The First Space-Cyber War and the Need for New Regimes and Policies

CIGI Policy Brief No. 173

May 16, 2022

Many dubbed the Gulf War of 1991 the “first space war” due to the US Armed Forces’ extensive use of satellites. The cyberwar in Ukraine, although it is mostly playing out in the shadows, may be remembered as the first space-cyber war.

This policy brief makes the case that states should adopt national policies to defend against threats to space-based assets and applications, such as communications satellites, that are both vital to national security and economic security and increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks.

It is time to explore and identify principles for responsible space-cyber behaviour that would represent a broad multilateral consensus. Identifying these principles may not prevent space-cyber hostilities but could provide “rules of the game.”

States would also benefit from encouraging a space-cyber security industry that, beyond protecting against space-cyber threats, has the potential to be a significant growth engine.

About the Author

Eytan Tepper is research coordinator and lecturer, space governance, at the Graduate School of International Studies, Laval University.