Tag Archive for: Security

A Hybrid Space Architecture provides advances in commercial technology which will fundamentally strengthen the U.S. economic and security posture in space according to John Paul Parker who served as U.S. intelligence community space executive from 2018 to 2022, and previously served as a special advisor for space, cyber and intelligence to the Vice President of the United States.

Policy makers are right to expect the national security establishment to find ways to fully leverage the innovations and investment in commercial space capabilities like launch and imagery.  

But far less obvious and yet more profound is a very real revolution that is well underway: the wholesale overhaul of our national security space architecture into a “hybrid” design that effectively integrates the best of commercial and government investments.  

This transformation of our national security space architecture is prompted not only by the amazing and innovative developments in the commercial space sector, but also by the realization that our adversaries are determined to displace the United States leadership in space and target our currently vulnerable space based capabilities if conflict arises on Earth.  

These twin motivations are driving a once-in-a-generation series of changes that will fundamentally strengthen the U.S. economic and security posture in space.

Those leading the redesign of our national security space architecture in both the intelligence community and the Department of Defense are quietly but effectively utilizing three distinct approaches to capture the best of commercial space capabilities and adapt them to our national security needs.

The first approach is to augment government developed capabilities with commercial products and services.  Recently, the National Reconnaissance Office awarded the largest contracts for commercial imagery in its history.  When combined with exquisite imagery provided by government developed sources, this approach will dramatically increase intelligence capacity and provide the U.S. the ability to share with the world what we see from space without disclosing intelligence sources and methods.

Another far less visible approach being employed is to take advantage of the innovation and venture investment in commercial space technologies while adapting them to national security needs. The next generation of intelligence satellites now being developed will use flight proven hardware bought from commercial spacecraft manufacturers and adapt it with government payloads in order to lower cost and speed deployment.  

This is not merely a plan. The first of these hybrid satellites are already being tested in space, having gone from idea to orbit in less than three years, a fraction of the traditional timeframe to develop and launch a new capability.  

By radically lowering the cost of these hybrid satellites, we can afford many more of them which not only improves the technical performance of the constellation but also dramatically increases architectural resilience. Proliferation of many more hybrid surveillance satellites makes it harder for adversaries to track, target and disrupt or destroy our spacecraft in the event of conflict.

The final hybrid approach being utilized is the incorporation of commercially derived business models by traditional defense firms. The proliferation of commercial space providers has created a highly technical aerospace workforce that operates more like a Silicon Valley startup than a large defense contractor. 

In order to fully capitalize on this, we are seeing large defense firms partner with or acquire space startups and allow their commercial best practices to flourish in order to rapidly experiment and develop capabilities, while the established defense firm provides the government with a proven ability to perform classified integration and delivery. 

Combining the reliability and the assurance of the cleared defense industrial base with the speed and innovation of our space entrepreneurs is another hybridization approach already showing positive results.

As good as they are, current commercial space capabilities are not a replacement for government developed national security capabilities, nor should the U.S. be content to rely exclusively on commercial solutions for national security. Doing so may save money, but effectively reduces our technical capabilities to what anyone (including our adversaries) can acquire in the marketplace.  

However, by quietly and creatively blending the best practices from both commercial and defense sectors in order to produce “hybrid” space capabilities, we can increase our economic as well as national security.


The community served by Via Satellite has a history of innovation, with decades of proven performance in delivering capabilities from space. Businesses and individual consumers now leverage space solutions that are so integrated into our way of life that we have grown dependent on them. 12 Low-Cost Steps to Strengthen Your

New threats are arising to the use of space. China, Russia, and others now have stated military doctrine and advanced capabilities that can disrupt space services.

This is the topic of a new report by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), titled “Challenges to Security in Space,” which provides some key insights into the counter-space capabilities of nations. DIA released this report with a goal to, “support a deeper public understanding of key space and counterspace issues and inform open dialogue and partner engagement on these challenges.”

“The advantage the U.S. holds in space — and its perceived dependence on it — will drive actors to improve their abilities to access and operate in and through space,” the report states. “These improvements can pose a threat to space-based services across the military commercial and civil space sectors.” In the report, Russia and China are named as leading threats, with half of the report focused on covering the capabilities and threats posed by each country. But, the report also underscores Iran and North Korea’s space-based offensive capabilities. 12 Low-Cost Steps to Strengthen Your

The report was written in a clear and understandable way, including, succinct articulations of key space technologies and counterspace concepts. This makes it readable for a wide audience and should be helpful in getting more ideas into the mix on how to harden space systems and the businesses that depend on them from potential attack.

What Should the Business Decision-Maker Should Do About This?

The DIA report provides useful insights that are rarely discussed in open venues. This is a positive step in helping inform the business community. However, the report does not provide actionable recommendations for industry. It is not the charter of DIA to provide space threat hardening guidance to the satellite industry or risk mitigation guidance to businesses that depend on space. But clearly, there is a need for action in these domains.

As a veteran of both the space and cybersecurity communities, I recommend that the industry take the following steps to protect themselves from and preparing for potential attacks:

1. Establish a focal point in your organization to track threats and to track best practices for resilience of systems.

2. Join with peer organizations in collaborating on best practices for threat mitigation and for exchanging information on the nature of the threat. A good model for how this works in the cybersecurity community is the Information Sharing and Analysis Center concept, which is an industry-lead approach that also exchanges information with the government.

3. Provide training to your engineering and development workforce so they know the nature of the threat and can assist in thinking through optimal countermeasures to increase resilience of systems.

4. Seek external design reviews for the full system, including ground stations, to ensure appropriate risk mitigation measures can be put in place.

5. Establish and practice incident response plans and train the executive team in incident response to space threats (via tabletop exercises).

6. Assess your firm’s dependence on space. This includes understanding the use of space to communicate, as well as any inputs to the firm’s decision-making process that come from data collected from assets in space.

7. After assessing dependence on space assets, assess space-related risks. We recommend doing so through scenario-based evaluations involving the materialization of risks.

8. Decide who in the executive team is responsible for understanding and mitigating risks due to war in space.

9. Ensure that your leadership team is involved in developing response and recovery plans tailored to dependence on space and the risks to business. Document response and recovery plans as part of an overall disaster recovery process.

10. Develop incident response processes aligned with the business. This may include leveraging an internal Security Operations Center as a hub of information during an incident.

11. Practice incident response including periodic executive-level tabletop exercises that run through scenarios of space-based incidents.

12. Periodically evaluate space incident response plans and dependence on space by using independent evaluation, verification, and validation services.

The steps above are all relatively low cost and can help businesses in the space community and those dependent on our services to mitigate risks.