“Our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of
national identity, but a matter of national security”,
President Donald J. Trump (1).
On the 19th February 2019, President Trump signed the Text of Space Policy Directive-4 (2), that officially establishes the United States’ Space Forces. This document aims at the creation of:
the “United States Space Force as a sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces within the Department of the Air Force” (…), this new branch would be authorized to organize, train, and equip military space forces of the United States to ensure unfettered access to, and freedom to operate in, space, and to provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces in peacetime and across the spectrum of conflict” (Ibidem).
The Space Force project, would be a new branch inside the US forces, which slowly started to concretise after the declarations made by President Trump early 2018. On the 18th June 2018, the presidency “directed the Department of Defence to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as a new military branch” (3) thus going one step forward in the establishment of these plans. However, since then, the international space community has been waiting for the implementation of this program as well as being informed of the various components necessary to put it in place. Indeed, it can be clearly seen that the US has an evident political will to create a new military space capability which has, once again, triggered today’s debate concerning security in outer space.
This being said, the United States is not the first country to establish Space Forces. For instance, in regard to the intrinsic ties between nuclear and space development capabilities’ history during the USSR period, the Russian Federation has always kept Space Forces under the authority of the High Command of Aerospace Forces (5). Nevertheless, if the establishment of such a military component is not an unprecedented situation, it reveals the growing strategic importance of spatial military capabilities within the American strategy. Nowadays it has become a necessity for space and military capabilities to work together and operate in an effective manner in outer space. Indeed, the safety of space capabilities has become a necessity in order to efficiently and successfully achieve military operations.
Today, security in outer space is mainly regulated by the international agreement on the peaceful use and equal access to space under the 1967 “Outer Space treaty”, or namely “Le traité pour l’usage pacifique de l’espace extra-atmosphérique”. This document, through the 2222 resolution, was adopted the 19 December 1966 by the United Nations General Assembly (6). This agreement, to this day, continues to be the legal basis of the international regulation of outer space. Article IV of the treaty outlaws the deployment and the use of “any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner” (Ibidem). Although the issue concerning the weaponization of space has been halted, its militarisation still remains a key topic of debate. In fact, the use and the deployment of conventional weapons, military personnel or infrastructures, remain authorised. In this respect, if the creation of military Space Forces is not in contradiction with international space security concepts, it consists in a clear statement from the American authorities. However, a number of states have been seeking to relaunch discussions on this subject within the concerned international organisations.
Moreover, the duplication and multiplication of actors involved in the circum-terrestrial environment’s activities, raises the question on the management of security in outer space.
For the past few years, these debates have echoed into EU initiatives within the space field. Indeed, the European Defence Agency (EDA), as well as several other institutions, have been leading a reflection about space security. This approach includes space issues and challenges within the very detailed establishment of European defence policies: “Space-based systems are making an increasingly important contribution to European security and to the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)” (7). The European countries are currently collaborating on outer space security within a variety of European institutions, such as the European Space Agency (ESA). Some leading programs are also currently in progress, for instance Galileo (navigation) or Copernicus (Earth Observation). However, even if European Space actors have realised the inherent security dimension of this environment, the European collaboration in matter of Defence remains either limited or bilateral.
In spite of this, although the international space community has been recently characterised by the emergence of New Space protagonists, in particular in the United States, the American initiative should relaunch the debate concerning military actors in outer space.
Written by Emma Marty on behalf of the Finabel Permanent Secretariat
(1) (February 19, 2019), “President Donald J. Trump is Establishing America’s Space Force”, the White House official website, (Accessed February 25, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-trump-establishing-americas-space-force/).
(2) (February 19, 2019), “Text of Space Policy Directive-4: Establishment of the United States Space Force”, the White House official website, (Accessed February 25, https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/text-space-policy-directive-4-establishment-united-states-space-force/).
(3) (October 23, 2018), “President Donald J. Trump Is Launching America’s Space Force”, the White House official website, (Accessed February 25, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trump-launching-americas-space-force/).
(4) (February 20, 2019) Stone.M & Mason.J, “Trump signs directive in move to create a U.S. Space Force”, Euronews (Reuters), (Accessed February 26, https://www.euronews.com/2019/02/19/trump-signs-military-space-force-directive).
(5) “Space Forces”, Russian Ministry of Defence, Official Website / Structure, (Accessed the 26 February, http://eng.mil.ru/en/structure/forces/cosmic.htm).
(6) United Nations Office for Outer Space, “RESOLUTION ADOPTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY/ 2222 (XXI). Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies”, Official Website, (Accessed February 26, http://www.unoosa.org/pdf/publications/st_space_11rev2F.pdf).
(7) (2019) “Space and Security”, European Commission’s Official Website, (Accessed on the 26 February, https://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/space/security_en).
(8) (February 20, 2019), Poncet.G, “Trump fait un pas de plus vers l’US Space Force”, Le Point, (Accessed February 26, https://www.lepoint.fr/monde/trump-fait-un-pas-de-plus-vers-l-us-space-force-20-02-2019-2295052_24.php).