The space domain is becoming more congested and contested. New technologies are rapidly emerging. Barriers to entry are falling. New players – both governmental and commercial – are vying for advantage. At the same time, humanity's reliance on space activity is becoming more ingrained every day. Once supreme in the space domain, the defence sector is being forced to reassess the role they play in this increasingly critical domain.
To better understand how the domain and the ecosystem are evolving, KPMG International and the Space Foundation partnered to talk to nearly two dozen industry and defence leaders at the highest levels of the space domain.
Using their perspectives as guideposts, this paper offers key predictions on how the sector will evolve, identifying important new capabilities, commercial opportunities, partnership initiatives and sovereignty considerations along the way. We also provide a number of considerations and recommendations to help defense and industry players ensure the long-term sustainability and safety of operations in space.
Against this background, we offer the following four key predictions on the future of defence in space.
1. Space will define the future of national security.
How can we optimise our space capabilities for national security purposes?
Countries around the world such as Australia, Canada, the UK and the US have been spending a significant amount of effort in building their space programs. Some Middle Eastern nations have national strategic priorities in the domain, including the launch of Mars bound missions. The increase of human activity in space enforces a greater need to secure the domain. Fully integrating space as part of our joint forces will ensure space capabilities are interlinked and interoperable in the future.
2. The pace of innovation will continue to quicken.
What are the main considerations for advancements in space capabilities?
Big data and AI capabilities play a significant role in the advancement of the space industry. Nonetheless, space technologies are not immune to cyber threats and physical attacks. A collaboration between the government and the commercial sectors in building the best tools to analyse the available data sets would improve the robustness of our space capabilities. In addition, defence leaders are transforming their procurement systems into agile, slimmer processes that enable faster iteration.
3. Partnerships will be crucial to long-term success.
How will partnerships and alliances benefit established and newer players?
Collaborations between established players, and between established and newer players encourage positive discussions and knowledge sharing. The UAE, with some help from experienced leaders, went from having no space program to launching a mission to Mars in just 6 years. Many existing partnerships are currently focusing on encouraging collaboration between allies and commercial and civil operations including the use of dual use satellite partnerships with civilian and defence payloads
4. Alignment on norms will unlock advancement.
How will space exploration norms improve the domain’s safety and resilience?
Responsible norms of behaviour and accountability avoid conflict, ensure a safe and effective space domain exploration and create a foundation for overcoming anti-collaborative regulations. For example the Technology Safeguard Agreement in place between the US, New Zealand and the UK is a strong example of allies overcoming regulation to drive collaboration. They help maximise the benefit of the space sector, as opposed to limiting access.
This paper serves to inform the ongoing development of the space domain and acts as a catalyst for diplomacy and collaboration in the field.