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Space, Cyber and Defence: Navigating Interdisciplinary Challenges

The space-cyber-defence nexus has long been overlooked in political science literature. While the topic has recently gained traction, many aspects and perspectives remain to be analysed. This ESPI+ report addresses some and opens new research questions to better address the cybersecurity dimension of space in military operations.

Starting in February 2022, the war in Ukraine has demonstrated extensive use of space solutions by both sides of the conflict. As a consequence, threats have been growing against space assets, in particular in the cyber realm. The cyberattack against the KA-SAT satellite at the start of the conflict is a prime example of the increasingly important cyber dimension of space systems. In addition, the expanding use of commercial space actors creates changes in the threat profile towards space systems. 

Following our October 2022 report on The War in Ukraine from a Space Cybersecurity Perspective, which provided a case study of the KA-SAT cyberattack, and drew lessons for the cybersecurity of the European space infrastructure, ESPI called for contributions providing a policy, legal, or interdisciplinary analysis of issues at the intersection of space, cybersecurity, and defence. This initiative, under the label ESPI+, aimed at gathering expert input and making this expertise more easily available to the European space community. 

For this first ESPI+ report, five articles were selected: 

  • “Operational, legal, political and strategic implications of using commercial satellites in war” by Béatrice Hainaut 
  • “Towards more robust European space networks after the Ukrainian war experience” by Nicolò Boschetti, Ioannis Nikas, Dimitrios Serpanos and Gregory Falco 
  • “The French approach to space cybersecurity” by Paul Wohrer and Xavier Pasco 
  • “The Italian approach facing the evolving cyber threat to space systems” by Giancarlo La Rocca 
  • “The intersection of space and cybersecurity in UK defence policy – Policy objective and strategic approach” by Christoph Beischl 

The different perspectives expressed in the report offer a comprehensive overview of the complex dynamics at the convergence of space, cyber, and defence issues and raise new research questions, which should be further analysed due to the impact they will have on future conflicts and European security at large. 

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