Cybersecurity plans need to encompass physical and virtual assets located on earth as well as those orbiting the earth. The cyber universe extends into the actual universe with satellites, weapons systems, and exploratory vehicles and devices all connecting to terrestrial networks. Protecting those endpoints and the IT paths in between is critical. A Russian attack on the Viasat satellite constellation knocked out communications across Ukraine on the eve of an invasion and serves as a high-stakes example of how much we rely on space-based objects for basic communication.
The U.S. Space Force and NASA are working to harden and protect the IT between earth and space, but are facing the same issues as other agencies in terms of the cybersecurity skills gap. There simply are not enough trained people to complete all the work that needs to be done to secure the vast network these organizations oversee. To bridge this gap, space agencies are finding new ways to meet the cyber needs of the nation, and the universe.
Collaboration with private sector
Space Force is now partnering with the 2023 Hyperspace Challenge accelerator to find new private sector partners to support innovation in the space domain. The Hyperspace Challenge is a partnership between the Air Force Research Laboratory, Space Force RCO, the economic development arm of Central New Mexico Community College, and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. It was created to accelerate partnerships between innovative start-ups and the government agencies who need their solutions.
The 2023 challenge is focused on three key areas:
- Developing products to increase space visibility to reduce the risks posed by objects in orbit
- Advancing space vehicle autonomy to reduce ground-operator workload
- Increasing the lifespan and maneuverability of space-based vehicles
The hope is that resulting solutions, developed by emerging companies and established technology vendors, can be deployed within the next few years to solve these critical challenges.
Once these innovative solutions are discovered, getting them into the hands of the government teams that need them can be a completely different odyssey. Many solutions fall into the "valley of death," where projects cannot move from idea or prototype into actual production. This stalling is frequently due to budget pressures and rigid acquisition process rules.
The frustration with getting the right technologies in the right hands when needed led to NASA creating the long-standing and highly regarded Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement - better known as SEWP - contracting program in the 1990s. SEWP's staying power speaks to the need for a way to vet products once and then simplify future procurement.
In that spirit, Space Force is developing a new commercial marketplace that includes a technology hub, SpaceWERX, and the Space Systems Command's Front Door, an online portal that can connect users to acquisition officials. The goal is to get emerging technologies and the capabilities they offer to the warfighter faster.
GovEvents and GovWhitePapers can help you keep your feet on the ground while understanding the needs of space agencies.
- 10th Annual Space Resiliency Summit (December 6-7; Oxen Hill, MD) - This summit brings together senior leaders from across the U.S. space enterprise to discuss efforts to ensure the resiliency of critical assets against both traditional and non-kinetic attacks.
- Space Mobility Conference (January 30, 2024; Orlando, FL) - This program will cover national service-based infrastructure needs for spaceports, launches, and on-orbit maneuvering as they relate to national defense strategies.
- GEOINT 2024 Symposium (May 5-8, 2024; Orlando, FL) - Bringing together geospatial intelligence professionals, this event provides education and networking across government, military, the contractor community, and academia.
- Challenges to Security in Space (white paper) - Published by the Defense Intelligence Agency, this paper details the rapidly evolving threat landscape in space.
- Why Military Space Matters (white paper) - Over the past two-plus decades of military operations, our nation's ability to use outer space has not been consequently challenged or contested. Read this white paper by the National Defense University Press to learn why military space matters.