Current Challenges in Deterring the Use of Space Weapons

  • September 15, 2015
  • Colonel Craig Roseberry

The United States is facing significant threats to critical space assets due to emerging military technologies such as direct assent anti-satellite weapons and directed energy weapons. The U.S. Space Policy identifies deterrence as a key method to prevent attacks on space systems and proclaims the inherent right to respond to defeat attacks if deterrence fails. The threat of punishment by itself is insufficient to deter either opportunistic states or anonymous actors from employing these technologies to achieve strategic surprise. In light of these challenges, the United States must strengthen its current space deterrence approaches to prevent future attacks on space borne assets. This paper first reviews the relevant strategic documents regarding space deterrence. Second, it identifies the impact anonymity, the lack of international norms and frameworks, and a currently tepid U.S. declaratory policy poses as potential sources of failure to space deterrence. Finally, this strategic research project offers practicable recommendations to overcome limitations that inhibit the implementation of deterrence strengthening mechanisms in line with the National Space Policy in the present strategic environment.