France and Allied Command Transformation have launched into the final frontier as they collaborate on a new NATO Centre of Excellence (COE) focused on space operations.  

In 2019, NATO Allies adopted a space policy and recognized space as an operational domain, joining the existing air, land, sea and cyber domains. The policy was designed to organize NATO’s space activities to support operations, develop a space innovation strategy, and reinforce NATO’s deterrence and defence capabilities.

Primarily associated with reconnaissance, geolocation, and communications, space is now the domain of fierce private competition in addition to increasingly ambitious national space science and exploration programs.  These changes require new thinking about how to defend important interests and assets in space.  The Space COE will generate this thinking with Allies and Partners, including doctrinal work, training, exercises, analyses, and forward planning. 

France will host the Space COE in Toulouse, home of its national air and space defence headquarters. Following ACT accreditation, the COE will begin its mission of training and educating NATO military and civilians to work in this vast new domain. The centre will ultimately accommodate 42 people, including 17 foreign nationals.

This is not NATO’s first foray into the new space domain.  Allied Defence Ministers have also approved a new operational Space Centre at NATO's Allied Air Command in Ramstein, Germany.  The Space Centre is NATO’s operational interface with the national space agencies. It supports NATO operations, and helps provide Allies with space situational awareness. The NATO Space Centre receives data from the nations and creates products for NATO use related for instance to navigation and early warning. Streamlining requests through a single NATO entity increases the speed, efficiency, and efficacy of command decisions informed by real-time information.

Half of the NATO countries field independent space assets but support requests are not limited to Allies that already have these capabilities.  Every nation can provide data, products, and services, to inform when the Domain will be fully implemented, a single domain picture that can be shared with the rest of the Alliance.

The Space COE will join Europe’s largest space ecosystem, which includes the French Space Command, Space Academy, and Space Lab.  Toulouse is home to leading European aerospace companies, laboratories, universities, and research centres.

NATO COEs have trained leaders and specialists from Allied nations for nearly 20 years. NATO has 28 COEs and will accredit two more focusing on Space and Climate Change in 2023.  Development and accreditation of COEs are a core ACT responsibility.

"The race for space and exploitation could accelerate in a contested, congested, and competitive environment. NATO must be prepared to operate at unending risk of disruption, denial, and degradation," said Gen. Philippe Lavigne, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. "NATO's approach to the fifth domain, all domains, is an important aspect of Alliance transformation especially for the people we defend, protect, and secure."