DoD space agency: Cyber attacks, not missiles, are the most worrisome threat to satellites

A comparison between the relative cost of launching missiles vs. a cyber attack…:

[…] SDA plans to start launching satellites to space in 2022 with a goal of having hundreds in orbit by 2024 that will be used for communications and missile detection.

These satellites “will not be invulnerable” to ground-based weapons such as ballistic missiles, Tournear said at an online Washington Space Business Roundtable forum. But having a proliferated network of hundreds of satellites, however, makes the system resilient to these type of attacks, he explained.

An adversary would have to launch a barrage of missiles to disable such a large constellation and would face significant retaliation. Tournear also noted that the relatively low cost of SDA’s satellites would make them unattractive targets compared to the more exquisite billion-dollar satellites that DoD has in orbit.

Tournear estimates that it would cost more to shoot down a satellite than the satellite itself, “so we’ve completely changed the equation on that.”

Even if one or a handful of satellites were destroyed, a proliferated network of hundreds could continue to function. A cyber attack, on the other hand, could be devastating, Tournear said.

“Cyber and and supply chain are two threats that I’m concerned about,” he said. Tournear described cyber and supply chain problems as “common mode failures,” which means that even if just a few components or portions of a system are attacked, the whole network would be out of service.


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