The rise of cheaper, smaller satellites, and civilian access to space is dramatically increasing the threat of future space terrorism, according to the head of the UK’s new Space Force equivalent – the Space Directorate. Air Vice Marshal Harvey Smyth spoke at the DSEI 2021 conference in London Sept. 14, just days after the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States.
According to C4ISRNET:
The decreasing cost of launch and the increasing capability of relatively cheap, small satellites makes it easier than ever for governments, corporations and academics to access space. This development has been hailed for the possibilities it’s introduced in the commercial and defense spheres, but Smyth argued that it also opens up new challenges.
Referencing the 9/11 terror attacks, Smyth noted:
We all have witnessed what happens, and what particularly happens when the air domain became accessible to all — terrorists turned airliners into weapons. If such a trend holds true for space, when will we have to deal with our first example of space terrorism? And are we prepared for such a dramatic strategic shock?
The cost of access to space has fallen dramatically throughout this last decade, from $20,000 per kilogram to less than $2,000 today, with an aspiration to get below ten with an end point of $2 per kilogram. Pretty much anyone can now access space, and with this accessibility can come potential threat.
Following the U.S. creation of the Space Force under President Trump, the UK has reorganized its military space efforts over the past 18 months. As part of this effort, it established the Space Directorate, led by Smyth, to coordinate all government space activities.
It also created UK Space Command this year to oversee space-related defense programs and forces.
We have a much more ambitious and new broad ranging defense space program, way beyond where we were 20 months ago — which was effectively centered on Skynet alone — with an approved and new funding profile which focuses on space domain awareness, globally secure SATCOM in the form of next generation Skynet, digitally networked architectures, multi-spectral [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] constellations and specific protect and defend capabilities, alongside a federated space education and training program. ADN
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