Physical Seizure

A space vehicle capable of docking with, manipulating, or maneuvering other satellites or pieces of debris can be used to thwart spacebased attacks or mitigate the effects after an attack has occurred. Such a system could be used to physically seize a threatening satellite that is being used to attack or endanger other satellites or to capture a satellite that has been disabled or hijacked for nefarious purposes. Such a system could also be used to collect and dispose of harmful orbital debris resulting from an attack. A key limitation of a physical seizure system is that each satellite would be time- and propellant-limited depending on the orbit in which it is stored. A system stored in GEO, for example, would not be well positioned to capture an object in LEO because of the amount of propellant required to maneuver into position. Physical seizure satellites may need to be stored on Earth and deployed once they are needed to a specific orbit to counter a specific threat.


Best Segment for Countermeasure Deployment

  • Space Segment

NIST Rev5 Controls


ISO 27001

ID: CM0084
D3FEND Artifacts:  Access Control Configuration
Created: 2023/04/22
Last Modified: 2023/04/22

Techniques Addressed by Countermeasure

ID Name Description
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.* *
.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.

Space Threats Addressed by Countermeasure

ID Description
SV-CF-2 Eavesdropping (RF and proximity)  
SV-AC-5 Proximity operations (i.e., grappling satellite)  
SV-AC-1 Attempting access to an access-controlled system resulting in unauthorized access  
SV-MA-1 Space debris colliding with the spacecraft