NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency experts supported the development of the Alliance's first overarching space policy.
Defence Ministers approved in June an overarching space policy for the Alliance. Space is essential to NATO's defence and deterrence, and is the venue for a wide range of Alliance capabilities including intelligence gathering, the ability to navigate and track forces, beyond line-of-sight communications and missile launch detection.
The policy will guide NATO’s approach to space’s opportunities and challenges. Collectively the Nations own more than 60 percent of the world’s space assets. The policy will bring Allies closer together to share capabilities and information.
NATO is not aiming to develop space capabilities of its own, but relies on national and commercial capabilities provided through official agreements or ad-hoc requests.
"The policy is the first step to coordinating the use of NATO Allies' assets, and ensuring any mission that needs space data, information, or effects, can be coordinated effectively among the Nations," said Laryssa Patten, JISR Space Portfolio Manager at the NCI Agency.
The NCI Agency has been involved in space since the 1970s, when one of its predecessor organizations bought and managed satellites on behalf of the Alliance. As the technology landscape changed over time, the Agency switched from buying and operating satellites, which is not its core business, to satellite communications based on commercial and national capabilities.
The Agency already provides many different forms of space support to NATO operations, including services or subject matter expertise in areas such as mapping and geospatial services, satellite communications and navigation warfare.
As NATO has developed its position on space, the NCI Agency has been an integral part of the NATO Bilateral Strategic Command Space Working Group. The NCI Agency supports the Group with essential space expertise. The Working Group was instrumental in forging the path to establish the NATO Space Support in Operations policy, which was approved in 2018 and defines the integration of space support within the NATO Command structure.
The 2018 policy helps NATO's command structure organize itself. It deals with personnel and training, and is specific to space support in NATO operations.
"The overarching space policy, the new one that's just been released, is a much higher-level policy that addresses NATO’s approach to space," Patten said. "It's about facilitating collaboration with the Nations, improving the integration and interoperability with NATO systems and ensuring effective support to NATO operations.
The Agency participated in early strategy sessions around developing the newly approved space policy, and provided feedback on each version of the policy as it was drafted.
And at a Defence Policy and Planning Committee workshop in March, Agency Space Subject Matter Expert Flavio Giudice gave a presentation on the effects of emerging space technologies.
Giudice described NATO’s strategic advantage in space, and outlined how civilian and military systems rely on space services. In addition, Giudice explained the technological trends that will challenge space support to NATO operations in the near future.
“Ultimately, the Agency's goal is to ensure space data and services are effectively delivered to NATO operations," Patten said.
The goal is to also continue to build NATO’s “space IQ” and increase the Alliance's awareness of the strategic importance of space assets.
The Agency also contributed to key space documents for NATO, including a study on NATO’s dependence on space which concluded that “no NATO Mission can be conducted without space support.”
The Agency also helped to develop space-related training courses and has been providing space subject matter experts for the last four exercises of the Trident Series.