There are a number of current threats in space. Some sixty years of space missions have left tangible traces in low earth orbit (LEO). Space debris and the Kessler syndrome are very real dangers. Each collision generates space debris that can and will increase the likelihood of further collisions, rendering space activities and the use of satellites in certain orbital ranges ever more difficult and dangerous for generations to come. We currently know of around 20,000 objects orbiting earth at an average speed of 25,000 kilometres per hour. These are bigger than ten centimetres. In addition, there are some 700,000 smaller objects larger than one centimetre. Due to the enormous speed of the debris, they may damage or even destroy active satellites.
While the collision of space debris poses a natural threat to active satellites, space warfare is a lingering concern. Ranging from denying other space powers their ability to operate from space to physically devastating their equipment, some nations actively seek to disrupt, sabotage and destroy space-based systems with anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) – from the ground up, airborne and exo-atmospheric in space. Jamming communications satellites, blinding or dazzling reconnaissance satellites and disabling the solar panels of navigation and communications satellites from the ground are happening already. We know of missiles in space and airborne lasers that track and destroy satellites. In addition, the jamming of up- and downlinks to and from satellites is an ever-increasing threat. Electronically controlled antennas make it possible to track down detected objects and simultaneously search space for more. HENSOLDT’s laser warning technology can be used for space asset protection to detect and protect from space warfare.
Space is increasingly becoming a battlefield. National and international security is becoming ever more dependent on space-based capabilities. The importance of all-based systems makes them targets of counter-space operations. Electronic combat and cyber-attacks are preferred attack routes, as it makes the identification of attackers more difficult and physical collateral damage, such as space debris, can be avoided.
Satellites in space are far too vulnerable: They are just as susceptible to cyber attacks as computers on earth. Unfortunately, cyber threats are very hard to detect, and even if they are discovered, it is difficult to hold those responsible accountable. Often, security risks have unknowingly already been introduced in the supply chain, with malware opening the doors way to these attacks.
HENSOLDT thus applies its subsidiary HENSOLDT Cyber’s embedded IT for space applications. These are to include the cyber hardening of electronic components, big data gathering, high-performance data storage, analytics and visualization as well as penetration testing. HENSOLDT also offers Laser Data Links for the transmission of big data between satellites and airborne aircraft.
HENSOLDT Cyber’s answer to cyber threats in space is the development of a secure IT base, combining hardware and an operating system (core) to achieve true trustworthiness (Security by Architecture). The combination of a protected base processor with a mathematically proven, correct, error-free operating system kernel yields a secure IT basis for highest security needs.