Space Force Modernization of Ground Systems

For the last few years the Space Force has attempted to modernize its ground systems. This effort began in 2018, however they ran into number of issues including but not limited to:

  • The lack of a governing process for software integration
  • Timeline/prioritization of which assets to upgrade when
  • The sheer scope of how much had to be upgraded

A major reason for this overhaul is that legacy ground systems in the past did not have cybersecurity focus. The new system presents a major change in that approach as Michael Ehrlich states, “cyber component is really woven into the DNA of everything” in regards to the R2C2 platform. An intriguing aspect of this years attempt at modernization is that the Space Force is taking a cloud based approach for their software. From Erwin’s article this year:

Michael Ehrlich, executive vice president of Frontier Technology Inc. (FTI), said that instead of trying to create a common platform, R2C2 is developing a cloud-based and software-enabled ground infrastructure that would provide more flexibility.

The idea behind this approach is to have a more dynamic framework that will allow for re-allocation of resources based on perceived attacks. This would mean that regardless of the hardware employed by the ground station, the system could interface with the software to protect itself or rely on another asset in the meantime.

As a software engineer, I can’t help but ponder the implications of having everything be cloud based. Is all this critical information going to be communicated over the web or other similar protocols? Furthermore, the data centers housing these cloud solutions can become another attack vector as destruction of the servers could cause outages, or worse, loss of assets. Of course, there’s redundancy approaches and backups, but that seems to me another avenue for a malicious actor to attack. If they can understand the routines themselves, it may open the door for attacks that would not be present in a non-cloud solution.

Overall, it seems like a far more viable solution to modernization than what was proposed in 2018 where Space Force trying to create a singular unified approach to ground systems, however it is not without flaws.