Space Domain Awareness

The credibility and effectiveness of many other types of defenses are enabled or enhanced by the ability to quickly detect, characterize, and attribute attacks against space systems. Space domain awareness (SDA) includes identifying and tracking space objects, predicting where objects will be in the future, monitoring the space environment and space weather, and characterizing the capabilities of space objects and how they are being used. Exquisite SDA—information that is more timely, precise, and comprehensive than what is publicly available—can help distinguish between accidental and intentional actions in space. SDA systems include terrestrial-based optical, infrared, and radar systems as well as space-based sensors, such as the U.S. military’s Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) inspector satellites. Many nations have SDA systems with various levels of capability, and an increasing number of private companies (and amateur space trackers) are developing their own space surveillance systems, making the space environment more transparent to all users.


Best Segment for Countermeasure Deployment

  • Space Segment

NIST Rev5 Controls


ISO 27001

ID: CM0077
Created: 2023/04/22
Last Modified: 2023/04/22

Techniques Addressed by Countermeasure

ID Name Description
RD-0001 Acquire Infrastructure Threat actors may buy, lease, or rent infrastructure that can be used for future campaigns or to perpetuate other techniques. A wide variety of infrastructure exists for threat actors to connect to and communicate with target spacecraft. Infrastructure can include:
.03 Spacecraft Threat actors may acquire their own spacecraft that has the capability to maneuver within close proximity to a target spacecraft. Since many of the commercial and military assets in space are tracked, and that information is publicly available, attackers can identify the location of space assets to infer the best positioning for intersecting orbits. Proximity operations support avoidance of the larger attenuation that would otherwise affect the signal when propagating long distances, or environmental circumstances that may present interference.
RD-0005 Obtain Non-Cyber Capabilities Threat actors may obtain non-cyber capabilities, primarily physical counterspace weapons or systems. These counterspace capabilities vary significantly in the types of effects they create, the level of technological sophistication required, and the level of resources needed to develop and deploy them. These diverse capabilities also differ in how they are employed and how easy they are to detect and attribute and the permanence of the effects they have on their target.* *
.01 Launch Services Threat actors may acquire launch capabilities through their own development or through space launch service providers (companies or organizations that specialize in launching payloads into space). Space launch service providers typically offer a range of services, including launch vehicle design, development, and manufacturing as well as payload integration and testing. These services are critical to the success of any space mission and require specialized expertise, advanced technology, and extensive infrastructure.
.02 Non-Kinetic Physical ASAT A non-kinetic physical ASAT attack is when a satellite is physically damaged without any direct contact. Non-kinetic physical attacks can be characterized into a few types: electromagnetic pulses, high-powered lasers, and high-powered microwaves. These attacks have medium possible attribution levels and often provide little evidence of success to the attacker.* *
.03 Kinetic Physical ASAT Kinetic physical ASAT attacks attempt to damage or destroy space- or land-based space assets. They typically are organized into three categories: direct-ascent, co-orbital, and ground station attacks. The nature of these attacks makes them easier to attribute and allow for better confirmation of success on the part of the attacker. * *
.04 Electronic ASAT Rather than attempting to damage the physical components of space systems, electronic ASAT attacks target the means by which space systems transmit and receive data. Both jamming and spoofing are forms of electronic attack that can be difficult to attribute and only have temporary effects.* *
IA-0005 Rendezvous & Proximity Operations Threat actors may perform a space rendezvous which is a set of orbital maneuvers during which a spacecraft arrives at the same orbit and approach to a very close distance (e.g. within visual contact or close proximity) to a target spacecraft.
.02 Docked Vehicle / OSAM Threat actors may leverage docking vehicles to laterally move into a target spacecraft. If information is known on docking plans, a threat actor may target vehicles on the ground or in space to deploy malware to laterally move or execute malware on the target spacecraft via the docking interface.
.03 Proximity Grappling Threat actors may posses the capability to grapple target spacecraft once it has established the appropriate space rendezvous. If from a proximity / rendezvous perspective a threat actor has the ability to connect via docking interface or expose testing (i.e., JTAG port) once it has grappled the target spacecraft, they could perform various attacks depending on the access enabled via the physical connection.
EX-0017 Kinetic Physical Attack Kinetic physical attacks attempt to damage or destroy space- or land-based space assets. They typically are organized into three categories: direct-ascent, co-orbital, and ground station attacks [beyond the focus of SPARTA at this time]. The nature of these attacks makes them easier to attribute and allow for better confirmation of success on the part of the attacker.* *
.01 Direct Ascent ASAT A direct-ascent ASAT is often the most commonly thought of threat to space assets. It typically involves a medium- or long-range missile launching from the Earth to damage or destroy a satellite in orbit. This form of attack is often easily attributed due to the missile launch which can be easily detected. Due to the physical nature of the attacks, they are irreversible and provide the attacker with near real-time confirmation of success. Direct-ascent ASATs create orbital debris which can be harmful to other objects in orbit. Lower altitudes allow for more debris to burn up in the atmosphere, while attacks at higher altitudes result in more debris remaining in orbit, potentially damaging other spacecraft in orbit.* *
.02 Co-Orbital ASAT Co-orbital ASAT attacks are when another satellite in orbit is used to attack. The attacking satellite is first placed into orbit, then later maneuvered into an intercepting orbit. This form of attack requires a sophisticated on-board guidance system to successfully steer into the path of another satellite. A co-orbital attack can be a simple space mine with a small explosive that follows the orbital path of the targeted satellite and detonates when within range. Another co-orbital attack strategy is using a kinetic-kill vehicle (KKV), which is any object that can be collided into a target satellite.* *
DE-0009 Camouflage, Concealment, and Decoys (CCD) This technique deals with the more physical aspects of CCD that may be utilized by threat actors. There are numerous ways a threat actor may utilize the physical operating environment to their advantage, including powering down and laying dormant within debris fields as well as launching EMI attacks during space-weather events.
.01 Debris Field Threat actors may hide their spacecraft by laying dormant within clusters of space junk or similar debris fields. This could serve several purposes including concealment of inspection activities being performed by the craft, as well as facilitating some future kinetic intercept/attack, and more.
.03 Trigger Premature Intercept Threat actors may utilize decoy technology to disrupt detection and interception systems and deplete resources that might otherwise prevent an actual attack taking place simultaneously or shortly after the decoy is deployed.

Space Threats Addressed by Countermeasure

ID Description
SV-CF-2 Eavesdropping (RF and proximity)  
SV-MA-2 Heaters and flow valves of the propulsion subsystem are controlled by electric signals so cyberattacks against these signals could cause propellant lines to freeze, lock valves, waste propellant or even put in de-orbit or unstable spinning  
SV-AC-5 Proximity operations (i.e., grappling satellite)  
SV-DCO-1 Not knowing that you were attacked, or attack was attempted  
SV-AC-2 Replay of recorded authentic communications traffic at a later time with the hope that the authorized communications will provide data or some other system reaction  
SV-CF-4 Adversary monitors for safe-mode indicators such that they know when satellite is in weakened state and then they launch attack  
SV-IT-1 Communications system spoofing resulting in denial of service and loss of availability and data integrity  
SV-AV-1 Communications system jamming resulting in denial of service and loss of availability and data integrity  
SV-AV-7 The TT&C is the lead contributor to satellite failure over the first 10 years on-orbit, around 20% of the time. The failures due to gyro are around 12% between year one and 6 on-orbit and then ramp up starting around year six and overtake the contributions of the TT&C subsystem to satellite failure. Need to ensure equipment is not counterfeit and the supply chain is sound.  
SV-MA-1 Space debris colliding with the spacecraft