Military Modernization Requires New Approach to Satellite Application

Military Modernization Requires New Approach to Satellite Application

The military sector has become the primary user of space services and has played a significant role in developing the space industry. The military application of space technologies coincides with the beginning of the United States and the USSR space race. The starting point in these events was the Sputnik crisis 65 years ago. Nowadays, many countries are beginning to use space for military purposes. India tested anti-satellite systems in 2019, Iran launched its first military satellite a month later, and then the Space Command appeared in France. In China, space issues are handled by the PLA, which has formed the Strategic Support Force.

Today’s warfighters benefit from a variety of space technologies, including satellite communications, space intelligence, precise positioning, surveillance, navigation, time synchronization, ISR, and more. The role of satellite technologies for military needs is beyond dispute. 

Military uses of Satellites 

Satellites are the backbone of the military space industry. They widely used for security purposes, including recording violations of arms control treaties and supporting military operations. There are about 300 military satellites, commercial, multipurpose, and 600 civilian satellites. There also dual-purpose satellites that can used for military and other purposes.

Military satellites can used for targeting, navigation, communication detection, and telecommunications to exchange information. In addition, satellites play a critical role in providing early warning, such as infrared sensors detecting hot missile plumes. The weather data that the military needs is also provided by satellites.

Military or dual-purpose satellites play a critical role in an ongoing military conflict or even a preceding one, especially in countries with diverse terrain. Satellites solve many problems in such conditions, providing early warning on which forces’ combat effectiveness can directly depend. Thanks to satellites, the military receives information about enemy movements. They also collect and transmit intelligence data. Electronic intelligence provides effective communication with its forces deployed in remote and hard-to-reach areas.

New tendencies in space defense

The evolution of attack and defense technologies is an endless competition. Each superiority gained requires a redoubling of opposing efforts to surpass it. However, all achievements in this sector are relative, so it is impossible to determine when the space rivalry will end.

The concept of combat has undergone significant changes over the past decades due to technological development, so space is primarily used for security. For example, technology is used to combat ballistic missiles and other airborne threats. Technological development has helped significantly increase the accuracy and reliability of missile defense systems with Satellites. The development of offensive technologies determined this process.

China and Russia are working to create a threat of flying objects that exceeds the capabilities of the defensive response of Western countries. Hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) travel at a minimum speed of Mach 5. In addition, missiles capable of changing orbit are difficult to intercept.

US officials say that China and Russia’s hypersonic missiles, which could be nuclear-capable, are challenging to track. In this regard, the creation of space sensor systems is being discussed in the US. We are talking, for example, about the constellation of low-orbit satellites (PLEO). Several different systems are being considered to intercept such weapons; including space-based ballistic interception capabilities and the creation of directed energy weapons. Space-based monitoring and warning systems are another option to address the hard-to-detect airborne threats that received attention. Furthermore, Russia and China create HGVs such as the Vanguard and Dongfeng 17 (DF17), which democracies must also take countermeasures against.


The application of satellites and remote sensing technologies in military affairs today is in the interests of many countries of the world. While some are deploying technology for the offensive, others improve the defense. Satellites offer many opportunities in this area, as they enable intelligence operations; and effective early warning systems, which can be critical in many regions. They perform many functions that provide security, and there is hardly anything in this sector that can replace them. At the same time, the protection of the global space heritage is the most crucial task of the international community and separate countries. Each participant in this mission must fulfill their responsibilities to avoid risks; prevent threats to the space system, and support its stability.

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