Professional Development Course: Understanding National Security Space

Photo: Paopano / Adobe Stock

A new professional development course on space security and space policy issues from the CSIS Aerospace Security Project

Registration for this program is now closed. To receive a notification when next year’s course is accepting applications, subscribe to the CSIS Aerospace Security Project here.

Understanding National Security Space is a professional development program designed to explore the technical, budgetary, and policy issues in the U.S. national security space enterprise. The course will be led by CSIS’s space security experts with guest lectures from former senior military and civilian space leaders, industry practitioners, and space security scholars. Participants will have the opportunity to learn and network with other professionals interested in understanding the space domain, the evolution of space policy, and the future of national security space. Participants will take part in lectures and group discussions, culminating in an international space crisis tabletop exercise.

Applicants should have a demonstrated interest in international security, space policy, missile defense, or other related areas.

Designed for working professionals, Understanding National Security Space is held at CSIS’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., over the course of two days.

Expert Seminars

The Understanding National Security Space curriculum includes a series of seminars featuring CSIS scholars and guest contributors including:

  • Gen J. Cartwright (USMC, ret.), Former Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff;
  • Doug Loverro, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy;
  • Eric Stallmer, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation;
  • Asha Balakrishanan, Research Staff Member at the Institute for Defense Analyses;
  • Joan Johnson-Freese, Professor of National Security Affairs, Naval War College;
  • Todd Harrison, Director of the Aerospace Security Project at CSIS;

Each seminar will include suggested pre-reading and a moderated small group discussion.

Space Crisis Dynamics Tabletop Exercise

The second day of the Understanding National Security Space course is dedicated to an immersive tabletop exercise. Participants will practice the concepts presented in the course’s seminar series by testing a range of scenarios in which conflict might begin or extend into space to understand how actions and reactions are perceived in different situations. The scenarios will change and adapt as small groups of participants make choices to protect space assets in a multi-domain environment.

After the exercise, the small groups will join a panel of space security experts for a debrief of the exercise and a discussion focusing on the unique escalation and deterrence dynamics in the space domain.

Course Agenda

The following course agenda is tentative and subject to change.

Day 1: November 7, 2018

9:00 am – 9:30 am Registration and Breakfast
9:30 am – 10:30 am Welcome and Introductions
10:45 am – 11:45 am Understanding the Space Environment
Todd Harrison, Center of Strategic and International StudiesThe physical properties of objects in orbit make the space environment unlike any other physical domain. What is different about operating in the space environment? How do satellites in different orbital regimes help contribute to military operations on the ground? How do satellites get into orbit, and what physical laws govern how they maneuver and operate in space?
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm Lunch Discussion on Counterspace Weapons
Kaitlyn Johnson and Thomas Roberts, Center of Strategic and International StudiesSpace is simultaneously a powerful enabler for the United States and a critical vulnerability. What types of counterspace weapons could be used to threaten U.S. assets on orbit? What is publicly known about the counterspace weapons other countries and non-state actors are developing and deploying?
Read "Space Threat Assessment 2018"
1:45 pm – 2:45 pm Space Situational Awareness and Space Traffic Management
Asha Balakrishnan, Institute for Defense AnalysesWith plans to launch thousands of new satellites over the next ten years, more than doubling the number of objects orbiting the Earth, space traffic management is becoming more critical than ever before. What causes congestion in popular orbital regimes? How do space actors prevent space objects from interfering with the operational missions? What laws, regulations, and international treaties govern space traffic?
Watch "The United States’ Role in Space Situational Awareness"
3:00 pm – 4:00 pm Military Space Organization
Doug Loverro, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space PolicyHow best to organize the national security space enterprise has been a recurring subject of debate for more than two decades. Earlier this year, the Trump Administration announced its support for creating a U.S. Space Force. As it stands today, where are space programs and space operators housed within the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, and intelligence community? What are the different options being considered for reorganizing national security space, and what does it mean for the future of U.S. national security space programs?
Watch "How to Organize Military Space"
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm Networking and Cocktail Reception


Day 2: November 8, 2018

9:00 am – 9:30 am Registration and Breakfast
9:30 am – 10:30 am New Space Actors
Eric Stallmer, President of the Commercial Spaceflight FederationThe Trump Administration has emphasized public-private partnerships in space as one of its top priorities with the reinstatement of the National Space Council, the signing of Space Policy Directive 1, and last year’s National Security Strategy, which prioritized the improvement of U.S. space architecture resiliency. Who are the new actors in the space domain and how are they disrupting the space industry and the way the U.S. government uses space?
10:45 am – 11:45 am History of U.S. Military Space Missions
Gen J. Cartwright (USMC, ret.), Former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of StaffThe U.S. military relies on space-based capabilities for a wide range of missions. This session will explore how the military and intelligence community uses space for strategic advantage. What military missions are best performed from space? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using space-based systems for different missions? What are the implications of the U.S. military’s dependence on space in the broader strategic competition?
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm Lunch Discussion on the Weaponization of Outer Space
Joan Johnson-Freese, Naval War CollegeThe space domain has been used by militaries around the world for decades. What has the impact of militarizing space been and what does that mean for the weaponization of the space domain? What are the current legal and treaty restrictions on weapons in space and what are organizations such as the United Nations doing to keep space peaceful?
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm Space Crisis Tabletop Exercise

Course participants will be divided into small groups to represent fictional countries, each with their own space capabilities. The groups will then square off against each other in different crisis scenarios to test their space security decision-making.

Read "Escalation and Deterrence in the Second Space Age"
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm Space Crisis Tabletop Exercise Presentation and Debrief

Led by a panel of space security research professionals, participants will share their decisions and decision-making processes from the tabletop exercise and lessons learned.

Registration for this program is now closed. To receive a notification when next year’s course is accepting applications, subscribe to the CSIS Aerospace Security Project here.

To apply, candidates should submit a resume or CV and a brief statement of interest to

All course information will be presented in an educational, bipartisan, and nonpolitical manner.