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

In 2002, The Simons Foundation and Project Ploughshares, in partnership with Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (now http://www.international.gc.ca/internat

Space Security Index 2017 is the fourteenth annual report on developments related to safety, sustainability, and security in outer space, covering the period January-December 2016.  It is part of the broader Space Security Index (SSI) project, which aims to improve transparency on space activities and provide a common, comprehensive, objective knowledge base to support the development of dialogue and policies that contribute to the security and sustainability of outer space.

Space Security Index 2017 is the fourteenth annual report on developments related to safety, sustainability, and security in outer space, covering the period January-December 2016.  It is part of the broader Space Security Index (SSI) project, which aims to improve transparency on space activities and provide a common, comprehensive, objective knowledge base to support the development of dialogue and policies that contribute to the security and sustainability of outer space.

Space Security Index 2017 is the fourteenth annual report on developments related to safety, sustainability, and security in outer space, covering the period January-December 2016. This assessment of the security of outer space warns of mounting stress from a combination of rapid technology change and geopolitical tensions.
Visit The Space Review for this commentary by Paul Meyer, The Simons Foundation's Senior Fellow in Space Security.
The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) annual Outer Space Security Conference Series provides stakeholders with an overview of current space security initiatives, an update on the implementation and adherence to existing instruments and a view of the way ahead. Click here to view the report of "Space Security 2017—Celebrating the Outer Space Treaty: 50 Years of Space Governance and Stability."
Public event presented by the Space Security Index on the future of outer space governance as the Outer Space Treaty faces the next generation of challenges. 5:30 - 7:00pm on Wednesday, May 3rd in Montreal.
Visit The Ploughshares Monitor for this interview with Paul Meyer, Senior Fellow in Space Security at The Simons Foundation, on the 50th anniversary of the Outer Space Treaty and current challenges for outer space security.