LONDON – British Defence Ministry has warned that outer space is the next major target for terrorist organisations like al Qaeda intending to take advantage of reduced costs to acquire their own satellites to cause massive privacy and security damage, foreign media reported on Saturday.
The ministry’s Development Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) – that has identified key strategic trends that Britain needs to be concerned about over the next 30 years – has released a dire warning that by 2045 or earlier, criminal organisations will be able to secure payload space on rockets operated by private companies – this would allow them to launch their own surveillance satellites, potentially threatening individual and corporate privacy.
According to the ministry, the increasing reliance on space technologies generates widespread vulnerabilities which are likely to increase in the future. “Criminals and other actors with malign intent may increasingly exploit space-based capabilities, particularly as access becomes cheaper. Already, those who wish to discover weaknesses in the security arrangements of sensitive infrastructure can buy high resolution imagery from companies that operate earth observation spacecraft,” the report said.
The military activity in developed countries has come to rely on space-derived services, a trend that is likely to increase out to 2045. If space capabilities were lost, modern armed forces could be without many of the advantages that they currently enjoy. A lack of strategic communications would make direct command and control links impossible, hampering coordination with military partners and making most remotely-piloted air systems inoperable.
Early warning systems would be compromised, removing the ability to provide warnings of ballistic missile launches or to track and monitor missiles in flight. Navigation would be more difficult, relying on maps and compasses – and it is even possible that compasses would not function properly if the Earth's magnetic field was sufficiently disrupted. Collateral damage may increase, as precision-strike capabilities disappear, the media reported.
The ministry points to the fact that the traditional view of a satellite as a large, expensive object is being increasingly challenged by the use of ever-smaller devices – nicknamed cubesats which are no larger than 10cm and weighing as little as a kilogram. Small satellites usually operate in low-earth orbits and take advantage of commercial off-the-shelf components to reduce production costs and development times. Up to 543 cubesats and microsatellities (up to 50kg in weight) could be launched in 2020.