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NATO publishes ‘Overarching Space Policy' document

NATO headquarters. (NATO)

On 17 January NATO published its ‘Overarching Space Policy', setting out the fundamental aspects of the space domain and its importance in preserving the alliance's security and prosperity.

It is an acknowledgement of NATO's increasing reliance upon space-based capabilities and their importance in supporting the delivery of communications, navigation, intelligence, and situational awareness, among other operational necessities.

The policy document started with a framework agreement in June 2019, when the alliance decided to formulate and adopt a specific space policy.

The document outlines in detail the space-related threat environment, noting that “potential adversaries are developing, testing, and operationalising sophisticated counter-space technologies that could threaten allies' access to and freedom to operate in space”. These threats vary from non-kinetic systems such as jamming of communications or Global Positioning System (GPS) to kinetic capabilities such as “direct-ascent anti-satellite missiles, on-orbit anti-satellite systems, and laser and electromagnetic capabilities”, it adds.

The policy includes a core set of principles, the most important one being the recognition that space is vital for deterrence and defence, ensuring free access to space, and collaborating with allies to avoid the duplication of efforts.

With these principles in mind, some of NATO's core approaches to space include integrating space into the delivery of NATO's core tasks (collective defence, crisis management, and co-operative security), serving as a political-military forum to share relevant information and developments, and facilitating the development of the interoperability of services and capabilities.

To facilitate these approaches, NATO has detailed – based on specific operational domains – its space system requirements. These include space situational awareness; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities; space-based monitoring of the atmosphere, space, and ocean; satellite communications, navigation, and positioning; and shared early warning capabilities.

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