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  • Writer's pictureJoshua Duvall

President Signs New Space Policy Directive

On September 4, 2020, President Trump signed Space Policy Directive-5 (SPD-5), which establishes a set of cybersecurity principles designed to protect the nation's valuable "space systems" from a host of cyber threats aimed at disrupting our Nations critical infrastructure.

As defined in SPD-5, "space systems" is a "combination of systems, to include ground systems, sensor networks, and one or more space vehicles, that provides a space-based service. A space system typically has three segments: a ground control network, a space vehicle, and a user or mission network. These systems include Government national security space systems, Government civil space systems, and private space systems."

As noted in SPD-5:

  • Space systems are reliant on information systems and networks from design conceptualization through launch and flight operations. Further, the transmission of command and control and mission information between space vehicles and ground networks relies on the use of radio-frequency-dependent wireless communication channels. These systems, networks, and channels can be vulnerable to malicious activities that can deny, degrade, or disrupt space operations, or even destroy satellites.

In recognizing the ever increasing threat that could result in the "loss of mission data; decreased lifespan or capability of space systems or constellations; or the loss of positive control of space vehicles," SPD-5 sets forth a set of principles to "guide and serve as the foundation for the United States Government approach to the cyber protection of space systems."

SPD-5 Principles:

  1. Space systems and their supporting infrastructure, including software, should be developed and operated using risk-based, cybersecurity-informed engineering.

  2. Space system owners and operators should develop and implement cybersecurity plans for their space systems that incorporate capabilities to ensure operators or automated control center systems can retain or recover positive control of space vehicles.

  • Protection against unauthorized access to critical space vehicle functions.

  • Physical protection measures designed to reduce the vulnerabilities of a space vehicle’s command, control, and telemetry receiver systems;

  • Protection against communications jamming and spoofing, such as signal strength monitoring programs, secured transmitters and receivers, authentication, or effective, validated, and tested encryption measures designed to provide security against existing and anticipated threats during the entire mission lifetime;

  • Protection of ground systems, operational technology, and information processing systems through the adoption of deliberate cybersecurity best practices.

  • Adoption of appropriate cybersecurity hygiene practices, physical security for automated information systems, and intrusion detection methodologies for system elements such as information systems, antennas, terminals, receivers, routers, associated local and wide area networks, and power supplies; and

  • Management of supply chain risks that affect cybersecurity of space systems through tracking manufactured products; requiring sourcing from trusted suppliers; identifying counterfeit, fraudulent, and malicious equipment; and assessing other available risk mitigation measures.

  1. Implementation of these principles, through rules, regulations, and guidance, should enhance space system cybersecurity, including through the consideration and adoption, where appropriate, of cybersecurity best practices and norms of behavior.

  2. Space system owners and operators should collaborate to promote the development of best practices, to the extent permitted by applicable law.

  3. Security measures should be designed to be effective while permitting space system owners and operators to manage appropriate risk tolerances and minimize undue burden, consistent with specific mission requirements, United States national security and national critical functions, space vehicle size, mission duration, maneuverability, and any applicable orbital regimes.

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