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Could Redefining U.S. Space Power Mitigate the Risk of Space Logistics Degradation by the Threat of Space Weaponization?

Space Education and Strategic Applications Journal

Author: Ivan Gulmesoff

Spring/Summer 2021

Select excerpt from July 2021: SHIELDWatch Newsletter

This article outlines the necessity of an accurate framework for US space operations, starting with the 2001 Rumsfeld Commission’s initial recommendations, including establishing a military space department. The US Space Force was established as an independent command in 2019, but we have yet to centralize our space infrastructure across private and public sectors. In this article, Gulmesoff lays out how our definition of space power influences our security and infrastructure for space-based logistical measures.

As part of building a space industry, defining the way risk is evaluated will ultimately help to mitigate it. One example of the challenges to maintaining our security as we build out our space program is the interconnected civilian-military satellite communication infrastructure and the benefits and vulnerabilities it creates.

Unlike terrestrial logistics, space operations and the space environment's intricacies make logistics much more complex and demanding on supply chain management. In 2011 alone, 25 tons of supplies and equipment were transported to the ISS consisting of propellant, oxygen, water, food, spare parts, and medical equipment (Johnson 2011). By understanding this logistical complexity, vulnerabilities could be more easily evaluated to mitigate future space weapon attacks' damage. Johnson explains space logistics as (1, 2011) “the theory and practice of driving space system design for operability, and of managing the flow of material, services, and information needed throughout a space life cycle.” Within this concept are multiple factors that could lead space logistics to become vulnerable to adversaries and hinder space logistics’ effectiveness. For example, the logistics involved with the Shuttle and ISS have demonstrated multiple areas that could improve current space logistics’ efficiency.

The lack of security measures increases vulnerability. Security measures could be introduced in many forms. The Rumsfeld Commission was assigned in 2001 to review all U.S. space activities as they related to national security. After a thorough review, what they determined was two significant recommendations were required for all U.S. space activities:

1. A centralized management of space programs and overall acquisition of space platforms
for national security
2. Creation of a military space department when conditions allow
Due to the heavy reliance on space-based platforms for civil and military use, the U.S. must continually improve cyber-capabilities as the cyber realm is the most accessible way to effectively target space infrastructure.


While there is no universally accepted theory of Space Power, many concepts attempt to define and address space power. Below are a few key concepts of space power from various known authors on the topic to provide a better understanding. Each author varies in experience and Informing Leaders and Teams at the Intersection of National Security & Trade Policy profession. Some are from military occupations (USAF), others are experts in the field, or scholars. The differences, similarities, and perspectives could shed light on familiar themes and gaps in the theory itself.



The U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) seems to have accepted Lupton’s understanding of space power by prioritizing certain aspects of its vision for 2020. As Steele explains, four central tenants of USSPACECOM’s vision: the control of space, global engagement, full force integration, and global partnerships (Steele 2001). The aspect that pertains most to Lupton’s doctrine is the first aspect of USSPACECOM’s vision. USSPACECOM’s control aspects include surveil1lance as well as protection that are both vital elements of space power. The security of space logistics is dependent on the vigor and efficiency of the supply chain. The key to this dependency is the satellite command and control architecture (C2). The C2 is the primary control to uplink communication and downlink data to ground stations through antennas, transmitters, and receivers (DIA 2019). In addition to the C2, there are many variables associated with the supply chain and the space environment that can transport logistics very difficult, leading to costly mistakes. As Andy et al. explain (35, 2006), “we have also come to learn that the path to optimizing operability and sustain1ability is by consideration of the entire supply chain.” The strength of the supply chain directly relates to the success of space logistics and space operations in general.


According to the U.S. Space Policy, the space infrastructure is considered a vital national interest and must be protected (Weston 2009). The U.S. national interest in space has grown with the reliance and dependence on technological capabilities regarding communications, remote sensing, global positioning/navigation, broadband, and entertainment. As Georgescu et al. state, 90% of military communications are transmitted and routed through civilian satellite systems (Georgescu et al., 2019). This reliance by the U.S. military on civilian communication satellites and the U.S. infrastructure consisting of more satellites than any other state inevitably increases vulnerability. In 2009, the U.S. owned 400 satellites worth over $123 billion out of the 900 active satellites in orbit (Weston 2009). However, an adversary could expose those vulnerabilities and render U.S. satellites or their associated space logistics useless or incapacitated by other means.

July 2021

Want to read more? Check out the July 2021: SHIELDWatch Newsletter

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