Long distance security

Security measures for a satellite operation means assessing everything from physical risk at a ground station to cyber attacks in space and space debris. The operation must be aligned with the current security threats. Simple, but very complicated.

Any Norwegian space project is international in its execution. We have world class competence, but we are a small player in the space industry. In 2024, Space Norway launches two highly elliptical satellites that will provide broadband to the Arctic. The two satellites in the ASBM programme (Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission) are being built in the US and will cover and transmit to American soil. We interact with both suppliers and customers here (read this article on Landing Rights in the US) in addition to our Norwegian and British customers.

Security is especially important when the operation takes place in space and on the ground at the same time, and it is equally important to cooperate well with customers and suppliers on security matters. The measures we must take into consideration span from physical and digital protection of the ground stations to operating the satellites in a secure fashion and to the protection of software and systems on board the satellites. Obviously, there is a whole range of different risks that can occur in such a wide scope. A satellite will not be exposed to the same physical threats as the ground stations, such as flooding for example, but the operation as an entity must consider everything that can happen on the ground and in space at the same time. Security is seen in three dimensions: Confidentiality protects the values; integrity protects information and makes sure it does what it is supposed to do and finally availability provides what you want when you want it.

So how does one cover such an elaborate and important issue, with so many variables and with customers and suppliers from different countries with different rules and demands? A common set of rules and standards is a good beginning.

To cover all these considerations as simply as possible in cooperation with our partners, Space Norway uses the American NIST as a framework. NIST (The National Institute of Standards and Technology) offers framework and guidelines using open standards and suggestions for measures to secure operations and information through developing policies and procedures tailor made for our needs. This institute does not have power of enforcement nor powers of revision, but it offers a wide range of security standards, from the smallest nano particle tool to global communication networks. They offer principles for procedures and detailed suggestions for the whole process.

Space Norway’s security team works with specialized consultants in implementing these procedures for our ASBM operation. To us, it is essential to be credible towards our national and international customers, and NIST is an important common basis for our security efforts.

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