Access to and use of Space by Global Actors

The Outer Space Treaty stipulates that the exploration and use of outer space “shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interest of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development…” The ability of global actors to access and use space is a key indicator of space security. More than 70 states currently own or operate satellites.

The ability to access and use outer space is also critical to well-being on Earth: millions of individuals rely on space applications daily for functions as diverse as weather forecasting; navigation; surveillance of borders and coastal waters; monitoring of crops, fisheries, and forests; health and education; disaster mitigation; and search-and-rescue operations. Space-based data is increasingly being provided as a means of monitoring global climate change and supporting socioeconomic development.

Access to space and the services that it supports is driven by various actors. Many global space services, such as Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) and weather satellites, were initially developed by military actors. Civil space programs play a key role in the development of launch vehicles as well as scientific research, socio-economic space applications, and international cooperation. Increasingly, however, people around the world make use of outer space through commercial companies that provide a growing array of space launch services, satellite manufacturing capabilities, and next-generation space applications such as Internet, high-resolution Earth imagery, and 5G global connectivity.

This growing use of space is not without challenges. Increased use contributes to the growth of space debris generated by all space missions, as well as competition for access to orbital positions and radiofrequency spectrum. Geopolitical competition is also increasing in space as military uses and doctrines continue to evolve and some states shift toward a warfighting orientation in anticipation of possible conflict in this domain.

Issue Guides

Military Uses of Outer Space

Click to Download Full DocumentIssue Guide Available for PDF Download (4847KB) ABOUT This issue guide is focused on the use of space systems to support military activities on Earth. (For information on the potential use of force or warfighting in outer space, explore Issue Guides related to the security of…

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