Foreign intelligence services could use direct and supply chain cyber-attacks to gain access to the US space industry, according to US intelligence.
In a joint advisory the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center, the FBI and the US Air Force warned that foreign intelligence entities (FIEs) see US space-related innovation and assets as potential threats as well as valuable opportunities to acquire vital technologies and expertise.
The US is the top investor in the space industry, having spent $133bn since 2013, which accounts for 47% of all investments. China is second, with $79bn invested in space equity over the same period.
The top threats espionage campaigns against the US space industry pose include stealing intellectual property data, collecting sensitive data related to satellite payloads, disrupting and degrading US satellite communications and exploiting vulnerabilities in US commercial space infrastructure during conflicts.
The Usual Suspects: China, Russia and Iran
Although not explicitly named in the advisory, China, Russia and Iran are among the top nation-states from which cyber espionage campaigns targeting US space firms originate.
For instance, in October 2022, five Russian nationals were accused in an indictment of trying to illicitly acquire “semiconductors and microprocessors used in satellites, missiles, and other space-based military applications” from American companies.
In January 2023, the US Treasury Department sanctioned Spacety Luxembourg, a Luxembourg-based subsidiary of Chinese satellite provider Spacety China, for supplying Russia’s Wagner Group with radar satellite imagery of Ukraine to support its combat operations.
With the global space economy expected to grow from $469bn in 2021 to more than $1tn by 2030, these threats will likely become more critical.
The US space industry relies heavily on the private sector, with companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic making up over 80% of the…