Trump Signs SPD-5 on Space Cybersecurity to Protect U.S. Assets

The United States now has a cybersecurity policy for all its space systems, as President Donald Trump signed Space Policy Directive-5 (SPD-5) a few days ago. This new policy establishes a series of principles created to protect the country’s space assets from a number of cyber threats.

“From communications to weather monitoring, Americans rely on capabilities provided by space systems in everyday life,” Scott Pace, deputy assistant to the president and executive secretary of the National Space Council, said in a statement on September 4th.

Tighter Security

“President Trump’s directive ensures the U.S. government promotes practices to protect American space systems and capabilities from cyber vulnerabilities and malicious threats,” Pace added. “Through establishing cybersecurity principles for space systems, Space Policy Directive-5 provides a whole-of-government framework to safeguard space assets and critical infrastructure.”

That structure basically states that cybersecurity measures will be included in all parts of space-system development and operations, according to a senior administration official, who revealed this during an SPD-5 teleconference with reporters on September 4th.

Software that protects the system is a massive part of this picture. But there are other significant elements as well, such as examining everyone who touches the command lines for the vehicle, monitoring ground-based networks for invasion, and making sure than telemetry links between a satellite and the ground are encrypted.

“There’s a whole range of things that you need to look at, kind of end-to-end,” the official said. “The amount of time and effort you put into them depends on what kind of risks you think you’re facing and what the consequences are if something goes bad.”

A national-security satellite, for instance, is ‘obviously’ going to get much more time and attention than a university cubesat program, the official said.

SPD-5 Represents the Development of Cybersecurity Efforts​

SPD-5 also acknowledges the massive and expanding role played by the private sector, leading U.S. government agencies to collaborate with commercial space companies in order to ‘further define best practices, establish cybersecurity informed norms and promote improved cybersecurity behaviors throughout the nation’s industrial base for space systems,’ as per an SPD-5 fact sheet published for the public by the White House.

United States officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, have not long ago emphasized that the nation’s long-established dominance is being contested like never before, mainly by Russia and China.

The act of signing of SPD-5​ is knitted with that narrative. Still, the directive is not a response to any specific threat or event but instead is part of the maturation of the Trump administration’s overall cybersecurity measures over the last few years, the official underlined. And also, neither China nor Russia is mentioned in SPD-5​, which you can read in full here.

As the name of the regulation suggests, SPD-5​ is the fifth space policy directive signed by President Donald Trump. SPD-1 officially led the United States on a manned course to the Moon, SPD-2 made the regulations on commercial spaceflight companies easier, the SPD-3 was made for space-traffic management, and SPD-4 was addressed to the Department of Defense, which was directed to create the U.S. Space Force.

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