Deliberate disruption of UK space systems and space-based services

Impact 5
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ID 61
Risk theme Conflict and instability
Impact & Likelihood
Impact key
5 Catastrophic
4 Significant
3 Moderate
2 Limited
1 Minor
Likelihood key
5 >25%
4 5-25%
3 1-5%
2 0.2-1%
1 <0.2%


The UK relies on a broad range of space capabilities every day. These include infrastructure in orbit and on the ground, the people that operate it, and the applications and services that run on it.

Secure global communications are key to our ability to protect and defend and support high-speed connectivity to remote and rural communities. Satellite-derived position, navigation and timing signals underpin services such as banking and transportation, as well as almost all the UK’s critical national infrastructure (including energy, emergency services and healthcare) and defence operations. Space capabilities are already central to many basic and safety-critical civil functions, and this dependency on space will only increase.


The reasonable worst-case scenario is based on an attack on UK or allied space-based systems or services by a hostile state or a proxy. The attack would aim to further their economic, political or military objectives, while attempting to reduce the risk of attribution. There would be immediate and longer-term impacts on UK space systems and services, resulting in severe disruption to essential services downstream. These could include food and water, and financial market infrastructure and communications (both voice and data services).

Response capability requirements

Response capability requirements would depend on the attack method and how it impacted space-based infrastructure, ground- based facilities and essential radio frequency links. Cyber security measures, counter-jamming technology and interference detection capabilities could help to protect against an electronic attack. Space domain awareness would support attack attribution and impact assessment. The continued development of highly secure and resilient space-based services would reduce the potential impact to the UK’s most critical defence and security functions. Collaboration with international partners offers further opportunities to enhance the overall resilience of our collective space capabilities. We should also exploit the potential offered by alternative infrastructure and service solutions (such as terrestrial-based navigation and timing systems).


Recovery timelines would depend on the attack method and how it impacted space-based infrastructure, ground-based facilities and essential radio frequency links. For temporary and reversible disruption to space assets, recovery timelines could be measured in minutes. However, a permanently damaged satellite could take years to replace.