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Space Forum Day 2: from cybersecurity and sustainability to big data

On the second day of the Space Forum 2020, which took place on September 16th, local and international space experts shared their vision and presented their innovative solutions. The phygital event, with a couple of speakers discussing these topics from Luxembourg and many remotely from all around the world, met with great success.


The first session focused on cybersecurity and was moderated by Peter de Selding (Author, Space Intel Report). He stated: “cybersecurity is a vast subject and no one can get their hands around all of it. The setup of upcoming LEO constellations raises more issues: is a distributed network like this more secure or less secure than a big satellite in GEO orbit? We have seen cybersecurity breaches in the past years and it will probably happen again”.

Joel Scanlan (Associate Professor, Department of Maritime Studies, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL)) then gave a keynote focusing on the impact of LEO Constellations on Maritime Cyber Security. “We live in a connected world. There are 22 billion Internet connected devices globally but the primary protocols that enable the Internet are only 37 years old and only approximately 50% of the global population have access to the internet. Industries that are geographically isolated don’t have reliable connections; often low bandwidth and high latency,” he explained. He then asked: “How secure is our current connected world? With change in paradigm comes a change in risks. An increased connectedness changes attack surface”. Therefore, what can be done? “Increased connectivity is a great thing, but there is scope for additional risk, particularly the constellations’ fault or problem to fix. If the satellite constellations are implemented in the timelines suggested it could result in some of the most dramatic change to connectivity we have seen. Industries need to understand the risks that come with this opportunity,” he concluded.

“Space Security and Threats - The Need to Protect” was the name of the presentation given by Paul Wells (Vice President & Chief Commercial Officer of GovSat) who first explained that “security was key as space has now become a major global industry. And the market will keep on growing dramatically. Space is the focus of the next industrial revolution and sees many investments from commercial entities but also from governments. In Luxembourg, it accounts for 2% of the GDP”. He also highlighted that many space applications already affect our daily lives: from SatCom to TV broadcasting, remote access, navigation, space observation, etc. and that the next main focus will be space exploration with trips to the Moon and Mars. “The need for security is huge. In this period of massive growth we need to understand the threats and mitigate them,” added the expert. He focused on physical security (space debris and offensive actions from states or criminal actions), electronic threats (interferences and high power microwave which can create an energy burst and damage the electronics on board) and cyber security (“the system of systems”, with the need to improve the level of resilience).

Damien Garot (Managing Partner, Jansky Partners) then took the stage and focused on “Quantum communications: how to transform this opportunity for the space sector into actual business?” “Today’s algorithms are built on the difficulty of performing mathematical operations. In 1994 someone created an algorithm which can still crack today’s protection only using a quantum computer. Back then it was science fiction, but it is not the case anymore. All players working on quantum computing. Therefore, we are ot safe against the rise of tech”, highlighted the expert. According to him, that is why we need quantum communications: they are fully secured because they rest on the fundamental laws of physics. Quantum key distribution – QKD – works through an optical fiber but it is limited, and long distance communications are enabled with only one node: the starlight. It represents a unique opportunity for the space sector as space has an edge compared to terrestrial solutions. He also added that “the race for QKD networks is on”. Also, according to European commissioner Thierry Breton, “Europe needs a starlight constellation in LEO to provide space quantum cryptography”. “But what is the market potential for a starlight QKD? Drivers of the market? What do we sell: a digital key or terabyte of secure communications? Need to establish a business plan, and work as an ecosystem, build a robust infrastructure to support it and we also need institutional support,” concluded the expert.

General Robert Mazzolin (Chief Cyber Security Strategist, RHEA Group) then focused on national security considerations: “Space and Cyber are new strategic enablers for nations, key to national security – both military and economic, commercial and economic competition versus national interests, applicability to wide array of actors – state/non-state for variety of interests: economic, military, terrorist…, etc.” According to the expert, “societal dependence on networks results in increased number and sophistication of attacks targeting critical infrastructure and institutions. Cyber threats manifest themselves against Space systems through Kinetic Physical, Non-Kinetic Physical, Electronic and Cyber. Space systems are not well protected environments – potential for widespread implications”. He concluded his presentation by focusing on additional risks and threats to industrial capacity and notably advocated more international cooperation in order to develop a flexible, multilateral space and cybersecurity regime.


Space & Sustainability

The sustainability topic start with a round table discussion moderated by Peter De Selding, with the participation of Nobu Okada (Founder & CEO, Astroscale), Luca Rossettini (CEO & Founder, D-Orbit) and Luc Piguet (CEO & Co-founder, Clearspace). Luc Piguet and his team are working on space debris: a research and academia project was turned in a spin off back in 2017 and has since then been selected by ESA to remove objects from low earth orbit by 2025. He added: “new space requires new services, to address the future of space traffic. We need to make the space environment safe for future generations. Removing man-made space debris is the responsibility of today’s generation to ensure tomorrow’s generations can continue to benefit from space technology and exploration”. Nobu Okada agreed: “Space is not sustainable anymore, the density has reached its critical level. According to me, sustainable space means not stopping development and not adding cost to operators”. With his company, they are trying to build a future where there is on-orbit servicing, but adding maintenance and disposal, like any other industry. And we need RPO technologies to remove controlled and uncontrolled objects. Astrocale is currently working with JAXA first to get a picture and identify motion and in the next phase, to capture and remove debris. “Our vision is to create in-space logistics to enable profitable business and human expansion in a sustainable space. We offer end-to-end services to satellite operators from manufacturing, orbital transportation to orbital operations, and end of life disposal service,” then added Luca Rossettini. According to him, sustainability means enabling the entire human kind to successfully exploit the space ecosystem and improve space business and overall human space activities. “We need to allow space circular economy and first make sure every satellite can be properly disposed of at the end of life. It is already a problem: we need to act now,” concluded the expert.

Yue Yuan (Space Policy Researcher, China Foreign Affairs University) and Markus Payer (Editor in Chief, SpaceWatch.Global) participated to a fireside chat and discussed how space tech helped fight Covid-19 in China. According to them, “satellite navigation and positioning allowed patients tracking through a smart epidemic prevention management platform but also drone disinfection, workforce flows and cargo surveillance. Earth observation allowed temporary hospital construction in just 10 days and disease surveillance and mapping, and finally, satellite communication enables tele-medicine – and even the use of mobile tele-medicine vehicles – and online education through virtual classrooms”.