Space-Based Radio Frequency Mapping

Space-based RF mapping is the ability to monitor and analyze the RF environment that affects space systems both in space and on Earth. Similar to exquisite SDA, space-based RF mapping provides space operators with a more complete picture of the space environment, the ability to quickly distinguish between intentional and unintentional interference, and the ability to detect and geolocate electronic attacks. RF mapping can allow operators to better characterize jamming and spoofing attacks from Earth or from other satellites so that other defenses can be more effectively employed.


Best Segment for Countermeasure Deployment

  • Space Segment

NIST Rev5 Controls


ISO 27001

ID: CM0078
Created: 2023/04/22
Last Modified: 2023/04/22

Techniques Addressed by Countermeasure

ID Name Description
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.* *
EX-0018 Non-Kinetic Physical Attack A non-kinetic physical 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.* *
.02 High-Powered Laser A high-powered laser can be used to permanently or temporarily damage critical satellite components (i.e. solar arrays or optical centers). If directed toward a satellite’s optical center, the attack is known as blinding or dazzling. Blinding, as the name suggests, causes permanent damage to the optics of a satellite. Dazzling causes temporary loss of sight for the satellite. While there is clear attribution of the location of the laser at the time of the attack, the lasers used in these attacks may be mobile, which can make attribution to a specific actor more difficult because the attacker does not have to be in their own nation, or even continent, to conduct such an attack. Only the satellite operator will know if the attack is successful, meaning the attacker has limited confirmation of success, as an attacked nation may not choose to announce that their satellite has been attacked or left vulnerable for strategic reasons. A high-powered laser attack can also leave the targeted satellite disabled and uncontrollable, which could lead to collateral damage if the satellite begins to drift. A higher-powered laser may permanently damage a satellite by overheating its parts. The parts most susceptible to this are satellite structures, thermal control panels, and solar panels.* *
.03 High-Powered Microwave High-powered microwave (HPM) weapons can be used to disrupt or destroy a satellite’s electronics. A “front-door” HPM attack uses a satellite’s own antennas as an entry path, while a “back-door” attack attempts to enter through small seams or gaps around electrical connections and shielding. A front-door attack is more straightforward to carry out, provided the HPM is positioned within the field of view of the antenna that it is using as a pathway, but it can be thwarted if the satellite uses circuits designed to detect and block surges of energy entering through the antenna. In contrast, a back-door attack is more challenging, because it must exploit design or manufacturing flaws, but it can be conducted from many angles relative to the satellite. Both types of attacks can be either reversible or irreversible; however, the attacker may not be able to control the severity of the damage from the attack. Both front-door and back-door HPM attacks can be difficult to attribute to an attacker, and like a laser weapon, the attacker may not know if the attack has been successful. A HPM attack may leave the target satellite disabled and uncontrollable which can cause it to drift into other satellites, creating further collateral damage.* *
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.

Space Threats Addressed by Countermeasure

ID Description
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-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