Accession Number:



How Disagreement Over Space Terms Can Create Barriers to Transparency in the Space Domain

Descriptive Note:

Technical Report

Corporate Author:

Joint Staff J39, Strategic Multilayer Assessment Washington United States

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



Everyone knows that space situational awareness SSA is difficult. Characteristics of the space domain that distinguish SSA from situational awareness within other domains are the remoteness of space and the presence of naturally occurring threats in the space environment. The distance and speed at which satellites operate make inspection, tracking, and assessment of damage source and extent difficult. The space environment also presents many naturally occurring threats that could at times be attributed as deliberate attacks. These include meteors and fragments, as well as sun flares and other inclement space weather that can damage or destroy satellites or their electronic systems. In short, the remoteness of space means that adverse events are occurring all the time in an environment in which direct observation of the causes of those adverse events is extremely difficult. Efforts to independently trust, but verify that adversaries may not have caused adverse events are hard to establish. The limited ability for direct observation could result in invalid inferences that an adversarial action is occurring even when it is not. For example, space actors may struggle to determine whether detected damage to spacecraft is due to an intentional attack, an accident, or even a natural occurrence in the space environment. In fact, without direct observation, actors in the congested, contested, and competitive space domain instead rely on other methods of making inferences about the causes behind adverse events, including communicating with each other. As a result, miscommunications that lead to incorrect inferences about the causes of adverse events can pose great risks to stable governance and crisis management in the space domain. Space actors must be able to credibly communicate that their actions were not the reasons that bad things happened to another actors space assets.

Subject Categories:

  • Space Warfare
  • Cybernetics

Distribution Statement: