U.S. Military Space Defense (And Offense)

May 10, 2023
Astronaut in space with US flag patch

What makes space a place where the United States needs defense, or offense for that matter? Keep reading to discover why space is no longer “the final frontier,” but only the beginning of a fresh wave of national security objectives for future conflicts.

US Military Space Offense

In December 2019, Congress created the United States Space Force. This is the first time the Pentagon launched a new military service since 1947. Lawmakers were eager to see this military service become a reality quickly, giving it only 18 months to come to fruition.

In 2021, they met the deadline. This was only the beginning of an effective war-fighting branch. This branch welcomes sailors, soldiers, and Marines as its “Guardians.”

The Space Force has 6,000 civilian employees and 6,000 uniformed Guardians. It is still a part of the Department of the Air Force. This is primarily because for decades before the formation of the Space Force, it was the Department of the Air Force that handled military space missions.

To the United States Space Force: Welcome

This is the sixth independent branch of the United States military service. It engulfs their operations and mission in a rapidly developing space domain.

As of December 2022, the United States Space Force celebrated three years as an independent branch. Although they are the youngest service branch, the American public has a keen eye on its accomplishments and recent leadership changes.

Meanwhile, the United States Space Force has experienced a 40% increase in funding. They have set up commands in the Middle East, the Pacific, and South Korea.

A Work in Progress

This service still requires a lot more basing decisions, policies, and structural plans. There will be a new chief of space operations to serve as this branch’s guide, getting this military service where it needs to be for national security.

Their first chief of space operations, General John “Jay” Raymond, retired after serving as the leader since day one of Space Force. During his tenure, he oversaw the design of their first uniforms. He also oversaw their official song and motto.

For enlisted Guardians, General Raymond even lent a helping hand with beginning the first all-Space Force boot camp.

Space and Cyber Technologies

For decades now, land forces of the United States Army have relied on satellites for navigation, communications, and early warning in cases of a missile attack. However, the Army knows space technologies can contribute so much more. It can help non-traditional military operations, such as information warfare.

Recent panel discussions from army leadership who spoke at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium mentioned what wars of the future will look like. The panel of experts believes they will fight future wars in cyber and space domains.

Because of this, this panel of experts created an argument that the capabilities that the nation has for cyber, space, and information warfare should have more synergy. To be more effective, they must layer them.

Leveraging Space Defense and Cyber

The United States Army has a traditional approach to leveraging satellite communication services and GPS. Instead, they could use cyber and space technologies to locate targets. If they can gain this information advantage, they could disrupt adversaries’ operations much more efficiently.

This is a concept that matches the national defense strategy that the Pentagon is calling for. The Pentagon desires a strategy of developing non-lethal capabilities for the military. Such strategies include the capability to disable enemies’ satellites and networks.

The Growing Role of Space to Accompany Land Combat

There are sophisticated ways that space and cyber technologies can enhance the way the U.S. Army operates. In fact, space and cyber provide options for the military to fight in what the Pentagon calls “anti-access area denial.” These are areas where enemies counter conventional military power from the United States by deploying missiles at sea, air defenses, and other systems.

Therefore, to support missions in a denied area, the U.S. Army can use space-based target locations and reconnaissance. Both the Space Force and Air Force are making the case, that traditional surveillance from an aircraft should now be performed in space.

Electronic warfare could also use space systems to be more effective, too, with the help of electronic signals from space.

Military Defense Techniques

Space is vital. It is critical to our nation’s prosperity, scientific achievement, and security. In the United States, space-based capabilities are integral to modern life.

It is a component of military power for the United States that is indispensable. To establish and maintain military superiority, the United States Army must ensure these capabilities are available. It is a fundamental piece of advancing global security and economic prosperity.

This does not mean that space is a sanctuary from conflict. Space systems also serve as potential targets for adversaries. Currently, Russia and China present the greatest threat strategically because of their development, testing, and deployment of capabilities in counter space.

Further, Russia and China have a military doctrine that extends into space for employment in conflict. Russia and China both have weaponized space. This is how they can attempt to reduce the United States and allied military effectiveness, challenging the freedom to operate in space.

Additional Complexities

Adding to the challenges is a rapid global increase in international and commercial space activities. Commercial space activities benefit national and homeland security. It provides new economic opportunities for both emerging and established markets.

The activities ensure operational security, protect critical technology, and maintain strategic advantages. Allies and partners also recognize that space has benefits for military operations. Along with its benefits come threats, too.

Because of potential threats, it is important to expand defense space programs. This requires collaborating and cooperating with allies and partners to present opportunities.

The Great Power Competition

Space is a conduit and a source of national prestige and prosperity. Therefore, space is quickly becoming a critical area for competing with China and Russia for great power.


The most serious threats to United States space operations, and the most immediate, are China and Russia. Still, Iran and North Korea are threats too, and they are growing in scope.

It is the strategic intentions of China and Russia that threaten the conditions in space that are especially concerning for the United States. This is because China and Russia understand the dependencies that the United States has on space. Therefore, China and Russia are quickly working to deny operations and access to the United States in the space domain.

Russian and Chinese military doctrines, specifically, show that space is critical to modern warfare. They view it as a way to gain an advantage through counter-space capabilities. Hence, Russia and China could reduce military effectiveness for the United States, as well as U.S. allies and partners, all to win wars in the future.

When there is a regional military conflict concerning allies and partners of the United States, Russia and China can weaponize space to counter and deter intervention from the United States.


As the DoD looks forward to both space defense and space offense initiatives, there are a few obstacles in the way of achieving their desired conditions. The DoD depends on space for a rapid response to crises and to project power over adversaries.

Although, they have limited experience with conflicts that begin with or extend into space operations, even though potential adversaries make rapid counter-space advancements.

Unfortunately, because space is a new frontier for conflict, there is no agreement or understanding internationally of what is irresponsible, threatening, or unsafe behavior.

United States activities both in space and terrestrial are experiencing an increase in exposure, between advances by potential adversaries and commercial space-based capabilities. Outside factors are impeding the United States military’s freedom to act and maneuver in all domains.

A potential adversary could take advantage of technological advances offered by the commercial space sector, and at a lower cost. Such an adversary could easily expand their space capabilities and technologies.

There still lacks a thorough public understanding of the importance of space defense. The United States’ space defense position and those of its allies and partners are constantly changing and therefore need extra attention from the U.S. Army.


While the challenges may seem tremendous, it does not outweigh the number of opportunities available. National leadership recognizes space as critical to prosperity. That is why both space and its security are a top priority. The government is increasing resources to ensure the United States continues to be dominant in space.

The USSF will bring focus, unity, and advocacy to training, organizing, and equipping space forces and their Guardians. This branch of the military is monumental in bringing focus and addressing challenges for today and in the future.

For a long time, the United States boasts a prolific arrangement of partnerships and alliances. The U.S. accomplishes this based on their common values, trust, and shared national interests. It is a vital advantage.

A Vital Part of National Security

Hence, allies and partners of the United States recognize space to be an integral component of national security strategies. They acknowledge potential adversaries are increasing their position on counter space threats. Because of this, allies and partners are boosting their interest in collaborating with the U.S. regarding the development of space capabilities.

Allies and partners of the United States wish to share intelligence and information concerning space. They also want to partner in secure access to space operations, as it can ensure their freedom to act in space, especially during times of conflict.

In both diversity and volume, commercial space activities are significantly expanding. Therefore, there are alternative forms of commercial services and capabilities that have lower barriers to entry to the market and leverage off-the-shelf commodity technologies.

The Rising Interest in Space

The space industry is booming with recent developments, courtesy of entrepreneurial investment and innovation, decreased costs, advanced technology, and bolstering demand for activities in space. The DoD can use cost-effective investment and innovations from the private sector.

There is certainly an opportunity for collaboration. Such collaboration can be more responsive and streamlined to the acquisition process, making it a game-changer.

Space Is a Unique Domain

Despite the nuances that the Guardians must face to be successful in space military defense techniques, the DoD will embrace the principles guiding joint warfare. They will pursue LOEs, or “lines of effort” to achieve the conditions the DoD desires while also addressing the challenges, opportunities, and threats they face.

First, the DoD needs a comprehensive military advantage for space. Then, they must integrate military space power. This includes combined operations, joint, and national space power.

The DoD and the Guardians can shape this strategic environment. It will take cooperation from others, including private industries, allies, and partners.

Meeting the Challenges of Space Defense and Beyond

Just like the Guardians are raising the bar for space defense, NSTXL is raising the bar, too, with a unique approach. We bolster innovation by combining end-to-end government acquisition services and commercial best practices.

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