Is Outer Space a New Domain of Modern-day Warfare?

The United States is one of the developed countries that has an interest in space exploration, this is why the United States continues to strive to improve it’s technological capabilities.

The United States is one of the developed countries that has an interest in space exploration, this is why U.S, continues to strive to improve it’s technological capabilities to support space exploration. The interest in outer space has been visible since it’s glory days during the cold war with Soviet Union, where the two countries at that time competed with each other to carry out exploration of the moon and space satellite wars. In it’s development, the United States see that outer space was a new median target that had enormous opportunities. This has resulted in astropolitics becoming one of the studies in the aspect of security studies which examines the role of space exploration in diplomacy and the use of satellites by the military as a surveillance measure in terrestrial wars.

Astropolitical developments have led the United States to focus it’s main strategy on space domination which can control the earth’s orbit with greater emphasis on the Lower Earth Orbit (LEO) region which is part of Dolman’s astropolitical principles. Astropolitical studies has also encouraged the United States government to create several defense and security policies related to outer space, this can be seen through the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) policy issued on March 23 1983 by Ronald Reagan. The essence of this policy is to develop a space-based ballistic missile defense and security program that can be used to protect the country from large-scale nuclear attacks. The United States’ defense and security policy regarding space then continued to develop until during Donald Trump’s leadership, which United States had the ambition to strengthen It’s defense and security, especially in the space area by supporting space military operations aimed at monitoring and responding to threats and strategic military as well as monitoring arms control and non-proliferation activities as a form of national security activity.

Under power of Donald Trump the field of astropolitics has been visible since December 11th 2017, when he issued a presidential memorandum known as Space Policy Directive-1. This memorandum is a change in form from the memorandum that existed under Barack Obama, where in the new memorandum, Trump wants to increase human exploration and expansion into outer space with the aim of increasing his strength in the field of defense and security through astropolitical studies. On May 24 2018, Donald Trump issued a follow-up memorandum known as Space Policy Directive-2: Streamlining Regulations on Commercial Use of Space, which is a policy from the first branch that regulates spending funds, paying taxes, and recognizing how the government acts, including federal regulations related to outer space. Furthermore, on June 18 2018, Trump again issued Space Policy Directive-3 which contains national space traffic management policies and the peak was on October 23 2018, where Trump issued a press release that there were several recommendations that would be discussed in the Space Policy Directive-4. The recommendations center on the creation of a space military whose function is to control and develop tactics, techniques and procedures for space operations.

The space domain in the 21st century is no longer considered as peaceful as before, because several developed countries, especially China and Russia, are also focusing on astropolitics by forming missile defense troops and space troops; including space tracking and anti-satellite activities. This reflects that space operations today will become part of a series of activities of a number of developed countries. Therefore, the United States under Trump’s leadership is currently insisting on participating in the space domain, even though it is considered by some senators as a late counter to Russian and Chinese actions, which include equipment acquisition, doctrinal evolution, equipment testing, and fundamental reorganization for establishing space dominance in case of conflict. Based on that, Trump has adopt a Space Policy Directive-4 as form of starting a focus on military space operations activities which were realized by the formation of a 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) defense and security policy and also the United States Space Force (USSF) under the leadership of Donald Trump on December 20, 2019. The United States Space Force operates as the sixth branch under the auspices of the Department of the Air Force which is a reform of the Air Force Space Command (AFPSC) and the 14th Air Force which was renamed the Space Operations Command. The United States Space Force has a primary mission to provide freedom of operations for the United States in, from, and into outer space through space operations to protect United States interests in outer space. After being officially formed as a new military branch, the USSF also made several changes, especially in “spacepower” which defines as:

  1. International Security
  2. Power Projection
  3. Military Logistics
  4. Information Outer Space Warfare
  5. Space Domain Awareness

The strength of the United States Space Force (USSF) is considered as quite unique to compared with the strength of other military armed forces, this is because the duties and authority of the armed forces are regulated in the US national space policy regarding overflights from any point on Earth with spacecraft which are referred to as orbital flights. Orbital flights are aimed at extending communication lines to remote orbital regions that are far from Earth orbit or located in the lowest regions of Earth. This orbital flight practice is also intended to enable spacecraft to penetrate the most restricted segments of the battlefield, through areas of surveillance, and space-based reconnaissance, serving to provide Space Domain Awareness (SDA). Thus, the attributes of orbital flight make space forces decisively responsive to emerging threats around the orbit. The strength of the USSF also includes the actions of carrying out fast and sustainable space operations by completing three important responsibilities in space operations. First, the USSF have freedom of action in the space domain for defense and security purposes. Unrestricted access and freedom to operate in space which is it has declare as a vital national interest, includes the ability to achieve all four components of national power; diplomatic, informational, military, and economic of a nation’s implicit or explicit space strategy, where the USSF essentially exist to protect, defend, and preserve freedom of action in the space domain. Second, the USSF aims to strengthen and change the Lethality and Effectiveness of the Joint Force. Third, the USSF provide US national leadership to achieve strategic effects, because in this capacity the USSF are more than just additional troops for land forces, sea forces, air forces, or cyber forces.

The formation of the USSF also made the United States carry out several space security resilience programs to reduce the occurrence of space threats from other developed countries, especially China, namely:

• The National Security Space Launch (NSSL), this program will provide launch services aimed at the armed forces, Air Force, Navy, National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), Space Development Agency (SDA), and several other government agencies.

• The Global Positioning System III and Projects, this program will provide 24-hour a day worldwide coverage, including determining position, navigation, and time (PNT) for military and civilian users. It can be said that the mission of GPS III is to provide the PNT coverage to all users including the United States military.

• The Space Based Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) Systems, this program aims to provide early warning of ballistic missile attacks against the United States homeland, as well as deployed troops.

• The Satellite Communication (SATCOM) Projects, this program will provide three areas of capability consisting of; strategic, which aims to provide command, control, and nuclear command. The second capability is to protect tactical communications in a contested environment, and the final capability is wideband or narrowband which is intended to provide large throughput in that environment.

Technological and geopolitical developments have brought a new color to understanding geopolitical nowadays, where technological and geopolitical developments have led to space exploration which has resulted in the outer space domain starting to be looked at by a number of developed countries, including the United States. Outer Space has become a new modern warfare in this era, many developed countries are starting to develop their defense technology and adopt their space defense militaries because it is considered that outer space holds many benefits and resources that can be dominated.

Kun Dhayita H.M
Kun Dhayita H.M
Master's student majoring National Resilience in Gadjah Mada University.