NATO’s approach to space

  • Last updated: 27 Apr. 2020 10:13

Space is a dynamic and rapidly evolving area, which is essential to the Alliance’s deterrence and defence. In 2019, Allies adopted NATO’s Space Policy and recognised space as a new operational domain, alongside air, land, sea and cyberspace. It will guide NATO’s approach to space and ensure the right support to the Alliance’s operations and missions in such areas as communications, navigation and intelligence. Through the use of satellites, Allies and NATO can respond to crises with greater speed, effectiveness and precision.

© SpaceX Starlink Mission

Highlights

  • Space is increasingly important to the Alliance's and Allies' security and prosperity.
  • Space capabilities bring benefits in multiple areas from weather monitoring, environment and agriculture, to transport, science, communications and banking.
  • The information gathered and delivered through space-based satellites is critical for NATO activities, operations and missions, including collective defence, crisis response, counter-terrorism and disaster relief.
  • In 2019, Allies adopted a new Space Policy and declared space an operational domain.
  • NATO remains a key forum for Allies to share information and coordinate activities on various space-related issues.
  • NATO's approach to space will remain fully in line with international law.

 

NATO's role

Space is essential to the Alliance's deterrence and defence. Space underpins NATO's ability to navigate and track forces, to have robust communications, to detect missile launches and to ensure effective command and control. More than 2,000 satellites currently orbit the Earth, around half of which are owned by NATO member countries.

The evolution in the uses of space and rapid advances in space technology have created new opportunities, but also new risks, vulnerabilities and potential threats. While space can be used for peaceful purposes, it can also be used for aggression. Satellites can be hacked, jammed or weaponised, and anti-satellite weapons could cripple communications and affect the Alliance's ability to operate.

Various risks to space systems are increasing and can harm Allies' security and commercial interests.

The Alliance is an important forum for Allies to share information, increase interoperability and coordinate actions. NATO will continue to rely on national space capabilities to provide data, products and services, such as imagery, navigation and early warning.

NATO's approach to space will remain fully in line with international law. NATO has no intention to put weapons in space. The Alliance will maintain situational awareness of space as well as reliable access to space services, which are required to ensure the success of its operations, missions and activities.

To allow NATO forces to communicate more securely and quickly, NATO is investing over EUR 1 billion in procuring satellite communications services for the period of 2020-2034.

This is the Alliance's biggest-ever investment in satellite communications, which will be provided by NATO nations enabling more resilient and flexible communications with ships at sea, air assets and troops across the globe.

Evolution

At the 2018 Brussels Summit, NATO Leaders recognised that space is a highly dynamic and rapidly evolving area, which is essential for the Alliance's security, and agreed to develop an overarching NATO Space Policy.

At the June 2019 Defence Ministers' meeting, Allies adopted NATO's Space Policy.

At the December 2019 Leaders' Meeting in London, Allies declared space a fifth operational domain, alongside air, land, sea and cyberspace. In their declaration, NATO Leaders stated: "We have declared space an operational domain for NATO, recognising its importance in keeping us safe and tackling security challenges, while upholding international law."