Space Cybersecurity Arms Race and the Role of Commercial Solutions

One of the largest concerns Space Force is facing is protecting its assets from attacks as they increase in technological complexity. There are concerns of GPS disruption on vital US military assets by both Russia and China[1]. Another example of new attack vectors is that in the last few months there have been reports of Russia launching anti-satellite spacecraft into LEO[2]. One of the Space Force’s methods of addressing this arms race between our adversaries attacks and our own cyber defenses is through the integration of commercial solutions.

The Space Force has generally relied on in house solutions and known DoD contractors, however, this changed in April when they released their high level commercial strategy. The high-level plan is a hybrid approach that would meld existing military solutions with successful commercial solutions to gain the upper hand in these conflicts. Many in the industry are excited at the prospect of working with the Space Force, but also feel that they could expand further than the current plans[3]. In either case, this will likely require new methodologies for contracting, on both the government and contractor side as it is fairly unprecedented. Government work tends to move slow, but time is of the essence when it comes to expanding capabilities.

I believe that this is a step in the right direction, the Space Force cannot allow itself to fall behind in these conflicts and if trusted industry solutions exist, there is no reason to re-invent the wheel. That said, it also raises questions. If these commercial solutions are integrated into the Space Force, will they now become targets for malicious actors? We’ve already seen a similar scenario in the Ukraine/Russia war with Starlink. Additionally, how much of the solution would be the actual commercial product as opposed to a modified version like SpaceX’s Starshield? Until more detailed plans or solutions are released, it’s hard to know what to expect in the short term, but I am hopeful for the expansion of hybridized approach.