Satellite Cybersecurity to Allow Greater Military Flexibility 


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Software now defines the bulk of mission-critical capabilities on satellites, and is under constant attack. The growing cybersecurity threats to space-based platforms have led to the development of a new software-defined satellite architecture that will support military operators. 

SmartSat architecture by Lockheed Martin has been integrated onto a number of the company’s nano-satellite payloads. It allows satellites to change their missions in orbit as required, allowing for greater military flexibility. 

Adam Johnson, SmartSat director at Lockheed Martin, told that against a backdrop of increased investment in AI and software development by potential adversaries, the ability of the US to track, defend against and fight such threats depends on having the best software and hardware. ‘Cyber situational awareness is a critical capability we need now – the tactical advantage is shifting to actors who can deliver new digital tools to warfighters the fastest,’ Johnson remarked. 

Warfighters need faster tools – this was part of the thinking behind the new technology. Satellites embedded with the technology can reset quickly and back each other up as needed, enhancing resiliency, said Johnson, and they can also better detect and defend against cyber threats autonomously.

SmartSat is designed using a “zero-trust” or “threat-first” approach. To design and build such software-defined systems, it is important to understand the threats against them. Security is not static and evolves constantly. 

The new solution will ensure satellites are cyber-hardened, including software and hardware-based intrusion detection, secure coding, encryption and identity management.