Defending the Final Frontier: Commercial Space System Vulnerabilities to Directed Energy Weapon Threats, Mamta Sharma, 9781288281190


Investment in commercial space systems is exploding. As the military faces ever-tighter fiscal constraints, leasing commercial systems to support military requirements is becoming significantly more cost effective, hence the US military, almost without knowing it, is becoming increasingly reliant on the capabilities provided by commercial space systems. Given this reliance, not to mention the economic importance of this sector to the nation’s financial health, the question of whether these systems are susceptible to attack deserves careful consideration. This study examines the unclassified literature to determine if a laser threat to commercial space systems is realistic, whether commercial space systems are vulnerable to laser attacks, and whether US military doctrine is sufficient for dealing with whatever threat emerges. In answering this question, we must first understand the critical assumption in this question: the satellites are targets because the perpetrator desires to keep their attack covert. Without this assumption, it is difficult to imagine any potential adversary dedicating the time and resources necessary to develop such a technologically challenging weapon system as the other portions of the space system (e.g. the ground segment or the electronic link between the ground and space) are significantly more vulnerable to direct attack than is the space system. The idea of a laser attack against satellite systems is not new, but is it realistic?

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