Commercial Players Address Challenges of Securing Proliferating Spatial Architecture

Stacy Kubicek, vice president and general manager of Missions Solutions for Lockheed Martin speaking at the Space Symposium on April 6, 2022. Photo: Space Foundation

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado. — As the space industry continues to launch satellites at an ever-increasing rate, the commercial industry and the US Department of Defense are working on a proliferated, multi-orbit architecture in which data can be captured and transported into space more quickly and with greater safety. .

The amount of data collected in orbit is skyrocketing, and the commercial industry is developing technologies such as inter-satellite links and on-board processing to improve the transmission, processing and analysis of this data for commercial and government users.

During a discussion on proliferated architectures Wednesday at the Space Symposium, panelists from companies including Parsons, Lockheed Martin, SpaceLink and Redwire agreed that there are more opportunities than threats in proliferated architectures, but the cybersecurity is a major challenge that must be addressed. This issue is particularly topical with the recent attack on Viasat’s KA-SAT network, although Viasat recently reported that the attack affected network and ground equipment and not the actual satellite.

Stacy Kubicek, vice president and general manager of Missions Solutions for Lockheed Martin, said that as assets are added to constellations, it increases the total attack surface or potential objects in space that could be targeted. . It’s not just in-orbit assets that need to be protected, Kubicek said, but also software and systems on the ground.

Threats are constantly evolving, Kubicek said, and Lockheed faces multiple hacking attempts every day. Cybersecurity solutions require a balance of risk, and the company offers a tiered approach to security solutions.

“If we cyber-harden everything, there will be a lot of cost and a lot of latency,” Kubicek said. “Thinking about the different risks we want to take, where do we want to harden cyber, versus where do we potentially want to take a little more risk to get data faster? How do we balance some of these risks? »

As the defense and intelligence sector increasingly adopts the imaging and sensing capabilities of commercial satellites, this creates security issues. The Space Development Agency (SDA) has expressed interest in integrating commercial capabilities into the National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA) provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) of the battlefield.

To this end, the SDA has already entered into a contract with Capella Space, which provides commercial synthetic aperture radar with its satellites to various government customers, to include compliant Optical Inter-Satellite Links (OISL) on their satellites to connect to the branch transport layer.

Richard Aves, executive vice president of Mission Solutions for Parsons Corporation, posed the question, “Should we start looking at commercial ISR capabilities, military assets? He asked. “What if an ASAT [anti-satellite] the attack happened on a commercial satellite? How do we deal with this in international law? Is it an act of war or is it just a criminal act? These are questions we didn’t have to worry about ten years ago.

None of Aves’ other panelists had an answer to that question.

Young startups or New Space companies may have an advantage in securing their systems, said Tony Colucci, chief strategy and chief commercial officer of Spacelink. “Startups have a small advantage because we are building with current cybersecurity [capabilities] from day one,” Colucci said, instead of relying on older systems.

Security was a dominant theme in the discussion, moving beyond cybersecurity to securing in-orbit operations and securing launch capabilities.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Dean Bellamy, executive vice president of National Security for Redwire, highlighted how commercial capabilities can help secure national space architectures in terms of space situational awareness.

“When you have these proliferated architectures [it has] advantage of providing situational awareness to our National Space Defense Center operators,” Bellamy said. “We should put a neighborhood watch sensor on every satellite that goes up, so we give them actionable intelligence so they can make decisions to protect assets, to make sure they’re providing data [such as] precision navigation and timing, and ISR to our fighters.

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