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Protecting Global Utilities: Safeguarding the Next Millennium's Space-Based Public Services

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Journal article

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Invisible lines of satellite information are rapidly supplementing the sea lanes, roads, and cables of today and yesterday. Television, voice, weather, images, location, and other data stream down to Earth from satellites orbiting above -- all of which are operated by military, civil, or commercial entities. These satellites perform functions similar to those of terrestrial public utilities, providing needed goods and services. Unlike their earthbound counterparts, which service only a neighbor hood or city, these utilities are used on almost every continent by billions of people and may thus be appropriately labeled global utilities. They are critically important to the national security, economies, and safety of the user nations. Over the past years, the reliance on satellites for all types of global utilities has increased, and future loss of any of these satellites, whether through operator error or subversion, would have drastic implications. Satellite services are invaluable to the United States and its allies. The use of space is one of this countrys greatest strengths, but extensive reliance on global utilities also represents a substantial liability. Currently no physical system exists for protecting these global utilities. We can bring to bear economic, political, and other multilateral pressures on an offending nation or group, and we are party to treaties and agreements that prohibit certain activities -- these have worked well in the past. But what if the threat comes from nongovernment organizations, terrorist groups, or an adversarial nation Or what if we are unable to identify the sources of the offense Treaties and sanctions may not prove so effective. The argument presented here is that protecting global utilities is a natural extension of the Air Force mission to protect other high-value airborne assets it is also an extension of the Department of Defenses protection of all friendly assets.

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  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Unmanned Spacecraft

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