International Relations Space Strategy, Policy, and Power
Eligar Sadeh
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 July 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0080


The development of strategy by states serves and fulfills policy and links power to purpose. Policy provides a roadmap for the strategic goals that states pursue, including the pursuit of power. The focus of this OBO entry concerns strategy, policy, and power in the domain of outer space on the state level of analysis. Space strategy is directed to coordinate, integrate, and prioritize space activities across security, commercial, and civil sectors. Without strategy and policy, space activities continue to provide value but remain removed from the overall strategic picture of spacefaring states, and it becomes increasingly difficult to identify and execute policies and programs. Optimizing the use of space for power and for security, economic, civil, and environmental ends is essential, as dependence on (and use of) space is accelerating and space is increasingly integrated in the fabric of activities across all sectors and uses.


The literature on space strategy discusses intellectual foundations and applications related to space activities (Dolman 2002, Johnson-Freese 2007, Klein 2006, Snead 2008). Creating strategy is not an easy task, as it must serve broader and more diverse interests than policy. Most of the attempts at space strategy are not really strategy. In fact, strategy rarely informs us on how to get from where we are today to where we want to be in the future—especially in light of rapid developments in technology and politics. Since there is the necessity to constantly adapt to changing circumstances, strategy development is more of a mind-set and way to think than anything else. Further, strategy does not necessarily solve problems related to the uses of space, especially strategy that cannot be accomplished politically within a reasonable timeframe. Concomitantly, strategy must focus on the entire range of space activities and move away from the tendency to solely address military and security related space activities (Sadeh 2010). There are a number of issues regarding strategy that are identified in the literature: developing consensus around a common theme, accounting for the reactions of space actors, mitigating resource constraints by prioritizing space at the national-level and by stimulating commercial development, and providing for sustainable uses of space and effective space governance of common problems such as orbital debris, spectrum use, and orbital slot allocations (Sadeh 2010). To further complicate matters, consensus that strategy is necessary is not sufficient for its formulation and implementation, as there is the need for political will and a process for strategic thinking (Moltz 2010). Political will is essential to define strategy, which is ultimately about the policy interests to be fulfilled. A process for strategic thinking can break down “stove pipes” and make interests more transparent among constituents and organizations to facilitate strategy development. The literature emphasizes that strategy represents a common language and framework that allows for the realization of policy (Moltz 2010, Sadeh 2010, Wirtz 2009).

  • Dolman, Everett C. Astropolitik: Classical Geopolitics in the Space Age. London: Frank Cass, 2002.

    Dolman puts forward a geopolitical approach for space governance with the United States as the dominant power for ensuring norms and management of space as a peaceful and sustainable domain.

  • Johnson-Freese, Joan. Space as a Strategic Asset. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

    Johnson-Freese offers a strategic approach to space based on “soft power,” which includes developing space governance, expanding the “peaceful uses” of space as understood in the Outer Space Treaty, liberalizing space commerce, expanding commitments to human spaceflight and developing an inclusive space exploration global partnership among spacefaring states.

  • Klein, John J. Space Warfare: Strategy, Principles and Policy. Oxford: Routledge, 2006.

    Klein applies maritime strategy—linking of sea, land, military, and commercial objectives—to space issues. This entails space and national power and the interdependence between space and military operations; defending celestial lines of communications and strategic locations in space; and defense postures aimed at protection of space assets.

  • Moltz, Clay M. “Space and Strategy: A Conceptual Versus Policy Analysis.” Astropolitics 8.2–3 (2010): 113–136.

    DOI: 10.1080/14777622.2010.522935

    Moltz addresses the challenges dealing with the development of a comprehensive strategy for space. He argues that the key challenge lies in the reality that the conceptual demands for strategy are incongruous with the context of politics and policymaking.

  • Sadeh, Eligar. “Towards a National Space Strategy.” Astropolitics 8.2–3 (2010): 73–112.

    DOI: 10.1080/14777622.2010.522934

    Sadeh presents a report on the findings of a National Space Strategy Project. A number of topics important to the development of space strategy were indentified and discussed including intellectual foundations, political challenges, and specific issues that crosscut security, commercial, and civil space.

  • Snead, James Michael. “Spacefaring Logistics Infrastructure.” Astropolitics 6.1 (2008): 71–94.

    DOI: 10.1080/14777620801908200

    Snead focuses on how large-scale space industrial development over the long term is essential for realizing space-related strategic goals.

  • Wirtz, James J. “Space and Grand Strategy.” In Space and Defense Policy. Edited by Damon Coletta and Frances T. Pilch, 13–26. Oxford: Routledge, 2009.

    Wirtz addresses the factors that constitute a grand strategy for space. Space as a “geography of strategic interests” is explored in the context of the importance of space for national security.

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