Discussion summary: space - the next frontier

Peace, Security & Defence

This is a summary of the recently concluded discussion on the seventh edition of Debating Security Plus (DS+). DS+ is a global online brainstorm that brings together a community of global security experts throughout the year to discuss the changing nature of warfare and its implication for global thinking on peace, security and defence.

Having concrete strategies in the space domain has never been more important. This is one of the major conclusions the Debating Security Plus online community reached during June’s debate Space: the next frontier?

Cassandra Steer argued that framing space as a futuristic frontier hinders us from seeing what it truly is: a current security threat. Steer continued by noting that outer space is “already a part of our natural environment, and already a domain in which we operate militarily and commercially”.

Jana Robinson called out potential hybrid threats such as directed energy operations, jamming and proximity operations, warning that it could endanger our cyber, economic and financial sectors. She further cautioned against Chinese and Russian space-related state-controlled enterprises, which are driven by strategy rather than commercial motives when partnering abroad. Investments in space activities with such enterprises risk being unsustainable for partners and could negatively affect dependent countries.

Russia and China also represent military threats for space governance. Kaitlyn Johnson highlighted Beijing’s annual anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) tests and Moscow’s “wide-reaching jamming operations in the Arctic circle” which, in the past, have hampered Nordic countries’ military and commercial operations.

What about Europe?

Spanish Minister for Science, Innovation and Universities, and former astronaut, Pedro Duque shared his vision of a space strategy for Europe based on coordination between the European Union, the European Space Agency, and member states. Duque believes that while space brings many opportunities, Europe must step up to ensure the safety and security of its citizens from emerging threats in space. The ESA’s Head of Security Stefano Zatti emphasised the shift in what these challenges are, from potential intruders that could damage expensive infrastructure to current cyber threats that can deactivate security systems and alter space activities.

What’s the way ahead?

Guillem Anglada argued against conflating the EU’s ‘space policy’ with the ESA, insisting that the two should be viewed as distinct entities. Rather, Anglada called for the implemention of common EU regulations and protections against outside competition. He also noted that space is the “only place” where unbound exploration can occur without further damaging our planet. Indeed, energy and noble metals found in space could prove a tremendous asset back on Earth.

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