While hacking drew a great deal of attention this month as a threat to space systems, kinetic threats to satellites didn't go unnoticed, either. On September 1st the Department of Defense rendered its annual report to Congress on China's military capabilities, "Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2020." Among the capabilities given prominence were Beijing's anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, the development and deployment of which have remained a Chinese priority. China already has ground-based interceptors available, and “probably intends to pursue additional ASAT weapons capable of destroying satellites up to geosynchronous Earth orbit.” Nor has Beijing neglected the possibility of neutralizing satellites by cyber, electronic, or directed energy attack. This forms part of what C4ISRNet quotes the Pentagon report as calling an "intelligentized" approach to warfare.
US President Trump issues Space Policy Directive 5 on cybersecurity for space systems.
On September 4th President Trump signed Space Policy Directive 5, Cybersecurity Principles for Space Systems, which outlines an approach to securing space systems from cyberattack. SPD-5 establishes five principles for securing space systems:
"Space systems and their supporting infrastructure including software, should be developed and operated using risk-based, cybersecurity-informed engineering;
"Space systems operators should develop or integrate cybersecurity plans for space systems that include capabilities to: protect against unauthorized access; reduce vulnerabilities of command, control and telemetry systems; protect against communications jamming and spoofing; protect ground systems from cyber threats; promote adoption of appropriate cybersecurity hygiene practices; and, manage supply chain risks;
"Space system cybersecurity requirements and regulations should leverage widely-adopted best practices and norms of behavior;
"Space system owners and operators should collaborate to promote the development of best practices and mitigations; and
"Space systems operators should make appropriate risk trades when implementing cybersecurity requirements specific to their system."
SIGNAL has some background on the decision, drawn from an AFCEA-sponsored industry workshop that discussed what participants saw as a growing threat of cyberattack to satellites. The supporting infrastructure on the ground has of course long grown increasingly networked, with a correspondingly expanded attack surface. The spacecraft themselves have long enjoyed the sort of protection that retro, legacy systems in other sectors have: much of their hardware and software were purpose-built and thus had at the very least a certain security-by-obscurity and the reduced exposure to attack that more limited networking capabilities tend to bring. But the growing use of commodity hardware and software and the development of in-orbit networks are quickly changing that. As SIGNAL puts it: "The traditional boutique, one-off, made-to-order for the military or government, satellites in high, geostationary orbits, are increasingly outnumbered by the huge constellations of small, mass-produced spacecraft, launched by the dozen by private sector companies looking to provide ubiquitous 5G phone service or Internet of Things connectivity."
The interdependence of operations in the space and cyberspace domains.
There's also a growing operational interdependence between the space and cyberspace domains. Gordon Davis, NATO deputy assistant secretary-general for defense investment, told AFCEA's September 3rd workshop Cybersecurity in and for Space Operations. “NATO recognizes that the effective employment of space-based capabilities depends on the secure access, protection and use of cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum,” he said.
And much the same can be said for cyberspace capabilities, which are growing increasingly dependent upon the delivery of Internet access through satellite constellations. The wildfires along the US Pacific Coast are providing a practical demonstration of how rapidly satellite-delivered Internet communications have come online. Emergency responders in Washington State are using seven Starlink terminals to provide them with communications during swiftly developing operations in remote areas. They've been pleased, Ars Technica reports, with Starlink's performance, finding it fast and easy to set up.
CNBCquotes Washington's emergency comms leader, Richard Hall, as saying, “I have spent the better part of four or five hours with some satellite equipment trying to get a good [connection]. So, to me, it’s amazing.”
From orbit down to the mud.
The US Army's Project Convergence, a series of exercises devoted to the integration of hitherto disparate systems, notably space systems and conventional ground-based systems, is helping the Service iron out the difficulties in making multi-domain capabilities a reality. Breaking Defense has a summary of some of the challenges the Army is rising to in exercising a "kill chain in the sky." Project Convergence brings together an array of novel systems (experimental unmanned aircraft, advanced artillery, ground robots, and various satellite capabilities) to test its network warfare concepts and emerging doctrine. Such exercises represent, among other things, a final stage of rapid prototyping, where innovative systems, many developed outside the extensive requirements imposed on ACAT 1 programs of record and funded with nontraditional contracting mechanisms, are tested under a reasonably realistic set of operational circumstances.
Defense One describes the exercises at Yuma Proving Ground as being organized into three phases:
Phase one, “Penetrate,” opened with simulated satellite-developed combat information being passed to the Army's new ground processing station TITAN ("Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node") which developed it into a call-for-fire on the Yuma range, answered by an Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) battery. Both TITAN and ERCA are new systems. (C4ISRNet describes TITAN, a Northrop Grumman development) as a prototype system the Army hopes can dramatically reduce sensor-to-shooter latency.) Local aerial reconnaissance developed more targets, and these were serviced by an autonomous Grey Eagle drone.
Phase two, "Disintegrate," developed the scenario into a comprehensive SEAD (suppression of enemy air defense) exercise in which the objective was the elimination of remaining enemy air defenses. Artificially intelligent fire direction was employed in this phase, integrating both cannon fire missions and kinetic drone strikes.
Phase three, “Exploit,” concluded the exercise as both manned and unmanned ground combat vehicles moved onto the objective. Aided Target Recognition Software (AiDTR) assisted ground units in finding and attacking targets.
Project Convergence isn't the only Army exercise to test emerging capabilities against emerging threats. Exercise Jack Voltaic 3.0, run by the Army Cyber Institute, engaged the Army in responding to a range of grey zone threats and natural disasters in conjunction with civil authorities. CyberScoop reports that the exercise scenario played out a multidomain threat to the ports of Charleston and Savannah.
Some of the novel systems, particularly some of the autonomous ones, were played by surrogates, as the systems themselves are not yet ready even in prototype form. But the point of such exercises is to develop an understanding of how new technologies can be used. Attempts to push through new technologies by establishing detailed requirements, with doctrine to match, have not always developed happily. What seems to work is to give operators the experimental articles themselves, and let them reveal their often unexpected potential in use. That potential is often unexpected by the systems' developers themselves, just as the operators would have been unlikely to predict what novel technologies might prove invaluable. People tend to imagine the future as either a better version of today or as a wildly impractical science fiction dream.
Consider a civilian example. Had you asked some forward-thinking executives circa 1965 what they wanted in the way of new information technology, they would probably have asked for, on the one hand, better switchboards, a bigger version of that IBM 360 they'd read about, cheaper photocopiers, and maybe a picture phone like the one at the Bell Telephone pavilion at the New York World's Fair. On the other hand they would have probably also asked for a robot assistant like the one in the Jetsons. What they wouldn't have imagined was small endpoint devices operating in a cloud. The PC, the smartphone, the Internet, and the cloud were all disruptive innovations that only disclosed their uses when people actually began using them. Rapid prototyping in the context of exercises seems a way of institutionalizing such innovation. Such efforts hold lessons for Space Force.
Space Force's maturation.
Of course, rapid innovation that's able to cross the proverbial valley of death between budget categories 6.3 and 6.4 needs the support of the acquisition system. Space Force seems to be getting some good early reviews on its ability to adapt its acquisition system to faster research, development, and fielding tempo. Space News samples some industry reaction to the young Service's early forays into procurement. In general, they're expressing pleased surprise at how fast Space Force has been. Lieutenant General Nina Armagno, staff director at the office of Space Force chief of space operations, described the goal as cutting acquisition timelines and keeping designs simpler. That involves what she characterizes as moving from “Taj Mahal satellites to simpler satellites, not exquisite one-of-a-kind that take 20 years from conception to delivery and launch.”
Breaking Defense reports that Space Force chief General Raymond told the Air Force Association that he intends to go to war against bureaucracy and speed up the acquisition process. Such resolutions are nothing new, of course, but as a new Service Space Force has a rare opportunity to make good on them. Uniforms and rank structure remain a work in progress, Air Force Times says (although even here, with the Service less than a year old, Military.com sees progress), Space Force is preparing to mark its December 20th first birthday with a number of announcements that will include personnel accessions and promotion plans.
Other progress is underway. The first Space Force personnel have deployed to the Middle East, Space Force and NASA have concluded a memorandum of understanding that places emphasis on cislunar space, a new office for international cooperation has been organized, threat-based training is under development, and the Service is working on a strategy to improve satellite communications.
Today's edition of the CyberWire reports events affecting China, the European Union, NATO/OTAN, and the United States.
Raytheon sells off Danbury-based space optics business(Hartford Business Journal) Raytheon Technologies Corp. has sold a Danbury-based space-based optics business to Colorado tech firm AMERGINT Technologies Holdings, as part of company’s $180-billion merger deal with the now-defunct United Technologies Corp.
Raytheon Wins $13M Contract to Connect Military Aircraft to LEO Internet(Via Satellite) Raytheon Intelligence & Space has been awarded a $13.1 million contract for a U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory program aimed at connecting military jets to emerging commercial satellite internet constellations in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) announced the contract Sept. 10. Under
$13B contract awarded to Northrop Grumman reignites triad debate(Washington Examiner) As Pentagon contracts go, this is a big one. The Air Force has picked Northrop Grumman to be the lead contractor to develop a new intercontinental ballistic missile to replace the aging Minuteman III by 2029, part of an ambitious plan to upgrade and modernize all…
SpaceX handed loss in challenge over Air Force contract(Reuters) A federal judge plans to deny SpaceX's challenge to U.S. Air Force contracts awarded to its rivals, writing in a Thursday court filing that the Pentagon properly assessed the development of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's Starship rocket system as "too risky and expensive."
Leidos names defense group logistics VP(Virginia Business) Reston-based Fortune 500 federal contractor Leidos Holdings Inc. announced Thursday it has hired retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Darrell K. Williams as vice president of defense group logistics, effective immediately. Williams most recently served as the director of the Fort Belvoir-based Defense Logistics Agency, where he oversaw the Department of Defense’s combat support agency for…
Rohde & Schwarz upgrades R&S FSW signal and spectrum analyzer to 8.3 GHz internal analysis bandwidth(Rohde & Schwarz) With the new R&S FSW-B8001 option, the well-established R&S FSW high-end signal and spectrum analyzer now supports an industry-leading 8.3 GHz internal analysis bandwidth, offering unequaled dynamic range and sensitivity. Design engineers developing latest radar and wireless communications technologies as well as future satellite systems will benefit significantly from the extended bandwidth available in a one-box solution.
Spirent Federal Announces M-code Updates(Odessa American) Spirent Federal Systems, the nation’s leading provider of GPS and GNSS simulators, announced today the release of SimMNSA 2.0. This release adds advanced scenario controls that enable full recreation of government test vectors while retaining the simple key and fly option of the initial release.
Protecting Satellite Communications(SpaceNews) The U.S. Space Force acquires, operates and maintains a constellation of Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites that are reserved for strategic, high-priority military missions, providing secure, jam-resistant communications.
Defense Innovation Is Falling Short(War on the Rocks) After six years of dedicated effort, the Pentagon’s innovation initiatives are still far from meeting their goal. Despite some notable successes, the
JAIC Wants AI ‘Victory Gardens’ Across DoD(Breaking Defense) Instead of the Joint AI Center building everything in-house, the JAIC is creating technical and contracting tools to help any Defense Department organization launch its own AI projects.
The Eyes Of Argus(Breaking Defense) Raytheon Intelligence & Space discusses what Greek mythology can tell us about missile defense.
AFRL’s Big Ambitions For Lunar Patrol Satellites(Breaking Defense) "We are interested in technologies to support wide area search, narrow field tracking, and autonomous space domain awareness," says CHPS program manager Capt. David Buehler.
Navy Decouples Research Chief and N94 Positions(USNI News) The chief of naval research will cease serving in a dual role as the Navy’s director of innovation, technology requirements, and test and evaluation (OPNAV N94), according to a recent service memo obtained by USNI News. The document, dated Aug. 18 and signed by both Navy acquisition executive James Geurts and Vice Chief of Naval …
Space Force developing a strategy to improve satellite communications(C4ISRNET) Currently, the Department of Defense relies on a loose federation of stovepiped government-built satellites and commercial providers to provide connectivity. But moving forward, the Space Force wants to integrate those capabilities, allowing war fighters to seamlessly roam from one signal to another to maintain their connection.
Why the Pentagon’s JEDI Saga Is Far From Over(Nextgov.com) The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure procurement may be grounded until at least February, according to a new timeline agreed to by the government and Amazon Web Services.
JEDI: Why we will continue to protest this politically corrupted contract award(Amazon Web Services) Earlier today, the DoD announced it had concluded its corrective action and affirmed its prior JEDI contract award to Microsoft. Taking corrective action should have provided the DoD an opportunity to address the numerous material evaluation errors outlined in our protest, ensure a fair and level playing field, and ultimately, expedite the conclusion of litigation. Unfortunately, the DoD rejected that opportunity.