L3Harris chosen for developing satellite to track missiles

Article: https://spacenews.com/l3harris-missile-tracking-satellites-will-use-a-newly-designed-maxar-bus/

The U.S. Space Development Agency has issued a $700 million contract to L3Harris for developing 14 low-orbit satellites with a Maxar bus for detection and tracking of ballistic and hypersonic missiles. L3Harris, chosen along with Northrop Grumman, is responsible for producing 14 satellites orbiting the Tracking Layer Tranche 1. This is an exciting milestone for the U.S. defense, as it will better position the U.S. to anticipate any incoming foreign threats and prepare for effective defense, if necessary.

While Northrop Grumman is a leading American aerospace defense company, the Maxar bus that L3Harris chose for the mission has not been used for previous defense contracts. Maxar Technologies specializes in building satellites for imaging. Furthermore, the sensors L3Harris plans to incorporate to detect hypersonic missile launches were originally designed for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather satellites.

Given that both the bus and payloads were originally designed for non-defense related activities, security is a huge concern. Both satellite components demonstrate much potential in terms of availability; however, neither have sufficient security systems built in to preserve integrity and confidentiality, which are huge priorities given the sensitive nature of the mission.

Any satellites built for US defense should optimize for integrity and confidentiality. Without secure systems in place, other nation-states have the potential of not only gaining access to the info acquired by these satellites but also discovering the technology implemented and finding ways to build missiles that evade detection. A hacked satellite like this would compromise the US defense system more than if the satellite hadn’t been launched initially. Ultimately, L3Harris must take cybersecurity concerns seriously, and the U.S. Space Development Agency should weigh cybersecurity risks against functionality when selecting which satellites will be used.