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Space Power as Force Multiplier



1. The Space has always been a great matter of interest to human race, which gazed and tried to explore this cosmic world for thousands of years. Even our own epics talk a lot about space and its utilisation. However, Science flourished during the European Renaissance and fundamental physical laws governing planetary motion were discovered, and the orbits of the planets around the Sun were calculated. The Chinese were the first to develop a rocket in around 1212 AD. In 1883, a Russian schoolmaster, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, first explained the mechanics of how a rocket could fly into space.[4]. Since then exploration and exploitation of the space has been a continued effort. This led to the unfolding of mysteries of the space world and thus using it for own advantages.
2. Military use of space started with the launch of an American reconnaissance satellite in 1960.[6].
3. The phenomenal utilization and exploitation of the space medium has finally provided the users the power to gain advantage over the enemy. Traditionally, power has been related to explosive ordinance and target destruction. But in the post-Cold War world, the “power” most often delivered by airmen has taken the form of humanitarian aid: food, medical supplies, and heavy equipment.[8]. The meteorological satellites provide accurate weather data from any part of the world. Thus in past few years, space-based systems have enabled dramatic improvement in military and intelligence operations thus enhancing its capability, accuracy and fire power. Thus the Space medium emerging as Space Power and the most effective and widely used force multiplier.


Statement Of Problem

4. To study and analyse the feasibility of Space Power to evolve as a frontline force multiplier for India and to critically examine the road ahead.

Justification Of Study

5. India’s achievement in the field of space capability may not seem to be very advanced especially when compared with the accomplishments of the superpowers and elite members of the satellite club. However, one needs to look at the Indian space programme in isolation to fully understand the tremendous progress and achievements that have been made from such a humble beginning.
6. All the countries have developed launch vehicles as an offshoot of their ballistic missile projects, and their satellites were primarily intended for military use. Non- military applications were a spinoff of the military programmes, whereas India has developed space applications and launch vehicles for totally civilian use. The technology was also used within a broader framework to achieve socio-economic development, and military spin-offs have been incidental. Therefore, India has an inherent advantage as far as civilian support role is concerned however it needs special effort and attitude to develop military support application. Utilization of Space medium and Control of space based assets will be an important ingredient of future world power. President APJ Kalam has stated that accomplishments in space have traditionally been a barometer of international status, technological prowess and enhanced military capability. Rapid advancements in Information Technology, Internet and Communications are increasingly utilising space based assets. These assets play a decisive role in shaping the outcome of conflicts and are engines that drive economic growths. India and China are likely to be the economic powerhouses of the 21st Century. India is also emerging as a key balancer of Asian stability. By its combined military and space technology, India would be required to contain regional conflicts and prevent unscrupulous exploitation of the Indian Ocean region[9]. Therefore development of space power both for military and civilian use, especially as a force multiplier is must to climb up the pyramid of world power.
7. Perceptions determine actions. The military’s perception of the air and space environment influences the type of space forces it will develop in the future[10]. Therefore we need to decide the kind of space force which we need to develop to exploit Space medium to the maximum as a force multiplier to maintain edge in the region.


8. This study analyses the exploitation of Space Force as a force multiplier in the Indian Context.

Methods Of Data Collection

9. The information and data for this dissertation has been gathered through internet, various books, papers, journals and newspapers. In addition, lectures delivered by dignitaries at DSSC have been utilised to gather information. The bibliography of sources is appended at the end of the dissertation.

Organisation Of The Dissertation

10. It is proposed to study the subject in the following manner:-
(a) Chapter I Introduction and Methodology.
(b) Chapter II Understanding Space power.
(c) Chapter III Roles and Application of Space Power.
(d) Chapter IV Space Power as Force Multiplier.
(e) Chapter V Indian Capability and the Road Ahead.
(f) Chapter VI Recommendations and Conclusion.



The beginning of wisdom is calling things by their right names.


1. Space has fascinated many thinkers, philosophers and Air Warriors equally for a long time. Many a researches and money has gone in exploring and exploiting space but still the concepts are not very clear to many of us. It is extremely important for us to have clear understanding of space before we can evaluate the role and utilization of space medium.


2. Space

Space is void of substance, offers no protection from harmful radiation, and allows only the balance between thrust and gravity with which to maneuver.[14]

3. Escape Velocity

Satellites maintain orbit around a planet (Earth in our case) at a particular speed at a given height. If the speed is increased, the satellite goes into a higher orbit. Escape velocity is the speed at which the centrifugal force becomes greater than the pull of planetary gravity. The object would then cease to be an Earth-satellite, and start moving away from the earth. At 500 km the escape velocity is 10.8 km/sec.[15]

4. Satellite Inclination

Every satellite orbits within a plane that passes through Earth’s gravitational centre. The angle formed between that plane and that of the Earth’s equator, measured on its north bound pass over the equator, is known as satellite ‘inclination’. Orbits with inclination at or closer to 90 degrees are known as ‘polar’ orbits. ‘Equatorial’ orbits are those in or very close to the plane of the equator. The rest, between these two limits, are ‘inclined’ orbits. The combination of the satellite’s own motion and that of the rotating planet beneath produces a ‘ground track’ joining the successive points on the planet which fall directly beneath the satellite. The surface area of the planet in line-of-sight or direct communication with any satellite is a function of its altitude and ground track. In the lowest feasible orbits, the area that can be ‘seen’ by satellite sensors is no more than that of one of Earth’s larger cities.

5. Decay

With a perfectly spherical planet of even density, no air resistance, and no minute gravitational pulls from neighbouring bodies (such as Sun, the Moon, and the other planets), a satellite would stay in orbit forever. In the real world these factors upset the balance of forces which sustains the orbit, which causes it to ‘decay’, so that the satellite eventually falls to the Earth. For practical purposes, satellites which go below 300 km encounter air resistance serious enough to require intermittent use of on-board boosters to maintain their orbits.[16]

6. Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

This orbit ranges from a height of 200 and 5000 km. Polar and highly inclined orbits are favoured for general reconnaissance missions since they give planet-wide coverage. The periods of such range between 90 minutes and a few hours.

7. Semi-synchronous Orbit

This is circular orbit at 20,700 km with a period of 12 hours. The term is sometimes extended to all orbits between LEO and this orbit.

8. Molniya Orbit

This is a highly elliptical orbit, at an altitude of between 500 – 40000 km, with a 12 hour period. This orbit is most stable at an inclination of 63 degrees. (At other inclinations gravitational anomalies resulting from irregularities in the shape and density of the planet cause the major axis of such an orbit – the line joining the apogee and the perigee points – to rotate inconveniently.) This orbit was used by the Soviet Union to provide satellite spending 11 hours out of 12 hours above the northern hemisphere.[17]

9. Geostationary Orbit (GEO)

This is a circular, equatorial orbit at an altitude of 35,700 km. With a period of 24 hours, such satellites appear to remain almost stationary above a fixed point over the equator. In practice, they sometimes describe a very small ‘figure of eight’ ground tracks about such a point. Three or more evenly spaced geostationary satellites can cover most of the planet, except the Polar Regions. These satellites are mainly used for communications or early warning of missiles.

10. Geosynchronous Orbit

This orbit is also circular and inclined and is at an altitude of 35,700 km. This orbit has little military or other uses because of its large ‘figure of eight’ ground tracks, depending on its inclination. In military discussions the term ‘geostationary’, is tending to be replaced by ‘geosynchronous’, because the former is the limiting case of the latter. Even a small inclination causes a geostationary satellite to become a ‘strictly speaking’ geosynchronous one. Military geostationary satellites may sometimes have a use for such a ground track, though seldom for the much wider, true geosynchronous orbit.[18]

11. Super-synchronous Orbit

The orbits above GEO have had little use so far, but offer many options for future military satellites taking refuge from ground based or LEO anti-satellites. Certain points of equilibrium between solar, lunar and terrestrial gravitation are especially interesting.[19]

12. Near-Earth Orbit (NEO)

or aerospace extends 50 to 200 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, incorporating the mesosphere and the lower edge of the ionosphere in an intermediate region where aerodynamics and ballistics interact or succeed each other. In the short term, NEO will remain the primary location for the deployment of manned and unmanned military systems and probable major space industrialization facilities such as a manned space operations center (SOC)[22].

13. The cislunar zone

consists of all space between NEO and Lunar Surface Orbit (LSO), including Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO). The cislunar zone provides military systems situated here the defensive option of a longer reaction time to implement countermeasures against Earth- or NEO-based intervention[23].

14. LSO

consists of the zone of space where the Moon orbits the Earth, including Near Lunar Orbit (NLO) or the space immediately surrounding the Moon.

15. The translunar zone

is comprised of the space from LSO to approximately one million kilometers from the Earth’s surface, where the solar gravity well begins to predominate and includes the five Lagrangian points. These final zones will attain increasing military significance as the process of space industrialization evolves. Eventually the Moon and Lagrangian points could be used to dominate the entire Earth-Moon system.[24]

16. Outer Space

In the denomination of legal material dealing with the space exploration and nearly the entire space law, the term ‘outer space’ is commonly used. But this term has not been defined to date with precision despite many attempts undertaken by jurists, International non-governmental and the United Nations bodies[26].

17. The tactical space environment

The tactical space environment of the Earth-Moon system can be conceptualized as a series of gravity well zones that are somewhat analogous to terrestrial hills, promontories, and mountains in that much effort and energy must be initially expended to situate forces in such locations. Once attained, however, these positions can be used to dominate the terrain below with relative ease. Figure 1 illustrates in two-dimensional form the gravity well zones of the Earth-Moon system, which are in reality three dimensional spheres[27].
18. During the next two decades, military space activities and the development of various commercial space enterprises (or “space industrialization”) will be primarily restricted to this system. Possible military missions in this tactical environment include direct intervention on the Earth’s surface form space, regulation of the flow of space traffic, protection of military and industrial space facilities, denial of strategic areas of space to others (such as choice satellite orbits at Geosynchronous Earth Orbit and the various Lagrangian points at which objects revolve with the same period as the gravitational Earth-Moon system and thus remain effectively stationary), and various surveillance, reconnaissance, navigation, command, control, and communication functions[28].


19. The space power being the latest addition to the force of a Nation, there is still a huge dilemma about its placement, its use whether military or civilian and also its control. Currently, a fully developed space power theory does not exist. USSPACECOM, recognizing the void, has commissioned Dr. Brian R. Sullivan as lead author to develop this theory.[29] Therefore there is requirement to develop a fully fledged theory and doctrine to guide the developed of space power straight from its infancy.
20. Space is the next great arena for exploration and exploitation. We are limited only by imagination to the wonders, challenges and excitement the next century will bring as far as space forces are concerned. Already, civil and commercial sectors have invested billions of dollars in space and the nation’s military recognizes its role to protect these interests. The debate within the military on how to best exploit this new medium continues. But there is a need to go over few of the basic issues about Space Power to understand it clearly. The military’s current view of the air and space environment seems to simultaneously focus on opposing relationships between the two mediums. Air and space represent two distinct realms and at the same time, they are difficult to separate because of their similarities. These two relationships exist simultaneously and come together to form the following organizational paradigm of the air and space environment: Space and the atmosphere represent two distinct medium environments physically different from each other; while at the same time, they are physically linked, and theoretically and historically tied.[31].
21. First of the issue, is regarding direct use of space as a Space power or weaponising of space to use it as a force itself. We must determine whether space power “apply great power quickly to any tangible target on the planet”? Many people would answer no to this question because of political restraints on weaponising space. Others would argue for an affirmative answer based on technical, if not political, feasibility. In either case, the question concerning the applicability of the essence remains assumed but undemonstrated. Or perhaps there exists a space power version of the essence that differs from all other military operations, including air power[32]. Also there are concerns regarding the future of space power and the kinds of military operations that are likely to migrate to space. Space may become another “battle space,” or it may become only a home to military operations focussed on non-lethal activities in support of combat elsewhere. So the major concern is whether space will be used as direct source of force or will continued to be used as a force multiplier only.
22. Why does the military need a space force? The answers to this question shape military space force development by providing a sense of long-term direction, describing how such a force would serve national interests, and prescribing a force structure to fulfill that need. They are foundational answers that ultimately form the basis for space power theory and enable the military to articulate and justify reasons for a military space force. As the military more clearly articulates why space forces are needed, the better it is able to identify specific requirements necessary to achieve those forces. Thus, this question and the next are closely tied together[33].
23. What should the military do in space? The answers to this question bring the focus from broad to specific. They help formulate the functions and missions of a military space force, and provide the framework for establishing detailed force requirements. To summarize, the answers to the question of who establish the advocates for a military space force development. The answers to the questions of why and what together develop and identify long term direction, and offer short-term input to the resource allocation process.[34]
24. The next issue is to do with the control of space power. This will mainly emerge from our innovation, imagination and farsightedness. Air Power being the strongest contender of claiming the control of space, there is need to deeply study the relationship between Space power and Air Power. This relationship can be well understood only by defining and studying the relationship between space and Air. Who should lead and develop military space forces? This question addresses the need to focus on finding the best organization, or mix of organizations, to advocate a military space force. Military space advocates must be able to justify—on military grounds alone—the necessity of military forces in space. These organizations are the stewards that provide both administrative control over the forces that support military space power, and the war-fighting control of these forces during employment of that power. A space force advocate embraces and promotes the ideals for a military space force, and garners the support necessary to establish such a force[35].

Air and Space relationship

25. The defining characteristic of air power is an operational regime ele­vated above the earth’s surface. Conceptually, space power would seem to be more of the same at a higher elevation. The term aerospace, coined in the late 1950s, echoes this same theme, as do official pronouncements such as “although there are physical differences between the atmosphere and space, there is no absolute boundary between them. The same basic military activities can be performed in each, albeit with different platforms and methods.”[38]
26. Conceptually thinking, we cannot easily ignore the vast differences between operations in the atmosphere and in space? Current military thought suggests that space is a medium separate and distinct from the atmosphere with physical characteristics unique enough that a barrier forms between the two. The atmosphere is a realm of substance offering the advantages of protection from radiation, thermal transfer of heat and the ability to produce and control lift and drag. These aspects of the air medium make it considerably different than the realm of space.[40]
27. It is difficult to analyse these and many more issues dealing with space without a general, overarching theory of space power. The task is made even more difficult by several other factors, such as the limited experience base in military space operations, the tight security classification concerning much of what goes on in space, and the thoroughly sub-divided responsibility for space operations. Thus, we have a conundrum-a jig-saw puzzle that will someday picture how space power fits or doesn’t fit with air power. Solving the puzzle represents a major leadership challenge.[42]


Air and space power is a critical—and decisive—element in protecting our nation and deterring aggression. It will only remain so if we as professional airmen study, evaluate, and debate our capabilities and the environment of the future. Just as technology and world threat and opportunities change, so must our doctrine. We, each of us, must be the articulate and knowledgeable advocates of air and space power.
—General Michael E. Ryan


Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the changes in the character of war not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after the changes occur.
Guilio Douhet
1. Man has a compelling urge to explore, to discover and to try to go where no one has ever been before. As most of the Earth has already been explored and even though it is going to be there for a very long time, men have now turned to space exploration as their next objective.[43]
2. Thus as we race into the next decade, a new frontier seems to be opening up in space with vast potential for military, science and exploration activities. So far as the armed forces are concerned, like the sensor technology, satellites would provide them with unheard-of capabilities in a large number of fields.[44]
4. Today, events unfold before our eyes around the world as if we were there. We have advance warning of adverse weather as it develops. We can communicate with people 10 or 10,000 miles away with equal ease, and a small re­ceiver tells us our exact position and how fast we are moving in the air, on land, or at sea.
5. Space power is becoming an in­creasingly important aspect of na­tional strength, but experts disagree about how best to develop its poten­tial. Like airpower, space power relies heavily upon advanced technology, but technology is useless unless space professionals apply it properly. Air Force leaders recognize that the service needs to nurture a team of highly dedicated space professionals who are pre-pared to exploit advanced technologies and operating concepts. Today, space power pro­vides supporting functions such as commu­nications, reconnaissance, and signals from global positioning system (GPS) satellites— tomorrow, space may become the site of combat operations. Concern about the fu­ture direction of military activities in space has spurred debate over which technologies to produce and how best to develop space professionals. Moral, theoretical, and doc­trinal questions also loom large. Underlying all of these considerations are political and diplomatic factors[45].
6. New technologies move large amounts of data around the world at the speed of light. Al-though a century ago people would have con­sidered such feats science fiction, modern space capabilities make these, and so many more things, unquestionable facts. Space power has transformed our society and our military. Today, at the outset of the twenty-first century, we simply cannot live—or fight and win—without it.
7. Although many people refer to Operation Desert Storm as the first space war, it did not mark the first use of space capabilities during conflict. During the war in Vietnam, space sys­tems—communications and meteorological satellites—provided near-real-time data that was essential for combat operation The Gulf War of 1991, however, was the “first conflict in history to make comprehensive use of space systems support.” Since then, we have worked hard to integrate the high-tech advantages provided by speed-of-light space capabilities into all our forces—air, land, and sea. Those efforts significantly improved our American joint way of war, and they paid off during Op­eration Iraqi Freedom.
8. American forces led a coalition that set benchmarks for speed, precision, lethality, reach, and flexibility. As President George W. Bush said on 1 May 2003 aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, “Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of preci­sion and speed and boldness the enemy did not expect, and the world had not seen be-fore. From distant bases or ships at sea, we sent planes and missiles that could destroy an enemy division, or strike a single bunker.” In a matter of minutes—not hours, days, or weeks as in past wars—commanders identified and engaged targets and received timely battle damage assessment. Lt Gen T. Michael “Buzz” Moseley, the combined force air component commander, reinforced the role that space capabilities played when he said, “The satel­lites have been just unbelievably capable . . . supporting conventional surface, naval, spe­cial ops and air forces. They’ve made a huge difference for us.”
9. The need to protect ones own space assets, and if necessary attack those of the bad guy, will equally inevitably move the war in the air into space. The USAF already has an F15-borne anti-satellite system. Other potential systems include a co-orbital satellite equipped with an explosive warhead or anti-satellite mines.- For every offensive system deployed, a potential adversary whose finances permit this sort of warfare, would have to field a defensive mechanism. This level of Star Wars may be beyond most nations. But the scope for information operations should not be underestimated – particularly against commercial satellites the performance information for which is readily available on the Internet.[46]

10. Supporting Role

11. Ocean reconnaissance

satellites can carry side-ways looking radars to enable them to locate ships and take other maritime measurements in all weather, and at all times of the day. Very precise satellite radars, using ‘synthetic aperture’ techniques, may shortly be able to measure the level of the sea so accurately that they would be able to detect passage of a submarine beneath it in some areas.[47]
12. The most commonly used sensor in satellites is the camera. The photo reconnaissance cameras on satellites are sensitive to em radiation with a wave length of between 0.004 mm to 0.007 mm and in the IR region of wave length between 0.3 mm and 3000 mm.[48]

13. Photo reconnaissance

satellites are the most important of reconnaissance satellites especially during peace time, and for monitoring conflicts around the world. Of all the satellites by China, USA and the erstwhile Soviet Union, about 40% have been used for photographic reconnaissance from LEO. Orbiting at altitudes as low as 200 km, some of these photo reconnaissance satellites are thought to resolve details smaller than 30 cm.[49] The Soviet satellites have a life span of between two weeks and two months. Until the early eighties their films were recovered only when the satellite was brought down, using re-entry trajectory and parachutes. Since they orbit below 200 km at their lowest point, they need regular boosting from on-board rockets to maintain orbit. It is believed that the digital film scanning and transmission is being used by the Russians now. In comparison the American LEO satellites have longer life spans than those of their Soviet counter-part. They are known to have been in orbit for several months and can return film capsules to earth by ejecting them over sea (near Hawaii). These are either caught by aircraft or picked up by a back up ship. Photographs can also be developed and scanned on board the satellite and the information relayed back to ground stations immediately by use of radio signals.

14. Early warning satellites

are equipped with infra-red detectors which can detect an ICBM, thereby providing the threatened country with a 30 minute warning. The United States has three geostationary early warning Defence Support Programme (DSP) satellites. One watches the Russian ICBM fields, and the other two the Pacific and Atlantic oceans for SLBM attacks. For geographical reasons, GEO was less attractive to the Soviet Union, and therefore they launched their early warning satellites in Molniya orbits. Complete coverage was obtained by a constellation of nine satellites, with shorter life spans than their American counter-parts. By ensuring the virtual impossibility of a surprise missile attack ‘out of the blue’, early warning satellites may be regarded as playing a stabilising role during peace time
15. These satellites have a dual character since during peace time they can help monitor the Limited Test Ban and Non-Proliferation Treaties by watching for above ground nuclear tests. The Unites States launched six successive pairs of super-synchronous Vela satellites for this purpose between 1963 and 1970. Designed at firs to operate for only six months, the first three pairs exceeded this limit by enormous margins, often working for nearly than 10 years.

Active Military Application

Space can be defined as the new battlefield after Land, Sea and Air. It is the final frontier or final goal, which every one desires to conquer or reach. Space is fast emerging as not only the new ‘Economic High Ground’ but also as the new military frontier of becoming a new ‘Strategic High Ground’.[50]
17. By the end of 1999, at least 2300 military oriented satellites have been launched. The functions of military satellites, which constitute about 75% of all satellites orbited, ranged from navigation, communications, meteorological and reconnaissance[51]. Space Based Lasers for Ballistic Missile Defense
18. Interest in utilizing space-based lasers (SBLs) for ballistic missile defense (BMD) arose when two facts emerged. First, ballistic missiles are relatively fragile and do not resist laser energy and secondly, chemical lasers could project missile killing amounts of energy over 3,000 kilometers. These two facts peaked political interest over the possibility of placing laser weapons in space. SBLs could be used to intercept ballistic missiles in their boost phase, thus dropping disabled missiles on an enemy’s own territory.
19. The Lethality of A Space-Based Laser
20. Delivering a high-intensity laser beam for a long enough time to disable a target is the objective of a laser weapon. Laser energy can damage missile boosters if the laser has a moderate intensity combined with a sustained dwell time on the booster, the laser will then burn through the missile skin. A 10 meter mirror with a hydrogen fluoride (HF) laser beam would yield a 0.32 micro radian divergence angle and create a laser spot 1.3 meters in diameter at a range of 4,000 meters. The distribution of 20 MW over the laser spot would create an energy flux of 1.5 kilowatts per square centimeter (kW/cm2). The laser spot would need to dwell on the target for 6.6 seconds to create the nominal lethal energy of 10 kilojoules per square centimeter (kJ/cm2).[56] Penetration deeper than this would not be required since the laser would not be in a position to attack missiles in flight until they had reached this altitude. Also, clouds could obscure the booster below a ceiling of 10 kilometers.
Table 1: Requirements for several laser weapons

ASAT Space ASAT Ground Space-based BMD
Laser type chem (HF) chem (DF) chem (HF)
Laser wavelength 2.7:m 3.8:m 2.7:m
Laser location space ground space
Target distance 3,000km 10km 3,0

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