“Space: The Final Frontier”. Be it on land or above it; be it on water or under its surface; since ancient times man has tried to conquer whatever part of the earth that he could reach, or has at least tried to. This has led to many conflicts between two or more agencies. Be it air, land or sea, the airforce, armies and navies of nations have seen combat some time or the other.

As of 2022 no actual warfare has ever taken place in space, though a number of tests and demonstrations have been performed. This has caused leaders around the world to examine and enhance their combat capabilities in this new battle field called “Space”.

Space warfare is combat that takes place in outer space. The scope of space warfare therefore includes ground-to-space warfare, such as attacking satellites from the Earth; space-to-space warfare, such as satellites attacking satellites; and space-to-ground warfare, such as satellites attacking Earth-based targets.


  • Commencement of the Space Race (1960s)
    • Early efforts to conduct space warfare were directed at space-to-space warfare, as ground-to-space systems were considered to be too slow and too isolated by Earth's atmosphere and gravity to be effective at the time. The history of active space warfare development goes back to the 1960s when the Soviet Union began the Almaz project, a project designed to give them the ability to do on-orbit inspections of satellites and destroy them if needed. Similar planning in the United States took the form of the Blue Gemini project, which consisted of modified Gemini capsules that would be able to deploy weapons and perform surveillance.
    • One early test of electronic space warfare, the so-called Starfish Prime test, took place in 1962, when the United States exploded a ground-launched nuclear weapon in space to test the effects of an electromagnetic pulse. The result was a deactivation of many orbiting satellites, both American and Soviet. The deleterious and unfocused effects of the EMP test led to the banning of nuclear weapons in space in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.


  • Laser Tag with Satellites (1970s–1990s)

    • Through the 1970s, the Soviet Union continued their project and test-fired a cannon to test space station defence. This was considered too dangerous to do with a crew on board, however, so the test was conducted after the crew had returned to Earth.

    • A 1976 Soviet report suggested that the design of the space shuttle had been guided by a requirement to deliver a payload over Russia and return to land after a single orbit. This may have been a confusion based on requirements 3A and 3B for the shuttle's design, which required the craft to be able to deploy or retrieve an object from a polar orbit in a single pass.

    • Both the Soviets and the United States developed anti-satellite weaponry designed to shoot down satellites. While early efforts paralleled other space-to- space warfare concepts, the United States was able in the 1980s to develop ground-to-space laser anti-satellite weapons. None of these systems are known to be active today; however, a less powerful civilian version of the ground-to-space laser system is commonly used in the astronomical technique of adaptive optics.

    • In 1984 the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI) was proposed. It was nicknamed Star Wars after the popular science fiction franchise Star Wars.

    • In 1985 a USAF pilot in an F-15 successfully shot down the P78-1, an American research satellite, in a 345-mile (555 km) orbit.

  • Developments in the New Millennium

    • The People's Republic of China successfully tested a ballistic missile- launched anti-satellite weapon on January 11, 2007. This resulted in harsh criticism from the United States of America, Britain, and Japan.

    • The United States of America developed an interceptor missile, the SM-3, testing it by hitting ballistic test targets while they were in space. On February 21, 2008, the United States of America used a SM-3 missile to destroy a spy satellite, USA-193, while it was 247 km above the Pacific Ocean.

    • Japan fields the American SM-3 missile, and there have been plans to base the land-based version in Romania and Vietnam. In March 2019, India shot down a satellite orbiting in a Low Earth orbit using an ASAT missile during an operation code named Mission Shakti, thus making its way to the list of space warfare nations, establishing the Defense Space Agency the following month, followed by its first-ever simulated space warfare exercise on 25 July which would inform a joint military space doctrine.

    • In March 2019, India shot down a satellite orbiting in a Low Earth orbit using an ASAT missile during an operation code named Mission Shakti, thus making its way to the list of space warfare nations, establishing the Defense Space Agency the following month, followed by its first-ever simulated space warfare exercise on 25 July which would inform a joint military space doctrine.


  • United States of America

    • The United States Space Force (USSF) is the space warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. The direct antecedent of the Space Force, Air Force Space Command, was formed on 1 September 1982 with responsibility for space warfare operations. The National Defense Authorization Act for 2020 redesignated Air Force Space Command as the U.S. Space Force, and established it as an independent branch of the U.S. Armed Forces on 20 December 2019.

    • The mission of this organisation is "organise, train, and equip space forces in order to protect U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities to the joint force. Its responsibilities include developing military space professionals, acquiring military space systems, maturing the military doctrine for space power, and organising space forces to present to the Combatant Commands”.

    • Functions of USSF as described in the United States Space Force Act, it will be organised, trained, and equipped to:-
      • Provide freedom of operation for the United States in, from, and to space.
      • Provide prompt and sustained space operations.

  • Duties of the USSF are:-
    • Protect the interests of the United States in space.
    • Deter aggression in, from, and to space.
    • Conduct space operations.

  • Russia

    • The Russian Aerospace Forces or VKS (Vozdushno-kosmicheskiye sily) is the Aerospace Forces of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. It was established as a new branch on 1 August 2015 with the merging of the Russian Air Force (VVS) and the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces (VVKO) under the recommendations of the Ministry of Defence.

    • The main tasks of the Russian Space Forces are informing the higher political leaders and military commanders of missile attacks as soon as possible, ballistic missile defence, and the creation, deployment, maintenance and control of in-orbit space vehicles, like the new Persona reconnaissance satellite. For example, the Space Forces operate the GLONASS global positioning system.

    • Formations of the Space Forces included the 3rd Missile-Space Defence Army, and a Division of Warning of Missile Attack. Installations and assets include the Hantsavichy Radar Station in Belarus, along with a number of other large warning radars, and the A-135 anti-ballistic missile system which protects Moscow and the Peresvet anti-air laser combat system which protects strategic missiles.

  • China
    • China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) views space warfare as an important component of its concept of war, and is developing a range of capabilities and tactics to carry out space operations, as well as bolstering its organisational and command and control capacity to enable such operations, according to a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report published in January 2019.

    • Strategists in the PLA regard the ability to use space-based systems and deny them to adversaries as central to enabling modern information warfare. As a result, the PLA continues to strengthen its military space capabilities despite its public stance against the militarisation of space.

    • Even though China has not publicly acknowledged the existence of any new programs since it confirmed it used an anti-satellite missile to destroy a weather satellite in 2007, experts believe that China continues to develop a variety of counter-space capabilities designed to limit or prevent an adversary’s use of space-based assets during crisis or conflict. In addition to the research and possible development of satellite jammers and directed-energy weapons, China has probably made progress on kinetic energy weapons, including the anti-satellite missile system tested in July 2014.

    • The PLA’s Strategic Support Force (SSF), established in December 2015, has an important role in the management of China’s aerospace warfare capabilities. Consolidating the PLA’s space, cyber, and electronic warfare capabilities into the SSF enables cross- domain synergy in “strategic frontiers”. The SSF may also be responsible for research, development, testing, and fielding of certain “new concept” weapons, such as directed energy and kinetic energy weapons. The SSF’s space function is primarily focused on satellite launch and operation to support PLA reconnaissance, navigation, and communication requirements.

    • Along with direct-ascent ASAT weapons, China is also believed to be developing other space weapons. In June 2016, China launched the Aolong-1 spacecraft on a Long March 7 rocket. China claims that the Aolong-1 is tasked with cleaning up space junk and collecting man-made debris in space. However, other reports suggest that the spacecraft, equipped with a robotic arm, is a dual-use ASAT weapon. The Aolong-1 is believed to be the first in a series of spacecraft that will be tasked with collecting man-made space debris.

    • China has been acquiring a number of foreign and indigenous ground-based satellite jammers since the mid-2000s. These jammers are designed to disrupt an adversary’s communications with a satellite by overpowering the signals being sent to or from it. The PLA can use these jammers to deny an adversary the access to the GPS and other satellite signals. Directed energy lasers are also a soft-kill method that could be used in an anti-satellite mission.

    • Just like all other Chinese military wings, little information is readily available about its space weaponisation programs. Analysts and experts all around the world have only speculated what could be going on behind closed doors. The organisation, role and duties of this Chinese agency are still unknown.

While it may not be an arms race, the impetus to forge a space strategy is the result of the domain becoming an ever more contested environment and of its importance for deterrence, and, if this fails, war fighting. Not only is it recapitalising its military space infrastructure, ground based and orbital, it is also acquiring the means to protect them.


Months before the operationalisation of the Defence Space Agency, India conducted an Anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) test in March 2019. The test was aimed at demonstrating India's anti-satellite capability.

The Indian ASAT programme can be traced back to its Ballistic Missiles Development program, which began in 1999 in response to threats posed by the Ballistic missiles of Pakistan and China. In 2006 and 2007, India tested its first exo-atmospheric interceptor and has developed many interceptors since then. On 18 March 2008, DRDO had hinted that India possessed technology required for an ASAT missile. India had begun work on its ASAT soon after the 2007 Chinese anti-satellite missile test.

India has been working on directed energy ASAT weapons, co-orbital ASAT weapons, lasers and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) based ASAT weapons. The ability to protect space assets from hostile electronic and physical attacks is also being developed by India.

India is developing the necessary technology that could be combined to produce a weapon to destroy enemy satellites in orbit. In March 2019, India tested its ASAT missile (Mission Shakti) destroying a pre-determined target of a live satellite.The DRDO's ballistic missile defence interceptor was used on an Indian satellite for this test.

India conducted its first simulated space warfare exercise on 25th and 26 July 2019, called IndSpaceEx. The exercise was conducted under the supervision of Integrated Defence Staff. The exercise was aimed at obtaining an assessment of threats and the creation of a joint space warfare doctrine.


The role of the DSA will be operate systems to protect Indian interests in outer space and will deal with potential space wars. The agency will have the responsibility of developing a space warfare strategy and work in close collaboration with Defence Space Research Agency.

The Defence Space Research Agency (DSRA) is the scientific organisation responsible for developing space-warfare systems and technologies for the Defence Space Agency. The DSRA was approved by the Indian government in June 2019. The DSRA is composed of scientists who undertake research and development in close coordination with the Integrated Defence Staff.


The DSA is headquartered in Bengaluru. It’s function under the Integrated Defence Staff and personnel from all the three branches of the Indian Armed Forces will be stationed in the agency.

As is with other nations, the DSA is an extension of the Indian Air Force and comprise of agencies which would deal with the development and operation of various equipments like satellites, radars, missiles, lasers and other weapons. The components of the Indian Army and Indian Navy are present for coordination and synergy between the three forces.

Keeping the role and requirement of the DSA, its organisation is suggested to be based on the undermentioned points:-

  • The DSA will operate systems to protect Indian interests in outer space and deals with potential space wars. The agency has the responsibility of developing a space warfare strategy.

  • It has a Coordination Cell to liaison, coordinate and seek input on space as a domain of warfare from the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Defence Research and Development Organization. This cell is in close coordination with the Integrated Space Cell which is the nodal agency within the Government of India which oversees the security of its space based military and civilian hardware systems.

  • The Defence Imagery Processing and Analysis Centre which controls India's satellite-based image acquisition capabilities has merged with the DSA.

  • The Defence Satellite Control Centre which controls the operation of all defence and defence related satellites has merged with the DSA.

  • Weapons Division This department of the DSA controls the placing and availability of various missile systems and other weapons like lasers and kinetic bombs across the country on ground and in outer space. This division can be further sub divided into the following:-
    • Ground to Space Section This section will be responsible for all missiles, lasers and projectiles being employed from ground stations to target objects in outer space.

    • Space to Space Section This section will be control all missiles and lasers placed on satellites and launch stations in outer space and will target other objects in space.

    • Space to Ground Section This section will be responsible for all missiles, lasers and projectiles being launched from space stations and satellites to target objects on the surface of the earth.

    • Radar Division As and when the space traffic increases, more and more radars and control stations will be required to be established in suitable location all over the country to monitor assets of other countries and also to monitor, guide and control own assets. Thus, a separate department will have to be made responsible for controlling all radar stations and conveying timely and accurate information to all concerned.
    • Electronic Warfare Division The continued development of satellite and electronics technology led to focus on space as a supporting theatre for conventional warfare. Currently, military operations in space primarily concern either the vast tactical advantages of satellite-based surveillance, communications, and positioning systems or mechanisms used to deprive an opponent of said tactical advantages. Accordingly, most space-borne proposals which would traditionally be considered "weapons" are designed to jam, sabotage, and outright destroy enemy satellites, and conversely to protect friendly satellites against such attacks. For example, a directed EMP blast may damage or destroy an enemy satellite without any jeopardy to own assets.


Akin to the three defence services of India, the DSA has the primary role to deter, thwart or end any attempt by an aggressor on the territorial sovereignty of the nation.

The suggested charter of duties of the DSA are as under:-

  • Security of India's territorial integrity, citizens and assets from land/sea-borne and space threats.
  • Safeguard India's national interests and security.
  • Influence affairs on land, air, sea or space.
  • Deterrence against war or intervention.
  • Decisive military victory in case of war/aggression.
  • Force projection.
  • Assistance to friendly foreign countries.
  • Nuclear second strike.
  • Power Projection.
  • Surveillance.
  • Information operations.
  • Electronic warfare.
  • Carrying out strategic and tactical bombing missions.
  • Providing support to land and naval forces.
  • Coordination with other agencies to ensure optimum and efficient utilisation of resources.

Unlike other major space powers such as the United States, Russia and China, whose space programs have clear military origins, India’s space program, on the other hand, began as a civilian project. Hence, the country has little experience in the military dimensions of space organizations. Because of this reason, India’s Defence Space Agency faces two major challenges in terms of capacity-building.

  • First, the Defence Space Agency (DSA) and the Defence Space Reserch Agency (DSRO) face the acute danger of falling into the arms race spiral in space, as innovation in this domain is rapid, with a wide array of weapon-systems available at a country’s disposal. Despite having tested the anti-satellite missile, ASAT system — which offers limited strategic benefits — it only acts as weapons of last resort as the threat of creating an enormous amount of debris by shooting a satellite may be seen as a less credible threat. Given that the military space program faces severe financial constraints, India must first build the capability to monitor and track assets in space, operant command and control systems for having an effective space situational awareness  — which act as a prerequisite for harnessing military space power. At the same time, India should also focus only on those space systems such as co-orbital weapon-systems and offensive cyber capabilities that provide a credible minimum deterrence against an adversary’s threats to avoid spiraling into an arms race. Efforts must be made to innovate by tapping into the vast private sector.
  • The second challenge that both the DSA and DSRO will face is organizational in nature. Space as a military domain has largely remained an unfamiliar ground for the Indian armed forces, thus making it imperative that members of the new institutions are fully familiar with the new domain, and rope-in academics and civilian-experts to provide valuable inputs. Operating in the space domain in certainly expensive and technology-driven, which means the DSO must be fully capable of adopting these new innovations for effectively operating in space. As scholar Michael Horowitz has pointed out, military innovation spreads only if a state has the financial and organizational capacity to fully absorb a new technology, hence making organizational capacity-building a high point in setting up a new military space agency.


Operating in space will be unlike operating in any other domain, involving three dimensions, spanning across the globe with no territorial borders. While sace warfare can be conceptualized as using offensive capabilities in space against other space-based weapons, it is also intrinsically linked engaging in combat on the ground, making it vital for armed forces on the ground to be interoperable with the space force, creating a new dimension of cross-domain interaction in a conflict situation.

Because of this reason, simply having a doctrine focusing on space-to-space engagement or ground-support engagement will not be enough to meet India’s strategic interests. The DSA and DSRO must approach the space doctrine with the view of interoperability with the Army, Navy and Air Force. In 2017, the Integrated Defence Staff published the first joint doctrine. This publication, however, created further doubts about the jointness among the three services. Inadequate integratedness has remained a roadblock for India’s military modernization.

In order to remain relevant in today’s informationized domains, and be fully integrated into India’s defence force structure, the DSA must lead the way in devising a new doctrine that fully integrates the three services of the armed forces, while at the same time having a long-term vision of India’s interests in space. Such a doctrine will remain the backbone of India’s military space operations in the coming years.

Currently, India possesses more than a dozen military satellites.The Indian military also uses a variety of commercial satellites and those run by friendly foreign nations in its operations.Many of these are prohibitively expensive and carry the danger of service interruption in the event of emergencies.
It is crucial to aggressively improve defence space capabilities as part of the “militarization of space” as India works to reduce defence spending and achieve self-reliance in the field. This includes launching more satellites into orbit, acquiring better sensors, high-speed communication, and practical and reusable ones, along with connected infrastructure.Additionally, India must purchase sophisticated jammers for rogue satellites and safeguard its spacecraft from electronic assaults.
The country is working to increase its military capabilities in the space domain to assert itself as a potent regional power in the future while pursuing its goal of becoming a global power. This is because India concentrates on cutting military spending, establishing self-reliance in defence, and developing deterrence against China’s growing space assets.
However, the investments—whether financial or policy reforms—must be made because space is a high-expenditure industry, meaning that any returns would be gradual, incremental, and steady.

The race for space supremacy has already begun with many nations launching ground based weapons to destroy targets in space. There is no confirmed information on deployment of weapons in space however it is a surety that all major countries are developing fighting capabilities in outer space.

The “weaponisation” of space in not too far in future with countries like USA, Russia, China, Israel, France, Japan and India working on various overt and covert projects. Therefore, the need of the hour is to first define the role and charter of the Defence Space Agency of India and allocate and provide resources to fulfil them. Be it a deterrence or a major weapon, space warfare will soon influence all military matters and we will have to be ready for it.

The move towards creating a dedicated military space agency is indeed a right one, as the United States, Russia, China and more recently, France have expressed the necessity to protect their assets and interests in space, and expand as the next arena for geopolitical competition.

In such an environment, the DSA and DSRO will certainly face both technical as well as bureaucratic challenges. However, these challenges must be thought through at the earliest by politicians, bureaucrats, members of the armed services as well as academics in order to remain competitive and relevant in the future.

Space warfare requires a solid foundation of collaboration between military and civilian institutions, but if done well, it can enable close integration and even fusion between military and intelligence services.

Contact Us


D1/17, Janakpuri, New Delhi-110058(Nearest Metro Station Tilak Nagar)

011-28521828, 011-28521882




Competent House,Plot No.7, RBC Nangal Raya, New Delhi-110046





Jagdamba Tower,4th Floor,Amrapali Circle,Vaishali Nagar, Jaipur-302021

6376237388  , 09929628149



Plot No. 3, LSC (Opp. Anand Lok Society Gate no. 1),
Mayur Vihar Phase-1,
New Delhi-110091