The emerging space warfighting doctrine that will adhere to concepts in the U.S. Space Force’s Spacepower: Doctrine for Space Forces last year may include maneuver warfare to decrease the predictability of U.S. satellite orbits and increase deterrence against potential adversary nations.

“We are only at the beginning of really formulating space warfighting doctrine–what does it mean,” Lt. Gen. John E. Shaw, the deputy commander of U.S. Space Command, told a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies Spacepower forum on Dec. 10.

“That doctrine formulation is not limited to U.S. Space Command–meaning joint space doctrine, or [U.S.] Space Force docrine,” he said. “All the services, I think, are going to continue to hone and build their space doctrine.”

The U.S. Army, for example, has put forward its thoughts on space operations. The Army announced last spring that the service had approved the Abbreviated Capabilities Development Document (A-CDD) for the Tactical Space Layer effort, allowing the program to move into rapid experimentation as it seeks to synchronize tactical space-based sensors with supporting ground-based equipment aimed at reducing the sensor-to-shooter timeline (Defense Daily, April 19).

“This doctrine that will eventually arrive in the space domain that’s derived from the physics of that domain is more different from all of the other domains than these domains are different from each other,” Shaw said on Dec. 10. “It’s just a hypothesis I would put out there. It’s just a different environment altogether.”

The concepts of space superiority, space control, and space denial of adversaries may lead to the means to achieve space maneuver.

“Satellites in orbit–the best analogy is that they’re like castles,” Shaw said. “We can predict where they’re going to be. They’re actually static in the space domain even though they’re moving physically. It’s when maneuver happens, and your energy configuration changes and how rapidly are you doing that and in what directions where we really start to talk about maneuver, and that makes things more difficult to track in the space domain. It provides more uncertainty for an adversary. How do we develop that doctrine? We’re just beginning to explore that. There’s some great thinking over the past 20, even 30, years on what space warfighting doctrine would look like.”

Anti-satellite tests by Russia and China have led to some postulation that the U.S. should explore nuclear thermal propulsion for satellites, in addition to building large constellations of small satellites and hardening U.S. satellites against attacks.