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SpaceX Involvement in Military Operations and EU Space Policy

Written by: Matilde Sacchi

Edited by: Manfred Sintorn

Supervised by: Riccardo Angelo Grassi

The space sector in the EU has long been geared toward civilian, scientific, and commercial use. Accordingly, private companies and scientific associations have played a substantial role in space technology innovation (Kriege & Russo, 2000, p.34). However, space is becoming increasingly securitised and militarised, and armed forces are investing more consistently in space assets (Calcagno et al., 2022). Moreover, space technology’s dual-use and slow-to-develop nature leads to a tendency to adapt existing space products and assets to military use and the direct involvement of private and non-defence space companies in military operations. SpaceX, in particular, has become central to several states’ militaries through Starlink, a large-scale low-orbit satellite internet and communication service (Rousselle, 2024). After seeing widespread Ukrainian civilian and military use of Starlink, SpaceX services have been considered by several governments and regional organisations. The EU itself has recently turned to SpaceX to launch four of its Galileo satellites. However, planned and ongoing American military use of SpaceX technologies and assets raises questions over how appropriate EU reliance on SpaceX for rocketry and connectivity would be. First, the agreement with SpaceX undermines the EU’s strategic autonomy, as it delegates fundamental launching services to a private company outside EU jurisdiction. Secondly, it increases dependence on the US both because it is the country that has jurisdiction over SpaceX, and because the launching operations take place from American soil. Thirdly, relying on SpaceX and on the US undermines the autonomist intent of the EU Space Programme, especially of the Galileo project which was meant to become a European alternative to the American navigation system. Fourthly, increasing SpaceX’s involvement in US military operations entails broader implications for European defence by increasing the risk of an orbital arms race.