Toward Space Cyber Integration

Many of today’s cyber systems are engineered with a networked layer model, which is different from the way traditional space systems were designed. Legacy space systems are typically a collection of subsystems supporting space and ground segments. Because of the different engineering methodologies that went into establishing space and cyber systems, key science and technology investments need to be made to reconcile these systems in the acquisition and engineering processes, allowing for truly integrated space and cyber systems.

All stakeholders (e.g., acquirers, contractors, operators, mission users) involved in space systems are actively considering how to approach the mission challenges of developing and operating space-cyber systems. The considerations are strategic (e.g., what science and technology investments need to be made in new space-cyber situational awareness capabilities of the future) and tactical (e.g., what operational changes could lead to better use of existing resources). Space cyber refers to the physical instantiation of cyber capability onto space platforms. Cyberspace is the information technology infrastructure that makes up the global domain of the information environment.

Space systems are topologically information technology (cyber) systems overlain onto specific platforms residing in the space environment. There are many technologies that are capable of crossing the boundaries between space and cyber, and these must be considered when developing an architecture methodology for integration. For example, many of today’s space and cyber systems share service-oriented measures of effectiveness and performance. These metrics assess accessibility, adaptability, autonomy, availability, capacity, coverage, delay, latency, reliability, robustness, scalability, speed, survivability, and timeliness.

The metrics associated with information gathering, transfer, and exploitation is an area where systems engineers are working to develop mutually acceptable requirements definitions for space-cyber systems. Defining a mutual taxonomy can lead to changes in the systems engineering process and insight into where to invest in the science and technology strategies of the future. The approach is to have network- and cyber-savvy designers help space systems engineers accomplish the transformation to service-oriented functional overlays provided by space-cyber systems.

Resilience in the Face of Cyberattack

U.S. space policy calls for increased assurance and resilience of mission-essential functions for a wide spectrum of commercial, civil, scientific, and national security spacecraft and infrastructure when confronted by disruptions or degradation from various sources. The mission assurance goal in the face of a cyberattack is to develop an overall space-cyber approach that allows for rapid reconstitution or reallocation of functionality and tasks using the cyber capabilities of space-based systems including common communications nodes and shared/distributed processing nodes for joint situational awareness. The approach to integration must involve multiplatform investments in mutually defensive capabilities.

The defined set of mission assurance capabilities for an integrated approach to space cyber must allow for dynamic reconfiguration of space-cyber systems in a cluster or constellation in response to threats of multiple types, including kinetic and nonkinetic. Dynamic space-cyber options would allow for active defense of space-based capabilities. The protections established should be flexible enough to adapt to changing mission requirements and have greater mitigation options for on-orbit failures. Mission stakeholders will then be able to begin planning for cyberattacks well in advance, increasing confidence in the overall operability and mission assurance of fractionated systems.

In the past, space system designers had to wait decades to inject new enabling technologies for satellite block upgrades on monolithic legacy space systems. Space-cyber integrated systems design offers increased operability and robustness over traditional space system approaches. Adopting emerging space-cyber systems engineering techniques will allow for more rapid upgrades to block systems and new techniques for processors, distributed processing capabilities, and varied communication and bandwidth allocation approaches. It also offers a path toward faster, more flexible development cycles.

The space community would benefit from creating an integrated set of testbeds to rapidly iterate among possible niches of various space-cyber genotype and design combinations. It would be beneficial to address the flexibility and robustness aspects by creating more flexible space/ground link combinations for the command and control/satellite operations (C2/SO) systems. The science and technology strategies could be iterated within the testbeds or implemented in a more robust and flexible networked C2/SO system of systems.

The underlying research of developing an integration approach must be designed to investigate the limits of space systems as cyber-physical systems within the context of complex systems. It may be best to take existing complex system research lines, which are well established, and look for the strongest overlaps with space-cyber systems.

Space systems and cyber systems have been on an intersecting path for science and technology development investment for quite some time. Space-cyber integrated systems design offers increased operability and increased space-cyber robustness over traditional space system approaches. There is a strong risk/opportunity trade worth investigating, aspects of which have been a part of prior research for fractionated systems, which had a heavy networking and cyber component. If an “architecting” or analytic methodology can be created to allow for rapid trades amongst candidates to explore their functional capability, it should be possible to make decisions for a better space-cyber system with the desired autonomy, flexibility, and robustness. The objective is to use cyber technologies and applications to enable operability improvements or upgrades as needed.

The Aerospace Corporation is working closely with its customers to develop integrated testbeds in cyber. The priority is to develop the ability for analysis of the genotypes (designs) and phenotypes (behaviors, i.e., autonomy, flexibility, and robustness) that will be involved in the research process with an emphasis on the satellite operations and infrared intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance of the overhead persistent infrared systems (ISR/OPIR). An important step is to identify whether the infrared functions can be devised as services that allow missions to repurpose the physical sensor systems. This will also offer capability for the introduction of new sensor technologies while ensuring legacy sensor systems can continue to be used as they are integrated with new technologies.

Much work has been accomplished in the space and cyber science and technology investment strategies, but refinements to optimize the marriage of the two are ongoing. There is a need for continued discussion on this nationally critical topic that will guide future investment strategies. A disciplined methodology is called for that can accept and use emergent behaviors of advanced technologies, particularly to support key decision processes and augment human decision-making. The ultimate goal is a national security space robust architecture that is a standards-based, net-centric, service-oriented virtual enterprise.

— Joseph Betser

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