The space domain is a shared security concern by NATO and its member Nations. Unprecedented technological advancements threaten civilian and military satellite infrastructure. NATO's new space policy is a crucial step towards implementing space as an operational domain and reinforcing its core mission of deterrence and defence. Allied Command Transformation is prepared to contribute to this new effort.
NATO is not new to space. The relationship began in 1966 and continues today. The new Space Policy is the culmination of a three-year endeavour beginning in 2019 when NATO promulgated space as a fifth domain. By 2020, NATO Defence Ministers approved the creation of a space centre at NATO's Allied Air Command in Ramstein, Germany, followed by NATO's 2021 approval of a new Space Centre of Excellence in Toulouse, France, the heart of Europe's largest space ecosystem.
Space is essential to the Alliance's deterrence and defence. It reinforces NATO's ability to track forces, maintain secure communications, detect missile launches and ensure effective command and control.
More than half of the 3,000 active satellites orbiting the Earth belong to NATO members or companies based on their territory. While NATO neither owns nor operates its space-based infrastructure, it does operate ground stations from which NATO military commanders rely on during peacetime and conflict.
Space is crucial to the people living in NATO Nations although most people overlook their daily dependence on a space domain that is out of sight. Satellites provide essential services like mobile phone communications, banking, virtual learning, logistics, National food supply tracking, weather forecasts, and civil-military GPS. NATO commanders rely on satellites for communication, navigation, intelligence sharing, and missile launch detections making space a critical fifth domain for adversarial counter-space capabilities.
"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 General 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."
NATO’s space policy identifies four key roles for NATO in space and nine lines of effort (space support, space domain awareness, deterrence, defence & resilience, and capability development & interoperability, training & exercises, strategic communications, science, technology & innovation, industry, and partnerships).
“Implementing the new Space Policy requires contribution from across NATO to raise its “space IQ” across its different entities, as there will be growing demand of space expertise,” said Dr. Kestutis Paulauskas, a Senior Strategy Officer at NATO Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia.
Allied Command Transformation, as the leader of military adaptation across the Alliance, is positioned to contribute to all nine lines of effort within the space domain.
Contributions may include:
Allied Command Transformation through its Concept Development and Experimentation branches may inform deterrence, defence, and resilience space lines of effort by developing a shared understanding of concepts such as the role of space in crisis or conflict.
Allied Command Transformation through its Capability Development Directorate may contribute to capability development and interoperability space lines of effort by enhancing interoperability through information sharing and coordination, joint development and production, standardization, and related doctrinal, legal, procedural work, and reflecting the space domain within NATO capability development programmes.
Allied Command Transformation through its Joint Force Development Directorate, Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate, and ACT Legal Branch may contribute to training and exercises space lines of effort to facilitate information sharing (e.g., space situational awareness) and coordination, joint development and production, standardization and related doctrinal, legal, and procedural work, human capital (individual, training, courses, and wargaming).
Allied Command Transformation through its Innovation Hub and Experimentation and Wargaming Branch may contribute to science, technology, and innovation space lines of effort by improving scientific, research, technological capacity, innovation, and experimentation that exists across the Alliance.
Allied Command Transformation through its Strategic Issues & Engagement Branch, Partnerships Branch, and Innovation Hub may contribute to industry and partnerships space lines of effort to explore opportunities to foster cooperation with the space-related and commercial sectors through readily available frameworks.