The UK military space primer

An introduction to potential military uses of space.


The UK military space primer provides an introduction to potential military uses of space and to the physical principles and constraints that enable and restrict them.

It complements references to military space applications included in documents such as the future air and space operating concept and UK air and space power doctrine. It also provides an introduction to strategic thinking on space and an outline of how various space-faring nations organise to exploit space.

The UK military space primer emerged from the updating of the future air and space operating concept during 2008 to 2009, and the accompanying awareness of the growing dependence of many aspects of modern life on capability delivered from and through space. These factors highlighted the need for an accessible introduction to the principles that underpin all space flight applications, be they military, civil or commercial.

The primer is in 4 chapters, covering the space environment, orbits, launchers and satellite design; legal issues; space applications (principally from a military standpoint) and finally how military space relates to other users requirements and activities. Chapter 4 also outlines some ideas about strategic thinking and space, and how the UK and its allies organise for space at the national and military strategic level.

Much of the reliance on space alluded to above has arisen unnoticed because of the transparent nature of the services provided. To this extent, the end user may feel they do not require a detailed insight into the underlying principles.

Any military reader, however, who aspires to be an intelligent customer for space, or who wants to think about how space capability can be incorporated into planning or operations in other environments needs to understand at least some of the content. Students of contemporary military affairs and more general readers interested in military space flight may also find it of interest.

The primer is well illustrated and extensively cross-referenced, principally to show how the fundamental physics of space flight influence all meaningful activity in space, but also to illustrate how apparently abstract ideas have very concrete implications. No mathematical or engineering background is assumed.

A bibliographic essay provides suggestions for further reading. The contents, index and use of annexes to isolate detail should allow readers to extract information on a particular topic without scanning the full text.