Space Has Become Fourth Dimension of Warfare: Satheesh Reddy, Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister


Bengaluru: Terming space as the fourth dimension of warfare, Satheesh Reddy, scientific advisor to Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, has said that a lot of military-related and defence-related activities have already started in the space domain.

He was speaking at the three-day international workshop on Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and Space Traffic Management (STM) here, jointly organised by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Astronautical Society of India (ASI).

“Earlier, we used to have only land, air and sea but now space has become the fourth dimension of warfare. So a lot of military-related and defence-related activities have already started in a big way in the space domain. This is leading to a lot of increasing activities in space,” he said.

The proliferation of multiple large constellations of satellites is also anticipated to contribute to the drastic rise in the population density of space objects. In this context, scientists from ISRO say that Space Situational Awareness (SSA) and Space Traffic Management (STM) have become an integral and indispensable part of safe and sustainable space operations. The workshop aims to bring out the potentially detrimental effects of the increasing number of space objects and deliberate on the methods, procedures, technologies, and policies that need to be developed and implemented to continue long-term sustainable utilisation of outer space.

Reddy stressed the importance of space traffic management and called for laws and mechanisms for the purpose.

“Space situational awareness is a comprehensive knowledge of the population of space objects. There are various aspects of it which include having knowledge of adversaries’ space activities and surveillance of all space objects and space activities. Debris in space is created by artificial space objects like rocket bodies used to launch satellites, inactive satellites and materials released during mission operations. Comets and asteroids are natural space objects which create debris in space. Several spacecraft, both crewed and uncrewed, have been damaged or destroyed by space debris,” he said while adding that the measurement, mitigation and potential removal of debris require the effective application of space situational awareness.

At present, a robust space situational awareness capability is an essential prerequisite to continue safe and sustainable operations in an increasingly congested outer space, ISRO officials said on the occasion.

ISRO chairman S Somanath said that at present, India’s space object detection, tracking and monitoring capabilities are limited and called for the need to enhance them to meet future requirements.

“Software and analytical tools and observational capability need to be worked upon. We have been working in this area for quite some time. We need to convince policymakers to invest in this sector and create the backbone of the infrastructure, which is essential for the domain,” Somanath added.

The ISRO chairman said that in the next one to two years, “we will be creating a roadmap for this sector so that we can have a strong sense of space situational awareness and space traffic management”.

Dr Pawan Kumar Goenka, chairman of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), said, “Number of space objects will increase to 60,000 by 2030 from about 4,500 active space objects now. Therefore, the space traffic may become as bad as Bangalore or Mumbai or New York City. So what we are doing today for space traffic management may not be enough in 2030 and a lot more has to be done. I look at space debris as global warming. It doesn’t matter who is causing it but everyone pays a price for it.”

The workshop also aims to offer a unique networking platform where Indian industries and Start-ups can interact with foreign original equipment manufacturers and industries providing SSA and STM services and explore future avenues of collaboration towards developing indigenous capabilities to offer space object tracking and monitoring services.