Takshashila Review Paper: Space Power and Space Warfare

Download the paper in PDF

Executive Summary

The modern space age is characterised by low cost access to space. One consequence of this development is increased competition in the military sphere. This review paper examines the current literature on space power and space warfare to explain why technology in both the civilian and military domain will be the major driver of competition in space, both militarily and economically. From the existing literature, we can draw that traditional forms of thinking about deterrence and warfighting limit our ability to assess competition and deterrence in space. This paper has three primary insights. They are:

One, the requirements for becoming a space power are relatively low but the capabilities required to establish dominance in space is significantly higher.

Two, offensive space capabilities such as small co-orbital satellites, satellite jammers, and spoofing technologies can yield significant benefits to a small space power, as offensive capabilities will hold a clear advantage against defensive capabilities for defending satellites is expensive and infeasible.

And three, the weaponisation of space adds a new layer of complexity to the existing dynamics of deterrence and warfighting among states, which may lead to a greater level of brinkmanship and entanglement with nuclear assets.

In light of these dangers, having arms control mechanisms to reduce war-like situations in space is desirable, but the difficulty of verifying dual-use space systems makes arms control initiatives extremely difficult.


Download the paper in PDF