NATO's Strategic Warfare Development Command

Inaugural NATO Space Symposium Charts Course for Space Security

April 29, 2024

This week, Toulouse, France takes centre stage for a milestone event: the first-ever NATO Space Symposium. Co-hosted by the NATO Headquarters International Military Staff and Allied Command Transformation, the symposium brings together key decision-makers, space experts and industry leaders from across NATO commands, NATO nations, industry and academia. The theme, “Deterrence, Defence and Resilience in and through the Space Domain,” underscores the growing importance of space for modern military operations.

The symposium serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it aims to accelerate the integration of space capabilities into NATO’s planning and operations, exploring how to leverage the rapidly evolving space sector for the benefit of collective defence. Secondly, the event serves as a crucial stepping stone towards defining NATO’s long-term vision for space, feeding into discussions at NATO’s upcoming 75th Anniversary Summit in Washington D.C.

Space: A Critical Enabler for Modern Defence

Opening remarks today set the stage, with high-level officials addressing the vital role of space in deterrence, defence, and the evolution of Multi-Domain Operations, which integrates operations across land, sea, air, cyberspace, and now, space, requiring seamless interoperability across these domains.

General Philippe Lavigne, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, began by stressing that “achieving Space Domain Awareness (a comprehensive understanding of the space environment, including threats and vulnerabilities) is now a strategic imperative, critical for NATO to fulfil its core tasks and to operate in a Multi-Domain environment.”

Further, he encouraged the audience to “envision a future in which space remains a platform for scientific collaboration, environmental monitoring, and global prosperity. Here at NATO, we are committed to working with nations and ‘partnering to win’ with you – our valued partners from Industry and Academia – to secure that future through a collaborative approach built on innovation, resilience, and responsible progress.”

Lieutenant General Thomas James, U.S. Space Command deputy commander, added that “given the rapidly advancing threats we collectively face, we must continue collaborating with our Allies here and think globally – teaming with our Allies and partners is an asymmetric advantage over competitors.”

Adapting to a Contested Space Environment

The Alliance acknowledges the increasingly competitive nature of space. The Symposium addresses the need for enhanced space domain awareness, a critical capability in a contested environment. Discussions explore how NATO can improve information sharing, develop new capabilities, and ensure it remains at the forefront of space security.

Elevating “Space IQ” for Future Deterrence and Defence

The inaugural Space Symposium also explores the critical role space plays in NATO’s future deterrence and defence strategy, with a focus on the 2040 horizon. Discussions centre on how space capabilities are essential for delivering a robust Multi-Domain Operations-enabled Alliance, raising NATO’s “Space IQ” by highlighting the domain’s criticality for all future deterrence and defence efforts. This solidifies its recognition as a cornerstone for a successful Multi-Domain Operations strategy.

Partnering with the Thriving Commercial Space Sector

The event also tackles the importance of public-private partnerships in space security, with focus on how NATO can strengthen collaboration with commercial space stakeholders, while acknowledging the potential risks these entities face when working with defence organizations. The aim is to foster a more robust partnership between the public and private sectors, leveraging the burgeoning space industry’s expertise and resilience for the Alliance’s benefit.

Shaping the Future of NATO’s Space Agenda

Discussions focus on overcoming challenges and expediting the implementation of NATO’s existing Space Policy. Identifying and prioritizing key capabilities needed for operationalizing space within the Alliance is a central theme, alongside discussions on fostering interoperability and establishing clear standards.

A Secure and Resilient Space Domain

The symposium will synthesize its insights into a unified vision which will shape NATO’s space agenda for the upcoming Summit in Washington, D.C. this summer. By fostering collaboration and harnessing the power of innovation, NATO aims to chart a course towards a secure and resilient space domain. This inaugural NATO Space Symposium ensures the Alliance remains a leader in this critical arena in order to project a posture of defence and deterrence in the face of emerging challenges in space.