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  • Writer's pictureDAVID MITLYNG

Weekly Takeaways-May 5, 2023

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

Theme of the Week

Security vs. Resilience, and Why You Need Both There is a difference between resilience and security. A resilient network is resistant to outages; a secure network is resistant to eavesdropping. For any network, including satellite systems, these are two different design considerations. Security Security comes from the CIA triad: protecting against outsiders getting access to (confidentiality), modifying (integrity), and disrupting access to your information (availability, which is also a component of resiliency). RF links from satellites are subject to eavesdropping (breaking confidentiality), spoofing (integrity), and jamming (removing availability). Security is achieved primarily through sophisticated encryption and anti-jamming techniques (changing power levels and frequency). But security is always a game of one-upmanship. Even proving your secure network is actually secure is a challenge. This is the promise of quantum communications: leveraging the laws of physics to ensure a secure link, a topic that was discussed at a recent QED-C webinar focused on Network Security. Resilience At its simplest definition, resilience is the ability to withstand difficulties. For a system architecture, the US Air Force defines resiliency as the ability "to continue providing required capabilities in the face of system failures, environmental challenges, or adversary actions." There is a growing recognition that our satellite systems, including GPS, are vulnerable because they "were designed for a peaceful, benign environment without a threat." But those days are over with the recent scary advancements in anti-satellite weapons. Moving towards resilient space systems is now a priority (see below). It should be noted that for position, navigation, and timing (PNT) users, assurance is also critical. This means maintaining multiple sources in case one part of the system is compromised.

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The More You Know...

A lot of attention is focused on security, but resiliency is even more critical for satellite systems. After all, what is the point of security if there are no communications? Satellites in particular are sitting ducks, and not just against anti-satellite missiles. The US Space Force chief of space operations recently described “an incredibly sophisticated array of threats” that includes jamming, spacecraft that can grapple other satellites, lasers that can dazzle them, cyberattacks, and even “nesting dolls,” or satellites that release others that spread out and track adversaries’ spacecraft. This was echoed in a recent US DOD Directive that outlined concerns “about the vulnerability of GPS systems to attack or interference," noting that adversaries "already have a variety of counterspace weapons that could degrade or disrupt GPS satellites and associated systems and impede U.S. military operations.” The solution? There is no magic technology that ensures resilience. Instead, it requires proper system design. Resiliency in networks can best be achieved through a "belts and suspenders" approach that embraces disaggregation and redundancy. The head of the Space Development Agency described his idea of a resilient satellite architecture of a large quantities of satellites in different orbits: “We'll put up hundreds and hundreds of satellites…[that] are more affordable than the missiles that you need to shoot them down.” China has also embraced resiliency with their BeiDou system.

It already consists of 42 satellites in a mix of MEO, GEO, and inclined GEO orbits.

Their vision is to expand to a "space segment, a ground segment and a user segment," with a 120-satellite low earth orbit (LEO) constellation, Loran-C, inertial sensors, and future systems like quantum navigation.


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