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 Global Affairs Canada), initiated what has become the Outer Space Security Conference Series organized by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The Simons Foundation continues to partner with UNIDIR and fund the Outer Space Security Conferences which are held to inform the UN Conference on Disarmament on the issue of space security, the peaceful uses of outer space and the prevention of an arms race in outer space.
Space Security Index 2018 tracks developments and activities in 2017 related to four indicators of the security of outer space – environmental sustainability, access to and use of space, technologies for space security, and space governance – to capture long-term changes. This newly released 15th volume of the annual report is striking for its illustration of the slide toward weaponization and warfare in the space domain. 

Space Security Index 2018 is the fifteenth annual report on developments related to safety, sustainability, and security in outer space, covering the period January-December 2017.  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 2018 is the fifteenth annual report on developments related to safety, sustainability, and security in outer space, covering the period January-December 2017.  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.

By Paul Meyer
Senior Fellow in Space and Cyber Security
The Simons Foundation
Published by Jane’s Intelligence Review
September 24, 2018
 

See the link below for remarks by Paul Meyer, The Simons Foundation Senior Fellow, at the "Cybersecurity Challenges in the Government Sphere – Ethical, Legal and Technical Aspects" CANVAS workshop at the University of Applied Sciences in Bern, Switzerland, Sept 5-6, 2018.

Remarks by Paul Meyer
Senior Fellow, The Simons Foundation Canada
and Senior Advisor at the ICT4Peace at CANVAS workshop:
Cybersecurity Challenges in the Government Sphere – Ethical, Legal and Technical Aspects
University of Applied Sciences
Bern, Switzerland
September 5-6, 2018
 

The Government of Canada recently released their first new national cyber security strategy since October 2010. See the following for commentary on the new strategy from Paul Meyer, The Simons Foundation’s Senior Fellow in Space and Cyber Security.

Commentary Paul Meyer
Senior Fellow in Space Security
The Simons Foundation
Published by OpenCanada.org
June 20, 2018
 

Conference convened by The Simons Foundation at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Canada, on May 24, 2018, to consider the current state of the international cyber security policy discussion and its implications for conflict or peace in the vital, if vulnerable environment of cyberspace.