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What do satellite spectrum licensing regs have to do with space debris?

The US House rejects the satellite spectrum licensing bill. Space Force releases a draft reserve plan. Houston briefly loses contact with the ISS. And more.





The US House rejects the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act. The US Space Force releases a draft reserve plan to call up commercial satellites in times of conflict. A power outage in Houston causes mission control to briefly lose contact with the ISS, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is David Luber, Deputy Director of the Cybersecurity Directorate at the National Security Agency, on space systems as critical infrastructure and cyber defense.

Selected Reading

Lucas Statement in Opposition to H.R. 1338, the Satellite Telecommunications Streamlining Act

Draft commercial space ‘reserve’ plan allows DoD ‘exclusive access’ to services during conflict- Breaking Defense

Led by US, global spending on military space jumped to $54B in 2022: Space Foundation- Breaking Defense


NASA power outage temporarily halts contact with space station- AP

2023 NASA Tipping Point Selections- NASA

China launches first communications satellite with flexible solar wing- CGTN

Round B of 20 million euros for Leaf Space, towards the goal of continuous satellite connectivity- i3P

China's gigantic telescope identifies over 800 pulsars- CGTN

Space Sustainability – Our Oppenheimer Moment to Recognise the Importance of Protecting the Environment Beyond our Skies

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>> Maria Varmazis: To keep busy orbits and the spacecraft in them safe from each other and from space debris, you have to know what's out there and where it's going. And as companies and governments continue to send satellites to an increasingly crowded low-Earth orbit, minimizing the creation of additional space debris and tracking all the spacecraft and debris currently in orbit is a pressing matter. And not to sound too dramatic here, but it is an existential problem.

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Today is July twenty sixth, 2023. I'm Maria Varmazis and this is T-Minus.

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The US House rejects the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act. We'll tell you why. Space Force releases a draft reserve plan to call up commercial satellites in times of conflict. Houston, we have a problem, but it's just a power outage. And our guest today is David Luber, Deputy Director of NSA's Cybersecurity Directorate. You'll definitely want to stick around for that chat.

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And now, here's today's intel briefing. We've talked to many people on this show in the private and public sectors who are trying to chip away at the many facets of the issue that we opened our show with, tracking in space. Certainly, there are a lot of organizations in the private sector working on space situational awareness, but when it comes to a set of standards on how to operate to minimize debris and increase safety, there isn't one centralized voice or agreed upon industry standard out there determining what could make and keep space safe. So that brings us to today's talk news coming out of the US House that a much-awaited bill to update regulations around satellite spectrum licensing, HR-1338 The Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act did not pass. Now, if you're not familiar with what's in this bill, I can hear you asking it now. What do satellite spectrum licensing regs have to do with space debris? And that is a very good question, one that many watching this bill would also be watching. That's because there's a part of this bill that goes beyond fixing and speeding up the licensing process at the FCC. It also adds in a part that says effectively for any license granted by the FCC to also include quote specific, measurable, and technology neutral performance objectives for space safety and orbital debris. And a bit confusingly, the bill also goes on to say later that essentially, nothing in this bill shall be construed to either grant the FCC authority to carry out space situational awareness services or to expand the authority of the FCC to establish requirements or regulate space safety and orbital debris. You still with me on this one? The FCC bill that failed said it didn't want to give the FCC the job of keeping track of orbital debris and regulating space safety, but it kind of did want the option to be able to establish performance objectives around space safety when granting licenses. One could feel that that's a good compromise in allowing the FCC to have an option there, but many voices including space advocacy and industry groups spoke in opposition to the bill, saying that adding more responsibilities to the already burdened FCC, especially in a bill that is meant to help speed up the spectrum licensing process is to quote one testimony in opposition, an overstep. According to Space News, The National Space Society, The Space Frontier Foundation, and The Beyond Earth Institute, penned a letter to the House Science Committee voicing their opposition specifically to the space safety provision in this bill, saying quote, we do not believe that the FCC has or should have authority to regulate space commerce generally, nor does it have the expertise to do so. Representative Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, who is the chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee put out a statement explaining his opposition to the space safety provisions in HR-1338. He said this: I'm concerned this bill would jeopardize our leadership in this field and could result in redundancy, duplication, and confusion for the commercial space industry. The FCC has exclusive jurisdiction over the licensing of spectrum use, but the language in the bill would extend that reach to the design and operation of any space object that carries and FCC license system. To explain what a massive overreach this is, this would be equivalent to allowing the FCC to regulate the design and operations of tractor trailers simply because the driver uses a CB system that uses FCC-controlled spectrum. Not only would this new authority fly in the face of existing efforts to coordinate space safety and orbital debris roles across the federal government, but it would task the FCC with regulatory responsibilities that are outside the agency's areas of expertise. Changing topics now, the US Space Force has released a draft reserve plan to call up commercial satellites in times of conflict. The Commercial Augmentation Service Reserve -- which will be known as CASR, perhaps 'caser' - is under development by Space System Command's Commercial Space Office, referred to as COMSO. The draft was released for industry comment. The concept is designed to be a space parallel to the existing Air Force and Navy civil reserve fleets that allow those services to call upon non-military planes and ships in times of need. The draft CASR states that quote, "Commercial companies retain their civil status while Space Comm exercises mission control via its Space Force service component". And we touched a little on The Space Foundation's annual report on the space industry as an economic driver yesterday, and it seems that the trend also extends into the military spend in space. According to The Space Foundation's report, military space spending in 2022 rose to an estimated 54 billion US dollars, up from some $45 billion in 2021. And which country is leading the way in this surge? Well, the United States. Probably no big surprise, there. That is, as far as we know anyway, because even the report admits that numbers on spending in China are murky at best. The study estimates that the Pentagon's classified and unclassified spending in 2022 reached almost $43 billion. That amount is expected to jump to $54 billion this year, and as we all know, the US military is increasingly looking to space for defense, so we expect the spending surge to continue for some time to come. Now, imagine travelling 250 miles above the Earth's surface at 17,500 miles per hour and losing connection with mission control for an entire 90 minutes. That would be one whole rotation of the Earth for the ISS, by the way. Well, the 7 astronauts on board the International Space Station don't need to imagine it because it happened yesterday. A power outage hit mission control in Houston as upgrade work was underway in the building at Johnson Space Center. It's the first time NASA has had to use backup systems to take control. But fear not, no one was in danger according to NASA and as luck would have it, Russia was able to relay the problem to the astronauts. Thank goodness for our friends, huh? And at the time we recorded our show yesterday, Astrobotics and Blue Origin had announced that they had received NASA tipping point funding totaling nearly $70 million. And a further 9 companies were also part of the $150 million tipping point selections, which included United Launch Alliance, Lockheed Martin, Red Wire, Big Metal Additive, Freedom Photonics Proto-Innovations, CIONIC, Varda Space Industries, and Zeno Power Systems. NASA selected the 11 US companies to develop technologies that could support long-term exploration on the Moon and in space. The technologies range from lunar surface power systems to tools for in space 3D printing. The projects will be funded jointly by NASA and the industry partners with each company contributing a minimum percentage of the total project cost, at least 10 to 25% based on the company size. And speaking of new space tech, China has launched its first flat-panel stackable satellite with a flexible solar wing to orbit. The satellite, along with another 3 remote sensing vehicles, lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in north China's Shanxi province. The satellites were transported by a long-march 2D rocket. The 3 remote sensing satellites, 1 developed by Chinese private company SKYSITE and the other 2 by Beijing-based aerospace company Galaxy Space will be used for remote sensing observation. And we'll finish off our daily briefing today with a bit of financial news. Italian-based Leaf Space have announced that they've successfully raised a series B funding round of 20 million Euros, or 22 million US dollars if you need to do the math. The new capital is in addition to 15 million Euros in venture debt through the European Investment Bank of Financing. Leaf Space is a global provider of ground segment data collection services for satellite operators, and currently serves around 40 government and commercial customers worldwide. Kudos to them. And as always, we've included links to all the stories we've covered today in our show notes at space.n2k.com. We've included some additional stories, as well as an op ed that links to our opener today on space sustainability. UK Space Agency's Deputy Chief Executive Ian Annett wrote an op ed on space sustainability. He called it Our Oppenheimer Moment to Recognize the Importance of Protecting the Environment Beyond Our Skies. It's a great read, definitely worth taking a look at.

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Our guest for today's interview is David Luber, Deputy Director of NSA's Cybersecurity Directorate. To start our conversation, I asked for his view on the state of cybersecurity in space right now.

>> David Luber: I always think about cybersecurity as a team sport, and as you look across the US government and our community, within the Department of Defense, Space Force, CISA, NIST, and our defense industrial base, as well as the Department of Commerce, we're all working together when it comes to ensuring that we have the right cybersecurity for our current and future space systems. And for the National Security Agency, we focus specifically on the cybersecurity for our national security systems. As you might imagine, our military, our government relies on space and that capability needs to be secured to ensure that we can withstand the threats that come from multiple adversaries. And when I think about the space ecosystem and I think about cybersecurity, I'm really thinking about ensuring that we're securing the ground segment, the user segment, the length segment, and the space segment. So that entire ecosystem is something that we focus on at the National Security Agency for national security systems.

>> Maria Varmazis: Well, thank you for that overview. Yeah, and could you help me understand maybe the different roles that the US government plays in helping secure these systems? Or maybe who specifically is responsible for what, or could you give me a sense of that, please?

>> David Luber: Well, first off, as I mentioned that team sport effort, at NSA, we're responsible for ensuring that the guidance is in place for those key national security systems, even those systems in space that are supporting our weapons capabilities for the US military. But beyond that activity, then, we look to other partners in CISA, in the office of space commerce, and in NIST to really help in the areas of commercial use of space and the commerce of space, and to ensure that those systems are also secure. But collectively together, we work together to ensure that the guidance can be used and consumed by both the national security systems, as well as other US government users and commercial entities. Just to give you an example, I talked about the ground segment as one of those areas that we need to protect, and at NSA, we publish cybersecurity advisories that give insights into a variety of different threat activities that impact all types of different national security systems. But in the case of others, these advisories can also be used if you're in the commercial segment, if you're in other areas to ensure that you're securing those systems in a way that would keep an adversary - and when I talk about adversaries, I think about the adversaries of Russia, the PRC, Iran, North Korea, and even the non-state actors like ransomware actors - from penetrating those key systems. We've also published advisories on how to protect the length segment, ensuring that the proper use of TRANSEC is employed, and even in some of the user segment areas to ensure that the user segment modems have the right firmware, that they're monitored just like any other device that would be used on a network.

>> Maria Varmazis: That's fantastic. I was going to ask about the commercial sector, as well. I know that there are a number of really interesting opportunities there in terms of how the commercial sector interfaces with the US government, especially in securing systems and I was interested in knowing of any additional maybe opportunities there for growth or maybe ways that the industry could, perhaps, better work with the US government entities to strengthen systems.

>> David Luber: I think one of the areas that we've been working on within the National Security Agency is that focus and working with our defense industrial base entities, especially those that are in the space arena, and that's where our teams can work together to share analysis back and forth with regards to the types of threat information that we're seeing against space systems. And while that's focused on the defense industrial base, the outcomes of those kinds of interactions actually serves to inform many others, whether it's through cybersecurity advisories, or through other guidance. So there are a lot of things that we're doing right now at the National Security Agency. Now, so let me just kind of give you an idea. When you think about threats, you know, when you think about threats to the system, you know, I'll point out that the PRC, you know, as a national space strategy focused on becoming a global leader in space, and that includes the PLA emphasizing offensive cyberspace capabilities against space-based assets. So the intent is there from the PRC to really impact our space systems. And if I look at Russia, you know, I also look at and use the example of what happened in Russia, Ukraine with the [inaudible] situation. Again, in this case, an attack against the user segment, making sure that the modems would no longer work for tens of thousands of users. So these threats are real, and that means collectively, amongst the partners that I mentioned earlier, we all need to continue to work together to raise that bar for cybersecurity in that entire space ecosystem.

>> Maria Varmazis: And do you feel that awareness within the commercial space sector is where it should be? Or is there perhaps room to grow in terms of space cybersecurity awareness or maturity, so to speak?

>> David Luber: I find that there are many different avenues for the community to gain insights on cybersecurity, but I'll never say that it's perfect. Right? We all have opportunities to improve, and I think the kind of work that I mention with regards to specific cybersecurity advisors and other guidance that focus on the space segment itself is an area that we'll continue to focus on here at the National Security Agency.

>> Maria Varmazis: I'm very curious to get your thoughts on the calls for designating space as a critical infrastructure. In your view, would that help move things along in the right direction? Or what would that material impact if space were to become designated as critical infrastructure?

>> David Luber: Well, first, I'd offer that the White House has not made a decision regarding space as a critical infrastructure, and if called upon by the White House for insights and thoughts on that, obviously NSA would provide input to that decision. But collectively, I'd offer too that the team is already working well together and absent any sort of decision, we will continue to focus on how we work together as a team across the US government, but in particular, that very important partnership between government and industry because I think that's where the power of partnerships really come together. Sharing insights, sharing guidance, and ensuring that we can change as the threat arena changes, as well. Just as we're talking right now, there are new vulnerabilities being discovered. There are changes that are happening in the cyber ecosystem, so this is not something that you publish, and you're finished. This is something that's continuous that we need to work together on over time.

>> Maria Varmazis: And as space and commercial space, especially, continues to grow at an astounding pace, I'm wondering are there any maybe emerging technologies that are of interest that you feel could present great opportunities for perhaps hardening systems or helping move along the maturity of cybersecurity in space systems.

>> David Luber: Absolutely. You know, when I think about any type of system out there today, some of the things that I immediately think about, especially for the space ecosystem, is concepts like implementing zero trust within ground system segments. It's a different thought process, but really ensuring that zero trust principles are applied and that we have the indications when one of those threat actors are attempting to gain access to those systems, or if they are successful, because zero trust does assume breach, that they have little maneuver space to actually impact the actual space systems themselves. I'd also offer that building in cybersecurity from the beginning, if we look back in time, some of the early space systems didn't necessarily consider cybersecurity as one of the primary requirements during the acquisition, development, implementation. So I think it's really important for us to think about how we ensure that cybersecurity is thought about during the actual development within the entire ecosystem that I mentioned earlier. And then for, in particular, for national security systems, but not just national security systems, the future of cryptography. We need to ensure that we have quantum resistant cryptography for national security systems and US government systems, as well as commercial systems to ensure that cryptography advances along with the space systems and all that ecosystem that I just mentioned. And then lastly, I'd say that the complexity of space systems in proliferated Leo architectures now demand the ability for those systems to be able to communicate in space from system to system. So those crosslinks now require new concepts in ensuring that we have IP encryption that can occur in space-based transport. So different technologies, different applications of cryptography, and zero trust I think are all areas that I think are not only emerging, but in many cases critical to ensure that current and future space systems can be relied on by the national security systems owners.

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>> Maria Varmazis: We'll be right back.

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And welcome back. Now, we do love to end our show with a fun space fact, and really, it's astronomy and deep space observation that provides us with so many learning opportunities. So today's final story comes from China, where the country's FAST telescope, which stands for five-hundred meter aperture spherical radio telescope, has apparently identified over 800 new pulsars since its launch in 2016. According to Chinese state news, the world's largest single dish radio telescope has discovered more than 3 times the total number of pulsars found by foreign telescopes during the same time period. So what are pulsars and why are they significant? Well, pulsars are fast spinning neutron stars, originate from the imploded cores of massive dying stars through supernova explosions. And with their rotation, they emit a radio wave pulse - hence pulsar - that is so regular and dependable that they're often called cosmic lighthouses, or my favorite, the timekeepers of the universe. Pulsar observation has been used recently, in fact, to confirm the existence of gravitational radiation and black holes, and to help find answers to many other major questions in physics. There you go. Now you know.

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And that's it for T-Minus for July twenty-six, 2023. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. We'd love to know what you think of this podcast. You can email us at space@n2k.com or submit the survey in our show notes. Your feedback ensures that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry. N2k's strategic workforce intelligence optimizes the value of your biggest investment: your people. We make you smarter about your team while making your team smarter. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth, mixing by Elliott Peltsman and Trey Hester, with original music and sound design by Elliott Peltsman. Our executive producer is Brandon Karpf. Our chief intelligence officer is Eric Tillman, and I'm Maria Varmazis. Thanks for listening, we'll see you tomorrow.

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