Accession Number:



Space Deterrence: The Vulnerability-Credibility Tradeoff in Space Domain Deterrence Stability

Descriptive Note:

Technical Report

Corporate Author:

NSI, Inc. Boston United States

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



Many deterrence theorists posit that the application of deterrence principles in the space domain will engender different results than their applications in other domains. These differences come in part from the peculiar qualities of the physical environment of space, and from the risk that states incur from an increasing reliance on spaces role in multi-domain strategies. These risks have created a consensus that space deterrence stability will be enhanced by increasing the resilience and protection of space systems. Most commonly accepted recommendations for space deterrence stability are actions that, in aggregate, aim to reduce risk, and thereby, inadvertently reduce the credibility of response. However, we argue that unmitigated risks of dependence on the space domain enhances the credibility of the most space-dependent nations the reliance on the domain creates a credible threat that a state whose space assets are intentionally degraded or destroy will commit to a firm, not necessarily proportional response. The limited situational awareness of the domain is informed by an inability for clear attribution the attribution problem is a domain characteristic and is not necessarily any more of a problem for our argument than a problem of space and cyber deterrence in general. Assuming that the deterring country can attribute an intentional space attack to an adversary, then it could counter with a firm, yet not necessarily proportional responses. Such response allows the deterring country to manipulate the calculated risk an adversary would entertain to achieve terrestrial gains through limited, temporary or reversible attacks on space assets. Attacks in space are most likely serving a terrestrial objective that may not take very long to achieve. The implication of this means that space-dependent states need to communicate that when attacks are attributed, the attackers understand that a firm response to the space attack will occur.

Subject Categories:

  • Defense Systems

Distribution Statement: