Ground Segment in the Newspace Era

The newspace era has led to a breakdown with traditional logistics and coordination with ground stations. Successfully integration with the communication system is essential for both technical and commercial mission success and currently satellite buyers are encouraged to begin coordinating with their desired ground stations up to 18 months in advance of their launch. However, young commercial companies tend to focus on the development of their payloads over the on-orbit operation and end up scrambling to identify ground stations immediately prior to their launch dates.

The increased need for ground stations coupled with dealing with difficult and time consuming hurdles to secure integration with existing infrastructure has both positive and negative space cybersecurity implications.

Today, the ground segment is already an avid source of cybersecurity threats. Now, to avoid  the inertia surrounding use of existing infrastructures some operators are seeking to use ‘gateways’ – essentially a few motorized antennas in a parking lot, with no security and no power or connectivity backups. This type of low cost “pop-up” infrastructure would increase vulnerability through the ground segment to both the space based constellation that is being operated but also provide a path of entry for any other space or ground based infrastructure the satellite/constellation interacts with.

On a more positive note, increased pressure from satellite operators may lead to the construction of new infrastructure. This could lead to a new class of modernized ground segments with built in cyber defense that far exceed legacy systems.

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