Fifty years ago, the title to a Collier’s Magazine article read ”œMan will conquer space soon.” The article kicked off a series of Collier’s pieces that for the first time dramatically raised American public awareness of space, space exploration and future space security. It was a pivotal article in shaping early national thinking about space and space development. Its lead-in paragraph set the tone, not only for the series, but also for American thinking about space development ever since.

On the following pages Collier’s presents what may be one of the most important scientific symposiums ever published by a national magazine. It is the story of the inevitability of man’s conquest of space. What you will read here is not science fic- tion. It is serious fact. Moreover, it is an urgent warning that the U.S. must immediately embark on a long-range develop- ment program to secure for the West ”œspace superiority.” If we do not, somebody else will. (Collier’s, 22 March 1952)

Over the following 50 years, the world watched, often in awe, as the United States and the former Soviet Union challenged both space and each other, and it witnessed spectacular achievements by civilian agencies. Yuri Gagarin, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong are names known to all, as are Sputnik, Apollo and Challenger. Yet from the earliest days of rocketry, the real driver for space investment for the two superpowers was not exploration, but national security. From the outset, the dominant investors in space develop- ment in both nations have been their respective militaries and associated intelligence agencies, not their more public and visible civil space agencies. The space age was born out of American and Soviet interests in ballistic missiles, and the desire of the United States to safely survey the Soviet Union from the ultimate high ground.

Today, despite the end of the Cold War and its associat- ed superpower space rivalry, the U.S. military’s use of and dependence on space are greater than ever. Encouraged both by the absence of a constraining strategic-nuclear environ- ment and by the advent of advanced computer technologies, the U.S. has shifted its space focus from strategic deterrence to tactical out-of-area conventional use. The use of satellites for military communications, navigation, intelligence and remote sensing has taken on new importance and today accounts for five to ten per cent of U.S. defence spending. The United States far outstrips any other nation in investing in military space. Accounting for over 90 per cent of the world’s military space spending, in 1998 the U.S. spent over $C20 billion on space””twice Canada’s entire defence budget. Moreover, it spent the same again on civil space and supported the largest national commercial space community.

Looking ahead, all indicators suggest the United States military will continue to increase its use of and dependence on space. Space is a central ingredient in the U.S.-generated ”œrevolu- tion in military affairs.” Because it is the only international medium that is adjacent to every nation in the world, it gives those with the req- uisite technologies the ultimate high ground in both peace and war. In coming years, the U.S. military will increasingly rely on space for acquir- ing and moving information around the world, and, as a consequence, it will more and more see space as a vital and vulnerable medium to be con- trolled and defended. As a result, space will grad- ually move from being a tertiary issue in Canada- U.S. defence relations to centre stage.

While historically Canada has encouraged the scientific and commercial use of space it has in large measure ignored its military uses, both potential and realized. The Department of National Defence (DND) does have a 50-year space history, but it has been characterized more by false starts than achievements. Canada’s post- war space activity was largely spawned inside the DND, and, as late as 1966, the Department accounted for almost three-quarters of Canada’s space spending. It was the DND’s Defence Research Telecommunications Establishment in Ottawa that sponsored Canada’s first satellite program, Alouette. By the end of the 1960s, how- ever, as U.S. military space programs were mov- ing into a steady state, the DND’s space interests waned. Through the late 1960s and into the 1970s, Canada’s space programs were transferred to civilian and private-sector organizations, and, except for a handful of personnel assignments within the North American Aerospace Defence (NORAD) arrangement, the DND withdrew from active space involvement. By the mid-1980s, mil- itary programs, fundamentally of an R&D nature, accounted for only 10 per cent of the Canadian government’s space-related spending.

Today, however, space interest inside the DND is on the rise. Over the last ten years the DND has become much more aware of the importance of space in the conduct of out-of-area operations and it has closely monitored American intentions for the medium. Despite massive downsizing in other areas, it has estab- lished a dedicated joint space staff at National Defence Headquarters (the Directorate of Space Development) and has begun detailed force plan- ning. The DND will invest further in space in the coming years, and will actively seek to enhance its military space relationship with the United States. Over the next 20 years, military space cooperation will become a focal point, if not the centrepiece of the defence relationship between Canada and the United States. The DND will seek this relationship in order to:

  • guarantee ongoing Canadian access to U.S. space assets and services;

  • maximize Canadian security influence in Washington; and

  • promote Canadian space sovereignty interests.

Let me take up these three objectives in turn.

In 1990, the Persian Gulf War shepherded in the post-Cold War world, thus ending a bipolar era characterized by superpower tensions, East-West alignments, forward-deployed forces and strategic nuclear deterrence. The new world order that fol- lowed is characterized by a single super, if not hyperpower, a generally aligned, but cautious developed world and a burgeoning underdevel- oped world desperate for relief from what seems to be increasing poverty and strife. In this new era, the developed world and, in particular, the United States, is expected to intervene in the world’s hot spots, though not with military con- cepts and capabilities developed during the Cold War. The new era thus required a major rethink about how military operations should be con- ducted, and the result has been the ”œrevolution in military affairs” (RMA), ushered in primarily by the United States. The U.S. has led the West in replacing the traditional massive use of firepower with tactics based on enhanced situational aware- ness, rapid global response, and the precise, judicious and progressive application of force.

The Gulf War also saw the first widespread tactical use of space-based systems. Sometimes called the ”œfirst space war,” the conflict brought to planners’ attention the growing role of space- based systems in conducting conventional land, sea and air operations, and helped spark the RMA. The RMA depends on the on-demand avail- ability of advanced information technologies, and space, as the Gulf War showed, is where much of that technology resides.

Starting at about 150 km above the surface of the earth is a region ideally suited to facilitate the RMA. At the time of the Collier’s article, space was recognized for its ultimate and unique high- ground attributes, which the early architects of the legal status of the medium assured would be safeguarded for those who could access the domain. Today, space is a pivotal RMA element because of those attributes. It provides an unri- valled panorama, permitting unrestricted obser- vation of any region or country, whether in time of peace, rising tension or war. It is the only medium that allows global response times meas- ured in terms of minutes and hours. (It takes only 90 minutes to orbit the earth in ”œlow earth orbit,” from 150 to 1,500 km above the Earth). Because of its remoteness and difficulty of access it provides a relatively safe sanctuary for global operations. And, finally, the use of space assets does not readily give away the disposition or intent of deployed forces within a given theatre of operations.

Today, space is home to a growing arsenal of (primarily U.S.) military and civilian observation satellites, and the day when real-time all-weather surveillance is possible is not far off. This will mark a major milestone in the RMA. Data accessibility will steadily increase, as will the ability to process and interpret large volumes of data. The growing numbers of satellites and satellite constellations, coupled with ready access to archived data, mas- sive computing power, and automatic and mov- ing-target techniques will progressively transform the strategic intelligence collection systems of today into the real-time tactical surveillance sys- tems of tomorrow. Satellite imagery will progres- sively offer users like the U.S. military a wider per- spective and a greater economy per unit of area monitored than the airborne systems of today.

Space and satellite technologies are also becoming indispensable in correlating discrete data and orchestrating precision responses. Space has become indispensable in supporting the evolving discipline of geomatics, and in the pro- vision of positioning and timing data to deployed forces. In recent U.S. war games, the timing signals from the Global Positioning System (GPS) were found to be vital to ”œnetwork- centric” warfare, which requires the synchroniza- tion of multiple platforms and systems. GPS will remain a vital and ongoing element of the RMA, and the U.S. will continue to control it. Plans are afoot to improve its accuracy to one metre over the coming decade and GPS receivers will be incorporated into combat systems.

Seeing isn’t enough, however; acting is also crucial. A real-time view of a theatre of operations obviously provides enhanced battlespace aware- ness. But in itself it does not make for an RMA. It is also essential that this view be moved, along with intentions, directions and requests arising from it, at real-time speed and without ambigui- ty across the entire breadth of one’s forces. To accomplish this ”œcorrelation” requires worldwide high-bandwidth communications””that is, satel- lite communications””which only the United States currently comes close to possessing, and whose development the U.S. military is now aggressively pursuing.

New technologies in data acquisition, corre- lation, and distribution are steadily increasing the ability of the United States to apply precision force on demand anywhere in the world. In oper- ations short of war, such systems will enhance the ability of the U.S. military to undertake con- fidence-building, arms-control and peacekeeping activities. In time of conflict, they will give it a critical advantage in pre- and post-target analysis and in real-time battlespace management. While the events of September 11th may have focused U.S. attention on more immediate concerns, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s decision to create a new four-star general position to command Air Force Space Command (AFSC), and the Air Force’s stated desire to eventually transform itself from an air and space force to a space and air force indicate space is of growing importance to the United States military.

Space is also of growing importance to the Canadian Forces, and for two reasons: future combat relevance and future combat interoper- ability. As the RMA firmly takes hold of U.S. forces, allied forces unable to tap into space-based information services will increasingly be viewed as, at best, seriously handicapped and, at worst, a serious liability. The U.S. is redefining what it means to be a ”œcombat-capable force,” and space is crucial in the new definition. If the Canadian Forces (CF) fail to incorporate space-based servic- es into force design, their relevance as a fighting force will progressively diminish, as will their interoperability with the United States. Interoperability is a longstanding challenge, but space gives it a new dimension. If the CF fail to address the new dimension, Canada’s ability to influence critical alliance or coalition decision- making during times of heightened tension will also decline. Budgetary considerations therefore suggest that Canada will continue to seek guar- anteed access to U.S. space assets and services and will as a result come under pressure to support the U.S. space agenda.

In military planning circles, the term ”œcentre of gravity” has come to describe those points where a belligerent is most vulnerable, and where an attack will have the best chance of being deci- sive. At any time, a nation or group of nations will have a spectrum of tactical-military to strate- gic-national centres. At a state level, centres may be linked to government and national command, domestic infrastructure, national means of pro- duction, international trade and relations, demo- graphics, or societal values, beliefs and goals. Centres of gravity can simultaneously be a strength and a vulnerability.

Space is becoming a serious American centre of gravity. The United States””and to a lesser but still important degree the international commu- nity at large””are becoming so dependent on space-based services that their disruption or denial would have serious national and interna- tional consequences. In addition to its military importance, space is also increasingly important commercially””particularly, but again not exclu- sively in the United States.

Employing more than a half-million people, and generating $130 billion (Cdn) in revenue per year, today’s space community comprises a widen- ing spectrum of private and public enterprises. Of the upwards of 600 active payloads in space today, half are commercially operated. While security and scientific interests continue to influence the community’s development, more and more com- mercial interests are assuming prominence. In 1996, commercial revenues surpassed government expenditures for the first time in the history of space flight. It was also the first year in which com- mercial launches exceeded government launches. That being said, however, public investment con- tinues to be significant, particularly in the United States. As a space investor, the U.S. Government dwarfs all other sources of space spending. Today, the U.S. spends approximately $40 billion on its national space programs, compared to Europe’s $8 billion, Japan’s $3 billion, Russia’s notional $1 bil- lion and Canada’s $300 million.

The U.S. not only has real-time battlespace awareness interests in space, it also has private investor and manufacturing interests, as well as a host of end-user interests. Take the GPS. Its extremely accurate worldwide timing service is critical to the global banking and investment industries. Looking into the future, space is becoming a place from which significant com- mercial revenue will be generated, primarily through the sales of telecommunications, remote sensing and geo-positioning services. It is already a medium on which the world, but more to the point, North America increasingly depends for information services. During the Cold War, space was a strategic but tightly confined military cen- tre of gravity for the two superpowers. Today, it is becoming a global information and economic centre led, dominated and supported by the United States.

The United States will increasingly view space as a vital and vulnerable military and economic centre of gravity that requires legitimate national monitoring and security measures. Canada will cautiously support U.S. controls because it will ultimately be in its interest to do so. This is notwithstanding Canada’s long-standing con- cerns over space’s potential militarization and support of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. Supporting U.S. space security interests will be in Canada’s interest, first, because safeguarding allied military and civilian assets is in our interest and, second, because we want to sustain our exist- ing security influence in Washington. During the Cold War, Canada was able to leverage its geogra- phy to garner more influence in Washington than its military capability alone would have provided. The most prominent manifestation of this lever- aging was the establishment of NORAD. Notwithstanding September 11th, the air threat to North American has dramatically diminished since 1990, as has Canada’s U.S. security influence through the NORAD arrangement. Canada and, more specifically, the DND will steadily seek to offset declining U.S. interest in air defence by increasing its participation in space security meas- ures. The trend is already very apparent at NORAD Headquarters. Over the last ten years, the Canadian Forces have steadily converted historic air defence billets for space ones within United States Space Command.

If maintaining access and influence is not a suf- ficient motivation for developing stronger CF space capability and a closer relationship with the United States, sovereignty considerations likely will be. As the United States expands its space-based capabilities, Canada will undoubted- ly face U.S. challenges to its sovereign right, with- in the limits of international law, to exploit space as we deem appropriate. In fact, we already have. On several occasions over the last few years the United States has challenged the Canadian Space Agency’s development and employment plans for RADARSAT II. (U.S. concerns have included the system’s planned radar resolution, shutter control safeguards and launch vehicle selection.)

While the merits of space are becoming evi- dent to more and more countries, for some time to come the United States will likely enjoy not only a leadership role in the medium, but in a number of ways a monopoly. It almost certainly won’t stop sharing space-based services such as GPS, but risks to Canada’s future freedom of action in space do exist. Over the last ten years, the U.S. military leadership has increasingly and openly advocated a much stronger space control posture. At the moment, General Eberhart, the U.S. military’s senior space commander, is aggres- sively championing stronger space control meas- ures, ranging from regulation to deployed sys- tems like Space-Based Laser (SBL) and a military ”œspaceplace.” His views are shared by the military establishment and, more importantly, the cur- rent Secretary of Defense.

Space was once perceived as a sanctuary but is increasingly like the high seas in the 1900s””an international territory, used by a growing spectrum of public and private users from around the world, but dominated commercially and controlled mili- tarily by a single national actor. The United States clearly appreciates the Royal Navy’s historic and very successful use of two high-seas concepts: the right of innocent passage in times of peace, and belligerent rights in times of heightened tension.

In coming years, the U.S. space agenda will confront Canada and the international commu- nity with some difficult regulatory and security challenges. Regulatory issues, on which Canadian views will be sought, include launch, orbit, debris and frequency spectrum manage- ment. From the security perspective, the adapta- tion of arms control to a new technological envi- ronment, the future of the Outer Space Treaty in the face of the medium’s growing military and economic importance, and the rights of belliger- ents and non-belligerents in times of rising ten- sions will also be important.

Canada may not be able or willing to address these issues, but if it wants to tap into U.S. military and commercial space assets it will somehow have to find a way to address them. The DND almost certainly will seek ways to promote Canada’s sov- ereignty inside a bilateral relationship rather than outside. As it has done with with air defence and the military use of Canada’s north, it will seek to safeguard Canada’s interests by investing a requi- site amount in national capability and then trying to leverage that capability inside a larger bilateral arrangement. If this strategy works, the influence it brings will provide at least some national inde- pendence with respect to space matters.

Space is following essentially the same path as powered flight did. Today’s space technologies are as different from those of 15 years ago as 1939’s aircraft technologies were different from 1924’s. In both cases, a massive and critical improvement in capability and employment potential occurred in a short period of time. Like aircraft in 1939, space technology is widely under- assessed and is near a surge point in its employ- ment and strategic importance. It remains to be seen if September 11th was space’s Pearl Harbor, but there is no question that the war on terrorism is fueling the military’s interest in space.

Over the next 20 years military cooperation on space will become a, if not the, centrepiece defence relationship between Canada and the United States. Although pressure to engage on the question of the military in space has been building for at least ten years, the inhibitors to engagement inside the DND have been strong. They have included very tight budgets, the presence of long-established compet- ing land, sea and air interests, and cautious and conservative executive management. That being said, the DND has taken steps over the period to at least get space onto the Departmental agenda, including the formation of the Directorate of Space Development in the mid-1990s, the generation of an internal policy paper as well as a supporting plan in the late 1990s and the initiation of two substan- tive space projects, one seeking to address a number of deficient space capabilities and another that will see Canada contributing to a U.S. military advanced satellite communications program.

Despite this recent progress, CF space engage- ment has been slow. When will it finally occur? The best answer is probably sooner than some would have predicted, but later than ideally”” where the ideal is what would bring us the maxi- mum resource leverage and bilateral influence possible. Global space trends are well-established, and their lead architect and Canada’s closet ally, the United States, is well along on its vision of how space use should unfold. If Canada and the CF wish to influence the vision, have a say in its execution, and access its benefits, the DND needs to pick up the space development pace.


This paper is drawn from a Department of National Defence study, Space Appreciation 2000 which he co-authored. It is available on request from the Directorate of Space Development at DND.

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