Space Force missile-warning satellites are drawing congressional attention with Dod`s NC3 mission reform

Budget allocated to Space Force in the last five years has nearly doubled. The increase in the budget comes largely due their planned reform of the nuclear command and control satellites, which provide primary sensor capabilities for monitoring and alerting about a potential nuclear attack. Located in the high-earth orbit, they provide infrared sensing as well as communication capabilities between nuclear forces and government leaders. This is a crucial system responsible for the safety and security our nation.

With over $30.3 billion in projected spending for the 2024 Fiscal Year, lawmakers are demanding answers on how Dod`s reform of the already in place Nuclear Command, Control and Communication (NC3) architecture will benefit the nation. The goal of the reform is to build smaller satellites and utilize the low-earth orbit for their operation. While this does decrease the time it takes to develop from 10 years to just 3, the reasons for proposed change still remain unclear. With planned removal of Next Gen OPIR geostationary satellites, Congress wants answers regarding the associated risks of removing a well trusted asset and shifting focus to the low-earth orbit for future NC3 missions.

The Cybersecurity implications of this reform are tremendous. With adversary nations on constant lookout, this switch in architecture could prompt the enemy to improve their capabilities and further increase tensions and risk of nuclear conflict. Another implication is the need for better on-board security. As the number of NC3 satellites will increase, there is a greater need for secured firmware as there are now more points of attack and vulnerabilities. These will be important factors to consider during the reform of NC3 architecture in the near future.