Disruption of space-based services

Impact 5
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risk indicator
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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%


Space-based services such as satellite communication and remote sensing technology are components of the UK’s critical national infrastructure (CNI) that enable many essential services to function. Damage to any of these technologies would have a severe effect on multiple sectors, with strategies to help mitigate damage or disruption including the removal of debris from orbit, setting up alternative terrestrial-based services, and developing space situational awareness.


The reasonable worst-case scenario assumes that the collision of debris with a satellite produces a debris field that collides with and disrupts other satellites. This would cause a cascade of debris that impacts other satellites and creates further debris. A wide range of space-enabled services would be disrupted or disabled. The disruption to space operations would severely impact the space sector economy. Similarly, essential services such as financial market infrastructure, communications, government services, emergency services and transport infrastructure would be impacted due to their reliance on space sector technologies.

Key assumptions

It is assumed that the chance of any debris fragment hitting the UK is extremely unlikely.


Variations include severe space weather disruption to services and a malicious attack on space infrastructure. These variations would generate similar impacts to space-based services on the ground, albeit with differences in scale, depth and duration.

Response capability requirements

Robust resilience and identification of backup systems for CNI that relies on space-based services would be required. There also would need to be strong space situational awareness nationally to task sensors on to specific incidents, and globally to deliver a persistent environmental picture for operators. Coupled with this, an enhanced National Space Operations Centre would be required to provide tracking and monitoring data, warnings and reports, and supporting response and recovery measures to protect government equities in the space domain.


Recovery would depend on debris dispersal, with potential impacts on future space operations and associated businesses.