Foreign Infiltration into U.S. Space Technology

This picture taken on June 9, 2012 shows Chinese workers wave flags as the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and its carrier rocket been move to the launch platform at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China’s Gansu province. China will launch a spacecraft this month to conduct its first manned space docking, state media said, the latest step in a plan aimed at giving the country a permanent space station by 2020. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/GettyImages)

by Samuel Lefcourt

  1. Space vehicle
  2. Summary
    • DoD trying to keep China from accessing critical U.S. space technology
    • The Department of Defense wants to crack down on startup companies funded by foreign investors.  As space becomes an increasingly commercial market, the DoD believes that China is purposefully infiltrating the U.S. defense industrial base with adversarial thoughts in mind. 
    • Director of the Defense Department’s trusted capital program, Colin Supko, listed the supply chain as one of the most important focuses at this moment.  Depending on potential competitors for critical systems and technology is far from ideal as they can abruptly stop providing them and leave the U.S. in a bind.
    • To combat this issue, the DoD has created the trusted capital office, which decides if it is safe to collaborate with specific venture capitalists and links the approved startups to them.  It has now approved 20 venture firms that fund 70 startups with a collective $1.2 billion.
    • Companies benefit when becoming members of the trusted capital office because they are thus approved to compete for military contracts.  Without this, the DoD may determine, on nebulous guidelines, if businesses have the ability to compete.  Typically, they are denied if it is believed that foreign influence is controlling the direction of the company.  However, the DoD must remain unbiased when dealing with companies containing foreign ownership, because there is nothing illegal about such. 
    • With this fear in mind, entrepreneurs have begun rejecting capital from foreign entities (that are probably acceptable) because there are no well-defined rules.  This may inhibit the U.S.’ technological advancement.
    • Not only are foreign investments closely watched, but also contractor’s equipment and software because they introduce cyber intrusion, counterfeiting, and other threats to the supply chain.  As such, the DoD has employed a random, non-destructive test that will certify that specific parts are capable of performing the actions consistent with what they claim to be.
  3. Cybersecurity implications
    • The main threat discussed in this article are nation states aiming to infiltrate U.S. space assets through social engineering from a high level (investor).  The social engineering then, supposedly, becomes an advanced persistent threat that can be created at whim from the top.  This may include AI System Attacks, by equipping hardware designed for nefarious purposes, and cyber-attacks such as denial of service or communication interference. 
  4. Critical Systems impacted
    • Overall trajectory of space technology advancement in the U.S and future missions.  It includes not only space vehicle, but ground station and communications for all missions using foreign material.

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