It is not yet 60 years since the first artificial satellite was placed into Earth orbit. In just over a half century, mankind has gone from no presence in outer space to a condition of high dependence on orbiting satellites. These sensors, receivers, transmitters, and other such devices, as well as the satellites that carry them, are components of complex space systems that include terrestrial elements, electronic links between and among components, organizations to provide the management, care and feeding, and launch systems that put satellites into orbit. In many instances, these space systems connect with and otherwise interact with terrestrial systems; for example, a very long list of Earth-based systems cannot function properly without information from the Global Positioning System (GPS).
Space systems are fundamental to the information business, and the modern world is an information-driven one. In addition to navigation (and associated timing), space systems provide communications and imagery and other Earth-sensing functions. Among these systems are many that support military, intelligence, and other national security functions of the United States and many other nations. Some of these are unique government, national security systems; however, functions to support national security are also provided by commercial and civil-government space systems. Moreover, over the past quarter century the definition of “national security” has become expanded well beyond security against military attack to include protecting the security of the important functions on which the functioning of a complex modern society depends. For example, to the extent that
the functioning of the national electric power grid depends on services provided by space systems, hostile actions against those services constitute a threat to national security.
In 1955, human life was not dependent on space systems. In 2016, most people’s lives are touched every day in important and often fundamental ways by space systems. The loss of space systems in general, and any of many individual space systems specifically, would be highly disruptive. Both the extent of this shift and the rapidity with which it has occurred are noteworthy. The projection of this trend into the future is a matter of considerable uncertainty and debate. Some project continued rapid expansion; to others, the growth has been asymptotic and will now slacken. Yet others opine that the trend will reverse as the risks of being overly dependent on space become clear.
A major factor behind these risks is the vulnerability of space systems to disruption. Like all human activities, there are risks from natural disasters and the detritus of human activity—primarily accumulated orbiting space debris. However, the greatest vulnerability to U.S. space systems is thought to be an intentional hostile action by another actor. These changes as they apply to society in general have been mirrored in the U.S. military. Circa 1980, only a few functions relied on space systems; specifically, strategic nuclear command and control, weather and climate monitoring, and military and intelligence communications. Today, nearly all activities at all levels in civil society as well as defense depend in some way on space functions, both in peacetime and during conflict.
Defense and intelligence systems have been in space since the earliest space systems. The notion of denying adversary space assets in time of crisis was not far behind. Official documents of the Ford Administration (1974-1977) contain assertions that Soviet space systems could serve strategic, operational, and tactical purposes during a conflict, as well as observations that the United States should be prepared to deny the Soviet Union those systems as necessary.1 Similar attitudes toward U.S. space systems were attributed to the Soviet Union. During the 1960s and 1970s, both the United States and the Soviet Union were developing means to attack satellites. In 1959, the United States had attempted to intercept the Explorer 5 satellite, but failure of test equipment precluded assessing the degree of success. An adapted version of the nuclear-armed Nike Zeus missile was deployed on Kwajalein atoll from 1962 to 1966, when it was replaced with a variant of the Air Force Thor program that remained operational until March 1975. The Soviet Union began experimenting with antisatellite (ASAT) systems in approximately 1960 and conducted successful tests of a co-orbital interceptor in 1967 and 1968. A system based on these tests was declared operational in early 1973.
1 U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, Foreign Relations of the United States: Volume E-3, Documents on Global Issues, 1973-1976, released December 18, 2009.
By the late 1970s, the situation was considered sufficiently serious for the two nations to engage in exploratory discussions about the possibility of negotiated controls of ASAT weapons. Even in 1978, this was a difficult undertaking, despite the fact that only two nations had ASAT capabilities, and between them accounted for the lion’s share of all space systems, almost all of which were government owned. Recognized means of attack at the time included (1) mechanical/kinetic direct ascent interceptors; (2) co-orbital “space mines” (as they were then termed); (3) nuclear warheads in space; (4) directed energy weapons fired from the ground, aircraft, manned spacecraft, and other satellites; (5) jamming; and (6) malicious signals inserted into housekeeping and other communications to satellites (now called cyberattack). Even with only two ASAT-capable nations, attributing damage to a satellite was viewed as uncertain, as was, in the case of some forms of attack, distinguishing attack from innocent malfunction or the result of natural incidents. Emerging multinational and commercial involvement in space systems was a complicating factor.
Today, an increasing number of countries have the ability to build and launch a vehicle capable of reaching orbit, including the United States, Russia, China, India, Iran, South Korea, North Korea, and the member states of the European Space Agency. However, governments and their large budgets are no longer the only drivers of space activities, whether civil, commercial, or even security-related. Rather, a new set of non-state space actors have become foundational and catalytic elements of space activity. While the United States and Russia have maintained their lead in space, other countries are now also able to leverage the strategic and tactical advantages provided by space capabilities. Just 50 years after the launch of the first commercial satellite, Intelsat 1 (1965), the dynamics of space activity continues to shift towards the commercial use of space for consumers and businesses as well as traditional government customers.
It is both convenient and informative to have the “big picture” on the fundamental science and engineering of the “space systems” that are the main focus of this report. These space systems consist of satellites that orbit Earth and their associated ground-based systems (e.g., a DirecTV receiver located in a home). Earth orbiting satellites are information nodes in a larger global network. From this perspective, the vast majority of operational satellites in orbit are common in their basic design and operational principles, in that satellites:
- Collect information. Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), missile warning, and weather and environmental satellites collect light at a variety of wavelengths from visible to radio frequencies. Communications satellites
(COMSATs) likewise collect radio transmissions. Such transmissions can be sent from the ground, air, sea, or, in the case of the Iridium system, from another satellite. Positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) satellites (e.g., GPS) receive from the ground a vital piece of information—their precise position in space.
- Process and/or store information. The information collected on board a spacecraft is converted and stored in the satellite. ISR, weather, and environmental satellites convert light into digital images. Conventional COMSATs convert radio signals received at one frequency to a different frequency in preparation for retransmission. Newer and more sophisticated COMSATs may actually handle incoming information much like an Internet router, ensuring packets of digital data are given the appropriate path in a network to get to the intended user(s). Navigation and timing satellites package the satellites’ own precise position along with precise time provided by an onboard atomic clock. Because of the inability of many satellites to transmit everything collected in real time, much of the information collected must be stored onboard for subsequent transmission.
- Distribute information. The information that has been collected, processed, and/or stored is then retransmitted to users on the ground, air, and/or sea below. In cases such as satellite radio, satellite TV, and GPS, the information is transmitted directly to an end user that has receiving equipment. In other cases, such as weather satellites and personal communications systems (e.g., Globalstar), the information is first transmitted to a ground station that then routes the information through a variety of networks, which could include other COMSATs, to eventually get to the end user.
This basic view of the theory of space system operations offers more clues into the primary utility of satellites. The first thing satellites do is collect information. Space provides a unique position for such information collection. First, much more area of Earth can be seen from space at any one time. Hence, one COMSAT can see as many ground users as could the equivalent of millions of land-based cell towers. Second, space provides the ability to collect information from areas in which access is otherwise denied, physically and/or politically.
This framework also provides a basic primer on how threats can deny, disrupt, and/or degrade information flows to, through, and from space systems: interfering or destroying the ability to either collect, process/store, and/or distribute information can stop the flow of information to end users. Specifically, threats can do the following:
- Deny, disrupt, and/or degrade information collection. Radio signals to COMSATs from the ground can be overridden by jamming systems. Jamming systems are basically radio transmitters tuned to the same frequency as the signals being sent to a satellite above. If the received signals from the jamming system are more
powerful than the actual signal, the actual signal cannot be received properly by the satellite. Electro-optical ISR systems can likewise be “blinded” by lasers directed at them.
- Deny, disrupt, and/or degrade information processing and/or storage. A main threat here is a physical attack on the satellite itself. An ASAT weapon can be designed to physically deny, disrupt, degrade, and destroy a satellite. By taking out the satellite, the main link in the chain of information is broken.
- Deny, disrupt, and/or degrade the distribution of information. As most information is distributed via radio waves, this would involve a radio jamming approach somewhat like that used for interfering with the collection of information. However, this approach is typically done from the air or ground and, as such, is limited in geographic scope. An example of this type of attack is GPS jamming, in which small ground-based transmitters can prevent GPS users from receiving GPS satellites signals in localized areas.
This information-centric framework has another important implication directly related to cyberspace. Cyberspace is, to put it plainly, the domain of worldwide information flows between humans and machines that is enabled by a complex system of computing, switching, storage, and relay devices and infrastructure (e.g., fiberoptic cable). In this view, the space systems are inherently a component of, not separate from, cyberspace.2 Satellites are nodes in a network, and their value is derived from their ability to collect and disseminate information on the network. This is not mere semantics: As part of cyberspace, space systems can be equally threatened from cyberattack. For instance, a virus can interrupt the function of a satellite handset. Likewise, a virus placed into a satellite could prevent the proper onboard processing of information or the proper operation of the satellite itself.
Today, customers of space goods and services, whether civilian or military, seek access to new and innovative technologies that make life, work, combat, and governance more connected, accessible, efficient, and transparent for them. Both the DirectTV user and ISR user are demanding more data, bandwidth, and digital accessibility to fulfill their needs. This has resulted in increased demand for all types of bandwidth, in particular, mobile services that included space-based assets. Government-owned capabilities and budgets alone have not been able to, and cannot, meet the growing consumer appetite, thus creating opportunities for commercial actors to help governments meet civilian and military demand. While worldwide government spending had shrunk to 24 percent of total annual space revenues in 2014, compared to the 35 percent it held in 2006, the commercial side
2 The International Space Station (ISS) is an example of a space system that, in addition to being a part of cyberspace, serves as a laboratory. In the future, space servicing robots and logistics supply vehicles moving satellite fuel from one place to another will also transcend this cyber-centric view.
of space has experienced nearly $100 billion in growth, almost doubling the amount of money entering space for private use.3 Two primary segments of the commercial space market, communications and remote sensing, are expected to grow to $35 billion and $6 billion, respectively,4 to cater to the demand from nearly four billion mobile device users and over three billion Internet users.5 All users are in turn reliant on the position, navigation, and timing capabilities provided by government-operated space-based satellite navigation systems. Simply put, demand for commercial satellite services is not just growing, it is accelerating (see Figure 1-1).
3 Space Foundation, The Space Report: The Authoritative Guide to Global Space Activity, Colorado Springs, Colo., 2015, p. 39.
4 Multiple sources: International Telecommunication Union, Measuring the Information Society, Place des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland., 2013; Cisco Forecast White Paper, https://www.cisco.com/c/dam/en_us/about/ac79/docs/innov/IoE_Economy.pdf; World Bank Global Indicators 2013; World Bank Group, ICT for Greater Development Impact World Bank Group Strategy for Information and Communication Technology 2012-2015, June 15, 2012; Machina Research: Future of M2M market, http://www.telecomengine.com/sites/default/files/temp/CEBIT_M2M_WhitePaper_2012_01_11.pdf; AT Kearney GSMA 2013 global report, https://www.atkearney.com/documents/10192/760890/The_Mobile_Economy_2013.pdf; International Data Corporation Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, https://www.idc.com/tracker/showproductinfo.jsp?prod_id=37; Geospatial World conference January 2014, http://geospatialworldforum.org/2014/; EuroLinker 2014 commercial imagery report; Cisco, Information Technology Update 2015, http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Global_IT_Report_2015.pdf.
5 We Are Social, Ltd., “Digital, Social, and Mobile Worldwide in 2015,” 2015, http://wearesocial.com/uk/special-reports/digital-social-mobile-worldwide-2015.
The increasing demand for commercial space services, with its primary drivers being the communications and remote sensing fields, illustrates the growing importance of space-based technologies for civilian use. The current information revolution is creating new opportunities to utilize this expanded ability, fueling a growing demand for readily available space-based technologies. As the launch of new satellites expands capabilities, new uses are being imagined and explored for the next generation of launches (see Figure 1-2).
Smartphones, tablets, and the “cloud” represent the current generation of products of the information revolution. These capabilities are the facilitators of globalization and will continue to create a world that is increasingly interconnected. An architect in Bangalore can send a picture of a new data center facility to colleagues sitting in Silicon Valley with the touch of a button from an iPhone. Through satellite imagery, a geospatial intelligence analyst can pinpoint vulnerabilities in the Philippines’ Special Economic Zones, where oil smuggling is rampant. By deploying Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) satellite terminals, the Brazilian Electoral Commission can easily access voters in rural and remote locations with unprecedented speed and accuracy.6 Globalization and the accompanying information revolution enable a level of interconnectivity and convenience unimaginable to even futurists during the first generation of satellites.
The global population is predicted to grow to approximately 8.3 billion by the year 2030, while people will consume, access, create, and share digital information between one another, and with businesses, infrastructures, and machines at an increasing rate. It is expected that the world will become increasingly hyperconnected—a state of amplified interconnectivity between people, business organizations, and governments, which transcends the physical limitations of geographical boundaries. Rules will change and power will shift in industries and markets, challenging the current way wealth is created and distributed globally. The consumer’s purchasing power can be expected to be amplified and consumers will use this power to press for even larger technological growth to meet demands in their daily life, as well as business, military, and governance activities. More subtly, consumers will expect that they can trust these information-driven goods and services to be always available and reliable, similar to their expectations in regard to electricity and water utilities that are relied upon by billions of people today. The information collected and shared, as well as the enabling devices and technologies, is often dependent on commercially provided space-based products
6 MarketWatch, “Smartmatic to Provide Election Services in Brazil,” press release, June 11, 2014, http://www.marketwatch.com/story/smartmatic-to-provide-election-services-in-brazil-2014-06-11.
and services, in turn driving the commercial space industry’s evolution. While new technologies signal to companies where development in space should occur, often times the infrastructure put in space is utilized in unforeseen ways in response to newly developed demands.
Space systems have in many ways become a vertical extension of terrestrial networks, or, looked at in another way, high-altitude components of the increasingly integrated global information network. Space-based sensors can collect information available only from the vantage point of space, and communications satellites are an efficient means to effect global distribution of data and information. It has been estimated that in 2014, space-enabled systems created nearly $200 billion in global direct economic activity, which was up 300 percent from 2000.7 However, these monetary figures do not fully measure the impact space has on the U.S. economy and security. Finally, even non-state actors, such as transnational criminal and violent extremist organizations, are making use of space-enabled capabilities, including the use of the Internet for recruitment, funding, and planning.
The majority of the purchasing power base for space has already shifted. Today, end-users drive more of the decisions and shape the design and production of capabilities and products across all industries and markets, including commercial space. The voracious consumer craving for bandwidth, access, and security drives the communications market and presents tremendous opportunities for additional commercial business, particularly in communications and remote sensing. Combined market demand is estimated to grow 20 percent from now to 2024, providing a value of over $40 billion.8 The growth trajectory of these commercial markets and the industry as a whole is, and will be, directed by the consumer’s behavior over the next half century and industry’s response to that behavior (see Figures 1-3 and 1-4).
Increased demand for mobility, bandwidth, and interconnectivity exists not only in advanced economies but also in developing countries. Because of this increased demand, alternatives to terrestrial infrastructure solutions are being pursued. New satellite architectures to deliver communications and imagery are being developed to meet growing consumer demands. A burgeoning middle class and a growing population of independent consumers in the Asia-Pacific, Arabian Gulf,
7 Doug Loverro, DASD for Space Policy, “Defending Space,” briefing for USD (AT&L), May 6, 2014.
8 Multiple sources: ITU Forecast Report 2013, Cisco forecast whitepaper World Bank Global indicators 2013, and World Bank trends in telecom 2012, Machina Research: Future of M2M market, AT Kearney GSMA 2013 global report, International Data Corporation Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, Geospatial World conference, January 2014, EuroLinker 2014 commercial imagery report, and Toffler Associates research and interviews.
and West and South African countries are untapped markets with a substantial amount of underserved people who have disposable income and who are ready to join in on the hyperconnectivity revolution. The needs of this new user base mimic those in developed countries with increased access to networks. Unfortunately, this new citizen-consumer demographic is disadvantaged owing to geographic limitations in regional infrastructure and politics. Satellite operators, space-based technology providers, and other commercial remote-sensing and communications competitors that move into these emerging international markets will encounter consumers who want immediate access to greater amounts of data requiring more bandwidth. These consumers are ready to spend on mobile devices and other space-based technologies, as the global devices market is projected to sell over four billion consumer mobile-to-mobile devices by the year 2030. However, the growth in demand for space-based technologies in international markets will converge in areas where there are existent geopolitical tensions. For example, within the Asia-
Pacific region, there were about 3.6 billion mobile device subscriptions in 2014—51 percent of the world’s total.9 As U.S. and international commercial companies expand into those markets, they will need to partner with local companies, possibly state-owned, and local governments to provide services to the local consumers. As these commercial companies provide services vis-a-vis regional satellites, the likelihood of risk to U.S. military operations may increase.
The accelerating spread of connectivity presents challenges. As powerful global forces emerge, smaller countries and non-state actors are now able to access advanced technologies and partake in the information revolution. Therefore, technology can also be employed by illicit non-state actors, or groups seeking to advance their agendas, with the intention of threatening a country, region, or in the case of the United States, the space capabilities on which our security and economy
depend. China and Russia are developing counter-space capabilities that can be used to disrupt U.S. capabilities and by doing so weaken U.S. global stature. To face these growing threats, the United States will need to develop new approaches with the appropriate technological tools to maintain space-based capabilities and technologies. Lethal uses of space-based technologies are only a fraction of the overall consumption and demand for such technologies. The use of space-based technologies cannot be eliminated if for no other reason than that consumers need these technologies for their daily personal and professional livelihoods.
As the citizen-consumer attracts a majority of the commercial space operators’ focus, the U.S. government’s prominent role in driving the space market continues to diminish owing, in part, to ongoing budget constraints. Looking back to the partial federal government shutdown and sequestration in fiscal year (FY) 2013, there was a nearly 10 percent decrease in federal spending on space from 2012, with only a slight increase (3 percent) in 2014.10,11 The trend of downward budget pressures makes it difficult for the U.S. government’s space agencies to keep up with the rising space economy’s demand and satisfy our nation’s needs.
Some functions are shared between civil and military users; domestic and foreign users; government and industry. For example, weather forecasting, especially that related to potential catastrophic natural events, remains deeply dependent on both low Earth orbit (LEO) and geostationary orbit (GEO) meteorological satellite systems. Similarly, new commercial imagery systems, such as PlanetLabs and Terra Bella 2, hold the promise of providing temporally and spatially persistent global geospatial awareness capabilities previously unavailable from even the most advanced U.S. government space systems. Likewise, future Internet constellations, such as OneWeb, have the potential to ensure that the remaining unconnected populations of Africa and Asia become a part of the global “informationized” community. Commercial and military communications spacecraft in the GEO support global communications connection to users on land, in the air, and at sea (Figure 1-5).
The government’s budget problem is shifting not only its space activity, but also the military consumer’s choices of technology. Given the access, efficiency, and enhanced capabilities that systems such as Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) provide, the U.S. government is transitioning to being a consumer of readily available, commercial space-based capability to support
10 Space Foundation, The Space Report: The Authoritative Guide to Global Space Activity, Colorado Springs, Colo., 2014, p. 56.
11 Space Foundation, The Space Report, 2015, p. 39.
military as well as many other applications. This is particularly true for Department of Defense (DoD) capabilities that demand an advanced communication platform for missions abroad. Warfighters expect to access data anytime, anywhere from a mobile device just as they do in civilian life. During ISR collection missions in remote areas, military personnel and vehicles will need more bandwidth to operate a new generation of increasingly more prevalent tools, such as UASs, which utilize high bandwidth levels. As such, the federal government’s demand for bandwidth is projected to grow from $3.5 to $5 billion in the next 15 years.12 Such shift in behavior of the military consumer as well as the civilian consumer illustrates the convergence of the once distinct sectors of space (see Figure 1-6).
12 Toffler Associates analysis and interviews. DoD Budget Data Deltek.
DoD currently depends on commercial satellite communications systems for about 40 percent of its communications needs.13 Coming from the other direction, the government’s GPS, which started as a military system, has become an inherent and enabling component for civilian transportation, communications, and remote sensing networks.14 The precision navigation capabilities from this space service will become even more vital as new air-space management systems (i.e., Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) and nascent autonomous automobiles place critical reliance on GPS service signals. Use of GPS permeates a broad array of civil activities—especially commercial activities—ranging from point-of-sale financial transactions, through air, sea, and land transport, to cell phones, personal navigation, and various forms of recreation.
13 Department of Defense, Chief Information Officer, “Satellite Communications Strategy Report,” in response to Senate Report 113-34 to accompany S.1197, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, August 14, 2014.
14 Warfighters expect to access data anytime, anywhere from a mobile device just as they do in civilian life. This expression might not be possible in a conflict against a peer adversary.
Existing developers and new commercial space market entrants are exploring creative, niche technologies that enable their businesses to operate in previously unforeseen ways. These new technologies are enabling mission operations that use cost-effective value-added models. For instance, in 2013, in collaboration with British Telecom and Ericsson, Intelsat demonstrated the first-ever live sporting event recorded in 4K format, a type of ultra-high definition television (U-HDTV) that delivers footage with four times higher resolution than high-definition television (HDTV).
A new trend is the increasing use of smaller satellites that, because of their lower costs, remove barriers to entry for smaller companies (and nations) or create new market opportunities for larger corporations. A typical geostationary satellite might have a mass of 2,000 kg or more. “Smallsats,” on the other hand, have a mass of between 100 and 500 kg. Microsatellites have masses of 10 to 100 kg, while nanosatellites have masses between 1 and 10 kg. The latter class of satellite includes the “CubeSat” class. A CubeSat is a cube 10 cm on each side, originally created to enable universities to build, launch, and test satellites using course budgets and timelines. Today, commercial companies, such as PlanetLabs, have turned to CubeSats to propel their business plan to image every portion of Earth once every 24 hours. CubeSats offer the advantage of low cost (tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars) and short production schedules (on the order of months and even weeks).Their disadvantage is of course their smaller size. Larger satellites are able to collect more information (e.g., light) at any one time. For an imagery satellite, this means a larger satellite can have better resolution for an image (PlanetLabs satellites have image resolutions of about 3 meters, as compared to submeter resolution for a larger commercial imagery satellite). To compensate for their small size, smaller satellites must be placed in lower orbits to be closer to the places they image or, in the case of COMSATs, to the origin of the transmitter(s). Getting closer reduces the area of Earth a satellite can view, so more satellites are needed if the system needs total Earth coverage at one time. OneWeb, a company that has backing from several larger groups, currently plans to create a LEO constellation of over 600 microsatellites (a notable space traffic management concern), each with a mass of about 150 kg and a price of about $500,000. The launches of nano- and microsatellites (combined) are increasing: From 2000 to 2012 roughly 20 such satellites were launched annually. In 2013, this total increased to over 90. In 2014, 158 nano- and microsatellites were launched, of which 107 were operated by commercial organizations.15 This will remain a highly dynamic business area
15 E. Buchen, “Small Satellite Market Observations,” 29th Annual AIAA/USU Conference on Small Satellites, Logan, Utah, August 2015.
and area of interest for national security. Continuing advances in microelectronics will enable further advances in small satellites. Business opportunities in a variety of data products and communications capabilities will drive demand. Launch access will continue to constrain supply (most micro- and nanosatellites “hitchhike” their way to orbit, sharing rockets with larger satellites, although OneWeb plans on dedicated launches).
With more than 1,000 active satellites now orbiting Earth, space satellite manufacturers and space network operators understand that commercial space competition today differs substantially from in the past.16 Competition is now more diverse, agile, and responsive. A wide range of products and services is offered, which may be space informed but not always space dependent.
Today, most people’s lives depend every day in important ways on space systems. The loss of space systems in general, and certain individual space systems specifically, would be highly disruptive. Both the extent of this dependency and the rapidity with which it has occurred are noteworthy. However, the projection of this trend into the future is a matter of considerable uncertainty and debate. Some project continued rapid expansion and increased dependency; to others the growth has been asymptotic and will now slacken. Yet others opine that the trend will reverse as the risks of being overly dependent on space become clear. A major factor behind these risks is the vulnerability of space systems to disruption—either intentional or unintentional. Like all human activities, there are risks from natural disasters and the detritus of human activity—primarily accumulated orbiting space debris. A growing vulnerability for space systems is from intentional hostile actions by another actor. These changes as they apply to society in general have been mirrored in the U.S. military. Circa 1980, only a few military functions—specifically, ballistic missile warning, weather monitoring, and certain military communications—were reliant on space systems. Today, nearly all activities at all levels depend in some way on space functions, both in peacetime and during conflict.
In many ways, the “market” for space might have very little to do with space itself. The space industry may be compelled to reassess how space is used in today’s complex geopolitical environment. As the space industry evolves, it is possible that it will be less an “industry” in of itself and more a domain occupied and leveraged
16 As an illustration, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, as of January 2015 there were 1,265 operational satellites: 669 in LEO, 465 in GEO, 94 in MEO, and 37 in elliptical orbits. Of these, 528 are U.S. satellites, including 160 military satellites and 121 belonging to other government entities (Union of Concerned Scientists, “UCS Satellite Database,” http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear-weapons/space-weapons/satellite-database, released February 1, 2015).
by other industries to serve purposes of research, information transmission, and national security. For example, the drive for big data is creating new demands for geospatial data and the merging of GPS with remote sensing capabilities. Currently, much of the business related to space is about leveraging space infrastructure to provide Earth-based services.
There are over 1,000 operational satellites in Earth orbit providing a wide array of critical functions. In addition to functioning satellites, there exist a large number of additional man-made objects in orbit resulting from previous operations, satellite failures, inadvertent collisions, and ASAT demonstrations. It is estimated that more than 21,000 space objects exist that are larger than 10 cm, and over 500,000 objects exist that are between 1 and 10 cm. Tracking this large number of space objects complicates space situational awareness, and inadvertent collision with space debris is a very real concern, especially in LEO. The orbits of these satellites can be categorized as LEO, medium Earth orbit (MEO), GEO, and highly elliptical orbit (HEO).
LEO refers to satellites orbiting Earth at altitudes higher than approximately 150 km and less than 2,000 km. These orbits are typically circular with orbital speeds between 7.8 km/s and 6.9 km/s and periods between 85 min and 130 minutes. One widely used orbit for remote sensing of Earth’s surface is the Sun-synchronous orbital, which is a polar orbit in the plane containing the north and south poles and the center of the Sun. This orbit has the advantage that Earth rotates “underneath” the orbit, resulting in global coverage. LEO satellites are used for Earth observation, communications, and orbiting manned spaceflight. For example, the ISS is in orbit at an altitude of approximately 400 km, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) operates a series of weather satellites in polar orbits at 850 km altitude, and Iridium operates a series of 66 communication satellites in orbits at 750 km altitude. OneWeb has announced plans to place approximately 700 satellites in 20 orbital plans at altitudes of 800 km and 950 km to provide high-speed Internet access across the globe.
Satellites operating in MEO are located between 2,000 and 35,000 km. Satellites used for PNT functionality are primarily operated in MEO. As an example, the U.S. GPS operates a constellation of approximately 32 satellites in six orbital
planes at an altitude of approximately 20,180 km, which results in a period of one-half of a sidereal day.17 The Russian GLONASS system operates a constellation of 29 satellites (24 in the nominal constellation) in three MEO planes at an altitude of 19,100 km. The Chinese BeiDou system is planned for 27 MEO satellites at an attitude of 21,150 km, in addition to five geostationary satellites. The European Galileo system plans for a nominal constellation of 30 MEO satellites at an altitude of 23,200 km. Thus, approximately 118 satellites operate at altitudes between 19,100 km and 23,200 km, providing PNT capabilities to a wide variety of military, civilian, and commercial users.
GEO refers to circular orbits with a period of one day, which corresponds to an altitude of 35,786 km and a speed of 3.07 km/s. One particular orbit of interest is the geostationary orbit, which is a geosynchronous orbit in the equatorial plane. Satellites in these orbits have the advantage of remaining over one spot on Earth as both Earth and the satellite rotate about Earth’s axis at the same rate. Because geostationary orbits appear to remain fixed over a given location on Earth, they are extremely useful for communications, television and radio broadcasting, and Earth observation. At present there are approximately 95 geostationary commercial satellites in the GEO belt, with some operating with as little as 1/10th of a degree angular separation, which translates to approximately 73 km minimum spacing between satellites. As the geostationary belt offers many advantages, this portion of space is considered prime real estate. Space systems developers are encouraged to provide for “disposal” of their satellites at their end of life by maneuvering the satellite to a disposal orbit located approximately 300 km above the geostationary orbit. Once in this orbit, the nominally “dead” satellites drift slowly westward relative to the geostationary belt due to their higher altitude and slower velocity.
HEO satellites, which travel above the horizon at high latitudes for significant fractions of their’ orbit, have been used for communications, signal collection and Earth monitoring. This type of orbit has the advantage of requiring less insertion energy than geosynchronous orbits, but it comes with the disadvantage that antennae must be steerable to maintain Earth pointing. These orbits were originally explored by Russia to provide high-latitude communications coverage over its landmass. These so-called Molniya orbits (named after their early Molniya
17 A sidereal day is the time it takes for Earth to rotate once relative to distant stars. The mean sidereal day is 23 hr, 56 min, 4 s.
communication satellites, developed in the mid-1960s) were highly elliptical and inclined at 63.4 degrees with apogee at approximately 40,000 km and perigee at approximately 1,000 km, resulting in a 12-hour period with apogee occurring over approximately the same high-latitude point on Earth. A second class of HEO is the Tundra orbit, which has the same 63.4 degree inclination but a higher apogee, such that the period of the orbit is one sidereal day. The Sirius Satellite Radio system operates three HEO satellites to maintain two satellites over North America to provide its broadcast service.
This context-setting chapter is intended to illustrate the degree to which space is no longer a purely military or intelligence-gathering domain exclusive to major world powers. Indeed, the explosive growth of the global commercial space market, coupled with the increase in government and civilian presence in space, reflects ever increasing civilian, commercial, and government dependence on space. Chapter 2 describes a whole-of-government approach to space, emphasizing the use of all elements of national power with the goal of ultimately deterring future conflicts in space.