The Australian Defence Force and its allies have affirmed their commitment to orderly and responsible behaviour in space.
In the Combined Space Operations (CSpO) Vision 2031 statement released on 23 February, Australia, the US, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, and the UK have undertaken to be responsible actors in national security space operations. The CSpO vision notes that space has evolved into a contested and congested operational domain and as space becomes more crowded, the security and stability of this critical domain are endangered.
This was highlighted by the reckless conduct of Russia which late last year obliterated an old satellite in a test of an anti-satellite missile (ASAT). That test, conducted without notice or apparent concern for other space users, added many thousands more pieces of debris to an already space junk-congested low earth orbit (LEO), thus putting LEO satellites and the International Space Station at risk.
“Some nations have developed capabilities designed to deny, degrade and disrupt access to and utilisation of space-based capabilities,” the joint statement says. “These nations have demonstrated the ability to hold space-based capabilities at risk and to target critical assets in an effort to reduce our military effectiveness in a crisis or conflict. Further, the lack of widely accepted norms of responsible behaviour and historical practice increases the possibility of misperceptions and the risks of escalation.”
RAAF Chief of Air Force AIRMSHL Mel Hupfeld said this vision reflected the Government’s commitment to strengthening international relationships to support and protect Australia’s interests in space.
“By releasing the vision statement, we affirm Australia’s commitment to space cooperation with international partners and allies to ensure that space remains safe, secure, and accessible to all,” he said in a release. “The vision statement underlines CSpO partners’ shared values and goals to the international community in a transparent manner, including our intent to lead as responsible actors in the space domain.”
The US-led CSpO initiative was founded in 2014, initially just with the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. This is a multilateral forum for improving space cooperation and building common, interoperable, and resilient capabilities in space. CSpO participants work to maintain a secure, stable, peaceful, and sustainable use of space.
The US leads the multinational Combined Space Operations Centre (CSpOC) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California which operates around the clock coordinating and planning space activities. On the Australian end is the Australian Space Operations Centre (AUSSpOC) located within the Joint Operations Command (JOC) headquarters near Canberra.
The CSpO vision statement outlines a series of shared guiding principles including free and responsible use of space, synchronisation of national efforts and conducting activities in accordance with applicable international law.
“CSpO Participants seek to prevent conflict, including conflict extending to or originating in space,” says the first of the four objectives. “By strengthening coordination, building resiliency, promoting responsible behaviour in space, enhancing partnership, and communicating transparently, we improve our national and collective abilities to prevent conflict and to promote security and stability in all domains.”
CSpO participants undertake to share information across multiple classification levels – from the strategic to the operational and tactical levels and at a pace that is operationally relevant – through real-time synchronised networked operations centres operated by a workforce with common training.
The CSpO participants seek to achieve shared objectives through several lines of effort, including operating resilient, interoperable architectures to enable space mission assurance and unity of effort, through identification of gaps, and through collaborative opportunities.
“Foster responsible military behaviours in space to promote conditions to maintain freedom of use, access to and sustainability of the space domain, and to discourage irresponsible behaviour and avoid escalation,” says the third line of effort.
The vision concludes by declaring the expansive opportunities and challenges presented by the rapidly changing space domain require collaboration to enhance responsible behaviour and promote a secure, stable, and sustainable domain. “Through our discussions and working group activities, we intend to implement national and collective efforts towards those ends,” it says.
AIRMSHL Hupfeld said the Australian community depended on space for positioning, navigating and timing, communications, weather forecasting, and broadcasting information. He said space was also critical to ADF warfighting effectiveness, situational awareness, and delivery of real-time communications and information.
“As space becomes more contested and congested, CSpO will help Australia coordinate on military space issues and enhance both individual and collective space capabilities to protect our national interests and assure our access to space,” he said.