The Art of Thriving in Space: A Resilience Strategy for India’s Future in Space

  • Published
  • By Sqn Ldr Mohit Choudhary, Indian Air Force

Click here for PDF version.



This article discusses the need for India’s Department of Space (DOS) to develop a strategy of space resilience to increase the ease of military and commercial access to space and prepare for great-­power competition. The strategic environment affecting space includes external threats, emerging trends within the space domain, and the characteristics of the domestic space ecosystem. The article defines space resilience, examines its constituent concepts, and connects space resilience to commercial growth, deterrence, and great-­power competition. Furthermore, it anticipates implicit risks in the strategy of space resilience. The article recommends that the DOS adopts a strategy of space resilience to create a flexible, responsive, and affordable space ecosystem with a robust industrial base to preserve access to space and deter an adversary from attempting to negate the use of space. The application of space-­resilience concepts offers significant commercial and military advantages, such as widening the industrial base, creating a modular commercial off-­the-­shelf market, and simplifying launch technology.



Space strategist John J. Klein argues that the purpose of space strategy is to ensure access to and use of space. He also emphasizes that the interconnected concepts of mission assurance and resilience are essential to achieving this goal.1 With the democratization and commercialization of space, the need to retain access is increasingly crucial. Aspiring countries like India must leverage new avenues of growth offered by the commercialization of space to develop a functional space architecture that increases the ease of military and commercial access to space. This strategy of space resilience will enable India’s Department of Space (DOS)—as a super-­governing body for all space activities— to prepare India for great-­power competition.

To begin, this article briefly analyzes the strategic environment. Following Harold R. Winton’s concept of military theory, it defines space resilience and examines its constituent concepts. Next, it connects space resilience to commercial growth, deterrence, and great power competition. Finally, it anticipates implicit risks in the strategy. 2

The strategic space environment encompasses external threats, emerging trends within the space domain, and the characteristics of the domestic space ecosystem. Examining the external threat environment, President Xi Jinping has stated that space activities are crucial to the “China Dream.”3 Additionally, Chinese thinking suggests that adversaries’ reliance on space makes space assets and infrastructure a critical target.4 As a result, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has developed a plethora of hard- and soft-­kill space weapons.5 Moreover, the PRC identifies cyberspace attacks as the most potent form of combat, with the cyberattack force as the lead agency.6 Pakistan’s possession of ballistic missiles and the import of sensitive tracking technology from the PRC means it can threaten India’s space assets.7 Furthermore, nonstate actors pose a significant threat in space due to the easy availability of cyberweapons and difficulty attributing attacks within the domain.

The contemporary space strategy must consider the emerging trends in the space environment. In addition to natural environmental concerns, the most significant challenge is the issue of space debris. Kessler’s syndrome predicts that self-­perpetuating space debris can render space inaccessible.8 Furthermore, despite the vastness of space, chokepoints and high-­value positions have emerged, such as orbital slots, frequency spectrums, and Lagrange points, which hold enormous commercial and military value.9 Additionally, the pursuit of space-­based resources and energy abundance has sparked a new space race, leading state actors to develop cooperative regimes to harness space for their societies’ advancement.10 The unprecedented proliferation of commercial actors in space has revolutionized industry competition, making it difficult for India to compete.

The Indian space ecosystem faces several challenges. Currently, India’s space sector is entirely dependent on the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), which has long operational timelines and uses outdated technology. India has significant shortages in military satellite capabilities in fields such as communications, earth observation, and ELINT.11 Moreover, existing capabilities are concentrated in a handful of LEO satellites, making them high-­reward targets for adversaries. This concentration of space assets can lead to strategic blindness if these assets are attacked. Also, the existing revisit time of systems is higher, which can hamper time-­critical ISR activities.12 Commercially, ISRO shares technology with industry partners; however, a single-­customer situation leads to negligible growth and a lack of institutional investments.13 Furthermore, there is no legislative framework to support the expansion of the industry and enable the commercial exploitation of space resources.14 The overarching limitation for India’s future space trajectory is budget constraints unless the industry becomes self-­sustaining.

According to a study by the RAND Corporation, space resilience refers to enhancing mission assurance in a contested space environment.15 It also involves minimizing downtimes despite hostile actions and adverse conditions.16 Considering the strategic environment, the DOS must adopt a space resilience strategy to establish a flexible, responsive, and affordable space ecosystem with a robust industrial base. This strategy will help ensure access to space and deter adversaries from attempting to disrupt its use. By doing so, India can better prepare for great-­power competition, commercially and militarily.

Space resilience is based on the concept of disaggregation, which involvesseparating space capabilities across multiple systems, platforms, and orbital planes to enhance mission success despite hostile action and adverse events.17 A meticulously planned disaggregated architecture can distribute the space assets and services into multiple orbital planes and frequency spectrums, potentially decrowding chokepoints. Disaggregation can also reduce the complexity, improve the maintainability and affordability of space systems, and enhance resilience through distribution and diversification.18 According to Klein, utilizing multiple nodes or ground segments—well-­displaced—to achieve the same mission will eliminate a single high-­value target.19 Similarly, diversifying capabilities into numerous adaptable and interoperable systems can ensure availability despite hostile action. A prime example is a PNT system, with multiple space satellites and ground stations providing an expanded target set to an adversary. Additional resiliency measures include cyber and jamming protection, hosting military payloads in civilian systems, and creating indistinguishable platforms.

The application of space resiliency concepts offers significant advantages to both the commercial and military sectors. Instead of relying on large, complex architectures of a few satellites, the DOS can explore smaller, more flexible designs that incorporate better technology refresh rates and shorter system fielding timelines.20 Simpler constellations can widen the industrial base beyond the existing narrow pool, allowing India’s military space requirements to be met quickly through commercial vendors other than the ISRO and creating a modular COTS market. Affordable systems will benefit India’s commercial launch industry by providing a stable demand signal from the government and commercial customers. Smaller payloads simplify launch technology, lowering entry barriers and making the indigenous space industry more competitive. Increased capital inflows into the commercial sector will improve independent research in space technologies, such as reusable launch vehicles, space resource extraction, in-­space servicing, manufacturing, and so forth. If the space ecosystem can take over the routine industry loads and become self-­sustaining, it will allow the ISRO to focus on exploratory missions and equitably distribute the commercial benefits of space throughout society.

Expanding into space requires a significant capital investment, which is challenging for India’s armed forces due to budgetary constraints. However, adopting less complex systems can reduce risks with technology development, shorten procurement timelines, and reduce cost overruns. Currently, the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force operate just one dedicated communication satellite each.21 By diversifying the capabilities across multiple smaller systems and hosting the military payloads onto civilian satellites, India can reduce launch and operating costs, complicate the enemy’s targeting calculus, and mitigate the effects of an attack.22 Ground segments also require resiliency—such as hardened and distributed control stations, cyber-­protected networks, and multiple space launch centers—to strengthen the overall military space capabilities. Additionally, space resiliency can amplify space deterrence by denying the benefit of a space attack. Multiple smaller systems distributed across platforms and orbits can complicate the targeting calculus, and simpler space systems enable rapid reconstitution capabilities, reducing service downtime and the efficacy of an attack.23 Collaborating with capable partners against a common adversary can further enhance deterrence through entanglement and raises the barrier of an attack.24

The strategy of space resilience is well-­suited for India’s participation in great-­power competition. First, by increasing India’s presence in space, space resilience can help accelerate its emergence as a major space power, allowing New Delhi to gain influence in the international space community and influence policies in its favor. In the context of coercion being used as a tool of state policy in great-­power competition, India’s increased presence in space will enable it to resist coercion effectively and even force aggressors to pay heed to its requirements.25 Second, as Klein suggests, diplomacy and alliances can be effective tools for emerging space powers.26 Entanglement is a key component of space resiliency, and it can make India an attractive partner for different poles of the great-­power competition, providing New Delhi with vital leverage. Lastly, in the context of Space 2.0, with states intensively competing for the space industry, space resiliency can expand India’s industrial base, enabling it to compete in the commercial space markets and attract countries looking to avoid aligning with either pole of the great-­power competition.

To conclude, the implementation of a space resilience strategy will present both risks and challenges. It will take time to see results and will require perseverance from government, military, and commercial actors. Unplanned insertions may lead to costly changes in the network, potentially slowing down the process. Multiplying space assets through this strategy will require investment in space situational awareness (SSA) capabilities, which are currently limited. Initially, the required capital may give the impression that it is expensive, and returns are not immediate. Diluting the preponderance of the ISRO will require tough political decisions in a country that values state-­owned enterprises. As the industry expands, there will be a greater need for progressive and transparent legislation and governance, which will test the administration’s ability to deliver. Furthermore, while space resilience can enhance space deterrence, it cannot deter weapons development and testing and may lead to an increase in the number of enemy weapons and capabilities, thereby increasing the target set. In conclusion, while the space resilience strategy is not a panacea, it is a critical contributor to India’s space security by retaining access to space, widening the industrial base, and making the entire space enterprise self-­sustaining. This will enable India to succeed in the great-­power competition. ♦

Sqn Ldr Mohit Choudhary, Indian Air Force

Squadron Leader Choudhary is a student at the Schriever’s Space Scholar concentration of the Air Command and Staff College, Montgomery, Alabama. He was commissioned in 2011 and holds a bachelor’s degree in science from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and a postgraduate diploma in applied aeronautics from the Jamia Milia Islamia University, New Delhi.

1 John J. Klein, Understanding Space Strategy: The Art of War in Space (London: Routledge, 2019), 21–22,

2 Harold R. Winton, “An Imperfect Jewel: Military Theory and the Military Profession,” Journal of Strategic Studies 34, no. 6 (December 1, 2011): 854–57,

3 Namrata Goswami and Peter A. Garretson, Scramble for the Skies: The Great Power Competition to Control the Resources of Outer Space (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2020), 189.

4 “China’s Ground Segment: Building the Pillars of a Great Space Power” (China Aerospace Studies Institute, n.d.), 12.

5 Goswami and Garretson, Scramble for the Skies, 194–96.

6 “In Their Own Words: Science of Military Strategy 2020,” In Their Own Words (China Aerospace Studies Institute, January 2022), 405–7.

7 Scott Neuman, “China Acknowledges Sale Of Advanced Missile Technology To Pakistan,” NPR, March 22, 2018, sec. The Two-­Way,; “China Gifts Anti-­Satellite Radars to Pakistan, Aims to Destroy India’s Space Program,” Firstpost, 14 November 2022,

8 Alessandro Cacioni, “Space Explained: How Much Space Junk Is There?,” Insights, 19 December 2022,

9 Klein, Understanding Space Strategy, 39–40.

10 Goswami and Garretson, Scramble for the Skies, 1–7.

11 T. H. Anand Rao, India’s Space Security Dilemma (New Delhi: KW Publishers Pvt Ltd in association with Centre for Air Power Studies, 2021), 124–26.

12 Rao, India’s Space Security Dilemma 124–26.

13 Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan and Narayan Prasad, eds., Space India 2.0 Commerce, Policy, Security and Governance Perspectives (New Delhi, India: Observer Research Foundation, 2017), 12.

14 Rajagopalan and Prasad, Space India 2.0 Commerce.

15 Gary McLeod et al., Enhancing Space Resilience Through Non-­Materiel Means (RAND Corporation, 2016), 3,

16 “Space Domain Mission Assurance: A Resilience Taxonomy” (Washington, DC: Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense & Global Security, 2015), 3,

17 “Space Domain Mission Assurance,” 6; and “Resiliency and Disaggregated Space Architecture,” White Paper (Air Force Space Command, 21 August 2013),

18 “Resiliency and Disaggregated Space Architecture.”

19 Klein, Understanding Space Strategy, 35.

20 “Resiliency and Disaggregated Space Architecture.”

21 Rao, India’s Space Security Dilemma, 123.

22 “Resiliency and Disaggregated Space Architecture.”

23 “Resiliency and Disaggregated Space Architecture.”

24 Christopher Stone, “Reversing the Tao: A Framework for Credible Space Deterrence” (thesis, Missouri State University, 1 December 2015), 4,

25 John J. Klein, Space Warfare: Strategy, Principles, and Policy, Space Power and Politics 1 (New York: Routledge, 2006), 61–63.

26 Klein, Understanding Space Strategy, 129–31.


The views and opinions expressed or implied in JIPA are those of the authors and should not be construed as carrying the official sanction of the Department of Defense, Department of the Air Force, Air Education and Training Command, Air University, or other agencies or departments of the US government or their international equivalents. See our Publication Ethics Statement.