Top military brass fear a devastating attack in space could occur within two years – with Russia and China “threatening its peaceful use”.
Angus Lapsley, the head of Ministry of Defence’s strategic policy department, argues the lack of defined rules can lead to “misbehaviour” from rogue states.
This could lead to an incident with "real-world impacts", The Daily Telegraph reports.
He told the Defence Space conference: "Space is one of those areas where I think a new era of great power competition is going to be felt most keenly."
Mr Lapsley added: "I don't think yet we all understand what it means to behave in a certain way in space.
"There will probably be an incident at some point in the next couple of years where our public and parliament will have a kind of eureka moment, when they see that actually competition in space can have real-world impacts on civilian infrastructure and civilian life."
Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, head of the RAF, said Russia and China "threaten the peaceful use of space".
He warned that one Russian satellite had been in orbit for several years and moved towards other countries’ satellites.
Sir Winston earlier said an attack on our satellites would disable ATMs and petrol pumps, cause traffic gridlock and freeze deliveries of vital PPE kit to tackle coronavirus.
Rolling out a future vaccine also relies on assets in space, he said, admitting he made no apologies for "painting a grim picture".
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Sir Winston explained: "A future conflict may not start in space, but I am in no doubt it will transition very quickly to space, and it may even be won or lost in space.
"So we have to be ready to protect and if necessary defend our critical national interests in space.
"If we don't think and prepare today, we won't be ready when the time comes."
Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a massive £16.5bn cash boost into Britain's military – the biggest since the Cold War.
A new AI cyberforce agency and a "space command" capable of launching the UK's first rocket by 2022 is part of the four-year financial deal.
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