Space and Missile Wars: What Awaits

Henry D. Sokolski
Content Type
Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
Sometimes, slow, steady changes produce revolutionary results. A case in point is missile and space technologies, which Space and Missile Wars: What Awaits will examine. Long-range missiles, satellites, and space launch vehicles used to be high technology exclusive to the superpowers. Now, scores of states have both. As for ballistic missiles and drones, even non-state actors have them, and these systems are far more accurate than anything the superpowers had even at the height of the Cold War. Then, long-range missiles could only be certain of destroying their targets if they were nuclear-armed and wiped out areas as large as cities. Now, drones are so accurate they can pinpoint and kill single individuals. As for space satellite launchers, they originally were derived from nuclear delivery missiles. None were privately owned. Similarly, almost all space satellites were government property and, until 1965, the owners were only American and Soviet. Now, the French, Chinese, Japanese, British, Indians, Israelis, Ukrainians, Iranians, and North Koreans have all launched satellites of their own. In addition, more than 60 nations own and operate their own satellites and increasingly, satellites are launched, owned, and operated entirely by private entities. These developments are nontrivial. They will define the military competitions with China, Russia, and other hostile states for the next two to three decades. Will the spread of accurate missiles embolden weak actors – small states and terrorist organizations – to threaten stronger states with missile attacks against key civilian targets (dams, reactors, petrochemical plants)? Will weak actors be tempted to use accurate drones to assassinate their adversaries’ key leaders? Will such attacks catalyze war, producing modern Sarajevos that draw in nuclear-armed states (e.g. Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea, or the superpowers)? With so many new space actors, will anyone be able to attribute hostile actions in space? Will states attack satellites mostly in low Earth orbit or geosynchronous orbit? Will the most important attacks come from antisatellite systems based on Earth, in low Earth orbit, or on or near the moon? This volume is designed to answer these questions.
Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Science and Technology, Non State Actors, Military Affairs, Drones, Nonproliferation, Space, Missile Defense, Satellite, Nuclear Energy
Political Geography
Global Focus