NATO extends protection to space

by | Jun 16, 2021 | China, Military space, Russia, Space politics

A summit held in Brussels on 14 June has extended NATO’s overarching prerogative to the domain of space, which means that a space-based attack on one or more member nations is now considered an attack against them all. This focus was previously applied, by the 30 allied nations grouped within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to military attacks on land, on sea, in the air and, more recently, in cyberspace.

In a 79-paragraph communiqué – linked to here – following the meeting of the North Atlantic Council, the organisation made some 14 references to “space”, most of which were concentred in paragraph 33, which recognised “the growing importance of space for the security and prosperity of our nations and for NATO’s deterrence and defence”.

NATO extends protection to space


Importantly, it recognised that “attacks to, from or within space present a clear challenge to the security of the Alliance”, adding that they could threaten the prosperity, security and stability of member nations as much as a more conventional attack and “could lead to the invocation of Article 5”.

Specifically, Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty of April 1949 states that signatories “agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”. Each of them may exercise the “right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations” to provide assistance to the party under attack.

The communiqué also pledged to accelerate work to “deepen and expand our use of space as an operational domain” via the NATO Space Centre in Germany and the upcoming Space Centre of Excellence in France, the establishment of which it welcomed. Moreover, it promised to “strengthen NATO’s space domain awareness and better integrate space in our activities”, including training and exercises, resilience and innovation efforts.

It is interesting to view the statement from the Brussels summit in the context of rising geopolitical tensions between “the West” and nations such as China and Russia. It refers to “a time when the security environment we face is increasingly complex…[when]…We face multifaceted threats, systemic competition from assertive and authoritarian powers, as well as growing security challenges to our countries and our citizens from all strategic directions”. In fact, it pulls few political punches, making specific reference to “China’s growing influence” and “Russia’s aggressive actions”.

The NATO summit also coincides with increasing international interest in space sustainability, codes of conduct for space operations and the like. Its communiqué nods at  this with the statement that “We support the international efforts to promote responsible behaviour in space”.

The recent meeting of G7 leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the USA and the UK, (plus the EU), hosted in Cornwall from 11-13 June, pledged support for “the safe and sustainable use of space to support humanity’s ambitions now and in the future” and agreed to take action to tackle the growing hazard of debris in the “fragile and valuable environment” of Earth orbit. It also welcomed the United Nation’s Long Term Sustainability Guidelines and called on others to “join us in implementing these guidelines”.

Although space sustainability has been a topic of discussion among academics and technologists (including this writer) for decades, the importance of protecting the Earth’s orbital environment and the expanding sphere of the space domain has never been more relevant. It seems that ‘space – the fragile frontier’ is at last on the agenda.

About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned Seradata database. Trusted by over 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, Seradata is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to

Related Articles

Soyuz 2-1a launches Progress MS-23 cargo freighter to ISS

At 1256 GMT on 24 May 2023, a Soyuz-2-1a rocket was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome near Tyuratam, Kazakhstan. Aboard was Read more

China launches trio of sats into LEO for two universities

At 0800 GMT on 21 May China successfully launched a Long March 2C (CZ-2C) rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Read more

China launches first backup satellite for its BeiDou satellite navigation system

Launching at 0249 GMT on 17 May a CALT Long March 3B (CZ-3B) rocket has carried a Chinese BeiDou-3 satellite Read more

China’s mini-Shuttle lands after its second flight

After spending 276 days in orbit, China's unmanned mini-shuttle/spaceplane, dubbed the CSSHQ 1, landed on 8 May after its second Read more

Spacewalking cosmonauts relocate airlock on the ISS…as Crew 6 move their Dragon

On 3 May 2023 at 2000 GMT, Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin began another spacewalk. Their mission objective Read more

Third ISS EVA in 2023 completed by cosmonauts…after Soyuz MS-23 moved position

On 19 April 2023 at 0140 GMT, Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin began their EVA when they opened Read more

China launches Feng Yun 3G on Long March 4B

China successfully launched a Long March 4B from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre, China at 0136 GMT on 16 April. The Read more

Northrop Grumman building communications satellite for 2025 launch and US$2.4 billion military contract

Northrop Grumman is developing a geostationary communications satellite in a bid for a military contract worth US$2.4 billion. The aerospace Read more




nasaspacexecoreviewsissesaArianespacevideochina25virgin galacticfalcon 9ULARoscosmosDGAFalcon 9v1.2FT Block 5evaaviation weekspacewalkaressoyuzIGTBeidouawardsInternational Space StationspaceBlue OriginSatellite broadcastingrussiamoonStarlinkCargo Return VehicleRocket LabresearchboeingmarsblogAirbus DSOneWeborionISROimpacthyperbolamarsdelayjaxaspaceshiptwodemocratgoogle lunar prizerocketlunarhypertextobamaEutelsatlaunchVegatourismconstellationbarack obamafiguresSESnorthspaceflightthales alenia spacenode 2fundedRaymond LygoIntelsat2009romeAtlas VExpress MD-2dassault aviationss2Elon MuskLockheed MartinaviationLucy2008wk2sstlukradiotestmissilesuborbitaldocking portexplorationVirgin OrbitinternetAriane 5 ECAChina Manned Space EngineeringSLSsts-122missile defensenewspapercotsgalileospace tourismflight2010Ariane 5Express AMU 1spaceportbuildspace stationaltairNorthrop GrummanElectronshuttleProton Minternational astronautical congressscaled compositesIntelsat 23LauncherOneEuropean Space AgencyCosmoshanleybudgetrulesnew yorksoyuz 2-1aLong March 4CLong March 2D/2Ariane 6shenzhouspace shuttleVietnamatvboldencongressMojaveLong March 2Cnew shepardOrbital ATKGuiana Space CenteriaccnesksclawsSpace Systems/LoralUK Space AgencyInmarsatLong March 4BILSUS Air ForceprotonTalulah RileyApollodarpaSkylonAstriumlanderpictureeuusaastronautdragonbaselunar landerfiveeventVega CSSLAprilSNCinterview50thSea LaunchfalconWednesdaycustomerlinkLong Marchatlantissuccessor7TelesatSpace InsuranceKuaizhou 1AFalcon 9v1.2 Block 5