Starfish Space Tug: Boon or Bane?

by Samuel Lefcourt

  1. Area of space systems impacted
    • Space vehicle
  2. Summary
    • Starfish Space raises $7 million for constellation-managing space tugs
    • Spacenews –
    • Space tugs typically are known for their ability to transfer cargo from one orbit to another.  However, Starfish Space claims theirs can extend satellites’ lifespans, move them to different orbits, and remove debris.
    • They hope for the product to be integrated into autonomous robotics infrastructure by assisting in manufacturing, assembling, mining and other business cases and potentially unexplored capabilities in space.
  3. Potential Attacks
    • The space vehicles that this technology will access will inherently put them at risk.  It is possible that assailants will try utilizing the tug to impact others.  These attackers would most likely be insiders, cyber-crime groups, or other nations.  This means of attacking the space vehicle indirectly is known as an advanced persistent threat. 
    • Additionally, this tug would need to be manufactured in such a way that it cannot be altered without notice.  If altered, it could provide incorrect data to or disrupt the autonomous system, an AI system attack.  For instance, if the business goal is to capture an image and perform classification, a fog machine could create smog, covering the camera, rendering it useless. 
  4. Impact
    • This space tug could prove to be one of the biggest boons for the incoming space boom.  Given that it will be a, relatively, cheap and capable vehicle, this can be commercialized easily to ensure that space missions continue smoothly as long as possible.  The typical satellite reaches 15 years before it loses the capability to perform.  However, many projects using satellites extend their initial scope.  This means that they will have to launch a new one with the same competency as the previous.  Satellite launch is a risky and expensive business that has the ability to disrupt a business timeline and budget should failure occur.  Thus, given the ability to lengthen satellite operations, many businesses and scientists would jump at the opportunity to use it; while just as many malicious enemies would do the same.

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