Thousands of active satellites in Earth’s orbit enable our modern life, supporting national critical infrastructure and functions that protect, connect, power and feed our society. Check the weather, deposit money in the bank or track the shipping status of a package – you’ve just interacted with space technology. While most people take it for granted, the rapidly growing space ecosystem is essential to everything around us.
To better understand this, The Value of Space Summit, hosted in October by The Aerospace Corporation and the Space Information Sharing and Analysis Center (Space ISAC), convened government, FFRDC, industry and international stakeholders to address the most pressing challenges and opportunities for space operations.
“Aerospace is proud to be a founding member of the Space ISAC to bring the global space community together to identify and respond to threats and provide timely and actionable information to the entire space sector,” said Ed Swallow, senior vice president of Aerospace’s Civil Systems Group.
The dialogue extended beyond the space community to engage other ISACS for industries such as maritime and financial services that benefit from orbital activity.
The summit followed the September release of Space Policy Directive-5, which focuses on safeguarding space assets and critical infrastructure. SPD-5 describes the need for integrating cybersecurity into all phases of development and ensuring that full life-cycle cybersecurity is performed for space systems.
Brandon Bailey, senior project leader at Aerospace, underscored “the need for threat informed risk-based engineering which will improve the security posture of the mission for both the ground and the spacecraft. Software, as a critical component, must also be secure in both the ground and space segments. The cybersecurity protections must be effective while permitting space system owners and operators to manage appropriate risk tolerances and minimize undue burden, consistent with specific mission requirements, spacecraft size, mission duration and maneuverability in space.”
In addition to the call for integrating cybersecurity into the design of space systems, “the U.S. government, through SPD-5, has recommended that space system owners and operators collaborate to promote best practices and share threat warning and incident information within the space industry,” said Frank Backes, chairman of the board of the Space ISAC and senior vice president at Kratos Space Federal. “The Space ISAC has been established to serve as conduit for information sharing and collaboration.”
The two-day event spanned a range of topics from emerging risks and new technologies to U.S. legislation and global standards.
The summit’s agenda was inspired by The Value of Space, a report from Aerospace’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS). Dr. Michael Gleason, who co-authored the paper, kicked off the event by sharing his findings.
“The community would benefit from becoming more aware of how gradually space-based services have crept into our daily lives,” said Gleason, a senior project engineer at Aerospace. “Understandably, many of us have not taken the time to think through the value of space. What are these activities? What kinds of satellites? How do they fit into our daily lives?”
Building upon Gleason’s keynote, the next session explored the definition of space critical infrastructure with panelists from sectors including agriculture, cybersecurity and commercial space. Dr. Jamie Morin, executive director of CSPS and vice president at Aerospace, moderated the discussion.
“While we don’t expressly define space as critical infrastructure and indeed, space is not currently considered a formal, nationally-recognized sector,” Morin said, “its interplay with many other areas of infrastructure and many functions of society that are critical to our well-being is pretty impressive.”
As an example of Morin’s point, Dr. James Lowenberg-DeBoer, a leading agricultural researcher and professor at Harper Adams University, described how GPS enables tractors with automated steering, saving time and resources in cultivating crops.
“80% of agriculture retailers use auto-steer [tractors] and the rest use manual,” Lowenberg-DeBoer said. “Almost all fertilizer and pesticides in the United States are applied more accurately because they have GPS available.”
Creating and accepting standards for global space operations will help protect critical space infrastructure and the capabilities it enables. Aerospace Principal Engineer Marlon Sorge led a discussion on the current landscape of space standards, and how guidelines can evolve to address new risks.
“We all share space together. A problem for one can quickly be a problem for all,” Sorge said. “The use of standards can help in encouraging confidence in users in the new space services that are coming online.”
The next discussion delved deeper into standards, specifically for quantum technologies in space. With the increasing complexity of interconnections between satellites and to ground systems, devices need a reliable way to communicate without the threat of intrusion, said Dr. Joe Touch, Aerospace senior project leader. Quantum technologies achieve this objective but require standards for interoperability so users can have confidence in their effectiveness.
Extending the theme of emerging technologies, Aerospace Senior Project Leader Catherine Venturini moderated a panel on space research and development and capabilities supporting smallsats. The panelists agreed that industry will be a major enabler of a hybrid space architecture in which large, high-value satellites integrate with the coming proliferation of smallsats.
Ultimately, cooperation and partnership are the keys to unlocking the value of space, Swallow said. Forums like the Value of Space Summit and consortia like the Space ISAC help accelerate this collaboration.
“The expanding democratization and commercialization of space parallel new and growing requirements across national security and civil operations. New stakeholders are engaging all over the space enterprise and encountering new challenges,” Swallow said. “Aerospace is committed to working with the Space ISAC and the entire space enterprise to solve the hardest problems in space and help all stakeholders realize the full value that space brings.”