, and issue recommendations to adjust related PEs; Individual and collective education and training on operational Space matters.”
 Establishment of a Multinational Geospatial Support Group (GSG). Through this project, a Multinational Geospatial Support Group (MN GSG) will provide enhanced standardised geospatial information, such as mapping and terrain imaging to NATO operations and planning.
[i] Without entering into details or mentioning the huge corpus of applicable soft law, it is worth mentioning :
The 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the "Outer Space Treaty").
The 1968 Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space (the "Rescue Agreement").
The 1972 Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects (the "Liability Convention").
The 1975 Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (the "Registration Convention").
The 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the "Moon Treaty").
Contrary to other “Global commons” like the High seas seabed, Outer Space, except for the Moon and other celestial bodies, is only under an appropriation prohibition and a restricted freedom of use regime. “UNCLOS: the common heritage of mankind” “OuterSpace treaty: the province of all mankind”