Watch this space: a whole new war domain

Cameron Porter


Review of US Space Force Space Capstone Publication—Spacepower[1]

Spacepower is the first articulation of this distinct form of military power. This review seeks to assess the publication’s relevance to the ADF in the creation of its own space warfighting culture.


What is it and what does it seek to do?

“The doctrine … elevates spacepower as a distinct formulation of military power on par with landpower, seapower, airpower, and cyberpower.”

p. xi

The recognition of a new warfighting domain is a rare event in history and naturally follows human innovation and exploration. While the origins of land and sea power were the genesis of military history itself, the Industrial Revolution and Information Age enabled the projection of power into the air and cyber domains only last century. In recent decades, social and military dependence on space-based capabilities, accelerated by commercial access to space, has been a catalyst for the establishment of dedicated space forces around the world. Just as navies were raised to secure channels for commerce, space forces are now being established to assure access to comparable channels in the space domain.[2] The United States Space Force’s Space Capstone Publication, Spacepower, is the first articulation of space power as a separate and distinct form of military power. The Space Capstone Publication is intended to serve as a foundation upon which to build additional doctrine as expanding challenges are continually addressed in the changing space domain.[3]


What is the ADF’s current situation?

“Space is a unique physical domain, contiguous only with the air domain, but interconnected with all domains.”

p. 5

Spacepower has been published at a critical juncture for the Australian Defence Organisation. No sooner had responsibility for the Information Domain been assigned to Chief of Joint Capabilities than talk of responsibility for the Space Domain began in earnest. Now, just as Chief of Air Force is assuming these responsibilities as the Space Domain Lead, the new Chief of Defence Intelligence has been added to the equation. It is also noteworthy that this is all occurring in a period of normalisation after the Australian Signals Directorate became a statutory agency. These new structures and authorities will certainly influence how the Australian Defence Force defines the somewhat amorphous concept of information warfare and its relationship to technical pursuits such as Offensive Cyberspace Operations and Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations.


Why is this important and how is it useful?

“As an inherently technical domain, military space professionals must embrace the science and art of military spacepower, developing an identity that elevates and integrates both into a seamless warfighting culture.”

p. 59

The Space Capstone Publication is valuable in this context because of the breadth of its applicability. The document is split into five chapters that espouse both the science and the art of space warfare. The first chapter discusses the unique characteristics of the Space Domain and sets the scene for how space power can be employed as an instrument of national power. The publication then analyses space power through a military lens in chapters three to five by explaining its applicability in war, providing the foundation requirements for space forces and, finally, offering ideals for professional mastery. The most important elements of Spacepower are its representations of the Physical, Network and Cognitive Dimensions. These are carried throughout the doctrine as recurring themes creating a lattice with the scientific and artistic elements of warfighting. This is important because it offers a dissected model for information warfare in the Space Domain, with likely multi-domain applicability.


How should the ADF use the document?

“Our primary purpose is to secure U.S. interests through deterrence and, when necessary, the application of force. A warfighting culture is the defining difference between operating space-based information systems and employing credible military space power.”

p. 48

The global nature of the Space Domain combined with the philosophical character of Spacepower as a ‘doctrine for space forces’ means that the document is readily adaptable for militaries that share common service values to the US, such as Australia. It was purposefully written as an example for like-minded armed forces to follow. Of particular relevance to Australia is the emphasis it places on non-kinetic effects, such as electromagnetic warfare. This is important for Australia as it develops its space control capabilities to counter emerging space threats to its free use of the space domain.[4] In fact, when considering the doctrine from the opposite perspective, there is surprisingly little that is irrelevant to Australia. Only a small part discussing Space Mobility and Logistics — the movement and support of military equipment and personnel to, from and through the space domain — is beyond the current ability of the ADF, until a sovereign spacelift capability is established.


What does the ADF need to do first?

“Warfighting is a solemn endeavor. We must never let the remote aspects of space operations dilute the solemn moral dimension of warfare. Warfighters’ actions carry severe consequences. … Whether on land, in the air, at sea, or in cyberspace, warfighters must develop an intuitive understanding of their domain. Military spacepower is no different.”

p. 49

Defence has a proud history of space operations. With the 1967 launch of the Weapons Research Establishment Satellite by the Defence Science & Technology Group’s predecessor, Australia became the third nation to design and launch a satellite to orbit the earth.[5] Since then, the pace of technological development has created progress along an array of divergent paths. The Australian Defence Space enterprise now comprises numerous disciplines, such as intelligence, surveillance of space and reconnaissance from space. This cadre also includes telecommunications, which could soon involve the management of Australia’s first fully owned and controlled military satellite-communications constellation.[6] The time has therefore arrived for the ADF to forge its own seamless space warfighting culture committed to both warfighting and the mastery of space. While this will require tailored doctrine for Australia’s circumstances, Spacepower can be viewed as the first — if not the hardest — step on this journey.


Major Cameron Porter is responsible for developing part of Australia’s future joint space warfare capability at Army Headquarters in conjunction with the Space Domain staff in Air Force Headquarters. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and a Master of Engineering Science in C4ISREW. @satellitedundee