Skip to content Skip to footer

Cislunar Spacepower The New Frontier

Illustrations © James Vaughan, and used by permission. More of his work can be found here:

By Laura Duffy and James Lake



Establishing spacepower in the cislunar space environment is important due to economic, political, and military competition among great powers. While the United States and Russia have a strong history of lunar exploration, China currently has the greatest foothold in cislunar space. Cislunar space offers lucrative resources including water, Helium-Three, rare earth metals, and regolith. Establishing infrastructures in cislunar space also offers military advantages such as increased surveillance capabilities and a currently unmonitored zone for accomplishing military objectives. To harness spacepower in cislunar space, one must consider the different areas to establish infrastructure, including the lunar surface, lunar orbits, Lagrange points, and lunar transit orbits. To establish a strategic advantage in these areas, steps must be taken now to establish cislunar spacepower for commercial, civil, and military stakeholders in cislunar space.



Space has become an increasingly valuable domain for the U.S. military. This is evident by the establishment of the United States Space Force (USSF). However, space is also integral for U.S. national power due to diplomatic, informational, and economic reasons.

This paper discusses the current state and suggests next steps for spacepower in cislunar space. First, an introduction and definitions of cislunar space are provided. Then, the paper describes the current players in cislunar space, including Russia, the United States, Japan, Europe, China, and India. Next, the advantages of cislunar space in relation to the economy, geopolitics, and the military are presented. Then, the paper lists the ways which cislunar dominance could be achieved, including lunar bases, lunar orbits, Lagrange points, and transit orbits. Finally, the necessary steps to achieve cislunar spacepower are given.

Cislunar Space Definitions

Cislunar is defined as the volume of space “lying between the Earth and the Moon or the Moon’s orbit.”[1] This is an enormous volume of outer space which is tremendously underutilized. It encompasses the more commonly used Earth orbits that satellites currently populate, including those listed in Table 1, as well as orbits beyond geosynchronous orbit (GSO) such as: lunar transit orbit, lunar orbits, and Lagrange orbits. The altitude of the Moon’s orbit is also shown in Table 1 for scale. The Moon’s altitude is more than ten times the altitude of GSO.

Orbit Name Altitudes
Low Earth Orbit (LEO) 180 km – 2,000 km
Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) 2,000 km – 35,780 km
Geosynchronous Orbit (GSO) ≥ 35,780 km
Moon’s Orbit 384,000 km

Table 1 – List of Common Orbit Classes[2]

This essay uses a definition of cislunar space with lower altitude limit of GSO and upper altitude limit of lunar orbit and includes the regions encompassing orbits surrounding the Lagrange points. This definition is shown in the shaded region of Figure 1.

Figure 1 – Earth-Moon System

In the Earth-Moon system, five Lagrange points exist. These are points of gravitational equilibrium which occur due to the complex three-body dynamics of the system. There are three unstable points in the system: L1, L2, and L3, and two stable points: L4 and L5.[3] This system is shown in Figure 1 with the cislunar region as defined in this paper highlighted in gray. Though the dynamics seen at and around these points can be complicated, they do have some advantages for cislunar spacepower as detailed later in this paper.

Players in Cislunar Space

Despite the growing intentions for cislunar space, there are few stakeholders with cislunar space experience and even fewer which currently occupy this zone. Russia, the United States, Japan, Europe, China, and India have exhibited successful exploration in cislunar space. A brief history and the likely future of each cislunar space-faring nation is provided.

Russia (including the former Soviet Union)

The first country to send a human-made object to cislunar space was the Soviet Union with the impact of Luna 2 onto the Moon in 1959. From 1959-1976, the Soviet Union sent seventeen successful missions through cislunar space as part of the Luna Program which performed a variety of scientific experiments[4].

Since the Luna Program, Russia (formerly the Soviet Union) has not sent anything to the Moon. There are plans to send the Luna 25 landing station, though the program is already delayed.[5] The Luna 25 program is part of the overarching Luna-Glob program, which plans to send multiple landers and some sample-return missions in the next decade. This program’s purposes include exploring the lunar poles, examining the radiation environment, testing robotic and human transport, investigating orbital and surface infrastructure, supporting a habitable lunar base, attempting industry utilization, building observatories, conducting medical experiments, and installing facilities for new technologies.[6] Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin has made clear Russia’s intentions of partnerships in lunar exploration. With regard to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Artemis program, he stated “for the United States, this right now is a big political project… we are observing our American partners retreat from principles of cooperation and mutual support.” [7] Rogozin also stated Russia’s intentions of forming a strong partnership with China for lunar exploration.[8] With this partnership, Russia would maintain its status as a major player in space, even as this strategic domain is increased into cislunar space.

United States

The United States has played a major role in cislunar space by paving the way for human exploration of the Moon. These efforts came to fruition during the Apollo era of 1961-1972, during which the United States sent the first, and only, people to the surface of the Moon. Due to changing political and economic conditions, the United States shifted focus after the Apollo era from Lunar exploration to near-Earth orbits.

In 2009, NASA launched the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) missions.[9] While the LCROSS mission ended early with its planned impact into the lunar surface, the LRO continues to operate at the time of this paper publication. A key LRO mission is to provide sufficient data for future crewed and robotic missions to the Moon to safely choose landing sites with scientific value. Thus far, LRO has provided detailed photographic and thermal maps of the lunar surface with a focus on the poles, where areas of permanent shadow conceal frozen water deposits.

Since 2011, the United States has spent considerable time and funds developing the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy rocket, intended to carry equipment and personnel to cislunar space. The SLS is intended to support the NASA Gateway and Artemis programs. The Gateway program would establish an outpost in lunar orbit allowing for long-term human utilization of the Moon.[10] It would also provide a staging point for exploration of deep space. Although this program has received substantial criticism, it does provide the United States with political spacepower in cislunar space. The Artemis program is a lunar program which encompasses the Gateway program and includes lunar orbiters for landing site investigation, lunar landers for surface mapping, and missions to return humans to the Moon with expeditions on the surface. The goal of this program is to create a sustainable lunar orbit staging capability and surface exploration.

While these efforts in civil space will certainly be steps toward cislunar spacepower, the United States is lagging on the military front compared to China. With the creation of the U.S. Space Force (USSF) and resurrection of the U.S. Space Command, there is increased awareness and funding for military programs in cislunar space. Then-Major General John Shaw, former U.S. Space Command’s Combined Forces Space Component Command (CFSCC) Commander, has even acknowledged that cislunar space is the new area of responsibility (AOR), that Lagrange points are the new high grounds, and that cislunar space is vital from a security perspective[11]. To address these concerns, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) initiated efforts on a research and development satellite program named Cislunar Highway Patrol System (CHPS).[12] This satellite will be launched to cislunar space to research space domain awareness (SDA) in this new arena. Other than CHPS, any other military-related efforts for the United States in cislunar space are not known to the public.


The next successful player in cislunar space was Japan when they sent a lunar orbiter in 1990 and later sent a lunar orbiter in 2007 for scientific purposes.[13] Japan has not played a major role in cislunar space but has utilized the Moon’s gravity to assist in missions to asteroids. As cislunar space becomes more contested, Japan may also want to establish infrastructure near the Moon to assure their ability to perform successful lunar flybys. The lunar mission currently in development by Japan is the Smart Lander for Investigation Moon (SLIM) which aims to demonstrate precision landing technologies.[14] Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) President, Hiroshi Yamakawa, expressed at a press conference in 2020 that their priorities are human space exploration on the International Space Station (ISS) and the health and safety of the nation.[15] Japan is not likely to be a major player in cislunar space soon but does have the experience needed to re-enter this arena.


In 2006, the European Space Agency (ESA) sent Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology – 1 (SMART-1) to perform scientific missions which culminated in a successful impact of the Moon.[16] Since SMART-1, the ESA has made progress on the Orion European Service Module as part of the Artemis program. These programs are led by NASA. There are no documented ESA-led activities in cislunar space, and the Resolution for European Space Policy has no mention of lunar plans.[17] The ESA will likely be a partner for cislunar spacepower competition, but not a leader.

In December 2020, the European Union (EU) released an in-depth analysis on strategic autonomy in space. The report states “A priority for the EU, therefore, is to tend to its existing degree of strategic autonomy in space with further investments that harness emerging technologies and support the European space market. None of this is really possible, however, without a strong degree of political will from EU governments.”[18] This strategy will likely influence ESA to not only continue partnerships in cislunar space, but also to create infrastructure dedicated to EU priorities.


The next nation to enter cislunar space was China with the successful launch of Chang’e 1 in 2007. Using Chang’e 1 and the subsequent Chang’e Lunar projects, China has accomplished extensive mapping of the Moon, communications at L2 via the Queqiao satellite, lunar soft landing, and exploration of the far side of the Moon.[19] China’s successful mission to the non-Earth facing side of the Moon has drawn the most concern from a military perspective because of the lack of monitoring capabilities on the far side of the Moon. With all the successful missions of the Chang’e program, China has proven to be the dominant spacepower in cislunar space currently – and they have even bigger plans in this arena. Building on the success of Chang’e 5 which demonstrated the first robotic docking in lunar orbit and the returning to Earth of lunar surface samples, China has ambitions surpassing both near-Earth and cislunar space.[20] To make these goals practical, China continues to improve their line of launch vehicles while initiating development of new cislunar transfer vehicles.[21]

Capitalizing on these planned successes, future Chinese cislunar missions target the lunar poles due to their resources, including water. By 2035, China plans to deploy an inhabited research station on the Moon with supporting infrastructure.[22] China has also successfully built and inhabited an independent space station in Low Earth Orbit[23]. This space station is considered a critical steppingstone for space exploration beyond Earth. China’s stance on spacepower can be assessed based an interview with General Qiao Liang: “We cannot surpass the United States in the next decade or two, but we will narrow the gap in a comprehensive way… And it is possible we may take the lead in some individual areas.”[24] Should China’s space technology plans come to fruition, China may leverage a strong foothold to maintain supremacy in cislunar space.


Through the Chandrayaan program beginning in 2008, including the Chandrayaan-1 discovery of water ice at the lunar south pole, India has accomplished one successful and one semi-successful lunar mission, with plans for a third mission in 2021. Chandrayaan-3 will send a lunar lander and rover to the Moon and utilize the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter as a communications relay.[25] These missions are only the beginning for India as they plan to become a “low-cost space power.”[26]

India is increasing its focus on space defense. Like the United States’ establishment of the USSF, India created the Defense Space Agency (DSA) to lead military efforts in space. Interestingly, India’s Space, War & Security strategy states:

What is happening in space is just one important part of the problem. It is linked to other parts of the problem that deal with nuclear war and conventional war. Unless these connections and linkages are mapped, and their consequences understood India will continue to flounder in coping with the security challenges arising from these changes in the geo-political environment. These developments in the military uses of space provide evidence that a space strategy that is appropriate for India is linked to a nuclear and conventional war strategy.[27]

India has made a distinct connection between space and military efforts including nuclear. Given past performance and current strategies, India will be a key player in cislunar spacepower competition.

Other Spacefaring Nations

In addition to those listed above, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Canada, and Israel have plans for entering cislunar space. Although these plans have not yet come to fruition, with enough ambition, any one of these parties could earn a place in the cislunar space arena.

Cislunar Advantages

This section details several advantages of cislunar space utilization. This includes economic resources, political advantages, and military advantages. A summary of which nations have endorsed applicable space treaties is also provided.

Lunar Economic Resources

The Moon could potentially be the location of the next “gold rush,” but instead of gold, miners would be finding water, Helium-3, rare Earth metals (REMs) and regolith.[28]

Figure 2 – Lunar Resources

Water is a critical resource for space exploration, including human and robotic endeavors. For humans, this is a necessary fuel for life. If this resource could be mined rather than transported on-board the spacecraft, then significant fuel could be saved or the payload mass could be re-allocated for other equipment and capabilities, increasing the efficiency of human spaceflight. Increased efficiency allows for extended military logistics and advanced maneuver capabilities. For both human and robotic spaceflight, water provides the necessary ingredients for rocket fuel: hydrogen and oxygen. These elements can be extracted using electrolysis. Using lunar water for rocket fuel also increases spaceflight efficiency, allowing missions to re-fuel on the Moon for a safe return to Earth. The heaviest concentrations of water on the Moon appear to be in ice deposits on the lunar poles – making the poles highly strategic locations for cislunar space dominance.[29] Lunar water is not a renewable resource. It will be mined on a first come first serve basis, so time is of the essence for this cislunar resource.

Helium-3 is an interesting and abundant resource on the Moon that could make lunar missions more achievable and sustainable. Helium-3 has the potential to provide energy through nuclear fusion reactions. Like lunar water, Helium-3 mining for use as an energy source allows for more efficient space travel to, from, and beyond the Moon. Current estimates place at least one million tons of Heium-3, concentrated primarily in the permanent shadow regions, on the lunar surface.[30] Harvard researchers conducted a feasibility study on mining Helium-3 and concluded that many technical challenges still exist which would make it unsuitable as a fuel source in the near-term[31]. As technology advances, Helium-3 will become a vital resource for a sustainable lunar architecture, and the first entities to harness this resource will have strategic advantages for cislunar spacepower competition.

The third most valuable lunar resource is REMs. While REMs probably will not make space travel more efficient, they will make space travel more profitable. REMs are used in electronics and medical devices, but REM supplies are diminishing. China estimates that it may run out of REMs used for smartphone, computer, and medical equipment production in the next 15-20 years.[32] While the exact quantity of the various REMs on the Moon is not well known, these metals are valuable and represent economic value in surveying the lunar regolith in multiple zones to find ideal mining locations.[33] As the supply of REMs on Earth are depleted, the value of REMs on the Moon will increase, leading to a potentially lucrative lunar gold rush. Additionally, mining and refining these resources on the Moon will mitigate the environmental concerns of these processes on Earth. Access to lunar REMs will benefit the nation that can harness these resources to its economic advantage.

Finally, lunar regolith will be a valuable resource for a sustainable lunar presence. Launching new materials to the Moon is very expensive, so in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) will play a crucial role to lower the cost of cislunar exploration. Ninety-nine percent of the lunar soil is composed of oxygen, silicon, aluminum, calcium, iron, magnesium, and titanium.[34] These are potential sources of building materials for the lunar facilities required to provide safe environments for human lunar explorers. Though this resource is not renewable, it is plentiful. The challenge lies in creating the technology for extracting and refining the regolith to enable manufacturing on the Moon.

The Moon has many natural resources of military and economic value. Water, Helium-3, REMs, and regolith are identified as the most valuable known resources. None of these resources are renewable. The entity which first develops the ability to leverage these resources for its cislunar spacepower goals will gain significant strategic advantages against its competitors.

Cislunar Political Environment

Nations seeking the cislunar economic benefits must develop the political supports necessary to protect and endorse them. A foundational international agreement is the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, also known as the Outer Space Treaty.[35] Several additional space treaties followed the Outer Space Treaty, culminating in the recent Artemis Accords.[36] The United States National Air and Space Administration (NASA) led the creation of the Artemis Accords as part of their return to cislunar space with the Artemis program. These accords propose the peaceful use of space with member nations providing transparency for their cislunar efforts and interoperability of their infrastructures using international standards. The Artemis Accords also contain two key sections covering space resources and deconfliction of space activities.

The Artemis Accord section on space resources emphasizes signatory nations pursue any use of lunar and other extraterrestrial object resources within the obligations of the Outer Space Treaty and such uses do not automatically constitute a national appropriation of those resources. Secondly, the Artemis Accords’ largest section is dedicated to deconfliction of space activities. The purpose of the deconfliction standards is to prevent harmful interference and to define safety zones for various activities, with the activities announced to the United Nations sufficiently far in advance. All signatories pledge to define their safety zones such that areas of cislunar space remain freely accessible. The Artemis Accords attempt to codify free, transparent, and safe access to cislunar space forthe cislunar capable nations willing or unwilling to commit to these principles. Table 2 provides a summary of past and present cislunar space nations and their support for these treaties.

Nation Outer Space Treaty Support34 Artemis Accords Support35
USSR / Russia Ratified (Soviet Union) No
United States Ratified Yes
Japan Ratified Yes
European Union 25 of 27-member statesI 2 of 27-member statesII
China Accession No
India Ratified No
United Kingdom Ratified Yes

Table 2. Cislunar Capable Nations Support of Space Treaties


I Croatia and Latvia are not listed as supporting through accession, ratification, or succession.

II Only Italy and Luxembourg currently support the Artemis Accords.

Cislunar Military Benefits

In addition to numerous economic advantages, cislunar space holds many benefits for the military. Space has long been used to provide military advantage via surveillance, providing a global perspective. As threats have been perceived to space surveillance assets, additional assets have been deployed to monitor these threats. With the creation of the USSF, the United States has essentially declared that space is the next strategic military frontier. As more entities expand into cislunar space, this new realm may become an area for increased military activity.

China is currently leading the way in cislunar space. While their efforts are publicly communicated as being purely scientific, the military advantages include the optic advantage of the higher ground and the ability to conduct unmonitored operations. China has already landed on and is operating from the non-Earth facing side of the Moon. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is the only United States satellite able to view the non-Earth facing side of the Moon. The LRO’s view is limited in availability due to orbital mechanics, allowing China to accomplish scientific, military, or other endeavors without observation or repercussion. This vantage point gives China the strategic ability to accomplish any military actions unmonitored and unfettered. These military actions could include hosting a precision positioning beacon or performing non-surface imagery. At the very least, to maintain military equity in space, situational awareness of cislunar space is of paramount importance. In the future, other defensive and offensive assets will be needed to assure the open and peaceful use of cislunar space. More detailed descriptions of the assets needed, and ideal locations of these assets are presented next.

Cislunar Dominance

Operating in cislunar space does bring new challenges when compared to traditional Earth-orbiting satellites. The volume under consideration is orders of magnitude larger. The trajectories are no longer circular or elliptical due to the dynamics of the Circular Restricted Three-Body Problem (CR3BP). Detecting objects in cislunar space is more challenging due to the longer distances, the Moon’s albedo, solar exclusion angles, and lack of continuous coverage from Earth.[37]

Obtaining dominance in cislunar space would require at a minimum that the right locations are chosen for capabilities needed to gain the most strategic advantage. Sufficient infrastructure must be deployed to provide a robust architecture in cislunar space, including communication, navigation, transportation, and situational awareness needs. The cislunar areas that could be utilized include lunar bases, lunar orbits, Lagrange points, and transit orbits.

Lunar Bases

Lunar bases used for materials mining and storage are necessary for harnessing the lunar resources. These bases could be civilian owned and operated, but the resources gained from them would fuel civil and military endeavors in cislunar space. While human occupied bases have many political advantages in proving technical superiority and establishing ownership, they are not necessary for Lunar mining and are quite dangerous due to space radiation exposure. China’s Chang’e 4 mission measured the radiation on the Moon to be two to three times higher than LEO, meaning human missions to the Moon would be limited to approximately two months assuming regolith is not utilized for radiation shielding.[38] Fortunately, lunar mining can be efficiently accomplished via robotic landers. The lunar poles hold increased strategic advantage due to the deposits of lunar ice, making these potentially a priority for establishing economic power in cislunar space. For military spacepower, the non-Earth facing side of the Moon should be a priority to monitor activities and maintain the high ground.

Lunar Orbits

Lunar orbits are closed trajectories around the Moon. These orbits can accommodate some of the infrastructure needed to accomplish missions in cislunar space. A single satellite in lunar orbit could provide periodic communication between the Earth and the far-side of the Moon. A constellation of lunar satellites could provide precise navigation across the surface of the Moon – like the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) around the Earth. A lunar constellation could also provide constant communications or full lunar surveillance. However, a full constellation would be expensive to establish and difficult to justify given the limited missions currently planned to cislunar space. One of the downsides of high-altitude and low-altitude circular lunar orbits is that they have unstable dynamics and require a significant amount of fuel for station keeping just to maintain orbit – this means that the lifetime of a satellite in lunar orbit is quite limited.[39] On the other hand, classes of stable orbits known as “frozen” orbits do exist around the Moon which are high-altitude, elliptical, and highly inclined. These stable orbits can offer strategic visibility and access to the lunar poles[40].

Figure 3a – Stable “Frozen” Lunar Orbit

Figure 3b – Unstable Lunar Orbit

Figure 3a and Figure 3b show some of the interesting dynamics that can occur under the influence of the Earth-Moon gravitational system using images produced in Analytical Graphics Inc (AGI)’s Systems Tool Kit (STK). Figure 3a shows the Moon with a satellite at an altitude of 1,763 km, approximately the radius of the Moon, at an inclination of 45 degrees. This high-altitude orbit is quite stable over the 90-day propagation period. Figure 3b shows a Lunar orbit with an altitude of 100 km, which is proportionally equivalent to a LEO orbit of approximately 360 km, and an inclination of 0 degrees. This orbit is unstable due to the Moon’s mascons, or lumpy shape. The orbit intersects with the surface of the Moon after only 15 days.

Earth-Moon Lagrange Points

As shown in Figure 1, the Earth-Moon system has five gravitational equilibrium points, or Lagrange points. These are highly strategic locations in space due to their clear views of the Moon and Earth as well as their low fuel requirements for station keeping. The L1, L2 and L3 Lagrange points are unstable, but there are halo orbits which exist about these points and offer some stability. China has already taken advantage of the L2 halo orbit to provide communications via the Queqiao satellite to the Chang’e 4 mission on the far-side of the Moon.[41] Should a nation, organization, or corporation place satellites in halo orbits at L1 and L2, they could achieve full surveillance and communication of the lunar surface, including any low-altitude lunar orbits, with near-constant communication to the Earth (assuming the proper ground antennas are available for these communications). The necessary mission of navigation could also be accomplished utilizing the L1, L2, L4, and L5 Lagrange points to gain a better Dilution of Precision (DOP). DOP is a measure of the geometry of PNT signals. A better DOP provides a more accurate navigation solution. Research has shown that a PNT constellation at L1, L2, L4 and L5 could provide accuracies of tens of meters.[42] Accurate on-board inertial units or other supplemental navigation sources would also be needed to supplement such a constellation.

Another class of orbits which take advantage of the Lagrange point dynamics include quasi-periodic orbits, also known as cycler orbits[43]. These are novel concepts which orbit the Earth-Moon system, reaching altitudes as low as GEO and altitudes as high as the Moon in semi-periodic intervals. These orbits have been proposed to be useful for communications systems, space debris identification, and lunar reconnaissance.[44] Whether trying to accomplish navigation, communication, surveillance, or situational awareness, the Earth-Moon system Lagrange points offer many strategic advantages for establishing spacepower.

Lunar Transit Orbits

Another important cislunar area includes the transit orbits between the Earth and the Moon. There are many options for transit which trade fuel and time. For human missions, transit time must be shortened due to decrease radiation exposure. For robotic missions, it can be beneficial to take a longer route which uses far less fuel. The fastest human transit to the Moon was Apollo 16, which took just over 3 days, while the longest trip on record was the ESA’s SMART-1 probe which took over one year with highly efficient fuel usage.[45] With either strategy, it is essential to consider the three-body effects of the Earth-Moon system for the most efficient transfer. A transfer orbit which utilizes the L1 bottleneck region of the Earth-Moon system is much more efficient than one which uses the traditional Hohmann transfer.[46] The strategic implications of transit orbits should be considered because space is becoming more populated, especially due to mega-constellations in LEO. These LEO satellites make transiting from the Earth to the Moon while avoiding catastrophic collision increasingly challenging. Another consideration is the lack of resources for observing the spacecraft in transit from the Earth to the Moon. The transiting satellite could be lost for nefarious reasons without any evidence of who or how it was lost.

The space beyond GSO has been compared to the wild west: a lawless, unmonitored area open for exploration and utilization of any nature.[47] For instance, Elon Musk’s planned civilization on Mars is said to “not be ruled by any ‘Earth-based government’ – and will instead adhere to its own ‘self-governing principles.”[48] This mentality could be applied to early lunar missions, leading to the need for some internationally recognized lunar laws. These laws will require evidence for compliance and enforcement, which in-turn requires continuous monitoring. This level of enforcement requires an equally authoritative agency, such as the USSF, to conduct this monitoring. lunar transit orbits offer strategic locations for monitoring satellites to view activities between GEO and the Moon.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Cislunar space, due to its numerous political, economic, and military advantages, may be the next arena for assuring the United States retains strategic leadership and supremacy in space. China has taken a strong lead in recent years despite the traditional dominance that the United States and Russia (former Soviet Union) displayed during the Cold War era. To achieve spacepower in cislunar space, one must consider the strategic locations to place assets. lunar locations include: the lunar surface, lunar orbit, Lagrange points, and transit orbits. These locations will become more contested in the years to come, and the lunar resources could become depleted by whoever establishes lunar bases first.

At a minimum, monitoring of cislunar space is needed to maintain spacepower even in Earth orbits. The USSF must establish a monitoring presence near the Moon to maintain peaceful use of space and to gain a strategic advantage for future military cislunar endeavors. Space surveillance of this new region is necessary to protect the numerous assets planned for launch. Any efforts toward cislunar spacepower must begin now since the new space race has already begun.

Laura Duffy is a Space Systems Engineer at Canyon Consulting LLC, and James Lake is a Senior Associate at Canyon Consulting LLC. This paper represents solely the author’s views and do not necessarily represent the official policy or position of any Department or Agency of the U.S. Government. If you have a different perspective, we would like to hear from you.


  1. Merriam-Webster. Definition of cislunar. 2020.
  2. Riebeek, Holli. Catalog of Earth Satellite Orbits. September 4, 2009.,farthest%20away%20from%20the%20surface
  3. NASA/WMAP Science Team. What is a Lagrange Point? March 27, 2018.
  4. Williams, Dr. David R. Soviet Lunar Missions. September 27, 2005.
  5. Russian Aviation. Russia’s Luna-25 lunar landing station scheduled for 2019. January 25, 2018.
  6. Litvak, Maxim. The vision of the Russian Space Agency on the Robotic Settlements in the Moon. 2016.
  7. Michael Sheetz, Yelena Dzhanova. Top Russian space official dismisses NASA’s moon plans, considering a lunar base with China instead. CNBC. July 15, 2020.
  8. Michael Sheetz, Yelena Dzhanova. Top Russian space official dismisses NASA’s moon plans, considering a lunar base with China instead. CNBC. July 15, 2020.
  9. Rachel Hoover, Nancy Neal Jones, Michael Braukus. NASA Missions Uncover the Moon’s Buried Treasures . NASA. October 21, 2010.
  10. Shaw, Major General John. Cislunar Security Conference. Laurel, MD, 2020.—. “Keynote Speaker.” Cislunar Security Conference. Virtual, 2020.
  11. Captain David Buehler, James Frith. “Cislunar Highway Patrol System (CHPS).” Cislunar Security Conference. Virtual, 2020. 2.
  12. Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences. Kaguya. n.d.
  13. —. Smart Lander for Investigation Moon (SLIM). n.d.
  14. JAXA. JAXA President Monthly Press Conference. May 15, 2020.
  15. European Space Agency. ESA’s Moon Mission Ends Successfully. September 3, 2006.
  16. ESA. “Resolution on the European Space Policy.” June 2007.
  17. Directorate-General for External Policies. The European space sector as an enabler of EU strategic autonomy. European Parliament, 2020.
  18. Mann, A. China’s Change’e 5 mission: Sampling the Lunar Surface. December 2020.
  19. Amos, J. China’s Chang’e-5 Mission Returns Moon Samples. BBC. December 16, 2020.
  20. Goswamu, Namrata. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Comission. U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Comission. April 25, 2019.
  21. L. Xu, Y. L. Zou and L. Qing. “Overview of China’s Lunar Exploration Program and Scientific Vision for Future Missions.” 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Woodlands, TX, 2019. 1.
  22. Jones, Andrew. Astronauts complete first Chinese space station spacewalk. Spacenews. July 4, 2021.
  23. Feldscher, Jacqueline. Are the U.S. and China on a war footing in space? politico. June 16, 2019.
  24. Jones, Andrew. India revises Gaganyaan human spaceflight plan, delays Chandrayaan-3. Spacenews. February 23, 2021.
  25. BBC. Chandrayaan-3: India Plans Third Moon Mission. January 1, 2020.
  26. Chandrashekar, S. Space, War & Security – A Strategy for India. Bengaluru, India: National Institute of Advanced Studies, 2015.
  27. Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The Lunar Gold Rush. n.d.
  28. Wall, Mike. Water Ice Confirmed on the Surface of the Moon for the 1st Time! August 21, 2018.’s%20official%3A%20There’s%20water%20ice,just%20a%20flag%2Dplanting%20mission.
  29. Fusion Technology Institute. Lunar Mining of Helium-3. August 11, 2014.
  30. Kleinschneider, Andreas, et al. “Feasibility of lunar Helium-3 mining.” 40th COSPAR Scientific Assembly. Moscow, Russia, 2014.
  31. Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The Lunar Gold Rush. n.d.
  32. A. A. Mardon, G. Zhou, R. Witiw. “Developing a New Space Economy 2019.” 2019.
  33. Korotev, Randy L. The Chemical Composition of Lunar Soil. Washington University in St. Louis. n.d.
  34. “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.” London, Moscow and Washington, January 27, 1967.
  35. McDonald, Mark. “Artemis Overview.” Cislunar Security Conference. Virtual: JHU/APL, 2020. 8-9.
  36. M. J. Holzinger, C. C. Chow, P. Garretson. “A Primer on Cislunar Space.” Air Force Research Laboratory, 2021.
  37. Agence France-Presse. We Finally Know How Much Radiation There is on the Moon, and it’s not Great News. September 26, 2020.,Space%20Station%20crew’s%20daily%20dose.
  38. Bell, Trudy E. A New Paradigm for Lunar Orbits. NASA Science. November 30, 2006.,use%20the%20right%20hand%20rule
  39. Bell, Trudy E. A New Paradigm for Lunar Orbits. NASA Science. November 30, 2006.,use%20the%20right%20hand%20rule
  40. Kramer, Herbert J. Chang’e-4 far side Moon-landing Mission of China. 03 29, 2021.
  41. Zhang, L., & Xu, B. “Navigation Performance of the Libration Point Satellite Navigation System in Cislunar Space.” Journal of Navigation 68 (2015): 367-382.
  42. M. J. Holzinger, C. C. Chow, P. Garretson. “A Primer on Cislunar Space.” Air Force Research Laboratory, 2021.
  43. Pedro Llanos, Abdiel Santos. “Commercial Cubesat Technology to Enhance Science: Communications, Space Debris Identification and Moon Surface Reconnaissance Using Lagrangian Cyclers.” AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting. Napa, CA, 2016. 16-493.
  44. Smith, Brett. What is the Quickest Route to the Moon & How Long Does it Take? 2020.
  45. Yuan Ren, Jinjun Shan. “Low-Energy Transfers using Spatial Transit Orbits.” Communications in Nonlinear Science and Numerical Simulation, March 2014: 554-569.
  46. Everstine, Brian. CSO: Space is the ‘Wild, Wild West,’ Requiring New Norms for Operating in Orbit. April 30, 2021.
  47. O’Niell, Natalie. Elon Musk’s SpaceX colony on Mars won’t follow Earth-based laws. October 30, 2020.


SFJ © 2024. All Rights Reserved.

stay on Target!

Scifi ranger shooting toward the sky.
Subscribe to receive notifications of new issues.