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Galactic gains for Virgin.

Virgin Galactic returns to space. Space Force and Air Force partner on space cyber operations. S Korea launches its first commercial grade satellite. And more





Virgin Galactic returns to space. Space Force is partnering with the Air Force on offensive space cyber operations. South Korea delivers its first commercial grade satellite into orbit, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our featured interview today is with Jon Check, Executive Director of Cyber Protection Solutions at Raytheon Intelligence and Space. He joins us to discuss Raytheon’s support for the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

You can follow Jon on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Selected Reading


5.24 Schriever Spacepower Series: Lt Gen Stephen N. Whiting - Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies 

Unified and integrated: How Space Force envisions the future of data-sharing for space operations - Breaking Defense

NGA making 'significant advances' months into AI-focused Project Maven takeover - Breaking Defense   

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to demo data processing node- C4ISRNET

(5th LD) S. Korea launches space rocket Nuri following delay - Yonhap News Agency 

Fleet Space raises A$50M Series C to globalise revolutionary critical minerals exploration tech- Fleet PR

Dish in Talks to Sell Wireless Plans Through Amazon - WSJ

Does the roar of rocket launches harm wildlife? These scientists seek answers- Nature 

ESA receives Space for Climate Protection Award- ESA

LEGO sends 1,000 astronauts to space and lands them safely in a mini space-shuttle- Space.com

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>> Alice Carruth: Last week, we told you the tale of two virgins. How do two companies with the same parent brand have such opposing stories to tell? This week, one went under. And today, the other returned to space. Today is May 25th, 2023. I'm Alice Carruth, and this is T Minus.

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Virgin Galactic returns to space. Space Force is partnering with the Air Force on offensive space cyber operations. South Korea delivers its first commercial grade satellite into orbit. And Dave Bittner from our sister podcast, the CyberWire Daily, will be bringing us his conversation with Jon Check, Executive Director of Cyber Protection Solutions at Raytheon Intelligence & Space.

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Onto today's intel briefing. And we start with commercial space line Virgin Galactic and their first flight to space since July of 2021. Release, release, release, echoed around the mission control room at Spaceport American, as mothership Eve dropped Spaceship Unity ahead of igniting the engines and heading to the 50 mile marker, which is considered space in the U.S. Unity launched out from the drop zone above 45,000 feet to its final apogee, and then experienced over three minutes in microgravity before falling down as a glider and safely returning to the runway in New Mexico. This test flight had two pilots and four Virgin Galactic employees onboard, and has been touted as the last test flight before Virgin Galactic begins commercial operations to transport its 800 plus customers to space. To put that into perspective, we've only just reached 600 people in space since the first human spaceflight in 1961. In the week its former sister company, Virgin Orbit, folded, Virgin Galactic spaceflight is a much-needed success story for the parent brand. And we wish them continued success as they work to make space accessible for everyone. At a metal institute event yesterday, Lieutenant General Stephen Whiting, who runs Space Operations Command, revealed that the U.S. Space Force is partnering with the Air Force's information warfare wing to enable offensive cyber operations from space. The guardians will embed with the 16th Air Force, the branch responsible for providing cyber specialists to U.S. cyber command. The Space Force is planning to build a similar component for cyber command. This comes in light of revelations that U.S. satellites have been targeted by Russian and Chinese cyber warfare groups. Whiting noted the vulnerability of Space Force to cyber-attacks, emphasizing the need to fortify their cyber defenses against nations like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. We covered some metaverse news earlier this week. And we're sorry to say that there is more. The Space Force is developing an everything network for space operations called the Integrated Operations Network, ION for short, to facilitate the file sharing of data in any format from any source. If that sounds ambitious, that's because it is. The network will be supported by a cloud based repository known as the Unified Data Library, with plans for a space orientated metaverse called the space verse. With a [inaudible] like that, they probably consulted Neal Stephenson on branding. ION is envisioned as a game changer, enabling a fully digitized service. A key concern for the difficulty managing and accessing huge backlog of data. The Space Force has requested 56 million dollars in its 2024 budget for these initiatives. The vision for the Space Force remains unclear, but it represents a wholistic approach to integrating operations and training in the space industry. The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency has reported significant advanced in Project Maven, the Pentagon's primary artificial intelligence initiative, just months after taking parts of the project. This program, set to become an official program of record in fiscal year 2024, aims to accelerate the integration of AI into military operations. NGA's work has enhanced maritime domain awareness, target management, and object detection capabilities. The agency also focused on assessing supply chain risk posed by AI and machine learning technologies. As part of Project Maven's expansion, the NGA will combine computer vision with human expert analysis to deliver automated geospatial intelligence detections, emphasizing the integration of machine learning experts and imagery analysts to boost AI model performance and interoperability. NGA is also developing joint regional edge nodes to improve data processing and distribution in remote locations. The rest of the world calls this idea edge computing, and we've spoken about it a few times on T Minus. The first node is expected to be operational in 2024, within the U.S. Indo Pacific Command. This initiative is meant to support analysis in the field by maintaining access to essential applications, even when disconnected from main data centers. This move towards decentralizing systems is in line with the National Defense Strategy, and is designed to function effectively in cloud disconnected, or degraded environments, promoting resilience, redundancy, and timely information delivery to military and policymakers in a contested operating environment. Over to South Korea now, and they have successfully launched the Nuri rocket today, sending eight new satellites into space. This was the first time that South Korea's domestically made space rocket delivered a commercial grade satellite into orbit. The rocket was launched by the Ministry of Science and ICT, and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute from the country's southern coastal village of Goheung. The main commercial grade satellite has made contact with the base station in Antarctica after successfully separating from the space vehicle. Six other cube satellites were also deployed, but the Science Ministry has said it's checking if one remaining CubeSat was released normally. The satellite is said to be a critical part of the country's space program. On to Australia now, and satellite company Fleet Space Technologies has raised over 33 million U.S. dollars in a Series C funding round. Fleet Space produces a satellite based mineral exploration constellation called ExoSphere that is used worldwide. ExoSphere is currently operated by more than 30 clients, including Rio Tinto, Barrick Gold Corporation, Core Lithium and Gold Fields. The company says that many of these minerals pay a pivotal role in the energy transition needed to achieve global net zero targets. Fleet has almost doubled its valuation since raising its Series B round in 2021. This Series C funding round brings a total valuation of the company to over 220 million U.S. dollars. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that TV services company Dish is in talks to sell its new satellite to sell mobile phone service through amazon.com. The journal reports that details of the new plans could be announced as soon as next month. Federal regulators have already set a June 14th deadline for Dish to meet certain network coverage milestones. And not reaching these milestones could lead to financial penalties. A team from Brigham Young University has received close to 1 million dollars from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study the effects of noise pollution on wildlife from space ports. The research team is focused on Vandenberg Air Force Base, that's seen a dramatic increase in launch cadence in recent years. Meanwhile, over in Europe, the efforts of the space community to address global climate change have been recognized with a special award. The International Astronautical Federation has presented the European Space Agency with a space for climate protection award. The Earth observation dashboard collaboration between ISAS, JAXA, and NASA, was highlighted for the ways in which remote sensing data can support climate protection and allow the global population to easily access information that may be fundamental to protect our planet.

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That concludes our intel briefing for today. But you can read more about all the stories we have covered in the selected reading section on our website, space.n2k.com. And hey, T Minus crew, if your business is looking to grow your voice in the industry, expand the reach of your thought leadership, or recruit talent, T Minus can help. We'd like to hear from you. Send us an e mail at space@n2k.com. Or send us a note through the website so we can connect about building a program to meet your goals. Stay with us for Dave Bittner's conversation with Jon Check from Raytheon Intelligence & Space about their support for the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

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We'll be right back.

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Dave Bittner, host of our sister podcast the CyberWire Daily, recently caught up with Jon Check, Executive Director of Cyber Protection Solutions at Raytheon Intelligence & Space. In keeping with our series of interviews this week on education and student competitions, they spoke about Raytheon support for the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, another critical domain investment for the space industry. Dave Bittner shares this report.

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>> Dave Bittner: Jon Check is Executive Director of Cyber Protection Solutions at Raytheon Intelligence & Space. In collaboration with my N2K colleagues on the T Minus podcast, I caught up with him at the RSA Conference for insights on cybersecurity and workforce strategy for the space community. Can you give us some insight as to what the situation is on the ground? I mean, I know we talk over on the cybersecurity side about that there are skills gaps, that there's challenges in hiring people. Is it pretty much the same in space?

>> Jon Check: Yeah, it's, I would say in space the same rules apply, right? There's the skills gap, lack of diversity, right, something that we also need to address, because space is, has Earth's problems. It's all the same thing.

>> Dave Bittner: I love it.

>> Jon Check: Right? Just in a different level of the atmosphere.

>> Dave Bittner: Right, right. Even when we build that Moon base.

>> Jon Check: Just a little. All the same rules and problems will apply to the Moon, I'm sure.

>> Dave Bittner: So, how are you and your colleagues at Raytheon coming at that to try to narrow those gaps?

>> Jon Check: Well, one of the key things is making sure that there's context. So, to solve any problem, you really need to have the people that are deep into cyber, that are there to do all the right things around that, which would be implementing the zero trust pillars, ensuring that you're doing all the things to secure an environment. But also marrying them up with people with deep space knowledge, people that understand how satellites work, how the communications work between ground stations and those things floating above us. And how does that, how do they talk between? So, you put those on two contexts together. You can't just have, you know, ultimately cyber is a team sport. And that requires all players to be engaged in helping each other fill the gaps that they don't have in knowledge. That's one of the critical learnings we have within Raytheon is we have a part of our business that does offensive cyber. So, we've developed something we call Raytheon Offensive Labs where we teach our defenders to think like an attacker, which means, it's a totally different mindset you approach a problem to, versus one of the gaps we have in traditional learning, I'll say in traditional colleges and universities, they do great work, but they don't teach offensive cyber. Programs, you know, that's typically learned by somebody that has an interest in cyber, and they're doing that in the cyber defense competition, where they're defending against a red team that's trying to attack their fictitious network for supporting a company. Or a CTF, or one of those other aspects, for you to get more of the flavor of, okay, the greatest thing ever, my most enjoyable experiences in cyber are after you do an exercise like that, and the red teamers are out briefing the teams that they were attacking, and the conversations are the best, because they're like, oh, yeah, when you typed in that 100 character password, and it took you, you know, 30 seconds to do that, we'd already seen it, cut and pasted it, and we're owning everything you had at that point.

>> Dave Bittner: Wow.

>> Jon Check: So, it's a great dialogue, because that person is not even thinking. They're thinking, I'm being super secure, because I'm doing a 100 character password.

>> Dave Bittner: Right.

>> Jon Check: And taking the time. Meanwhile, the attacker is like, yeah, I could see you doing it the whole time. I was just cut and pasting and putting it where I needed it to go next in your network. So, it's a great, those are learnings that have to continue. And I think space will, exactly the same rules apply. And that's what we're really focused on is how do we marry the, okay, here's what attackers would do in space, what does it look like in a cyber vector, and how do we ensure that the defenders understand what that looks like?

>> Dave Bittner: And in a situation like that, to see it be able to be done in a collaborative way, you know, there's an adversarial element to it. But at the end of the day, in that particular case, everybody's on the same team.

>> Jon Check: A hundred percent. And it's, and it's, it really is, I mean, people look forward to that. That's like one of the highlights, because that's when you truly get the learnings of when you were doing, and over time, one of the things we participate in is the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition was in its 18th year this year. And so there has absolutely been a maturity level of the teams that come to participate each year from the colleges and universities has greatly improved. Right? They've clearly learned and are way more advanced than they were when the competition started.

>> Dave Bittner: When it comes to the security of satellites, for example, in a previous life, I worked in the television industry back in the 90s. And I remember talking to my friends in master control who were responsible for the uplinks and things like that. And I remember, you know, they would use phrases like let's light this candle and things like that, right? But I also remember asking them, like how are we ensuring that we're not stepping on each other's signals? What keeps someone from lighting up an uplink and just stomping on someone else's signal? And the response I got over and over again was, well, we're gentlemen. We would not do that. I suspect we're probably not 100% in that mode anymore with the dependence on satellites that we have now, the global arena, and having adversaries out there. Is that an accurate view from my point of view?

>> Jon Check: I would say, without a doubt, people, and I'm not going to say that would become complacent, but certainly, okay, great, that communication you have from the ground to the satellite is encrypted. Okay? But once that satellite is up there, what are all the sensors it has that can receive input? How are other outside entities trying to breach your security through those other sensors and other vectors even outside of just what the communications link is? I think, you know, satellite manufacturers have the same challenges that everybody else does. There's a lot of times when people release products, there are other features like microphones or RF capabilities that are turned off. But it's still out there. It still has that capability. So, if attacker knows a feature that's on something, they just upload the driver, start taking advantage of it, move laterally within that platform, so it's really something you have to think about. It's not just the straightforward attack vectors. When you think like an attacker, okay, what, what comprises this? What are all the different components? How do I test each component to figure out what is the way I would be compromising? As a defender, that's exactly the things we need to make sure we're locked down. If you really don't need a certain sensor on a satellite, don't put it up there and shoot it up into space with it on.

>> Dave Bittner: Well, I was thinking, you know, along those lines, that, you know, I imagine the conversation when someone walks into their boss's office and says, boss, I accidentally bricked the router. You know? That's a different conversation than, boss, I accidentally bricked the satellite.

>> Jon Check: Right.

>> Dave Bittner: Because you can't, you can't just swap out something that's in the geo [inaudible] orbit.

>> Jon Check: Well, it's interesting, because from my perspective, I feel like there's clearly at the terrestrial level OT systems and space, they have to share a lot of the same challenges. Right? OT systems, a lot have been around a long years. There's a lot of satellites that were launched a long time ago when cybersecurity wasn't a concern.

>> Dave Bittner: Right.

>> Jon Check: So, you've got that whole aspect of it. The satellites can't be, they're not, you don't take them down for downtime. Right?

>> Dave Bittner: Yeah.

>> Jon Check: To swap out parts. I mean, in the OT systems, it runs, and you can't, you do not mess with it.

>> Dave Bittner: You're changing the oil while the engine is running.

>> Jon Check: Right. So, there's certain aspects. I mean, obviously you can get physical access to some OT systems.

>> Dave Bittner: We don't have a space shuttle anymore.

>> Jon Check: Right. Yeah, that's, that's really, if you think about it, there's definitely some similarities. So, one of the things I'm more focused on currently is how do you treat some of those same challenges? Because, you know, like a smart person once told me, everybody's a unique snowflake. But human behaviors are all the same. And with cybersecurity, space is a unique environment, but all the cybersecurity challenges, opportunities exist the same there as they do here on Earth.

>> Dave Bittner: As you head back after a conference like this, what sort of things are on your mind? Do you find yourself energized, a little overwhelmed? What are you going to bring back to your team and your colleagues?

>> Jon Check: Well, I'm a continuous reframer. So, I'm always a glass is almost always full type of person. I'm there to solve the challenges that come up. I'm not there to worry about them. That doesn't, that doesn't help anything. So, one of the key things I'm going to take away from this conference is making sure the team knows, we are making progress, there are good things that are happening. Right? You can be overwhelmed by all the things that aren't good. But there's a lot of goodness that's coming out. There's a lot better collaboration. There's starting to be true information sharing, not just for the purpose of, hey, here's my information, but people are taking action related to it. They're starting to really, you know, we're getting through the formative stages. And we're real close to the end of the beginning to where we can really move on and truly start collaborating, because within cybersecurity, without a doubt, 100%, no one can defend on their own. Unless you have an environment that you've cultivated over time, which starts with ensuring that you are doing everything you can to persist the fight as long as we can. So, from my perspective, if somebody on my team finds another job at another company, I'm thrilled, I'm so totally supportive, because that means there's another friend of mine out there that I can call that will get new experiences that I will probably rely on, or they'll rely on me at some point in the future to figure out and solve some tough problems. And that's what, you know, when you think about what your, what your goal of why you're doing things, that's where I really try to hone in on my goal is to protect our way of life, point blank, and persist the fight, after, when I'm long gone, you know, sitting on a porch napping next to the cat that's also napping, you know, I'll be sleeping soundly because I know that there will be a great next team focused on solving the cybersecurity problems the day that will be way beyond the problems I experienced when I was doing it.

>> Dave Bittner: That's Jon Check from Raytheon Intelligence & Space. You can hear more of my conversation with him on today's T Minus Daily Space Intel Briefing.

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>> Alice Carruth: And we'll be right back.

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Mankind has sent some seriously random things to space over the years. It seems that brands know no limits when it comes to the challenge of sending objects as a promotional stunt. In 2009, it was Toshiba who decided to appeal to the resident couch potatoes with a space chair advertisement. In 2012, Harvard students sent to space [inaudible] Operation: Skyfall [inaudible] from Yankee Stadium, and least we forget Tesla and their mannequin in a spacesuit known as Starman. Well, this weekend, 1,000 Lego astronauts were sent to the edge of space on a stratospheric balloon. The plastic figurines took off from a small airport in Slovakia. The Lego men were seated on a 3D printed space shuttle light platform made of a sturdy but lightweight carbon composite material. The vehicle and platform were designed by a team of space architects and engineers from Slovakia and the Czech Republic, looking to inspire future generations to learn about space. This isn't the first Lego in space, however. There's been Lego figurines, and even a Lego ISS on the space station. And you should see the video from 2012 when a Canadian Lego figurine was filmed in space. And while you're at it, check out the amazing photographs of the latest Legonauts. Yes, a fitting name, right? We've included the link in the selected reading section on our website. And let us know, what would you send up?

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That's it for T Minus for May 25th, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. We are privileged that N2K and podcasts like T Minus are part of the daily routine for many of the most influential leaders and operators in the public and private sector. From the Fortune 500 to many of the world's preeminent intelligence and law enforcement agencies. This episode was mixed by Elliott Peltzman and Tre Hester, with original music and sound designed by Elliott Peltzman. Our Executive Producer is Brandon Karpf. Our Chief Intelligence Officer is Eric Tillman. And I'm Alice Carruth. Thanks for listening.

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