UPSC Space Command for US Military

Space Command for US Military

Recently, US government ordered the creation of “Space Command“ which will have overall control over military’s space operation.

• Space command will be sixth branch of USA military that would focus on all matters off-world from procuring military satellites to Defending USA spacecrafts in orbits from attack.

Role of Space in Military Operations:
• Space plays an increasing role in military activities. Over 800 satellites orbit the earth, many of which have military uses.
• As per an estimate, there are over 270 military satellites. Satellites are increasingly ‘dual-use’ (can be used for both military and non-military purposes).

• The various military uses of the satellite are:

  • Imagery: From identifying targets to detecting the effects of underground nuclear detonations.
  • Navigation: From target location to guiding weapons systems. There are two main systems: the US military’s global positioning system or GPS (used by the UK armed
    forces) and the Russian GLONASS system. GPS is usually accurate to within a few meters.
  • Signals intelligence (SIGINT): For detecting communications, including broadcasting signals. For example, US SIGINT gave early warning of Iraq’s invasion
    of Kuwait in July 1990.
  • Telecommunications and Early Warning: In military operations, this enables exchange of information. The infrared satellite sensors can spot missile launches by detecting their hot plumes. However the technology to track missiles along their trajectory, from space, is in its early stages.
  • Meteorology: To provide weather data for the military.

Talks of Space Warfare in International Arena:
• Recently, China has started thinking of developing offensive satellites and counter space capabilities. Debate started in 2007 when China did an anti-satellite test that created a lot of space debris which is harmful for all.
India has also established Defense Planning Committee with a mandate to think on this line.

• Why India needs a space command:

  • Nowadays, Space is considered as the fourth dimension of warfare.
  • All major economies are preparing for space warfare.
  • There could be a direct threat to India’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. Such satellites have threat of destruction from Technologies such Kinetic Kill Vehicles
    or satellite jammers.
  • Need for cross border surveillance and accurate use of firepower.

Way Forward:

• Active adherence to The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) which was established in 1959 (shortly after the launch of Sputnik).
Global collaboration needed: International community should devise rules for military use of space as per changing needs.

The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS)

COPUOS oversees the implementation of five UN treaties and agreements relating to activities in outer space:
Outer Space Treaty: The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.
Rescue Agreement: The Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space.
Liability Convention: The Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects.
Registration Convention: The Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space.
Moon Treaty: The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.