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Photo: NASA

A new space policy directive issued by the Trump administration last week calls on the space industry to develop cybersecurity measures to protect essential satellites in orbit.

Why it matters: GPS, communications and other satellites are integral to U.S. national security. As other nations continue to develop their space capabilities, experts are warning that key U.S. assets in orbit could be vulnerable to attacks.

Details: The new policy directive loosely defines best practices when it comes to cybersecurity and the space industry.

  • The directive also outlines a plan for the U.S. government to work with companies to help adopt those best practices and create norms around cybersecurity.
  • The policy suggests space-based assets should make use of encryption when sending commands to satellites and when satellites are sending information to Earth and make efforts to protect satellites from tampering, jamming and spoofing.
  • "We're not trying to impose new government-driven, top-down requirements and standards, but are in fact trying to work with and leverage the private sector," a senior administration official speaking on background said.

Yes, but: Many companies have already instituted their own protocols for cybersecurity and their assets in space, so it's not yet clear exactly what this directive will change.

  • The White House also has yet to lay out an enforcement mechanism for those companies that ignore the best practices.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Oct 20, 2020 - Science

The next environmental crisis could be in space

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

An unexpected frontier is facing calls for new environmental regulations and cleanup: outer space.

Why it matters: Space junk clutters up orbits and poses an urgent threat to weather, security, communications and other satellites. Long-term, you can’t live or work in space if trash is literally slamming into you.

Updated Jan 1, 2019 - Science

Deep Dive: The new global race to space

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A few years ago, a Silicon Valley billionaire decried that he and his friends dreamed of flying cars, and instead got 140 characters. He was wrong: They, along with entrepreneurs and governments around the world, got much more — a space race on steroids.

The big picture: From Dubai to the U.S., Tokyo to Moscow, Tel Aviv to Beijing and more, billionaires, privateers and political leaders are vying to land on the Moon, colonize Mars, mine asteroids — and just get off the Earth. "Whatever we have evolved into hundreds and thousands of years from now, we'll look at these decades as when the human race moved off the planet," said Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X-Prize Foundation.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jun 2, 2020 - Science

NASA passes the torch

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

With the historic crewed SpaceX launch last weekend, NASA passed the torch to private companies that will need to step up to build the economy the space agency envisions in orbit.

Why it matters: This new era of spaceflight will likely be marked by new conflicts — possibly including product placement (like the Tesla that drove the astronauts to the pad on Saturday), safety concerns and cultural differences between companies, the space agencies and people they serve.