Space and Cyber Security

International Space Station.  Photo courtesy of NASA.

Outer space has become vitally important for human security and development. Peaceful use of space and the military significance of outer space continue to increase. Some 60 countries currently utilize space for peaceful purposes, for communications, banking, monitoring environmental and climate change, disaster management, E-health, E-learning and surveillance and guidance systems for military purposes.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty establishes the basic framework for international space law. The treaty affirms space as free to all states for exploration and peaceful purposes and prohibits nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in orbit or on celestial bodies, or stationed in outer space in any other manner. However, it does not prohibit the launch through space of ballistic missiles that potentially have anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) capability or WMD payloads.

The security of space is now of serious concern. It is essential to prohibit the deployment of weapons in space that could destroy or endanger spacecraft and satellites in space, in the atmosphere and on earth. It is also essential to prohibit ground-based ASATs.

The three major issues that threaten the security of space for peaceful purposes are weaponization, space debris and the overcrowding of orbits.

The weaponization of space could lead to an arms race in space and the likelihood of space warfare. Since the earliest launches of satellites, space has been militarized with satellites used for command-and-control, early-warning, and guidance systems for weapons. The withdrawal of the United States from the bilateral Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between Russia and the U.S. has allowed the U.S. to proceed with the development of the Ballistic Missile Defense System, a stepping stone to space weapons. Further, both China and the United States have tested ASATs.

Space debris, a consequence of global use of space, is another issue of concern. Billions of small objects circle the planet, endangering spacecraft and satellites and causing light pollution. 

The overcrowding of orbits undermines the security of assets in space by creating the potential for collisions, thus causing tensions between states.

Outer space, protected as a common good, necessitates secure and sustainable access to and use of space and freedom from space-based threats for all states thus safe for peaceful human activity. Though a number of Resolutions affirming the importance and the urgency of preventing an arms race in space have been submitted to the UN, to date there is no legal regime preventing the weaponization of space, which remains the ultimate goal.

Space and Cyber Security Content

September 2011
Copyright 2011
Edited by Cesar Jaramillo

The Space Security Index is the first and only annual, comprehensive, and integrated assessment of space security.

Space Security 2011 is the eighth annual report on trends and developments related to security and outer space, covering the period January to December 2010.1 It is part of the broader Space Security Index (SSI) project, which aims to improve transparency with respect to space activities and provide a common, comprehensive knowledge base to support the development of national and international policies that contribute to space security.

The definition of space security guiding this report reflects the express intent of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that space should be preserved as a global commons to be used by all for peaceful purposes:

“The secure and sustainable access to, and use of, space and freedom from space-based threats."

This broad definition encompasses the security of space as a particularly unique environment, the security of Earth-originating assets in space, and security from threats originating in space-based assets. The primary consideration in the SSI definition of space security is not the interests of specific national or commercial entities using space, but the security of space as an environment that can be used safely and sustainably by all.

For more information, please visit


April 4-5, 2011
Palais des Nations, United Nations Office at Geneva, Switzerland.

Remarks by Paul Meyer
Space Security Conference 2011
Geneva, Switzerland
April 4-5, 2011

Paul Meyer is a Fellow in International Security at the Centre for Dialogue,Simon Fraser University, and Senior Fellow, The Simons Foundation.

Space Security 2011 Conference: Building on the Past, Stepping towards the Future
Palais des Nations, United Nations Office
Geneva, Switzerland
April 4-5, 2011


“Space Security 2010: From Foundations to Negotiations" is the ninth annual conference held by the United Nations Institute for Disarmam

Conference Report

United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland

March 31-April 1, 2008


"Security in Space: The Next Generation" is the seventh annual conference held by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research on the issue of space security, the peaceful uses of outer space and the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

This conference looked at ways to build trust in space activities in the future as well as how to move from confrontation to cooperation as a way to increase space security and improve access to outer space for peaceful activities. Participants and presenters discussed the need for new international legal instruments, with specific reference to the China–Russia proposal for a Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects.