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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

Setting the Biden-era cybersecurity agenda

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Biden administration will face a wide array of cybersecurity challenges but can take meaningful action in at least five key areas, concludes a new report by the Aspen Cybersecurity Group.

Why it matters: Cybersecurity policy is a rare refuge from Washington's hyperpartisan dysfunction, as shown by the recent work of the bipartisan Cyberspace Solarium Commission. President-elect Joe Biden should have a real opportunity to make progress on shoring up the nation's cybersecurity and cyber capabilities without bumping up against a likely Republican-controlled Senate.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Dec 1, 2020 - Science

Biden's military space future

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

President-elect Joe Biden should anticipate major and minor conflicts in space from even the earliest days of his presidency.

The big picture: President Donald Trump's military and civil space policies are well-documented, but Biden's record and views on space are less clear.

Philanthropy Deep Dive

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A look at how philanthropy is evolving (and why Dolly Parton deserves a Medal of Freedom).