The need for cyber security in space

In 1961, Australia opened its ‘glittering giant’ – a point out of the art radio telescope positioned in the middle of a wheat area. At the time, it was a single of the most strong telescopes in the environment, greater equipped, so the papers boasted, to track area probes than any other instrument in the environment. At the time it was mentioned that “when any nation makes an attempt to send out a room motor vehicle to the moon or just one of the planets, it is possible to question for Australia’s help.”1

Indeed, when eyesight was beamed again from the Apollo 11 moon landing, the Parkes telescope was just one of the key receivers that permitted the world to see it.2 Upgrades in excess of the decades have led to the telescope detecting virtually 50 % of all uncovered pulsars as effectively as becoming almost 10,000 occasions a lot more delicate than when initially designed.

Number of matters have captured the imagination like the place race of the mid-20th century. Due to the fact then, the sector has been quietly getting on with matters – but as the industry commences growing at breakneck pace, it is time for the relaxation of us to pay out interest after extra.

The race for place

There is funds to be produced in space. In the past 5 decades, the OECD valued the world-wide area sector at US$277 billion many thanks mostly to satellites.3 Investment from venture funds companies, a increase in commence-ups, a reduction in the expense of launching payloads and lesser satellites have all contributed to reduced cost of entry.4

In Australia, with the establishment of the Australian Space Agency (ASA), there are plans to expand the national sector to AU$12 billion a 12 months by 2030, accompanied by the establishment of more than 20,000 place marketplace careers.5 The nation is nicely positioned to continue contributing to the world industry, supplied its geographical area in the southern hemisphere, as well as its best conditions for both of those checking the skies and situating ground amenities (such as very low mild air pollution and a ton of vacant land).6

Without a doubt, the ASA and NASA have declared a mission to mail an Australian-manufactured, semi-autonomous rover to the moon, granted in component thanks to the nation’s mining experience in remote operations and autonomous units.7* This heritage also speaks to the opportunity for asteroid and off-planet mining, the place the latest scientific tests prompt a single asteroid could contain around 700 quintillion bucks well worth of precious metals.8  The place industry, of study course, is much more than rockets and journeys to the Moon (or Mars) and apart from exploration, is now producing gear and making use of satellites for navigation, precision-farming, broadcasting, communications and weather forecasting.

Adelaide, we have a problem?

Govt and non-public investment decision, abilities and scientific functionality, position hunger, physical locale, the startup landscape and slipping tech price boundaries are all intermixing in a way that could see Australia turn into a globe chief in the sector. This possibility relies on the capacity to generate a cyber-safe and sound and resilient space field. With the concentrate on prioritising innovation and swift-prototyping, cyber protection pitfalls staying set on the back again burner.

This is problematic, as the privatisation of space and proliferation of cost-effective satellites signifies the possibility for hackers is expanding. Danger of cyber disruption has been elevated across the overall provide chain – from house cars, satellites and start autos to floor stations, radio one-way links, and the manufacturers of software and components components. Even though it sounds like a Bond movie, humanity has indeed reached the point when navigation can be interrupted, communications jammed, satellites manipulated, delicate facts stolen, place missions hijacked and satellites (even decommissioned types, of which there are 1000’s) made use of nefariously. 

This is not theoretical. In the latest geopolitical conflicts satellites have been hacked by nation states to convey down communications networks, observe military incursions, jam indicators and spoofed to confuse armed service drones, and in truth, been shot down by way of missiles.9,10 Nations are actively looking into techniques to destroy personal satellite networks in the event they were to threaten countrywide stability.11 These attacks are not restricted to really-resourced, country state actors – hackers have proven that satellites can be compromised with a few hundred pounds of simply available machines and a notebook.12

The fact is, as the proliferation of providers serving to launch satellites lowers the price of house-centered infrastructure, so too does it lessen the obstacles for cyber adversaries – both of those determined and opportunistic – to lead to disruption.

A safe cyber place

Cybersecurity need to not be thought of as some thing that halts innovation. In truth, it is an enabler of greater innovation and stronger have confidence in. Brakes on a car or truck decrease pace, but they also safely let its acceleration. For the space sector, viewing cyber threat holistically as part of broader resilience and safe-by-design engineering strategies is very important to minimising hurt and unleashing ambition. 

In Australia, the hazard and possibility of strengthening resilience in area has been signalled by governing administration recognition of area as significant infrastructure, in which cyber is one particular of four critical pillars of ‘all hazards’ hazard administration. For these that run across the space benefit chain, the pursuing 4 imperatives will support build powerful cyber resilient organisations and embed safety in the technologies remaining designed, crafted and operated:


  1. Have an open intellect and be prepared to toss-out what you currently know. Lots of room process resilience and technological know-how procedures are based mostly on experimented with-and-analyzed techniques, refined about several a long time. But these procedures are dangerously out-of-date with regard to increasing cyber threats. Uplifting cyber maturity has been undertaken by several other mission-vital industrial sectors (these kinds of as aerospace) and the area sector can profit from their learnings in the age of IT/OT convergence. 


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  3. Frameworks need to have to be suit for function. Area system safety and resilience is equivalent to, but quite exclusive from, common handle systems. Organisations really should glimpse to safety practices in operationally tech-large industries, these as telecommunications and highly developed manufacturing. However, elementary discrepancies imply they need to not be adopted wholesale – the most noticeable example getting that house-primarily based infrastructure is distant by default, restricting the means for nearby intervention and failsafes. Bodily segregation of control techniques to compensate for bad protection controls is no for a longer period a practical alternative.


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  5. Embed a cybersafe tradition by leveraging main safety and units availability values and concepts. Security buy-in can be tough when perceived cyber threats are low, which has historically been the case in space the place ‘security via obscurity’ has been relied upon for far also extensive. It is a smaller and subtle change, but most engineers will understand and respect challenges of method uptime, availability and safety, which can then prompt a far more meaningful cyber safety dialogue. The correct language will commence to shift the dial in enabling  a robust, cyber-mindful tradition.


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  7. Think about the ecosystem consequences. Space and cyber programs are critical enablers to broader infrastructure and products and services, on which individuals rely on.  A emphasis on any one system or chance demands to be balanced with a broader knowledge of the challenges inherited across the ecosystem. With out this ‘bigger picture,’ have faith in is diminished, minimizing the gains and raising the prices affiliated with integrating space and cyber into our day-to-day lives and essential infrastructure.


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Elevate off

Place is vitally important to the long term financial prosperity and safety of Australia. As we seem to the stars with hope, it is critical that we protect ourselves from the menace of nefarious actors intent on causing harm to our way of life, our protection, and our place-certain aspirations. 

Uplifting cyber resilience throughout the place sector commences with a small step, but it’s one particular that will empower a huge leap.