AFRL developing cyber range for space operation

The Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) was recently awarded a contract to build a space cybersecurity range for “the Space Force and other organizations to conduct realistic exercises simulating cyberattacks against satellites and ground systems”[1].  The goal of the range is to “replicate a real world satellite operations center” [1].  Many different cyber ranges exist in the DoD but this is the first one that is dedicated to a “space mission that includes spacecraft in orbit”[1].  We had a guest lecturer speak about MITRE’s work with cubesats on a desk but the AFRL lab will “include four cubesats orbiting in a low-earth orbit in 2024’  [1]

This is important to cybersecurity because it will allow researchers to have a path where the final hop is in space.  Instead of simulating signals they will be able to actually develop and use tools without simulating some scenarios or communication paths.  The satellites will require all the segments we talked about last week in class to be functioning.  The space segment, ground segment, and user segment will all be functional and provide a the most realistic testing environment possible.  The space vehicle will be subject to everything a vehicles experience in LEO, the transmission path will be subject to weather and other potentially limiting factors, and the user segment will come with all the problems that can only occur when you add humans into the security equation.  Finally, it’s common knowledge that actually doing something is better than simulating it all the time.  So researchers having access to actual space vehicles whose sole purpose is to provide a testing range for them has the potential to yield great results.  There will be less of a need for deconfliction and potentially higher risk tolerance with decision makers since there is no threat to mission or information other than research. 

[1] S. Erwin, “AFRL developing ‘cyber range’ for space operators,” Oct. 06, 2022. (accessed Oct. 12, 2022).