DoD space agency: Cyber attacks, not missiles, are the most worrisome threat to satellites

SDA director Derek Tournear: It does not matter if I’ve one satellite tv for pc or if I’ve 1,000 satellites, a cyber assault might taken all of them out

WASHINGTON — Intelligence companies and analysts warn China and Russia are growing missiles that would strike U.S. satellites in low-Earth orbit. This might be a priority for the Pentagon’s Area Improvement Company, which plans to deploy a community of satellites inside vary of these missiles. 

Derek Tournear, director of the Area Improvement Company, mentioned April 14 that SDA has checked out potential threats to its satellites and is much less frightened about missile strikes than it’s about cyber assaults and intrusions into the availability chain.  

SDA plans to begin launching satellites to house in 2022 with a purpose of getting a whole lot in orbit by 2024 that might be used for communications and missile detection. 

These satellites “won’t be invulnerable” to ground-based weapons equivalent to ballistic missiles, Tournear mentioned at a web-based Washington Area Enterprise Roundtable discussion board. However having a proliferated community of a whole lot of satellites, nevertheless, makes the system resilient to those kind of assaults, he defined. 

An adversary must launch a barrage of missiles to disable such a big constellation and would face important retaliation. Tournear additionally famous that the comparatively low value of SDA’s satellites would make them unattractive targets in comparison with the extra beautiful billion-dollar satellites that DoD has in orbit.

Tournear estimates that it will value extra to shoot down a satellite tv for pc than the satellite tv for pc itself, “so we’ve utterly modified the equation on that.”

Even when one or a handful of satellites have been destroyed, a proliferated community of a whole lot might proceed to perform. A cyber assault, however, could possibly be devastating, Tournear mentioned. 

“Cyber and and provide chain are two threats that I’m involved about,” he mentioned. Tournear described cyber and provide chain issues as “widespread mode failures,” which implies that even when only a few elements or parts of a system are attacked, the entire community can be out of service.

A provide chain assault is a cyber assault that targets the much less safe parts within the provide chain. 

“So it doesn’t matter if I’ve one satellite tv for pc or if I’ve 1,000 satellites, these kind of assaults could have the flexibility to take all of them out,” mentioned Tournear. 

“These are the threats that I’m most targeted on, as a result of these are those that I feel can can have the largest devastating impact, whereas the opposite threats, I really assume proliferation offers us important benefits,” he mentioned. 

To defend SDA’s community, the company is working with different DoD companies to develop encryption and different safety units to be used on satellites. This can be a problem, mentioned Tournear, as a result of they should be gentle, small and low energy. 

“We want excessive bandwidth crypto items for for these sorts of methods to have the ability to try this on board,” mentioned Tournear. “That’s a giant deal, multi stage safety so I can do processing anyplace from secret to high secret to unclassified, all on board. That’s a giant deal that takes plenty of know-how improvement.”

To scale back the danger of a provide chain intrusion, SDA will work with distributors to ensure they know the place elements got here from. The Pentagon is particularly frightened about Chinese language made elements or software program being utilized in U.S. methods that would present avenues for cyber assaults. 

“As I discussed, provide chain was one in every of my primary considerations,” mentioned Tournear. “That’s not solely simply the robustness of the availability chain to make sure that I can get the components but additionally to ensure that I can validate the provenance of the components as soon as I get them.”

SDA will settle for bids from non-U.S. distributors however would require home distributors to provide sure crucial elements like flight computer systems, he mentioned. “Understanding the provenance of the availability chain is a giant concern so we’ll weigh that closely after we do any alternatives.”

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